I don’t want to go to Chelsea (Local Partnership Zone 4 West)
I’m dong some work at the minute talking to people about the places they live in, and a simple theme is emerging.
People think locally.
Obvious to you and I perhaps, but often not to the Council. The Council seems to like dividing the borough up into ever more complex areas, with street partnerships, wards, areas, area partnerships, zones, quarters, places, parishes neighbourhoods, communities and regions all being used somewhere to describe the same things; where people live.
Here’s a revelation – people don’t care what we call these places; they will go on using the same names they always have, and to hell with our definitions. No manner of advertising will convince me that I live in the North area, or Partnership Zone 1; I’ll always call it by the name it is known by.
For example I grew up in Leyton, in North-East London (surely you’ve picked up the almost cockney accent of my words by now?): not Leyton and Whipps Cross Community Council, not Lea Bridge Ward, not Polling District BC – Leyton. Nothing that can be said to me will change this, I always have known it as such and always will.
That being said, I understand why they carve the borough up in these and more ways, I just don’t care on a day to day basis and won’t identify with any of them unless required. On polling days I get told which polling station to use and am happy to go along, but I don’t really care why.
I stumbled across an excellent site – http://www.thisisntfuckingdalston.co.uk/ – in which someone has taken a walk along the road to find out how people describe what the area is called, finding in just 4.5km eight different names. This got me thinking about the great names debate, and it has confirmed my thinking that we (the Council) overcomplicate things far too much. Why are we insisting people conform to our ways of thinking and descriptors, which in all truth will probably change in a few years time?
In my own short time in local government I’ve already seen us instructed to use three different words to describe places around us, with a fourth getting more of a foothold in the Town Hall as I write this. Is it a sign of the economic climate that we are not only looking at cutting up services, but cutting up areas into smaller and smaller pieces?
By all means let’s use these descriptions and distinctions internally and when required, but let’s stop expecting local people to keep up with us. I think most people roughly understand what a ward is – leave it at that. If people say they live in Dalston, let them, it won’t really hurt at al as long as they know where things are and how to access services. It might even stop us stopping services at an arbitrary boundary, over which no officer shall cross.
Or is that too radical?