I’ve been spending a lot of time knocking on doors and listening to people in our town. I’m standing as a prospective Councillor in the May local election. After I’ve told people what I’m doing I wait in anticipation for the response. “Good luck with that!” said in an insincere tone, is the phrase I most dislike hearing, it usually precedes a closed door and is short for “You’ll struggle to change things here!”. In these, thankfully few, encounters there’s a resignation and complacency about the status quo that I don’t identify with. Fortunately most conversations are more positive. Having talked to hundreds of people on the doorstep in Tunbridge Wells to understand their hopes and ambitions for the town I am buoyed by their energy and engagement.
My wife and I came to the town 14 years ago to raise a family away from the press of London life. The decision has proved a good one. The town is a lively, thriving and growing community and a great place to live in the heart of a beautiful area of the country. That is the challenge. The attraction of Tunbridge Wells is creating growth and change that requires careful management to enhance the town for the benefit the of its diverse community or residents, businesses and visitors.
How do we manage change for the benefit of the community and future communities? The answer is to drive out complacency and resignation and get involved. Like many I used to spend all of my time on the daily tasks of work and family life and became complacent about the environment I was living in, making an assumption that local infrastructure, shops, transport and support services would magically meet my family’s needs in the way I want them to. This was of course unlikely as I had not communicated what I wanted to the people who make the decisions about how our town and its surroundings are managed. I now spend as much of my spare time as possible listening to local people and understanding what they need from the town. After the first rather tentative door knocks back in 2016 I now look forward to talking with my neighbours across the borough. The energy and interest on the doorstep is palpable. They know what they want, and what they don’t want, from the town. They are happy to engage in a discussion even when it might not be convenient for them. The thing they like the most is living in Tunbridge Wells (overwhelmingly) and the thing they dislike the most is being ignored (by complacent local politicians or campaign groups not visiting them or asking for their opinion). I don’t always agree with their views, that’s democracy for you! What I’ve learned is that good local democracy is about getting out there and getting involved with campaigns or political parties and listening and responding.
So, if you want better roads & pavements, less congestion, more affordable housing, more sustainable development, better recycling and improved public transport, I encourage you all to find a way to get involved. Campaign if you can, whatever your political affiliation, and at the very least make sure you tell local politicians what you want, now and in the May 2nd elections. The future of Tunbridge Wells is in your hands. Good luck out there, sincerely!