Saturday, 20 March 2010

Let the people really decide how to change Bristol

If Neighbourhood Partnerships are to have any chance of success they must expand their membership beyond the “usual suspects” of local democratic Bristol 24-7 here.


  1. Good article Tony.
    I've got two competing responses in me though.

    The first one is informed by the middle class person I have become in the last few years and has got involved in school groups and the local community centre.

    As someone who has been on the receiving end of the comments you refer to, its good to see some reason and sense being applied to diagnose the problem of making local decision making open to all, not just a few.

    Although I would add that one factor you only touch lightly on is the fact that some people who get involved are not from Bristol and this can cause as much resentment as being from a different class. There is a tendency which you have pointed to on comments boards, to sometimes assume that everyone who has moved to the area must be of a different, more affluent class, but clearly that isn't always the case. It's more usually that they found a job worth moving for, and if its worth moving for it usually pays more and so by default, the person who moves can earn more than the average of the person who lives in the place they have moved to.

    It is also funny how much emphasis is placed on "the accent' here. One of the things a northerner like me notices first about moving south, is that not everyone has "the accent". In Bradford and other Northern cities, the Doctor usually has the same accent as the binman who talks like the accountant who sounds the same as the shopkeeper. Down here and in many other places in the South West, that isn't the case, so it has become a signature of class and status.

    But encouraging more people to get involved is still a difficult one. To a certain extent involvement is predetermined by time and opportunity and motive. Most people have none of these, and those that do find themselves being asked to get involved in other things by organisers keen to have willing volunteers. So what some people see as the "usual suspects" are often those type of people.

    Its a shame that councillors resort to that sort of vocabulary though, because they are often the ones who rely upon the usual suspects and cannot reach others when they set up their groups and initiatives.

    The second response is more informed by the part of me that grew up on a council estate, and saw alot of hard working people trying to work their way into the middle classes. And that is that if people cannot be bothered or arsed to get involved in stuff then thats just hard lines. If you allow yourself to be intimidated by people you perceive as do-gooders, then tough. Get out there and do good for yourself.

    Chris U

  2. If Neighbourhood Partnerships are to have any chance of success they must ensure more members of the community know of them. I have come across few who knew what I was talking about and I, who try to keep informed, was unaware of the first meeting of my local one. If people are informed and choose not to get involved, thats up to them, but if they are ignorant of The Partnerships very existance, surely the process becomes totally undemocratic.

  3. Tony

    Congratulations on a very well thought out article.

    If I may add some of my own thoughts to this piece, which would be to say that the natural reserve of the native Bristolian needs to be taken into account whilst analysing the lack of local peoples involvement in local politics and decision making.
    There is also a certain apathy amongst local people probably because of the city's diversity. The city's people have not had the same struggles as say in a working class northern city, so life's a little easier down here. A comment I hear regularly "is I can't be bothered".

    So now we come to the part where someone like Chris Uttley and most other people who have chosen to come to Bristol to better themselves. They will naturally be the more outgoing type of person that has set out to achieve what they want and has a desire to succeed, which sets them out from the already comfortable local populace, so is more likely to get involved in the running of their adopted home.

    I speak to many people in BS3 and they have absolutely no knowledge of the Greater Bedminster Community Partnership and what it's for, I'm sure this is also the case in Knowle and all other areas.

    I think the only way to involve the local population more than at present and raise awareness is to somehow take the policy/decision making to them, possibly by a more accessible voting process and advertising posters in shops.

  4. Not sure on your definitions of the class system. A few assumptions here as to social upbringing, education and disposable income defining class.
    True some issues galvanize people into action -neighbourhood partnerships is maybe not the most exciting way to spend your free time voluntarily. Don't think an outdated notion of the class system is the reason. Or what accent you're lumbered with.