Three words. Three words you read a lot about in our blogs. Localisation. Communities. Partnerships. How many of you know that there really is such a thing as a Local Community Partnership? It's run by Bucks County Council & has several meetings every year at locations in YOUR Community. Not heard of it? If you have heard of it, how many of you have been to such a meeting? I know, I know, you have better things to do. But what is the LCP for? What does it do?

I will give you my definition based upon spending two years attending the meetings. I think it is an attempt to give our communities a voice. Afterall how many of us really go to Council meetings and petition our elected officials? Few of us know how, few of us care. So the LCP is a kind of Council Roadshow that voyages around our communities in an attempt to get more of US in to talk, around the same table, with more of THEM. In essence this is a great idea and the people running this roadshow are doing a great job. The Transition Town High Wycombe believes in the LCP process. It is our chance to promote sustainable communities.

Now you might have taken that as given: afterall who wants to live in an unsustainable community? However things are far from that simple. The Partnership is more than just Councilors. It is you and I; Joe Blow effectively, but also your local Neighbourhood Watch, the local community Police, Civic Society, Residents Associations and so on. The meetings are open to the public, anyone can come along but in fact the usual suspects are always there. Their numbers are few. It isn't a clique nor is it a conspiracy. It is a reflection of the fact that, out of a population of well over 100,000 people, barely 0.2% make the time to contribute to these sort of community events. Many more are active on a super-local level, such as in organised sports, church, clubs, schools, and so on, but few take the time to work on pan-Wycombe Civic Society organisations with some Council involvement. No doubt many may well feel it is an empty gesture of democracy or worse; a "consultation". It can be so much more.

So if you want a sustainable community you will need to ask for it & engage in the LCP with us. Obviously it is what you "need". But the World runs on "wants". Not needs.

The idea of the LCP is that the community is in the same team as the Council and that, together, we can work on the problems that effect us all. This includes housing, security, crime, environment, roads, schools, healthcare, libraries, business, jobs & so on. In reality it is a very unequal partnership. The Council turns up with all the money, power, authority and influence. Despite the best efforts of the organisers (to make it look like we are all talking about priorities that WE can work on) it ends up being a wish list to Santa of all the things the Community Groups would like the Council to do for THEM. And most of these priorities are highly short-term; they end up being a list of roads repairs and a bunch of things about which the Council can do very little.

Enters Transition Town High Wycombe with its local grassroots brand of long-termist, sustainable-culture building. We find that the priorities set by our communities rarely bare any resemblance to the kind of long term objectives we have. Nobody is talking about growing fruit trees, nobody is talking about warmer homes or fuel poverty. Let's face it, we are not on the same page. Yet.

The second problem is that we are still battling the false idea that we are a bunch of environmentalists. During a chat with a local rep from Neighbourhood Watch I reached into my pocket for Transition Town High Wycombe business card. The Councilor next to us rolled his eyes to heaven and said "he'll try and recruit you to the local Green Party". Bizarre. (It is worthwhile reminding everyone that Transition is non-political. The first local Transitioner to be elected to a Council seat stood with the Conservatives. I personally have no interest in Green Party politics.) This misconception remains a problem and much of it is self-inflicted. In the run up to the last LCP meeting I asked local Transitioners to become more involved. However the conversation quickly became an argument about whether there should also be an "Environmental" priority on the LCP list. I argued that such a priority should not be confused with the work of Transition.

As it turned out our efforts came to nothing. The "Environment" remains a priority on the LCP list. By "Environment" the LCP means litter collection and graffiti removal. This was precisely my point in pre-meeting discussions. Our peers in our communities want to tick the "environmental check box" but really give no thought to what makes a sustainable community. We have to steer them that way. In the end we failed. The same old environmental check box got ticked. We got no where. The way is now wide open for BCC to proceed with its road-repairs campaign because people still want nice roads.

We live in a world were more people die of fuel poverty than by road traffic accidents. The LCP has missed the point because it will not prioritise critical "strategic" needs over the nice-to-have, short term, "tactical" wants. The LCP is all about what WE can do TODAY. Not about what we can all do for tomorrow. Nobody is yet thinking out of the box. In truth, until the Transitioners at the table start thinking out of the box too, then it is difficult to offer the right leadership.

There is a better way.

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