Monday, January 08, 2007

Community Action

At a dinner party the other evening a friend said to me: ‘Now don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re not really the right type of person to be a Tory candidate; you’re too nice and too caring.’ I took this somewhat back handed compliment in the positive light it was meant.

It started me thinking however, particularly in light of our efforts this Christmas Day, swimming in aid of the Mayor of Bournemouth’s charities.

The perception my friend carries with him, that Conservatives are traditionally uncaring and disinterested in those less fortunate than themselves is plainly wrong.

Conservatives have so often been at the forefront of community action. The problem is that they don’t shout about it. How many times have I spoken to Conservative activists who are heavily involved in charitable activities.

In my short time getting to know the members of Mid Dorset and North Poole Conservatives, I am already aware that we have members who are very much involved with the Citizens Advice Bureaux, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Julia’s House, Help the Aged and various cancer charities.

With local authority grants being so tightly squeezed the way ahead in provision of effective community and social support must be through greater cooperation between public sector and voluntary agencies. This could be as complex as social services using the great work that the CAB’s or Relate carry out to enhance their activities. Or as simple as encouragement of the In Bloom committees throughout the area to take over and enhance our roadsides.

Our government, particularly local government, should be playing a proactive role in encouraging and linking in the services of voluntary organisations to their own. There is an enormous pool of good will and support from the voluntary sector on hand in our area. I’d like to see our local authorities sitting down, as a group, with our local voluntary agencies. They should be discussing how our volunteers can assist in further supporting their efforts. Just as importantly, our local authorities should be asking our voluntary services what assistance they need.

The support can be as straight forward as reducing the barriers to collections for their charities. It’s a shame that this doesn’t currently happen in Bournemouth; hopefully a new administration will address this issue after next May.

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