The purpose of this article is to explain how your non-for-profit organisation can influence the decisions taken by the local authority – in our case the London Borough of Southwark.  

The below article sets out different approaches that can be used, and some of the issues the Councils must consider when making a decision. 

In our experience it’s a good idea to use a combination of the approaches listed below rather than just relying on one of them.


This article includes:

  • Approaches
    • Talking to Councillors or Council Officers
    • Campaigning
    • Media
    • MPs
    • Community Southwark
  • How you can hold the Council to account
    • Public Sector Equality Duty
    • Freedom of Information Act

Approaches 

Talking to Councillors or Council Officers 

You may wish to contact the councillor representing the ward in which your organisation is based or the one who has the relevant cabinet portfolio which covers the matter you want to discuss. 

Information about each councillor’s contact details and surgery times is available on the council website, herekey responsibility for ward councillors is to run Ward and Multi-Ward meetings. More information on these meetings and how you can use them to drive change is available at our articles on wardand multi-wardmeetings.  

You may also wish to consider inviting council officers to discuss issues you want to have addressed. If you think the issues at hand concern many of your peer organisations, you may want to contact [email protected] suggesting to invite them to the relevant VCS Networks or to have them discussed by Southwark Voice or VCS Liaison.

A good starting point to see how the local authority is organised is available under Local Democracy. This covers topics such as: 

These resources can help you decide whether it is best to talk to a councillor or a council officer and identify whether there may already be committees dealing with the topic you want to discuss. 

Campaigning 

This brief and free course from the Open University gives a good introduction to Campaigns and Organisations. 

Change.org is an online platform where people and organisations around the world can start petitions for free. Petitions can be easily shared through social media. The platform allows you to target the decision-makers who have the power to create change. 

38 Degrees is an online campaigning organisation led by members. Individuals and organisations can start campaigns which are chosen and prioritised by members through surveys. A dedicated office team is on hand to offer advice and there are resources available to assist campaigns. 

Media 

You may want to give your matter additional prominence by sharing information about it with the local or national media. In Southwark, this is Southwark News.  

You may also want to consider contacting the Evening Standard or BBC London News.  

MPs 

An additional approach is to ask your local member of parliament to help you raise your matter with the local authority. While they officially represent you in regard to decisions made by the national government or parliament, they can, and often will, support their constituents with matters relating to the local area. To find your local MP, please visit https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/contact-your-mp/

Community Southwark 

Community Southwark is here to act as the Council of Voluntary Service and to act us a critical friend of the council. If you would like support with a particular matter please contact us via [email protected] or raise it via one of our  VCS Networks or Southwark Voice or VCS Liaison. 

How you can hold the council to account 

Councils have specific duties and issues they must consider when making a decision. You can use these duties to hold the Council to account.  

Public Sector Equality Duty 

The Equality Act 2010 covers groups of people based on “protected characteristics”: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation. The Equality Act 2010 includes the Public Sector Equality Duty. This duty means that public authorities must have due regard to the need to:  

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and other conduct that is unlawful under the Act 
  • Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not 
  • Foster good relations between persons who share a protected characteristic and those who do not 

As a part of this general duty there are specific requirements on councils that can be a good starting point to try and influence change: 

  • Equality Impact Assessments: Request that the council carries out an equality impact assessment of any key decisions. Councils and other public bodies must consider the equality impacts of any new policy or of significant changes to an existing policy. The council must be able to demonstrate that it has considered the equality impacts of all key decisions.  
  • Assessing Relevance of Equalities: Ask the council if it has assessed the relevance of equalities in specific policy or service areas. In order to set equalities objectives, public bodies will need to carry out some process of considering what these objectives should be. 
  • Equality Objectives: Ask the council to include specific issues within its equality’s objectives The Equality Act requires public bodies to publish one or more equality objectives at least every four years. 
  • Publishing Information: Review the information published by the council on what it is doing to comply with the general equality duty. Request that public bodies publish more detailed information if necessary. The Equality Act requires public bodies to publish this information at least annually. 
Freedom of Information Act 

Use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain information from the council. If the council is reluctant to release information about how they have made a decision or what actions they are taking (including how they have met their Public Sector Equality Duty- see above), the Freedom of Information Act can be used to request this.  

Useful resources: 

The NCVO has a blog guide on making a Freedom of information request:  

Ten top tips on the art of using the Freedom of Information Act | NCVO BlogsNCVO Blogs  

To make a Freedom of Information request to Southwark Council please refer to:  

Freedom of Information requests - Southwark Council 

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