COMMUNITY VISION UPDATE

19 Dec 2023
Stephen Conway

This last year has seen Wokingham Borough Council embark on an exciting new approach to setting its priorities for the future.  I strongly believe that this new approach is vital for both the council and the community it serves.

In the recent past, the council has formed its own strategy and then consulted the community to see whether it endorses the council's general direction of travel.  However well-intentioned, this form of community involvement tends to produce unsatisfactory results.  Those who have drawn up the strategy are naturally inclined to want to defend it and are reluctant to make significant changes at the last minute.

To produce better outcomes, which more accurately reflect what the community wants, we have been trying to reverse the process, starting with the community's aspirations and ending with the council adopting a strategy that seeks to deliver those aspirations.

We have come a long way over the last year.  A well-attended launch meeting in Wokingham Town Hall, at which the idea of a Community Vision was first aired, was followed by a series of workshops to obtain the views of the voluntary and charitable sectors; businesses; town and parish councils; educators, including both schools and the University of Reading; health providers; and the emergency services.  The Youth Council, which represents young people in our community, was also asked for its input.  

We then established a steering group, chaired by an independent person - Nick Fellows, of the Wokingham Volunteer Centre - and comprising representatives from business, the press, the charitable and voluntary sector, health providers, faith groups, schools, the Youth Council, and the University of Reading, as well as council officers and elected councillors.

In the autumn, we began a wider consultation with the community, asking people to give their views on three very open questions - 

What things do you like about the area where you live?

What would you like to change about the area where you live? 

If you were describing the place where you live in the future, what would you want to say about it?

We are now analysing the results of this wider consultation, which will help to shape the first draft of the Community Vision that we will be drawing up in the new year.  The range of views is of course very great, but we will be endeavouring to make sure all voices are reflected in the final version.  What is perhaps surprising is the large number of common themes that are emerging.

A big thank you to all who responded to our three open questions, and to those who filled in the more detailed questionnaire on the council's Engage platform.  I greatly appreciate your taking the time and effort to let us have your views.

There is still time for anyone who missed the opportunity to contribute - if you haven't commented yet, but would like to help shape the Community Vision, please email me on Stephen.Conway@wokingham.gov.uk.