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We need both a civic and an economic renewal

PUBLISHED: 06:56 17 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:47 17 September 2020

Cllr Luisa Porritt. Picture: Emilie Gomez

Cllr Luisa Porritt. Picture: Emilie Gomez

© European Union 2020 - Source : EP

We do need to reshape our economy, but our community needs strengthening too.

Our lives are changing dramatically due to the Covid-19 outbreak, and with that rightly discussions have begun about how to tackle inequality. This month Camden councillors have begun to meet in working groups as part of the council’s new Renewal Commission work, examining everything from how to address poverty and health inequalities in our borough, to how to make it greener and improve community cohesion.

These are all noble aims, and ones that the Liberal Democrats support. There is however an important element missing from this conversation: how to ensure that everyone in our borough feels they have a stake in our community.

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The council is only one player in what makes our community strong, and capable of renewal. We saw this so clearly during lockdown when so many people stepped up to make sure that those in need received support. Whether that was making a friendly phone call, going out to buy groceries for a neighbour, helping out at a foodbank or the Royal Free, so many individuals and charitable organisations from Camden’s generous and caring community played their part.

And where the council has a role, it must take steps to hear the voices of residents directly. For example, one of the Renewal Commission working groups will look at “resident-focused service transformation”. To look at delivering a service that is more resident focused without asking residents themselves where the gaps are seems like a glaring omission. For any solution to be sustainable, residents need to shape how we build back our borough better. The council does not have a monopoly on good ideas.

We need a change of mindset from “the council knows best”. Yes to new schemes which promote walking and cycling in our borough – but not without genuine consultation to identify unforeseen consequences and wasteful errors. Yes to economic renewal, and yes to civic renewal too.

Let’s trust Camden’s wider community to define a better future for all of us, with the council’s help.

Luisa Porritt is the new Leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Camden Council, and a prospective Lib Dem candidate for the London mayoral election.


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