As our AGM draws near, several people have asked about or non-political stance. As I am standing down this year, I thought it might be helpful to explain Back Garden’s non-political stance and my take on it.
Back Garden is part of Swindon Borough Council’s Connecting People-Connecting Places initiative. We took the view that the aims of Connecting People, etc, were best achieved by improving communication between residents and all the stakeholders in the central part of Eastcott Ward. Back Garden might campaign and it might undertake direct action, but our priority would be to encourage residents to resolve problems themselves by providing information and support.
The Council evidently believed that other less formal routes from resident to Council were required in addition to those via local Councillors. The founders of Back Garden, had themselves experienced several situations where there were conflicts between their views and those Councillors, and agreed with the Council that alternative less formal options would be helpful. We believed however that we should not be simply another pressure group, but would work to improve communication from all sides and in all directions. It was in our view pointless to set up a parallel system to the existing ones or to seek to usurp the relationship between voters and Councillors
Two examples of this policy in action. Whilst Back Garden’s supports the group seeking the devolved management of Savernake Halls, we would offer to communicate information from other individuals who might wish the Halls to remain in Councils hands. We hold open meetings that provide opportunities for residents to meet stakeholders and raise any issue.
Applied to party politics we welcome members of political parties, after all most of us vote for one or another party. What we do not want to have happen is that the parties manage Back Garden’s affairs. To do so would remove the benefits that the Council sought to gain by establishing alternative communications routes.
We have therefore worked with Robert Buckland MP to clear litter and supported Liberal Councillors over local planning issues. But neither Robert or our Councillors sets our policy. Personally, for example, I would be unhappy with a Councillor chairing Back Garden. I would have no such concerns over an active member of a local party. Where they ever to become Councillors, I would expect them to stand down from chairing Back Garden.
Our non-political stance has served Back Garden well. We have had the assistance of Councillors from within the Ward and beyond; of our local MP; and of senior members of all the parties active in Eastcott. I for one look forward to these relationships being maintained.