Home Page How to make 2013 the Year of the People 04/01/13

Haverhill Poll
Haverhill Poll


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Matthew Hancock
Your Local MP

Hart of the Matter

As we head into the first weekend of the New Year, how many resolutions have you made and broken so far? It is, after all, that time of year when we traditionally review and re-assess our conduct.


This process of re-assessment is down to the individual, of course, and woe betide anyone who tries to tell people how to live their lives nowadays. Nevertheless, from a community point of view there are ideas which could be very helpful if people decided to put them into practice. People power can achieve surprising things.


So here are my suggested resolutions for 2013 to become a full participant in the community of Haverhill and to ensure the town continues to progress:


1 Read regularly about what is going on in the town, on line or via newspapers, so you can make your views heard and not just find out about things after they have been decided.

2 If any organisation asks for your opinion, take the time to give it in full.

3 If youíve been elected to anything, turn up to meetings and say what you think and not what your party apparatchiks have told you to say (or think).

4 Donít just assume the county or borough councils have decided things beforehand so there is no point in protesting. It doesnít matter what anyone has decided, if enough people protest they will get twitchy and start to re-think.

5 If you run up against unaccountable bodies who are just bonkers, like NHS Suffolk, just make as much noise at them as you can and then try to make fun of them in public Ė they donít like that. Itís true that you canít force them into anything, but you can make them jolly uncomfortable, and that may help next time you come up against them.

6 If you run a business in the town, try not to forget the power of goodwill.

7 It may seem very obvious and hackneyed, but go out of your way to support your local services otherwise they may not be there when you need them next year.

8 If you decide to campaign for or against anything, or if you have to decide on something controversial, make the effort to find out as much about both sides of it as anyone else or your argument will get shot down.

9 Donít just whinge from the sidelines. That doesnít really help anybody, and is the privilege of the Press.

10 Distinguish the office from the person holding it. The first is entitled to respect, the second has to earn it.


Before you rush to the keyboard to take issue with some or all of these, you might consider what the effect would be if all 25,000 people in Haverhill made these resolutions and stuck to them.


Suddenly we would have an extraordinary amount of power to bring about the changes we need, because no one could ignore that tide of opinion.


Of course, it wouldnít happen, and even if it did, there would be a lot of differences of opinion, making it difficult to navigate.


In ancient Athens, I believe, residents gathered in a big open space and debated the major issues that challenged them. Once they had decided what to do, everyone was expected to pull together to get it done.


That goes against the grain nowadays, because we all feel we have a right to stick to our guns, no matter how outnumbered we are. It is not an ideal form of Government but just the best of a bad lot.


But what we have now is far worse because it masquerades as democracy when it is nothing of the kind. The only truly democratic decision made in the whole course of local government is not to be bothered with it at all. That is how some 70 per cent of the population of Haverhill regularly vote at local elections by not voting at all.


In the case of the police and crime commissioner election in November it was nearer 80 per cent. Yet you can see by reading the message boards on this website, or attending public meetings of Haverhill Safer Neighbourhood Team, that residents actually care quite a lot about local policing.


If we had real democracy at work in Haverhill, I suspect we would have a fully pedestrianised High Street by now. It is arguable, but I sense there really is quite a majority in favour of it, even though the minority against it is sizeable.


If all those in favour stood up to be counted and demanded it, neither our apprehensive retailers, nor the authoritarian Cllr Guy MacGregor, nor even the planning inspector at a public inquiry could hold out against it.


What gives them all the power to prevent it is the apathy of the general public, probably the most powerful single force for failure that there is. The system is there for people to achieve what they want. Itís just that they donít generally use it.

David Hart
David Hart revives his personal take on the week in Haverhill, covering everything from major town developments to what we do with our rubbish.
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