Despite being from Western Ward, I “gatecrashed” the West Swindon Forum last night. Here’s some thoughts on it.
What is the West Swindon Forum
The West Swindon Forum seems to be a bi-monthly (that is, every-other-monthly) meeting between West Swindon residents, councillors and other interested/interesting parties. Residents can share and discuss local issues, and get updates on important changes in their local area and across the borough.
It was well run, being chaired by Councillor Mary Martin and moving relatively quickly between issues. I’ve certainly been in more boring and chaotic business meetings, so to have one full of members of the public moving so smoothly was pleasantly surprising.
It was also well attended. Well, actually, I say that, but while numbers were high I would say that the demographic was quite narrow and that the forum appeared to be full of people whom the councillors and other panel members knew quite well anyway.
Why I Went
I went along because I’d had a couple of invitations from various places to hear a man from the transport planning department talk about Swindon’s successful bid to the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
To keep things brief I’ll talk about the sustainable transport in a separate post.
I confess that I went with slight trepidation, not sure what the format would be, how many would be there, and whether it would be interesting or incredibly boring.
What Did I Think?
Overall I was pretty impressed and interested. Yes, it was a little boring, but that’s just the nature of the subject matter of raised kerbs, parking issues and street lighting. To be fair, if this was my ward’s community forum, I’d be raising the issue of pavement parking outside my house and of parking on Rodbourne Road between Linslade Street and Redcliffe Street.
But I also felt that the forum was hugely important and that’s why I stuck it out. That the councillors take a long evening out to invite people to air their views should be valued and some of the presentations are on hugely important topics, like the potential change from Council-owned council housing to a housing association. I left with lots of useful information!
I was also left a little disappointed. Not with the councillors, or the people who attended the meeting, but about local politics in general. I guess I was the second youngest person in the room and, as I said before, I seemed to be one of the few people who didn’t seem to be a regular.
I would love to see more younger people engage with this forum and find out what their councillors do, and what they can do for us.
I’ll certainly be finding out if there’s a similar forum in my ward, and popping along if I can. And I’ll be encouraging others to as well. Local politics isn’t massively exciting – I wonder how we can make it more interesting for people? – but it is important. Get involved if you can!