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Commoning The Public: Translating European New Municipalism To The UK Context

This important report from Gareth Brown and Keir Milburn draws lessons from the new municipalist movements which swept across many areas of Europe in the second half of the 2010s.

While many of the practices of the European model of new municipalism aren’t directly translatable to the UK context, they identify a key set of policies and practices, variously titled public-civic or public-common partnerships which are not only eminently translatable to the UK situation, but which are also uniquely suited to an emerging situation in which a newly interventionist state seems likely to launch a massive new round of public-private partnerships.

In the report they examine two key instances of public-civic action, the Patrimonio Ciudadano (Citizens Assets) programme in Barcelona and the commoning of public assets in Naples. They explain the lessons these experiences hold for UK municipal authorities, community activists and social movement actors. They also discuss how these models can be adapted for the UK context and provide a valuable new direction in the fight for democratic renewal and a just transition.

Their key findings and recommendation are:

•⁠  Participative, democratic models for the community management of assets and public services can not only be effective and efficient but can also be beneficial for democracy more widely. Their operation builds constituencies for their own support and extension while developing the democratic capacities of those who participate in them.

•⁠  ⁠Public-common and public-community partnerships can be constructed to reinforce public services rather than detract from them, particularly if business models which extract value from communities are simultaneously disadvantaged.

•⁠  ⁠When resolving the organisational logics of the public sector with the more participative democratic practices of communities and social movements it’s important that the latter isn’t forced to simply conform with the former. The genuine co-production of policy is both possible and valuable.

•⁠  ⁠Social value models which assign economic value to social and solidarity economy activities are effective ways of legitimising those activities to cash strapped local authorities, but they should be supplemented by forms of measure which emerge from and speak to the values of the communities involved.

•⁠  ⁠Legislative and legal activism to establish community usage rights over assets which remain under public ownership should be explored in the UK as a means for futureproofing both public ownership and common governance.