Charity seeks people's agenda

A civic activism charity is planning one of the biggest-ever mobilisations of public opinion ahead of the European and mayoral elections next June.

The Citizen Organising Foundation wants to develop a "people's agenda" based on the demands of millions of people in England's two biggest cities.

Mass assemblies are planned for next spring to get the programme endorsed by mayoral candidates in London, and European Parliament candidates in Birmingham.

Simon Hughes, Liberal Democrat candidate for London mayor, and Green party hopeful Darren Johnson have said if they agree with the agenda they will absorb some of it into their manifestos.

Neil Jameson, director of the foundation said the campaign could help to reverse the trend for low turnouts in elections: "The foundation is preoccupied with the common good and strengthening public life. It's appropriate for us at election time to tackle the democratic deficit through building an authentic people's agenda and encouraging people to vote for the candidates who endorse the agenda most wholeheartedly."

Sister charities London Citizens and Citizens in Birmingham will use their member institutions, which include faith groups, trade union branches, youth organisations, student unions and schools, to build the agenda.

Meetings will be held to discover which issues people want the London mayor and Birmingham MEPs to tackle.

By February, the organisations will have chosen five issues for which they will seek mass endorsement by street canvassing in both cities.

A 1,000-person assembly is planned for Birmingham and a 2,500-strong assembly for London to seek candidates' adoption of the agenda in preparation for 'Super Tuesday' elections on June 10, when European Parliament, London mayoral and Greater London Assembly and local council polls are held.

Jameson predicted demands for a living wage would be on the agenda.

The East London Communities Organisation, which pioneered the model of community activism rolled out in London and Birmingham, has campaigned for a universal living wage of £6.50 per hour in London.

The foundation wants all mayoral candidates to support the living wage for London and to set up a monitoring system to ensure that all Greater London Authority contracts, which include fire and police services and London Transport, abide by the wage level.

NCVO chief executive Stuart Etherington backed the new civic movement.

"Civil society and politicians can work together to address the worrying level of political disengagement and declining public trust and confidence," he said.

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