The Mayor of Wandsworth with the 2013 Civic Award Winners
2013’s Wandsworth Civic Award winners (photo by Love Battersea)

If this blog were powered by good intentions there would be (at least) daily posts. But, through lack of time, self-censoring or just plain laziness they rarely make it to the blog. So a growing sense of hypocrisy by omission, therefore brings to belatedly post about last week’s Civic Dinner and Awards.

In an age of austerity the event is one of Wandsworth’s last set-piece occasions, but one that I hope remains for a long time to come, since it’s also one of the last big opportunities we have as a civic organisation to celebrate the people who make the borough great. While some may feel that dressing up and having a dinner is an extravagance, I’m inclined to think that if we consider it a cost against the work done by the borough’s many volunteers it is incredibly good value.

Curiously the full list of winners doesn’t seem to be published by the council yet, but there are two I would highlight: Marlene Price and Shirley Price (I’m compelled to add: no relation) who, from opposite ends of the borough, have dedicated themselves to working hard for the residents of the estates on which they live and beyond. Only last Monday I was at the Roehampton Partnership where Shirley was challenging the council on school places for the residents of the Putney Vale estate and, I think, modifying to the council’s thinking. Both have offered decades of service without thinking of thanks; it’s great that we still have this opportunity to show the borough’s gratitude regardless.

Interestingly, I sat next to a representative of the voluntary sector during the meal and talking about some of my good intentions, but also about the barriers that I found off-putting (for reasons other than the Civic Awards, volunteering has been on my mind recently). I listed a few, like the lack of training, need for CRB checks. My neighbour added insurance and health and safety awareness, to which I nodded as if I’d already thought of those.

What became clear to me during the chat was that it is always easy to find obstacles, and to allow them to be blocks. What marks out the Civic Award winners (and nominees, and all those volunteers who, as yet, are unsung) is that they just get on with it: they have a JFDI attitude[1]

I had the good intention of taking a few minutes to write this blog post for almost a week.

Their good intentions don’t last long, because the turn them into great actions. An example we could probably all do to follow a bit more.

  1. Just flipping do it, although the ‘f’ is usually rendered less politely.  ↩

Poppies and crossesAs I go into the weekend I find myself almost computerless (mainly through my own fault) and using an old and slow computer means I’ll be keeping it brief!

Town Centre meetings
I had a meeting with representatives from the borough’s town centre partnerships early in the week which, I thought, was useful and generated a lot of ideas and issues for the council (and the town centres) to take away and work on.

The different character of the five town centres is one of the defining characteristics of Wandsworth and help give the borough its heart soul. There is nothing worse than an out of town shopping centre (having spent a large part of the day at Westfield, I’m glad we have never gone down that route).

It’s easy for a council to concentrate on its residents and not think about the businesses needed to serve the people who live there and provide jobs for local people. While I think we generally do a good job I know we don’t always get it right and am pleased the partnerships are prepared to tell us when we don’t!

Act of Remembrance
I took my son along to the Act of Remembrance in Battersea Park on 11 November. As always it was a moving ceremony that involved not just those affected or involved in the armed forces, but also local children. And while I do get a little annoyed at the few dog-walkers who cannot pause for a moment at 11am, it was good to see most people in the park taking a few minutes to those who have sacrificed so much for us all.

Civic Awards
Another defining characteristic is the council’s commitment to volunteering and giving some recognition to those who have given so much to their community. One of the year’s highlights for this is the Civic Awards which seek to recognise a handful of people each year who have given, voluntarily, huge amounts over the years to the area.

Wednesday saw five awards made to those whose lifetime of commitment had made a difference. It was an opportunity for the council to say thank-you, and for the recipients, their friends and families to celebrate. And one of those nights that really shows that the council is, and should be, about so much more than just providing services.

Building Confidence in Our Community
Finally, I spent yesterday in Roehampton at a conference organised by the police (with some help from the council’s Community Safety Division) about the different factors affecting confidence in the police in the borough.

You might, superficially, think it is just a function of the police themselves – but there are so many factors that affect what people think about safety in the area. We happen to have excellent police, but many other factors seem to determine how people think. For example, many ‘communities’ within the borough have different views because their access is restricted, not deliberately, but because people haven’t thought about their situation.

There were some powerful presentations given, I was particularly touched by two ladies who discussed their experiences of interacting with the police when they were victims of domestic abuse. It is a recurrent theme for me, but it is important to realise that things are very very rarely as clear-cut as they might seem.