In response to John Allen’s good letter on the Ilkeston Community Forum meeting in July, he has hit the nail right on the head.
He observes that the changes over the years that forced the nine individual forums that used to exist, of which Cotmanhay was one on its own, to join together to become the Ilkeston Forum that we have now been landed with, have unfortunately meant that it now covers a much wider area and the neighbourhood focus has been lost.
There has been talk about local people influencing local issues for many a year. Now, as various governments and local councils of all political persuasions have dallied with devolved budgets, local area forums, people power, local decision making, delegated powers, neighbourhood forums and panels to enable people to sort things out and improve their community all in the name of “localism” and a more grass-roots, bottom-up approach to life.
I disagree with John in that he feels that politics is taking over in the Community Forum, for I believe that politics with a small ‘p’ is what local communities are all about as distinct from Party Politics with a big ‘P’. Politics is not the sole possession of the political parties - they often accuse themselves of “playing politics” and the public now see “politics” as a dirty word and are turned off from politics now in a big way because of the behaviour of party politicians. Charles De Gaulle once said “politics is too serious a matter to be left to the politicians” and Aristotle said “ political society exists for the sake of noble actions and change” and this is always my hope as a community-spirited resident myself that people must see politics - whether it is with a small “p” or a big “P” as the art of what is possible in our lives and to enable decisions to be made for the good of us all.
Community forums are supposed to be, as John says, about tackling local issues that matter in a positive way. But are also, I believe, about local people being able to use questions to ask how things are working in the way we are governed by our local council. Local councillors are elected into positions of power at the ballot box and are therefore always accountable for decisions they are taking on our behalf that affect our neighbourhoods, so opportunities to hold them to account for their actions is also a very necessary part of any local forum. Councillors and paid officers must always be ready to account for their actions and be subject to scrutiny through questions from us, the general public, who allow them the privilege of serving in our town.
Sorting out issues as John says must be done with a positive outlook and our community “politics” must be allowed to come back into forum meetings as well as the questions about how things are being done at the council - whether it’s about sorting out facilities for young people, about the dog poo, the litter, the corner shop, the local school, the litter bins, the water that comes out of the tap, the bench you have or do not have to sit on. Community politics is about what makes our neighbourhood tick and standing shoulder to shoulder together to strengthen community spirit, especially in this age of austerity that we are being forced to endure.
Community “politics” is not a dirty word to me and is recently being seen to its full effect in the brilliant Totally Locally Ilkeston movement that is spreading positive vibes around our town at the moment trying to encourage people to actively participate in positive action with a positive outlook.
Barlborough Road, Cotmanhay