The places where people, live, work and play are on the front line of the enormous social, economic and demographic challenges that we all face. It is in the homes and neighbourhoods and on the high streets that the consequences of national problems are experienced in our everyday lives.
The greater the challenges, it seems, the more inadequate the traditional institutions respond. Declining trust in our political system and increasing dissatisfaction with decisions made at a distance removed from those they affect are borne out in low election turnouts and of populist parties which offer up easy scapegoats or knee jerk reactions. The question is, how do we rise to the challenge. We could take the easy route in burying our heads in the sand or recognise that the time has come to change they way we govern.
The debate about community engagement continues to exercise the minds of our residents. The appetite to be involved at all levels of activity is overwhelming. Everywhere I go there are exciting examples of people doing their bit in their localities. Only last week I addressed the Annual Meeting of Greenwich Mind. The Hall was packed. There are many other examples of voluntary activity. It is important that we find ways to nurture the interest people have in wanting to engage in the decision making process.
Important strides in involving local people in decision making are taking place across the country. In Durham, for example, they have developed Area Action Partnerships involving five thousand residents. On our own doorstep, Lewisham Council have established Area Assemblies which involves thirteen thousand residents. Each Authority determines its own model and rightly so. The important point is that changes are taking place.
- Do you think we are doing enough to engage residents?
- What changes would you like to see?
- Are there specific issues that you feel requires more resident engagement?
Please let me know your views on these matters.