As ‘master’ of the website for the Beeston Hill Residents’ Voice group, today I mothballed the pages, writes local resident Alison Neale.
At the start of 2012 the residents’ association ceased to be. Attendance had dwindled week by week and officials frequently outnumbered residents until, for a variety of reasons, the association was no more.
It cannot be that people don’t care. Far from it – I think that in these days of cutbacks and austerity measures, people are increasingly concerned that the ‘little things’ – street lights, bins, parks, anti-social behaviour and petty crime – are dealt with appropriately and quickly.
However, given my own reluctance to head out at 7pm on a week night to discuss these things, I don’t blame others for not turning up.
Yes, I went, but I don’t have children or elderly relatives to take care of, or shift work, or any of the myriad other more important things to do.
So if a meeting won’t work, then what will? How can local residents communicate with officialdom, bring to light offensive graffiti, notify those in charge that bins are not being emptied, street lights need to be fixed, or crime is taking place?
Obviously, in this technology-laden lifestyle we now live, ‘there’s an app for that’.
For those with internet access, the set of projects run by www.mysociety.org/projects include Fix My Street, where you can report problems such as potholes and broken street lights; Fix My Transport to report public transport problems; and websites to contact your MP and councillors.
The Council’s own website also has many of the answers – although I know from experience that it can take some time to find them!
However, there seems to be a mistaken assumption that everyone is online, everyone is plugged in, and that listing services on the internet is the solution. Not so. Perhaps there is an irony in my writing this in a blog post, but I do get sick of seeing the words ‘find the information on our website’ when so many people cannot do so, and with libraries closing across the country, the free access that was intended to get everyone connected has been taken away for an increasing number.
So for those without internet access, for those who, like me, occasionally want to chat with a councillor or official who can advise on a sensitive issue in the local area, we perhaps need an alternative.
Traditional meetings are all well and good, but particularly in the dark evenings of winter it is not practical for many people to head out.
So, how can we help to improve our neighbourhoods, contact officials, get advice from the police or Council, and have a good moan about the lack of litter bins?
Should we revert to old-fashioned bulletin boards in each neighbourhood? Should there be neighbourhood champions in each area who have information, contacts and advice? Are leaflets or sections in local magazines and newspapers the way to go, or will they be automatically thrown away or recycled? Should we have drop-boxes for ideas and opinions at the remaining libraries? Who has a good idea?
What do you think? Have your say in the comments below.