Representing the whole community
Town Club, above ‘The Stumble Inn’, Market Street
8 – 9.30pm, Thu 16th November 2017 — Attendees: 22
This was the first of Ideal Bradford’s ‘café style’ community meetings, designed to engage with people in a relaxed environment. In this session, we wanted to explore ideas of how Ideal Bradford can improve support with prominent issues, and with groups of people that are hard to reach, to represent the whole of our community.
Updates from Ideal Bradford councillors
Emma Franklin started the evening by presenting some of Ideal Bradford’s successes so far – the election campaign and success, the referendum turnout, engagement with Wiltshire Air Ambulance, successful meetings with St Laurence secondary school, local gardening groups and adoption of two of the town’s telephone boxes that would otherwise have been removed.
Tom Lomax spoke about the structure of the council committees and how Ideal Bradford councillors and their Lib Dem colleagues have been working out how these are working, and experimenting with how to make them better.
He explained that these open forums are about digging deeper into some of the issues to get ideas to inform policy. Ideal Bradford will be able to propose ideas and ways of working to the broader Town Council and hopefully implement them.
Tom also detailed Ideal Bradford councillors’ plans to start a rota of ‘surgeries’: set days, at various locations around town and at various days and times, where councillors will be available to talk.
The meeting moved into three smaller groups, where everyone could offer their suggestions and discuss what they thought was important for Ideal Bradford to prioritise or investigate. These lasted for approximately 30 minutes. From these conversations came the following points:
Ideal Bradford and/or the Town Council need to help people understand:
• The Town Council’s structure and its meetings
• The Town Council’s budgets and how the council spends its money
People felt unable or unwilling to contribute to existing Town Council committees, where their ideas might be discussed or they could have their say, because:
• The structures are difficult to understand
• The meetings are formal
• There is a perception that you can’t speak at meetings
• The idea of going along to “the Town Council” has connotations of bureaucracy and stuffiness
There was a keen appetite for café and social style meetings, where members of the community could talk to councillors and about what needed addressing in the town, and how they wanted things to be done
The Town Bridge was a specific concern – the lighting and pavements need repair
Accessibility in and around town was raised as an ongoing issue – for wheelchair and buggy users, but also for the broader community. Many of the pavements and roads are narrow and dangerous to cross, there is no wheelchair-friendly taxi in town, and there is no disabled access to tourist accommodation
Youth services, engagement and participation
• There were no young people at this forum – we need to set something up that young people can engage with
• Ideal Bradford and/or the Town Council need to interact more, and better, with all three schools in town
• Lack of a central sports hub is an ongoing concern, despite over 400 people being involved with Youth Football; there is little other sports provision
• There was a consensus that Ideal Bradford and/or the Town Council needed to arrange, or support, more regular inclusive youth events in town
• The group was not convinced that Bradford on Avon’s existing youth facilities are fit for purpose and are being used
Future forums and consultation
• Ideal Bradford should set up daytime meetings, hopefully including childcare, so that parents of small children can have their say
• Ideal Bradford should work with the Seniors’ Forum, perhaps providing transport for older members of the community to help them get involved
• Ideal Bradford and/or the Town Council should hold, or support, inter-generational events such as street dinners, tea parties, etc.
Other ‘hard to reach’ groups:
• The boating community lacks some basic facilities in Bradford on Avon. The Town Council could provide a laundry facility for boating folk to use, which would help make the community feel more welcome and included
• “Workers” – i.e. people who work away from home during standard office hours and, in a small town like Bradford on Avon, often commute to larger towns or cities, can be hard to reach. Ideal Bradford’s weekend surgeries will hopefully help with this
• The group recognised and acknowledged that Ideal Bradford hadn’t been able to communicate on community projects in the last few months, as much of volunteers’ limited time has been spent dealing with procedural set-up and getting legal and structural changes in place. Ideal Bradford put a call-out for people to get involved with communications, facilitation, administration, etc. to help the group do – and communicate – more
• There was appetite to get involved, especially in open and relaxed public forums like this evening event, but attendees needed to know how, and what exactly they can do