It is very encouraging, particularly at the moment that a Council has chosen to engage with their residents and the community it is responsible for. One might assume this is something that all political agencies would understand in the 21st Century, but sadly some still act as if they are still working in the 14th Century, based on the claims in recent weeks by the leader of the House of Commons. Of course even a few decades ago we as a nation would elect our Councillors and our MPs and then do what they want us to do. However in the last few decades that has shifted dramatically and now MPs and Councillors can win an election but they are not necessarily engaging with their community. The need to understand and engage with Communities is not simple, but as we have seen in recent weeks, calls by the Prime Minister for people to be locked down under COVID is sadly being ignored by many people. Of course the behaviour by some of the Prime Ministers advisers is not making his calls as effective as they were at the beginning of the process when he was also impacted by COVID.
The current response by Brighton and Hove Council is not connected to COVID but it is connected to us as a community in their attempt to improve our climate. The information is all available here but some of the elements are as follows.
There are 10 recommendations from the climate assembly and the fourth one is the one I am referring to:
- A car-free city centre
- The public transport system should be affordable/accessible
- Creation of healthier low traffic/pedestrianised communities
- The council should actively consult and engage with the community
- Introduce mobility hubs – a mobility hub is a recognisable place which provides and connects up different types of travel, like cycle hire, station, parking and transport information
- Cyclists should be prioritised over cars through well-designed dedicated cycling networks that are safe and practical for day-to-day use as well as leisure
- Introduce a park and ride to minimise car use in the city
- Make public transport a more convenient alternative to driving a car
- Messaging should focus on what people gain rather than lose and educate/expand citizens’ knowledge
- There should be a focus on incentives rather than sanctions as interventions
The recommendations are viewed by the assembly as a suite, rather than standalone ideas. They should all be implemented together in order to be as effective as possible.
The council should actively consult and engage with neighbourhoods within the community
There should be community advocates who act as middlemen between the community and the council, with a clear definition of their role and support from the council.
The council should focus on educating the whole community, listening to them, and adapting their plans according to the feedback provided.
The council should consider the methods of communication.
The council should measure community involvement.
The council should report back to the community about what was done with their feedback and why, proving that they’re listening.
So there is now an opportunity for communities to begin to work together to call on the Council to respond in a particular way. Clearly the focus is primarily on climate issues but it is also understandable if communities have other themes that they want to raise with the Council. Indeed their local Councillors will potentially be part of the process although this isn’t party political and it does not mean that communities need to work through their Councillors if there are priorities that their Councillors appear un persuaded about.