Back Garden interviews Mark Walker, Connecting People-Connecting Places

Q1 Back Garden, First can you tell us a little about yourself? How long have you lived or worked in Swindon?
Hi, my name is Mark Walker, I have worked for Swindon Borough Council for 18 years for Housing Services in several roles.  My substantive post is managing housing regeneration projects to its housing stock and other assets.  I volunteered to become a cluster lead to help improve peoples’ experiences and the services.  I have lived in Swindon for past 20 years as a local resident and user of Council and other services.

Q2 What is the Connecting People Connecting Places initiative?
Connecting People, Connecting Places is the Council and its public service partners response to locality working.  We want to help to provide an opportunity for local people to be able to influence their neighbourhood, their community, their local services.  We recognise that this will not happen overnight and we start at the beginning and we will work through a journey over a period of time to achieve this.  We also see this as an opportunity for local people to become more involved in their community, if they wish to of course, and have a voice.  Elected members are at the centre of this process and are central to the accountability of local services to local people and helping to shape and prioritise these in terms of where investments both tactically and strategically will be invested or not.  This is a move away from the existing structure and process of how the Council and its partners delver some of its current services and investments.

Q3 Does the Council have any objectives for the Initiative?
The Council objectives are to see the success of this way of being for its community, success will be determined by how communities feel about how decisions have been made and why.

Q4 How does it affect those of us in the Back Garden?
I think that members of the Back Garden are a community and you will be able to work with local partners and stakeholders to express local issues.

Q5 How do you see Back Garden and the existing Community Councils and Forums operating?
It would be great to see local groups / forums working in partnership to seek and deliver local improvements and promote local issues

Q6 The Police have been strong supporters of Connecting People-Connecting Places. What other stakeholders have supported the project?
Connecting People Connecting Places is not just a Council initiative, this is a partnership for all public service providers, which includes partners from both the private sector and the community/voluntary sectors.

Q7 Does the initiative reduce the role of ward Councillors?
Connecting People, Connecting Places as mentioned above is placing ward members at the centre of the process, which will help increase role of ward members as we move away from the wholly Cabinet structure of the Council.

Q8 How can residents influence Council policy on things that directly affect them?
I would suggest that local people feed their concerns to their ward members, some communities have been developing a community/neighbourhood strategy helping to articulate local issues.  Also local community groups can come together and say we can do this, how can this be facilitated/supported.

Q9 It is easy to concentrate on things that go wrong,  do you have plans to support the good things about living in Swindon?
We always try and celebrate success and positive outcomes, we will use our pathways to promote this, we would also welcome other networks to promote and celebrate success.  I would welcome community thoughts on how this may be improved

Q10 Finally in 5 years time what do personally hope to see develop from Connecting People Connecting Places initiative?
Hopefully the name Connecting People, Connecting Places will not mean much to people, I would hope it is embedded in our services and community and it is just the normal way of being for us all.

Back Garden
Thank you Mark

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