Involve citizens in economic decision-making, says RSA

By agency reporter
November 21, 2017

Policymakers, including the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Bank of England, must take urgent action to involve citizens in economic decision-making, warns a new report.

The warning comes from the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) Citizens’ Economic Council interim report, which cautions that major rows, like the 'white van man tax' row in March or Labour’s 10p tax policy, result from not engaging the public in big decisions that affect them and so undermine trust in politicians, economists and business.

It recommends:

  • Randomly-selected 'jury service' is piloted in the Bank of England and the Treasury, with citizen jurors empowered to explore any aspect of economic decision-making on behalf of their fellow citizens, and question key officials, as they see fit. 
  • HM Treasury and the Bank of England also explore Citizens’ Reference Panels and other ways of involving citizens in economic decisions, rather than limiting policy discussion to 'experts' in Whitehall, business and economists.
  • Councils, mayors, combined authorities and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) seize the opportunities of devolution, using deliberative approaches to engage citizens through the development of their devolution deals and in their implementation.

The RSA’s Citizens’ Economic Council spoke to citizens across the country on how they see the economy. 

The interim report highlights the lack of alignment between policymakers and citizens and the role that this played in contributing to the UK’s referendum result in many ‘left-behind’ areas. 

It adds that measures of economic performance like GDP mask varying levels of income and wealth for different sections of society and fail to explain the experiences of those ‘left-behind’ in the UK.

Researchers also found that greater transparency about the challenges that policymakers, economists and politicians face in navigating trade-offs and competing priorities would make decision-making on the economy more legitimate.

The final report will be published in spring 2018 at a major event, with speakers to include Bank of England chief economist Andy Haldane.

Reema Patel, programme manager for the RSA Citizens' Economic Council, said, “Trust between citizens and those who take decisions is at an all-time low. The Brexit vote only reflected this mistrust, with many ‘left-behind’ feeling decisions made in Westminster and the City of London are just as remote from their lives as decisions made in Brussels.

“But the question now must turn to what policy-makers should do to rebuild this trust. Through the Citizens’ Economic Council, the RSA’s report today is our way of doing exactly that. 

“From our conversations up and down the country, the Citizens' Economic Council heard again and again that the public don’t just want to be passive consultees but active decision-makers, taking back control of the economy.

“By using randomly selected citizens’ juries, bodies like the Bank of England and the Treasury can better understand the public’s views on important issues such as the setting of interest rates as well as the decisions announced in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Budget on Wednesday.

“This will help us create a better democracy and economy, not just one of managers, workers and consumers – but one of citizens.”

Read the report, Citizens, Participation, and the Economy here

The RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce)


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