In this thinkpieceÂ for the Commission on Integration and Cohesion we discuss the challenges posed by ethnic diversity to renewing local governance structures and improving participation of all groups in our democratic processes at neighbourhood, local and regional levels. All major political parties have expressed their concern at the disengagement of citizens from politics, the decline in â€˜neighbourlinessâ€™, and the importance of making public services responsive to the needs of citizens. Re-defining local decision-making structures is reliant on understanding the identities of citizens and their understandings of community and engaging with these identities to reformulate the state. If cohesion and integration are to be meaningful, the democratic spaces through which contact occurs and collective decisions made need to be relevant, accessible and robust.
Ensuring that citizens have fair access to decision-making institutions is a fruitful response to the widely-noted increase in voter apathy. By engaging at a local level, citizens also learn how to engage with each other on terms of respect and to listen to voices they might not otherwise hear. We viewed this opportunity to support the work of the Commission as a good way to express our concerns and hopes on the future of multi-ethnic Britain. The fifteen key points at the end of the paper provide an overview of our conclusions and suggestions for further action and research.