Thanks to everyone who read my first blog, and to everyone who has been in touch with messages of support and offers of action for the upcoming election…just a couple of weeks to go!
Today I’m writing about strong communities. ‘Community’ means a huge amount to me because I think being part of a strong community is what helps make us feel good, and what gives us power to fight back against things which aren’t fair – what some would call social capital. Strong communities raise healthy children in safe neighbourhoods, they keep their streets clean, they have a say over what gets built, what’s needed…because strong communities have a voice and make decisions about what happens locally. That’s our vision as Greens.
When I think about ‘community’ I don’t think about race or age, or level of digital inclusion, or gender or sexuality, I think about the people who live near me. I also think about my friends on a wider geographical basis – who have similar interests and values, I think about my family.
Our communities are under siege – 1 in 7 households in Sheffield is affected by the cuts, and so you can be sure that’s a lot more in Central Ward than Hallam! It’s harder to build community strength when people move on a lot, and we have big transient populations too. And community organisations, charities and council services are being cut and disappearing left, right and centre. BUT, we have people and groups that keep battling on – people that get together and make a difference, who carry on working hard.
One thing that I’m passionate about, that we’re passionate about as Greens, is listening to people and getting views represented to the council – either when people there aren’t listening, or just because they don’t know how to get to the right people. I also enjoy helping to join up people across the community who want to make a difference and have common interests – there are so many people who can and do already – we need to be clever about how we do it.
We’re already seeing the impact of what happens when benefits are cut, community venues shut and our essential services are privatised – like the massive rise in foodbanks, kids hanging out on the street with nowhere to go, litter blowing about…
…but we’re also seeing people rise to the challenge – fighting back, volunteering, getting creative, getting angry or just getting involved. We’ve got new communities springing up – like in Kelham Island, and established communities doing great work. There are more cuts on the way, and we’ll keep on offering alternative options. We’ll keep on working hard to help strengthen communities.
I’ve always been proud to come from Sheffield – we’ve got a beautiful green city, we’re known as the friendliest village in the country and we’ve got a proud, rebellious political history. It’s a great legacy and one worth fighting for – together.