It’s been Council Annual Meeting week, with lots of councils starting their new municipal years, appointing mayors and so on. Puffles (the ex-Whitehall dragon fairy) has been up in Cambridge watching the city council go about its business, and at the end of his piece, he comes up with an important challenge:

In the grand scheme of things, there are a number of similarities with Westminster – both good and bad. The good being that on issues that deal with people in real need (such as today), there was a debate on how to tackle a problem. The bad being some of the conventions that, to outsiders not familiar with local councils would find as time-wastingly bizarre.

This for me is one of the biggest challenges for local public bodies in Cambridge. There’s something that ‘feels’ very insular about structures and systems – one that doesn’t make reaching out to wider communities as easy as it could be. I’m thinking in particular those that could improve and enrich our city & surrounding areas. The two I’m most familiar with are the hordes of commuters that travel from Cambridge to London, and the growing public policy community. One that I’m becoming more familiar with as a result of being a school governor and also a volunteer for Cambridge Online’s social media surgeries are those hyperlocal-community groups, perhaps those whose day-to-day world is the one that exists within their neighbourhood. There is a wealth of knowledge within those small community groups just as there is within the rail commuting community and the academic community. How can we unlock this knowledge and bring what can sometimes feel like disparate communities together? (In particular, bringing them together on equal terms).

Really good questions, and as relevant here in Sussex as in the Fens.


Written by Anthony Zacharzewski

Anthony Zacharzewski was one of the founders of Demsoc in 2006. Before starting work for Demsoc in 2010, he was a Whitehall civil servant and a local government officer.