Graeme Clark works for Peterborough City Council on the Citizen Power Initiative. Here is his outline of the progress so far. He talks to Paul Stainton at 08:20 on Monday 6th September 2010 in the Peterborough Breakfast Show on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire.
PS: Now after months of warnings, the UK’s age of austerity will begin this autumn when the Government announces the results of its spending review. All this week, on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, we’re looking at how the county is facing up to those cuts. Jobs lost have roughly been matched by those gained in the city. Both Cambridgeshire Police and NHS Peterborough say considerable pressure is on their respective budgets. And Peterborough City Council’s had its budget cut by three million pounds just this year. But effort is being put in to the Coalition’s attempt to build a Big Society. Citizen Power Peterborough launched about a month ago to get more volunteers to help in the city. This week programme manager Graeme Clark will be putting the first volunteers through their induction. Morning Graeme.
PS: How many have come forward then, to build this Big Society that David’s so happy about?
GC: We’ve got about forty who are coming forward through the Civic Commons strand of Citizen’s Power. There are seven strands within the programme. Civic Commons is about bringing local people, and as I said there’s about forty of those, coming forward, for their inductions tomorrow and the day after. Bringing those people together with local civic leaders, Leader of the Council, business leaders, people like this. We’re hoping to get local MPs onside, as well, which would be great news. And we’re working with the Royal Society for the Arts on this one, who are a two hundred and fifty year old think tank. And they’ve got access to a twenty seven thousand plus Fellows network. These are leading thinkers from across the world on a range of different subjects, intitiatives. climate change, immigration, employment, things like that. And they’ll be bringing those people together along with local people, to discuss what local people want to discuss. I think that’s the key thing. It’s about local people driving the agenda at these Civic Commons sessions.
PS: Is it going to be just more than a talking shop, a sort of pretend House of Commons for Peterborough?
GC: If it is just a talking shop I shall resign. (LAUGHTER)
PS: But we’ve got that now.
GC: You’ve heard that here.
PS: And you know what we’re like. We do play clips of people on this show.
GC: Absolutely. I don’t have any problem with that. No,, seriously, it needs to be … it needs to promote action. And the idea very much is that the volunteers will come along. They will be able to improve their knowledge of the decision making process, how they can develop campaigns, how they can really get into the sort of minds of decision makers in the city, and influence those decisions.
PS: Is it going to be any good though? I mean, what can people do? I mean, you can influence whatever you like, but if there’s no money you can’t spoend it.
GC: I agree with that, but I think this programme, Big Society and Citizens Power Peterborough in particular, are very much about innovation, about local people coming up with local solutions to local issues. Who’s best placed to find out what’s going on in Fletton, or Stanground, or Hampton, or wherever it might be in the city is the people who live there. The people who live there know what’s going on. Therefore they are best placed to come up with solutions. And actually help the decision makers understand what’s going on at that level as well.
PS: Is there any guarantee though that these decision makers wherever they be, NHS Peterborough, Peterborough City Council, your local MP, is there any guarantee these decision makers are going to pay a blind bit of notice to Jeff from Paston?
GC: I guess if you want to take Jeff from Paston as an example, then you could say well OK, if they don’t, then from a political point of view, their seat could be on the chopping block, if you like. And we know from the high level within the City Council for example, the Leader’s very very keen on this. He’s committed to this. He will get involved and said that he wants to really see this drive change in the city. So the message is up there from the top, that this is about change.
PS: And how do people get involved? You say you’ve got forty at the moment. Are you looking for more?
GC: If people want to get involved they can give me a ring, 317495, firstname.lastname@example.org. And you know more than happy to talk to anybody who’s interested.
PS: Yeah. And if you want to make your opinion count, if you want to influence the people who make decisions in Peterborough, there’s your opportunity. There’s your excuse to get involved, and get your say, and influence the people who move the wheels and cogs in this city. Thank you for coming in this morning Graeme. Appreciate that.
GC: Thank you.
PS: Graeme Clark Programme Manager for Citizen Power Peterborough. Power to the People!