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Influencing other government bodies

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Devolved governments

Unless your organisation covers England only, your political campaign strategy could be UK wide, taking account of the devolved governments. Devolved powers differ across the three administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Exactly which responsibilities have been passed down or devolved has been changing as the various administrations take on additional functions, and decide who is responsible for what. It can be easier to communicate with elected officials in the devolved administrations than with parliament because these administrations are relatively small.

Local government

In local government, elected local councillors are responsible for making community decisions about local services such as:

  • planning
  • children’s services
  • state education
  • land use
  • social care
  • and leisure.

Local councils exist at different levels – parish, district, county or unitary – and have different areas and levels of responsibility. Many councils have an ‘executive system’, with a leader or mayor and a cabinet.

Councillors in a cabinet have responsibility for certain areas, such as housing, children’s services and social care. Councillors not in the cabinet have a range of responsibilities, including:

  • a scrutiny or oversight role, as well as representing the needs of their local ward, which means they are useful for bringing issues from their ward to the full council
  • sitting on sub committees such as affordable housing and well-being, deciding strategy and policy.
  • representing the council at local meetings
  • if elected, accountability for paid staff. This means they decide the strategy and priorities that officers have to implement.

The European Union

There are also many opportunities to influence decisions in the European Union (EU), but its sheer size and reach may make it feel distant and it can seem difficult to know where to begin.

Lobbying at the EU level can mean that you are campaigning right at the source of decision making; legislation often begins in the EU before it is amended and passed as law in member countries.

Campaigners may not have the resources to campaign in the EU, but by leaving things until they are passed down to a UK level you may lose the chance to influence legalisation.

The EU is founded on the principle of 'conferral of competences'. This means there are:

  • certain policy areas where the EU alone is able to make laws or has 'exclusive competence', such as agriculture, employment conditions and trade
  • areas in which power is shared between the EU and member states, known as 'shared competence', such as culture, environment, foreign affairs, transport and social policy
  • areas where the EU has no scope, such as defence, education, tax and welfare.

It is important to find out what scope the EU has to make decisions about your campaign issue.

Brexit

The UK will still be a member of the EU until spring 2019, and must abide by all EU laws until then. Organisations can therefore still influence EU law currently passing through the EU institutions, and hold the government to account where it is failing to implement EU laws.

UK organisations can also consider working with partners in other EU countries to influence the position of EU institutions in the Brexit negotiations.

Further information

The European Commission website has detailed information on EU policies and initiatives and there are many guides for voluntary organisations to help you find your way through the EU, its laws and institutions.

Page last edited May 18, 2017

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