Tuesday, 20 March 2018

A last speech as leader - love where you live...

Today marks my last Council Meeting as Group Leader in Bradford - here are my last words in that role:

"Unless something odd happens, this will be my last speech from this chair. And I think speaking about pride in Bradford is a good topic to close on.

We’re going to vote for this motion but I’ve a few concerns – not with the spirit of the motion or what it proposes but rather that the focus on enforcement puts a bit of a dampener on the idea of civic pride.

My philosophy – for the avoidance of doubt, Lord Mayor, it’s called conservatism – tells me that we should approach making society better, not by grand theories of human perfection, but by looking out our front door and fixing what we can see from that doorstep.

If there’s a stone fallen off a wall, pick it up and put it back. Don’t wait for someone else to do it.

If there’s a piece of litter. Pick it up. Put it in a bin.

If there’s someone who needs a lift, give them a lift

And if what needs fixing is beyond your power don’t shrug and move on but ask whether you and your neighbours – together – can fix it.

And smile. Have fun.

Most people here – and lots of people in Bradford – understand exactly how neighbourliness and loving the place you live really make a difference. And this motion points at some of that love – I do also think love is a better word than pride too.

The problem is that too many people don’t. They’re the ones who drop the litter, do the fly-tipping, graffiti the walls, vandalise the bus stops, spit in the street, park on the pavement, ignore the yellow lines, push to the front of the queue, complain when they don’t get what they demand, place the blame for problems on other people.

The enforcement we spend so much time on is because of these people.

It’s also because too many people walk on by. Telling themselves that the Council, the police or just someone else will do something.

They’re very quick to tell us that the place is a dump but not so quick to try and make it better.

There’s an American organisation called the Knight Foundation who ran a programme called “Soul of the Community” studying what they called “community attachment” – let me read you a quote from the lead researcher, Katherine Loflin:
“…from 2008-2010, we received responses from 43,000 people in 26 communities across the US, in cities large and small. What we saw were findings, year after year, that for many seemed counter-intuitive—even radical at times. We not only found out that resident attachment was related to solid economic outcomes for places, but that the things that most drove people to love where they live were not the local economy or even their personal civic engagement in the place (as one might expect), but the “softer sides” of place.”
Making a place better – making Bradford better – doesn’t start with a strategy for the city, it starts with making your and my neighbourhood - just a few streets - better places to live. Where parties happen, where children play, where life is lived with a smile. Things that the Project for Public Spaces calls “lighter, cheaper, quicker”. Not grand festivals or great events but galas, playgrounds, impromptu games of cricket and even a snowball fight.

In Denholme, when the road was blocked in the snow, dozens of people helped out. Some with pick-ups and 4x4s, some just by bringing out cups of tea to stranded motorists, and lots by clearing snow, by just being part of a community.

This is what community pride is about – community attachment. Love. And we need it every day not just when it snows."


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