community politics

   In the UK, community politics may be formal or informal. The formal level provides a number of opportunities in which community politics may take place. These range from neighbourhood watch schemes to parish councils and town councils, district councils and county councils. In the first case arrangements are informal but with official back-up and training. In the second case they have constitutional status and varying degrees of power and budgetary control.
   Constitutional changes resulting in formally recognized devolved politics, in Wales and Scotland, are likely to result in an increase in regional assemblies. It is also possible that this will result in an increase in political interest at a lower level, including informal political groupings. Informal forms of community politics are often generated by local objections to nationally proposed actions or to single-issue politics (often instigated by new social movements). These ‘grassroots’ activities may be both parliamentary and extraparliamentary. Objections may be raised by groups such as Greenpeace at inquiries to build nuclear power stations, while direct action may be mounted by others to prevent roads or runways being built through special areas of natural or scientific interest. If the formal objection fails, extra-parliamentary activity may be invoked. This usually takes the form of human obstruction to the proposed construction, thus raising the political and financial cost.
   The history of such communal objections has been increasingly successful. There are now several central government-sponsored projects (from train lines to bypasses) that have been thwarted by communal action. In the process, the value of community politics has been exhibited. By contrast, formal community politics has been increasingly devalued by declining powers, the growth of quangos (quasi non-governmental organizations) and centralization. In principle, membership of the European Union opens up a range of possibilities for community politics that have not yet been met in practice.
   See also: democracy; pressure groups
   Further reading
    Smith, M.P. and Feagin, J. (eds) (1987) The Capitalist City: Global Restructuring and Community Politics, Oxford: Blackwell.
   PAUL BARRY CLARKE
   SVANBORG SIGMARSDOTTIR

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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