15th August 2013:
When we re-started this blog we said that we weren’t going to blog as much as we used to and instead focus on the podcasting. However, even we didn’t correctly predict how little we would post. I’m not sure why this is but I think the demands of podcasting (especially on Glen who has to try and edit my rambling) and the pressure we both face in our day jobs at the moment allied to the lack of a commitment to post every day have contributed.
Nonetheless, we do want to try and post a little more regularly and as a starting point here is something I wrote when I returned from holiday a few weeks ago and never quite got around to posting:
I love going on holiday and especially love being able to switch off from work for a week or so.
Despite this I often find that I can’t help myself from noticing the impact of the local council in the places I visit. It’s nice to be able to see local government at work outside of the context of your own home (I just want my bin collected) or the place where you work.
As such, I thought it would be nice to tell a few tales of local government success in and around the UK.
I haven’t been to Westward Ho! (the only place in the UK with an exclamation mark in the title) for a couple of years but last week we took a little trip there and came across the new village green situated in the middle of the village. The green is brilliant; surrounded by shops, a pub / restaurant and some new accommodation and looking out onto the sea. It provides a space for hanging out / picnics as well as a community location.
The green was the product of the work of the planning team in Torridge Council; both in terms of paying for the green itself and with the planning policy detailing how it should be supplemented by private developments. I thought it was great and really brought the centre of the village to life.
Whereas the work in Westward Ho! was very noticeable and in many ways obviously impressive my local government pick up from Bideford was a little different; I just loved their park.
It was a lovely large park with some awesome play equipment (yes, I wanted to go and play; no, I resisted the temptation), a proper paddling pool (large, loads of space around it, changing rooms) as well as decent flower beds and facilities such as the childrens centre located in the park.
Not flashy and probably not massively appreciated by the people who live there and perhaps take it for granted but I thought it was pretty cool.
I love libraries and am a big fan of keeping as many of them as we can. However, I’m also a realist and recognise that it is very difficult to maintain that level of library provision in local authorities which are undergoing the sort of cuts, not to mention changes in reading habits, that local government is currently facing.
Enter the Flavel Centre; a heady combination of library, theatre, cinema, community centre, café and arts centre.
It’s really good.
I did a bit of research to find out how the centre was structured but didn’t manage to get much past the fact that the centre is run by a Trust (the Flavel Centre Trust) which as far as I can tell has been operational for a long time. It’s possible this wasn’t a local government idea as such but regardless it is still an example of working in partnership to keep a library and develop a space that is of wider benefit to the whole community.
There was so much local government that I didn’t experience, or didn’t write about, whilst moving around Devon and doubtless I could have picked on hundreds of other interesting examples from around the county but I hope these little stories act as a small reminder of the hidden, and widespread, value of local government.
Sometimes it is easy to forget the wide range of service we provide as ‘local government’ but next time you are somewhere different keep your eyes peeled for the work of the local council; it might help remind you of what others experience, or want to experience, when they come to your area.