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Placing power where it really matters

May 7, 2013

At the council we believe in placing power where it really matters, with the people of our city.

We believe they tend to ‘know best’ and that we must work in partnership with them to come up with policies and initiatives that can make a difference on the ground. Udecide event

The old ‘top down’ days, when the council was the expert on everything and imposed changes without consultation are, thankfully, over.

If you want to see an example of this approach, take a look at Udecide.

Recently, we had a Udecide event at the West End Women and Girls Centre in the Elswick ward that I represent. Local people gave up their own precious time to come together to decide how £30,000 should be spent on reducing the harm caused to the community by alcohol

More than 100 people packed into the room, people who would not normally engage with the council, people who were excited that they had the opportunity to make a difference.

This was local decision-making made real – local people taking ownership of an issue and then deciding whether proposed solutions would work where they live. It was also brilliant that the event attracted both young and old from many different cultures and backgrounds. Udecide is a great way of bringing communities together to find out what they have in common.

They listened to presentations about the different projects, questioned representatives at length and in detail and then voted on where the funding should be awarded.

And these projects were often rooted in the community, for example the Patchwork Young People’s Development Group that wanted £10,000 for a year-long video diary project to get young people to document the effects alcohol has on Elswick.

Or an idea from West End Women and Girls Centre, who wanted to do a documentary project that looked at the health effects of excess drinking and challenged some of the myths that make young people think alcohol is safer than other drugs.

It was great to see people coming together to make a difference and using their own local knowledge and expertise.

It’s tempting to believe that people have stopped caring and are now apathetic about everything, particularly in less well-off wards like Elswick. This event proved there is still great passion and belief in the community. If we can continue to harness that passion with events like Udecide, we can really make a difference.

Cllr Ann Schofield is the deputy cabinet member for Age Friendly City and a councillor for Elswick.

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