Every moment you were physically here.
Every second you remain with me to this day.
Every lesson you taught me.
Every memory you left me.
Every bruise you kissed away.
Every time you ruffled my hair.
Every face you pulled in distaste.
Every sacrifice you made, and;
Every time you said. “it will be okay.”
Every birthday card signed in your name.
Every time you offered me a hug.
Every sigh you made when I said, “I’ve fucked up………..again.”
Every shopping trip for shoes that would never quite fit.
Every pain, ache, and discomfort you handled with grace.
Every time we refused to say, “goodbye.”
Every time your husband tried to cook a pie, and;
Every time my sister teased me about being a mummy’s boy deep inside.
Every day I think of you Mum.
Because, yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I will be forever proud to be called your son.
Confront hate with love. Let the people of hate know we are all better than this and we are not afraid. Thank you to the police, emergency services and ordinary people who sought to help the casualties.
Taken for granted until they are placed under threat open spaces near our urban centres not only increase our quality of life, but they are essential for leisure activities. The mental and physical health benefits they provide have been demonstrated, along with the proof that they actually prevent and slow down access to expensive health care costs. They are also the lungs of our community offsetting the effects of air pollution while providing a habitat for wildlife to survive. Exploring our open spaces not only improves our feeling of well-being but creates a sense of connection with our broader community. Our local councils, who act as the custodians of our open spaces, are now facing the consequences of a two-pronged assault by the government through their policies of austerity and Growth and Infrastructure. Given this hostile environment, it has become increasingly important that our local council’s do the right thing.
Growth and Infrastructure Act
The Open Spaces Society, have set out the legal risk to public open spaces by the Growth and
Infrastructure Act, “In the past, communities could register their local open space as a town or village green, securing their rights to enjoy it and protecting it from being built on. Now the Growth and Infrastructure Act decrees that, throughout England, landowners can challenge your use of the green for informal recreation and you then have only one year in which to register it. The danger is that the land could be developed before you even know it’s at risk.”
The Local Government Association report Under Pressure, states, “Councils are currently halfway through a scheduled 40% cut in funding from central government. Having delivered £10 billion of savings in the three years from 2011/12, local authorities have to deliver the same savings again in the next two years. As a result of these cuts councils in many areas will not have enough money to meet all their statutory responsibilities.”
The term “statutory” refers to those services, which the council has to provide by law, the biggest areas of statutory expenditure for your council are social care for the elderly, those with complex needs and children at risk. The level, depth and speed of financial cuts demanded by the central government is unprecedented and will have consequences for generations to come. As your council struggles to tackle the growing demands of social care the stark choice is one of providing essential care to the most vulnerable in our community or reducing services, which are not generally considered “statutory” like public open spaces for example.
The crisis has brought about a natural reaction. Legitimate protests have/are taking place, but they have failed to ignite the mass movement required to force a change in policy and as a consequence had little impact on the policy of austerity. Calls for councils to use their “budget reserves” to plug the hole provides a good soundbite, but will not provide a sustainable answer and those calling for this approach know this full well given it will only delay the problem and ultimately hit services supporting the elderly and vulnerable much harder. The idea that any council will set an illegal budget is just daft. The debate is not one of just reductions, but some services may ultimately stop.
Doing the right thing
Here in Bristol, the funding cuts are valued at £92m during the next five years. The idea that efficiencies, wasteful expenditure on pet projects, gold plated pensions, and cutting jobs will magically fill the budget hole is utterly discourteous to anybody’s intelligence. As reported in the Bristol Post the financial strategy for the council includes a definite saving of £1.2m by 2019/20, which is predicated on a change in how parks and open spaces are managed and maintained with the council looking at alternative ways to run them such as setting up trusts or mutual societies
The Northern Slopes constitute three open green spaces between the Knowle West and Bedminster areas of Bristol, which had remained relatively undisturbed since the Second World War when they were utilised for allotments. Thursday evening, 16th March, I had the honour of spending the evening in the company of the volunteers who are the driving force behind the Northern Slopes Initiative (NSI). Like similar volunteer groups, up and down the country the volunteers of the NSI find themselves at the coal face of convincing their local community of the importance of the slopes, protecting and enhancing them while gently elbowing the council to maintain these critical facilities. It is a thankless role, which generates no financial reward, but these volunteers are increasingly becoming the backbone of our communities as the council is forced to retreat. Relatively small in number but dedicated they are prepared to sacrifice their evenings and weekends to improve conditions for their fellow residents. They may also be holding down a job or retired, but their sense of duty is second to known. It will be these very same volunteers who will be called upon to “step up” as part of the response to the financial crisis the council finds itself in.
It ain’t what you do, but the why that you do it – that’s what gets results
Bristol Council’s willingness to look at alternatives, while fraught with difficulties is to be welcomed, but it will not be what the council is seeking to do that will determine its success, far from it, it will be how the council goes about doing it. Until the how is declared the willingness of the council to explore alternative approaches will remain aspirational just like those many well-meaning strategies, which litter the history of local government in the UK.
Naming the money is the largest installation of Lubaina Himid’s exhibition at Spike Island, Bristol and has only been shown once previously in its entirety. Comprising of 100 life-size printed figures on freestanding wooden grounds. The figures depict shoe, toy, and map-makers, drummers, dog trainers, ceramicists, herbalists, viola da gamba players, dancers and painters. Visitors to the exhibition can walk among the figures. The figures represent Africans brought to Europe as servants and given new names and roles.
Lubaina Himid is a contemporary African artist and Professor of Contemporary Art at the University of Central Lancashire. Her art focuses on themes of cultural history and reclaiming identities. She was one of the first artists involved in the Black Art movement in the 1980s and continues to create activist art which is shown in galleries in Britain, as well as worldwide. Spike Island is an international centre for the development of contemporary art and design.
Collective Impact is a framework to tackle deeply entrenched and complex social problems. It is an innovative and structured approach to making collaboration work across government, business, philanthropy, non-profit organisations and citizens to achieve significant and lasting social change. Read more here
On 14th March, I visited Ashley Community Housing to discuss their impressive work in the resettlement of refugees. Ashley Community Housing is a thriving social enterprise that puts people before profits. ‘Community’ is at the heart of everything they do we do to bring about positive change throughout communities in the West of England and the West Midlands. Since 2008 they have successfully resettled over 2000 individuals from refugee backgrounds– developing their independence, promoting their positive contribution to the community and easing their integration into UK life. Unlike similar organisations which place an emphasis on processing numbers, Ashley Housing deals with individuals who each have unique needs, skills and ambitions. Many of Ashley Housing staff, including our CEO, have lived experience as former refugees, meaning they have produced a tried and tested resettlement service that is culturally responsive. For more information following this link. I’m particularly impressed with their Rethinking Refugee Campaign.