Contributed by Dr. Angela Drakakis-Smith
Recently the Civic Trust went into receivership. A new body and structure is now being mooted in order to attempt to perpetuate and coordinate the Civic Society Movement. To this end, debates and surveys have been undertaken in order to establish what the new body might be and how it is to be funded. Attempts are also being made to ‘define’ a ‘common thread’ of the Movement which was founded on ‘the importance of place, pride, identity and community’.
A report – ‘Own the Future’ is currently being circulated which is based on the results of a survey undertaken at the convention held recently in Blackpool and on the responses received from the 100 delegates who attended. The results indicate that ‘the debate about the future of the Civic Society Movement is important (78%); that the Civic Society Movement exists to give the community a voice (34%); as a local planning watchdog (27%); and to promote civic pride (31%). The biggest challenges to the Movement were considered to be national government and developers (26%); not being a national voice (27%); and an aging membership (25%). It was felt that any new body should support civic societies as opposed to lobbying and campaigning nationally (34%). However this appeared to defeat the object of a national body particularly as the expectation was that local civic societies would fund the national body to the tune of £3 per member as a means of remaining ‘independent’ (45%). It was also felt that grouping civic societies at the county level was more effective (31%). But it was felt that civic societies needed to change ‘only a little’ (36%) as a result of this report. That said, 43% were ‘undecided’ when asked if they agreed with the broad conclusions of the report with only 10% ‘strongly agreeing’.
Certainly there is much to discuss and to decide before any conclusions can be reached. Not least – does the Civic Society Movement need a national organising body? No doubt this and other issues will be raised at the next meeting of a Civic Society near you! The survey and report are opportunities for members to respond personally to the debate. This can be done by contacting the web site – civicsocietyinitiative.org.uk. Go on, do it now!