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  • Writer's pictureTunbridge Wells Alliance

Democracy Week: 14th to 20th of October

Ellen Neville

As we see election campaigns taking shape and the chess board being set, I can say emphatically that getting elected is not the end of the story, but the beginning. To effect significant change, it takes collaboration and councillors who are not afraid to change the traditional relationship with residents. They must be prepared to embrace far-ranging discussions about what their village or town want and then to be creative in how to get there. This will sometimes mean that there are very, very difficult and complex decisions to be made, especially in the foundation days when inheriting a council administration that has been under the same national party’s control for decades.

The Alliance’s ever-evolving journey into local politics has highlighted a lot of things; most notably that our residents are interested in the politics where they live, but not the confrontational politics of Westminster. It is off-putting.

Greater resident participation is an Alliance goal throughout the municipal year and we seek to do this because by empowering the community together we can make it a better place to live. That’s a local priority for everyone. However, we shouldn’t ignore the fact that we now have entrenched austerity forcing us to accept less and dwindling our reserves financially, physically and mentally. My question to all is: ‘Is this the best we deserve?’ 

With the population of the borough remaining stable, not growing or declining, we face a shifting demographic that could alter the face of our communities. Our young adults are leaving for a number of reasons. We want to make our young people feel heard and invested in their communities which is why we are celebrating Local Democracy week 9th-15th October this year with young people in mind.

Local Democracy Week promotes and fosters democratic participation at a local level through public initiatives which involve citizens. It is a pan-European event targeted specifically at local authorities and associations.

On 10th October 2023, The Alliance will be hosting The Gen Z Youth Debate. This is a free event for young people between the ages of 15 and 19 who go to school in the borough. It takes place in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Tunbridge Wells.

24 students from 3 local schools will debate three topics with members of the Council on the panel and our Deputy Mayor will Chair the meeting in his robes. The topics will have some background information with the very real scenario that budgets have been cut and services are under pressure.

The hypothetical topics debated and voted on for the day will be:

  • The council is proposing to shut Calverley Grounds in order to continue funding the local swimming pools.

  • A new tax on chewing gum sales is proposed to help pay for street cleaning.

  • Should we change the voting age to 16yrs with a cap at 80yrs?

If you want to know more about our local priorities and the work we do as independent Councillors then please contact me: 

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