Bristol to hold Citizens’ Assembly on coronavirus recovery

Bristol City Council is moving ahead with plans to hold a Citizens’ Assembly to gauge public opinion on how the city should recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Bristol Council Building
Bristol Council Building
Green World

Bristol City Council is set to carry out a Citizens Assembly involving 100 Bristolians representing a cross section of the city’s residents to advise on the city’s coronavirus recovery, following a motion proposed by Green Party city councillors in January.

The Green Party motion, which was originally passed on 14 January, called on Bristol City Council to ‘reboot democracy’ and commit Bristol to trialling participatory democracy schemes like Citizens’ Assemblies. 

The council is now moving forward with the plan, and has launched a mass survey of Bristolians to help inform the aims of the assembly and what topics it should focus on. The survey launched on 5 August and will run until 9 September.

The survey and an online discussion forum that will follow it will help shape the agenda for the first Citizens Assembly in Bristol, including policy recommendations.

Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke proposed the motion at a Council meeting on 14 January. She said: “I am really pleased that our Green motion on Rebooting Democracy has led to Bristol being the first city to use a citizens’ assembly to build the post-Covid recovery. The motion was supported by Labour’s Asher Craig and since then we have worked cross party and with some skilled officers, to design the process.

“With Bristol coming out of lockdown, the city still faces big decisions on how we tackle the climate emergency and recovery from Covid-19 and the lockdown. Instead of returning to business as usual we have an opportunity to build back better. Rather than being bound by our own assumptions of what people will or won’t want, we can bring ordinary Bristolians into decision making and have them set the city’s agenda. 

“I’d encourage everyone to fill out the Council’s survey – have your say in the city’s priorities and help us set the aims for the Citizens Assembly that will explore these issues in more detail.”

The Green Party has supported more direct forms of democracy, with Green MP Caroline Lucas writing in support of Citizens’ Assemblies in Green World after it was announced that Parliament would be holding a UK-wide Climate Assembly to provide public opinion on how the UK should address the climate emergency.