This post on our sister blog, the Thurrock and Basildon Heckler, took a look at the aftermath of the local elections: After the elections… Particular attention was paid to the low turnout with 70% of the electorate choosing to not exercise their right to cast a vote for a local councillor.
For a range of reasons, people have little or no faith in their local council. One of them is the perception that the real power lies with the senior council officers who are unelected and pretty much unaccountable. That was one of the key reasons for the low turnout in Thurrock.
Does this mean people don’t care about what happens in their community? A superficial analysis would suggest that’s the case. A more in depth look at what actually happens at the level of the community paints a completely different picture…
While people may not have a lot of trust in their council, many do care and are willing to get stuck into a wide variety of grassroots, community orientated projects. You only have to take a look at the sidebar on this blog to see the number of initiatives that are operating along the estuary. Bear in mind that this is far from a comprehensive list – it’s just scratching the surface and we’re doing what we can to add to it as and when we’re alerted to the existence of a project.
A growing number of people are concluding that meaningful change will not come from sticking a cross on a ballot paper every year or so. Instead they’re organising to bring about change in their neighbourhoods on a whole range of fronts.
These range from residents taking over the running of their local park and transforming it into a vibrant community hub, through setting up community gardens all the way through to operating repair cafes, running school uniform banks and food banks. All of these fill the gaps that are left by dysfunctional local authorities. Some achieve aims that a local council wouldn’t even have considered. More importantly, these projects bring people together and create a sense of solidarity and cohesion.
Also, they give participants a sense there’s something they can collectively have some degree of control over. Each in their own way bring a little bit of power down to the grassroots. It’s this feeling of empowerment and achieving results at a neighbourhood level that’s one of the vital building blocks in creating the world we want rather than having to endure the dystopian one we currently exist in.
In essence, this is what the Alternative Estuary project is about. Encouraging grassroots projects that make a difference and empower those who take part in them. It’s about a quiet revolution at the level of the neighbourhood that has the potential to bring about meaningful and long overdue change.