Thursday's Guardian has a piece about plans to introduce "direct democracy" into local council service provision. Town meetings and ballots will determine how the spending of some local cash is prioritised.
We've been ahead of the game on this idea in Darlington, where our "Let's Get Cracking" initiative allowed local people to determine the spending of £2.1 million on highways repairs.
A word of caution, however - the pilot cities (which will apparently include Newcastle) will have to think through how the so-called "hard-to-reach" residents will be heard. Despite our efforts to publicise LGC, it was clear that middle class residents were best able to articulate their grievances and potentially steer funding their way. There were some fairly significant gaps in the map of the Borough where no responses were received from local people, despite real need in these areas.
Employing a "champion" who liaised with local communities about LGC helped tackle this, and similiarly-imaginative ideas will be necessary if spending isn't to be sucked out of the most deprived communities.