Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Community Engagement

That's usually a buzz phrase that ticks a box in Council agendas but today I had a really interesting meeting on the subject. I chair the Western Area Partnership Board which has places on it for community representatives. There are some real problems about how to help these representatives to feed information back to the community and to find out what the community is thinking about issues. I'm sure it's not unique to Stockton but it's something which we want to address. So today there was a meeting of Area Partnership chairs with people who provide secretariat support and people who support the community representatives.
There was a good deal of honest discussion and some excellent suggestions of ways to do things better. We all accepted that it wouldn't be easy but we're all determined to work hard to improve.
As far as the Western Area goes, I'm hopeful that the engagement of the community in the fight to keep Preston Park free of buildings is going to help to get some engagement over other issues that also affect us though not quite so immediately perhaps. The Green Infrastructure Strategy might not sound so important, but when you realise that its about the green spaces in our borough and linking them up, making sure they're not built over, then it becomes rather more interesting to ordinary people. That's part of the challenge - translating the council jargon into people friendly words! Don't hold your breath - it won't be easy.

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