New non-partisan group to give Swindon political voice
11:23am Monday 20th January 2014 in By Mike Benke, @Michael_Benke
A NEW group has formed with the intention of giving people in Swindon a voice in the political system.
BetterSwindon is a non-partisan organisation that intends to hold the democratic system to account, whether it is the performance of council officers or the actions of councillors.
Currently the group has just over a dozen members but chairman Chris Barry, 68, of Eastleaze, is hoping that the number will increase significantly at a public meeting tomorrow.
“We are a group of people which came together almost by chance,” said the retired GP.
“Everyone has at some point experienced problems with Swindon Council and the complaints were simply over ruled so we all wanted to do something constructive about it.
“I was a former member of Chiseldon Parish and it was through the planning team that I had problems.”
Although Tuesday will be the first real public meeting, BetterSwindon has already been working with the council on areas that can be improved.
For example, several meetings have been held on the issue of consultations, an area of much concern to Chris.
He said: “I think a lot of people feel that very often a decision is made and then put out to consultation.
“They feel lip-service is being paid to the idea of gathering opinion but the reality is it doesn’t matter what people say.
“We have had three meetings with the council and I feel good progress is being made. Another issue of importance to us is standards. At the moment I just don’t feel the standards process is robust enough. It can take a long time and very often the behaviour of councillors is not called into question.”
In November last year the group held a meeting in which around 40 guests were invited and presented with six principles BetterSwindon feels best encapsulates what it is trying to achieve.
Having received a positive response from the attendees, these principles will be presented to the public.
“We are hoping that everyone will see what it is we are trying to do,” said Chris.
“The important message we want to get across though is we are non-political and have no allegiance to any party.
“Some of our members are planning to stand for council at the next election but we are not endorsing them in particular.”
The public meeting will take place tomorrow night at Churchfields Academy School Hall at 7pm.