Friday, 18 December 2009

Setting out your stall

Ask a Londoner where they are from and "London" is unlikely to be  the response. Invariably it will be one of a series of ambiguously defined micro localities such as "Abbey Wood", "Mile End" or "Yiewsley" (can't find a London place name starting with 'z') The 32 London boroughs, with their often arbitrary boundaries, are even less likely to be given as home localities.

It is perhaps surprising that the organisation of our local government is primarily focussed on the two levels we identify with the least: the Greater London region and the London boroughs. Very little is organised at a community level, and where it is, it tends to be ad hoc in nature and little-known about. There are examples of highly active groups, but some are focussed on a single issue, lack enough influence to be successful or fail to engage with the community at large, relying on the tireless effort of a single personality.

Elsewhere in England small communities have elected bodies, usually known as parish or town councils, who take over some affairs from the local authority. Greater London hasn't had this sort of local democracy since the 1930s. However, in 2007 a change was made to the law to allow neighbourhood or community councils to be formed. As yet, no community has taken up this opportunity. I am going to find out why, and follow any attempts to set one up.