It’s no secret that I have been very critical of previous Quedgeley Parish public meetings, when a Parish is supposed to represent around 16,000 people and barely 20 people feel motivated to turn up, and not even all the councillors attend is not a good thing. But I was very enthused last night, with a different format, interesting speakers and a more community based approach, I think we are on the right path to rediscover the need to make much more efforts in engaging with the community.
The previous formats have involved people coming to the community centre and listening to rather dry review of the work the parish has done, and then from each group. This year had guest speakers in the form of Martin Surl, the Police and Crime Commissioner, a presentation by the Claire Haslam from the City Council about the City Plan as well as the review of the Parish plan by the new chair Chris Pearce. Chris outlined what the Parish does, what committees from the council and then moved onto the Parish Plan, giving an overview of what each section is about, what progress we have made, and what still needs to be done.
Martin gave a brief introduction to his role and some of the things he has learned in the time he has been in post so far as well as some of the challenges facing us i the next couple of years. He was quite clear that he expects further cuts in the coming years, and the next two years could be particularly difficult. He then took questions from the audience, ranging from the future of the proposed police cells at Waterwells, as well as future police resources and the police station at Quedgeley.
Claire went though a presentation that encouraged all residents to get involved in telling them what we use and how we want to see our community develop. There was discussion around items like Clearwater Drive, as well as the number of houses that are to be developed which are over and above the current numbers that have already received planning permission or outline planning.
Community groups, organisations and representatives were also invited to have a table so there was more “mingling” and talking to people on a 1 to 1 basis as well as the opportunity to give a 2 minute presentation of what they do and interact with residents. As it was my first “outing” as a county councillor, I put a presentation board together and tucked myself into the corner.
We had other local representatives including Mark Hawthorne (leader of County Council) as well as City Councillors Andy Lewis and Deb Llewellen (Fred Wood had sent his apologies due to a conflict with his new Cabinet Role which was entirely reasonable), so nearly full representation or apologies. We were also really pleased to have Chris Chatterton, the Mayor of Gloucester, coming along, with his new sparky chains of office. This is the second time in 3 years that we have had the Mayor of Gloucester reside in Quedgeley (Andy Lewis was the first in 2011).
Overall, while still a low turnout on the public front, but I think the forma is now more encouraging and enticing. What we need to work on now is the publicity and how to encourage people to attend. Maybe there is something to be said about removing the more formal part completely, and having it as a “Quedgeley Roadshow” on a Saturday morning where people can man stands of interest, including businesses as well as groups and make it a more interesting and interactive event.
In any case, I’m really pleased that we have turned a bit of a corner, we just need to keep making strides in engaging our residents, but its a great start. Many thanks and much kudos to the Parish Staff who pulled it all together and sorted everything out.