Gail Engert (Muswell Hill councillor / Lib Dem) had a fantastic idea. Haringey’s Area Assemblies are a good thing in theory – but the same people tend to come each time and it often ends up as the Council presenting rather than the ‘you talk, we listen’ promise that Labour Haringey said these meeting would be.
So – Gail (who now chairs the Muswell Hill and Highgate Assembly) had the idea of having it in a marquee right in the middle of Albert Road Recreation Ground and focusing it on young people and families.
So there were stalls – which gave out information on all the projects – and there was a section for young children to play in – so lots of parents with toddlers were able to come for once. And there was a seating section for the formal part of the meeting. And it was on a Saturday afternoon – not a weekday night.
It’s a shame that the weather wasn’t better – but attendance was pretty good and it wasn’t just the usual people there. But with all the relevant departments there to inform local people about every aspect of youth services the pity was, as one woman said, that Haringey Council really doesn’t publicise these things in a way to get new people in and more people in. There weren’t even leaflets through very local peoples’ doors. I know Haringey Council does a bit – but not nearly enough – though of course the local Liberal Democrats do put efforts into publicising the area assemblies too (and when occasionally for one reason or another we haven’t done our bit, it has shown in the lower than usual attendance).
There were a few very short informative presentations and then they had a panel including Shayan and Adam (our co-chairs of Haringey Youth Council) on a panel and some officers and councillors to answer questions from the attendees. And the sort of points made were spot on:
– there’s nothing for my son and his friends to do around here
– the PFI improvements to schools mean that the halls that used to be rented free or cheaply to local groups like scouts and woodcraft folk have been priced out the market
– there is real anti-social behaviour (it’s not just perception)
You get the gist. The positives are that there is a program of activity for young people, a summer university and a discount card for young people in Haringey – but I really don’t think that they get out into the community and the schools in the west of the borough in the way they do in the east. That was reflected by members of the audience who raised it too.
There had been quite a lot of trouble at Alexandra Park Library and originally in the recreation ground too, but I was talking to the (police) Safer Neighbourhood Team before the meeting itself started and it was clear that they were working their way into being recognised by and having a relationship with the ring-leaders. As with most of this stuff – it is just a very few young people who make life a misery for others.
One good idea from elsewhere – the Bounds Green Safer Neighbourhood Team did some youth football etc last summer and now have a ward football team, Bounds Green United. So perhaps that’s something the Alexandra ward team could look at – and perhaps even all the wards so that there is a ward football league?
So – lots more effort needed. Make sure that the kids who say they have nothing to do are engaged and informed and brought in to what there is to do. Re-open Muswell Hill Centre full time – that seems bloody obvious. Young people are generally good – but if there’s nothing to do – well they hang around and…
Talking to one young man who was in the middle of a survey of young people, he made a strong argument for not simply creating (as if they would) facilities in each location. There is a lot of ‘territorial’ problems where young people won’t go into others’ territories for fear of trouble – and he argued out that the creation of separate facilities would simply make those divides even greater. So – perhaps we also need to work on keeping the territorial issues to sporting contests – rather than potential gang warfare.
Anyway – congrats to Gail for thinking up such a new approach to Area Assemblies.
Yes, engage with people. I wish my Council would do a lot more of that. Including having a really excellent section on its web site listing events. The old idea that people will feel that they have a duty to pass the information on (e.g. via the schools) doesn’t work in this post feudal age.