It was greatly reassuring that the recent report “People Power”, pulling together the findings from the Commission on the Future of Localism, echoed the perspectives that our own communities in Southwark had collectively submitted to the Commission last summer, which were:
• Radical action is needed to strengthen our local institutions;
• Tangible power resources and control needs to be devolved to our communities;
• We need to ensure equality in community participation;
along with a change in local government behaviour and practice to help ensure local initiatives develop and thrive.
We are more fortunate than most in Southwark, having in place a Council that has increasingly recognised the importance of its communities and their groups, organisations and networks; to all that is positive in making the borough a better place to live. Achieving this has required a lot of hard work and endeavour coordinated by Community Southwark over the last few years, starting out with the Valuing the Sector campaign in 2014; developing through the findings and recommendations of the Early Action Commission in 2015; and the adoption of a tri-partite coproduction-based strategy “Common Purpose, Common Cause” in late 2016 (involving the Council, the Clinical Commissioning Group, and the Voluntary and Community sectors).
These may have provided the building blocks for better engagement, but the situation is far from perfect and there is room for further impovement. Much still needs to change, and whilst The Commission’s report recognises the Council’s role, it doesn’t do full justice to the huge expertise shown by the contribution made by many active citizens who gave their time voluntarily to the submission last year, including actions that would secure the changes now needed both locally and nationally.
So, let’s all put that record straight and consider what they submitted.
Change is coming, whether national Government legislates for it or not; but the community will be at the heart of it …. Whatever. It will happen through a growing call by local people to be involved in shaping decisions that affect their lives and the places in which they reside, increasing collaboration in addressing complex issues that are of mutual concern.
The People Power report might just be the catalyst this needs.