Sunday, April 01, 2007

New Neighbourhood Agreements

Monday saw something very new and exciting, my first ever meeting as a Councillor where Labour was in the political majority, heady stuff.

Liverpool City Council has decided to go along the path of Neighbourhood Agreements. They have divided our thirty wards into five groups, each of six wards, each group containing two neighbourhood committee areas. My neighbourhood committee, Everton, Kensington and Fairfield and Picton (not a great name) has been twinned with the Waterfront neighbourhood committee (a much better name) to form some ludicrously named joint committee which I cannot be bothered to type as it goes on for half a paragraph.

These six very different wards are meant to come together to agree joint priorities for "our" area and then create a neighbourhood area agreement (NAA) about how these priorities will be delivered. These NAAs cover health, the economy, the physical environment, education and housing and all of those sorts of things. Big important all encompassing issues.

Our wards are

Kensington and Fairfield

That encompasses some very run down areas along with those living the high life on the marina, the dock apartments favoured by footballers and the actual city centre

It is a nonsense to imagine that we can, as a group of wards, have any shared priorities. What is important in one area, like better transport from the river banks into the city and some kind of local corner shop provision for the apartment dwellers, is of no relevance to those living in what are essentially slum clearance areas in some other parts of the area where getting the place cleaned up is of primary importance. Even the crimes are different, car crimes in one part, drug dealing and prositituion in another, arson in a third.

We have long been concerned that although there are parts of the city where such groupings make perfect sense, like the wards along the south and south east of the city - Church, Allerton, Mossley Hill etc, they are nonsensical in the north and the centre.

Councillor Steve Munby who is our Housing and Neighbourhoods Spokeperson lead us through this latest meeting to a consensus that although the council officers had prepared a paper that identified lots of priorities, some with an input from a group of us at a hastily held meeting a few weeks before, this is all far too serious to be rushed and far too serious to be agreed by just us councillors without the involvement of all our partners, agencies and residents.

So we took a vote to put off the decision making for our "area" until after the elections when the then duly elected representatives can take their time to come to the right decision and not rush it. I was really pleased to be elected as Deputy Chair to the committee.

I know that Steve is passionate about the mechanism and getting it right, and as a representative of the Waterfront neighbourhood committee, as well as our Labour spokesperson, he will be great as the Chair. Once he has got all the detail sorted out and we can be sure we have consulted properly, I hope I will come into my own in making sure that the priorities we identify are truly the people's priorities. That is what matters to me. I am very serious about making sure that we listen and do not merely dictate to local people about what it is they care about. It is their neighbourhood in the end after all.

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