One such example was the Commission for Local Democracy (CLD). The CLD was an independent group of academics who, between 1993 and1995, produced a series of reports looking at a number of different aspects of local democracy. The main arguments, plus a summary of their recommendations, were brought together in the very readable book - Local Democracy and Local Government edited by Lawrence Pratchett and David Wilson.
There were a number of good ideas that came out of the CLD (and I will no doubt come back to some more) one of which was the idea that local government should have a clear role to promote, facilitate and support democracy in the local area.
This radical new role starts with the existing democratic institutions of local government, which need to be invigorated, but extends beyond this to promoting democracy in other local institutions or wherever it can be encouraged. It also means a substantial investment in promoting citizenship in schools and more widely. As Pratchett and Wilson argue:
Regardless of their functional focus, local authorities would be empowered to become the focus of political activity on all local issues and to champion the cause of democracy as the seed-bed of a more vibrant democratic culture.The Annual Democracy Plan is the practical mechanism that lies at the heart of this new role. The CLD recommended that there should be a requirement on local councils to produce an annual Democracy Plan for their areas detailing how increased democracy will be achieved and allowing for progress to be reviewed and scrutinised. Democracy here could be taken in its widest sense and not limited to the representative form. In fact annual Democracy Plans would provide an excellent focus for debate about all sorts of democratic ideas.
Of course this vision is a long way from where we are now. Whilst there are many good local government schemes to promote citizenship, for example, these are peripheral to the core role of local councils and are likely to get more so as public sector funding reduces.