Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Putting OUR Neighbourhood First

Conversely a really exciting and positive meeting this afternoon at Venture Housing in Boaler Street.

This was the meeting I have dreamt of for about 21 months! And it was as good as I had hoped for, if there had not been the heartbreak of the Prescot Road/Drive meeting, this would be a really gold star day in my councillor career.

I think the first thing a resident of L6 (Kensington and Fairfield North I shall call it) said to me on my first door knocking in November 2005 when I was selected as Labour candidate for the ward, was "It all happens in L7 where they are in a multi-million pound New Deal area, but as a result, nothing at all happens in L6, where we are the forgotten".

I listened with great interest as this was repeated over and over again. I took note and started researching and soon learnt that K&F North was continually overlooked by the council and the partners and the agencies because they all somehow thought that the whole ward was party to the regeneration riches and so did not provide any special services in the north, nor indeed in some cases even the statutory basics.

I started going to Tenants and Residents Association (TRA) meetings all over the ward, as a candidate, and there were lots on the south side, all well organised and supported by the New Deal vehicle - Kensington Regeneration - with a full complement of agencies and partners present at every meeting.

There were fewer TRAs on the north side and none had any agencies or partners, usually there were a handful of residents and me, and very occasionally a LibDem councillor.

Once I was elected and became part of the full round of meetings and committees and received all the various correspondences about work plans and funding regimes, I realised how deep the problem went.

Basically, if you live north of Kensington/Prescot Road and south of West Derby Road, you get nothing from anyone and nobody loves you, you are nobody's child.

Well I couldn't allow this to go on and once I was elected the fight back began.

I am proud to say that today Wendy and I were finally invited to a meeting that is co-ordinated by Venture Housing Association on Boaler Street in the heart of the Molyneux area, covering the Molyneux and Elm Park in name - but my probing questions demonstrated that they cover the Phythian, Elm Vale and Prospect Vale too. The meetings have been going on a while and according to their minutes have slowly stagnated as neither residents nor partners were showing up in very large numbers.

I learnt about this meeting from Peter Rogers of Venture Housing in March 2007 when I had my first ever meeting with Venture. I asked him to include me in future meetings because I thought this had the potential, once reinvigorated, to take up the regeneration slack in the area. I dont know how it has taken until August for my invite to arrive but thank God it has.

I was sent the minutes of the last meeting and could clearly see the gaps in partners and agencies, and from the apologies too that this was not being taken as seriously as we would want. So I contacted the local Police Inspector, Dave Charnock and told him I wanted him to prioritise these meetings in future. Two officers were there today in consequence. I wrote to Karen Lewis our very capable council Neighbourhood Services Manager, and told her how important it was that her team was represented (they were there today too). I wrote to Environmental Services and said I wanted them to be there - Ian Watson arrived with us.

It was a good turnout although only Margaret Smith from Elm Park was there from the residents. This will be different next meeting as I will be ensuring we have a big turnout from local people. I know them, I meet them, I know what they want, and what they want is being a part of the new and exciting group that we are about to become.

This Forum is going to become a very powerful and all encompassing body and we are going to kick ass and make huge progress in the area, we are going to tackle blight, improve advice facilities, enhance the green spaces, work with young people, tackle anti-social behaviour, we will have green and colourful pocket parks instead of fly-tipping, we will have traffic calmed streets, we will have zero tolerance of drug dealing and prostitution, we will have the schools on board, the businesses on board, Dream High, Friends of Newsham Park, you name it.

I am going to invite everyone with something to offer and together we are going to make the biggest difference to L6 since records began.

Thank you Venture Housing for being the catalyst, we needed you, we salute you and we wont let you down, you will not find us wanting. L6 is moving forward.
And it all began today.

1 comment:

JB said...

That's ace - I've never even heard of this forum, and I've lived in L6 for years... strange what goes on behind closed doors isn't it.

I'm glad someone is opening them up at last, well done.