So I was able to get a train home from Manchester to be in time for the inaugural Citizen Assembly for Stratford & West Ham Community Neighbourhood.
I am a Newham Councillor for West Ham ward. Citizen Assemblies are intended to achieve newly elected Mayor, Rokhsana Fiaz, commitment to :-
"Putting Newham Residents at the Heart of Everything We Do.
I had heard that the morning meeting had gone well with around 90 residents attending. We had about 70 plus residents in the evening. It was by far the most successful community participation event, I have ever known, either as a Councillor or a Housing officer. Residents were thoughtful, constructive and genuinely wanted to understand problems while keen to contribute to possible solutions.
Certainly, a number were quite forthright about about the serious issues that we all face and there was some difficult conversations but there was very little of the negativity and self interest that I have found in other community consultation events I have attended over the years. It showed to me what you can get if you treat residents as grown ups - treat them with respect and make it clear that you are actively listening and really want to involve them.
The meeting decided and voted upon what would be the Stratford & West Ham priorities and I did a random drew in front of everyone to pick 4 volunteers from each ward to be part of a working Group. The working group will meet next month and the next Assembly will take place in November.
While I have no doubt that it will not always be sweetness and light I am really excited about our Citizen Assemblies and look forward to the next one.