|Chi Onwurah MP, Dipu Ahmed, Habib Rahman & Ann Schofield||Local Member of Parliament and councillors|
|Kirsty McDine & Shewley Haque||MILLIN Centre|
|Lorraine Morris||Community First|
|Graeme Williams||Centre West|
|Local Representative||Northumbria Police|
|Laura Christer & Sophie||West End Women & Girls|
Introduction by MP
The objective was to enable Chi to set her parliamentary priorities for the Elswick ward, with the input of those with direct experience of the challenges and opportunities the ward faces.
Prioritisation is essential for Chi as she cannot attend all Parliamentary debates and if she speaks on, for example, policing, then that will take time and resources away from speaking on or raising other issues.
Chi illustrated how her constituency casework data helped to determine her priorities and the top three issues across the constituency recently have been the linked issues of Health, Housing, and Benefits.
Rubbish and litter were the current number one issue causing significant environment issues, which were giving rise to community tensions. People were feeling that they did not know how to cope with these problems. Residents felt they were not being listened to and that Envirocall did not work. They felt they did not count and their views were dismissed.
Housing was also a major issue.
Concerns were felt about asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. Residents felt a good system of support and direction was lacking. Tensions grow if not tackled quickly. Tensions arose between older and newer migrant groups.
With 31 hostels in the area people feel that Elswick has become a dumping ground.
Regeneration of Elswick needs to be addressed by people working together – concerns include the shopping centre and Elswick Pool.
Concerns over vast health inequalities, which have not changed significantly over the past 60 years. Short term projects have not been the solution so the cycle of deprivation continues. The area has 13 liquor stores and betting shops. As an example Health Works has to fight for funding every year. Long term initiatives are needed.
Benefits, Health, Housing and Rubbish were felt to be linked.
To enable long term action devolution of powers and budgets might be needed, perhaps from the City Council, NHS as well as central Government.
Positives include a history of local activism on Health, Partnerships and the Enterprise.
The service is undergoing systemic change giving rise to having to manage public expectations.
The priority for the Police is: the vulnerable, the marginalised and those hard to reach.
They are increasingly looking to focus on these priorities.
The Police are still working on environment and rubbish issues but these are not a priority.
During the nearly one hour of discussion, to which everyone contributed, many general and detailed points were made. Comments ranged around themes set out below:
Walkabouts have been able to identify hot spots. Do sufficient powers exist stop and fine people who cause the rubbish and litter problems? Is it possible to fine people in the street or houses/buildings identified as causing the dumping ‘on the spot’?
The diverse community in Elswick has a high level of turn over so there is a need to educate landlords. New landlords and new tenants can lead to dumping of rubbish. Whilst some tenancies provide for fines in relation to rubbish but many tenants cannot afford to pay the fines. The charges to remove rubbish are a leading to problems and the distance to Byker rubbish/recycling centre. People end up storing rubbish/household waste but there is a risk of rats. Need for more action to recycle furniture and clothing.
Transient areas should have a provision for support. Feeling that City council does not understand the benefits of diverse communities or the issues that need to be addressed.
Poverty is a main issue in the area. This was felt linked to residents lack of skills. Many women were seeking to improve their skills often with a view to becoming self-employed. This also highlighted the need to improve education.
Skills and Education in general were felt to be priorities to tackle poverty in Elswick Ward, which would assist in understanding health risks and the dangers of rubbish. The Police do visit to highlight the dangers of rubbish and other antisocial behaviour.
Concerns were voiced about the reduced access to support especially for vulnerable people.
3. Young People & children
Some felt there was no dedicated resource in the area. This leads to low level nuisance and adds to other ASB issues.
The sure Start service has been much reduced – which highlights the difficulties of the tendering process. Leading to reduced local services. The tendering process favours large outside organisations which will result in less grass roots action by activists within the community.
Felt need to commit specific percentage of budgets to locally based organisations.
Concerns were raised about the growing levels of domestic violence, including excessive and abusive control. Schools did not seem aware of this issue or were seeking to avoid addressing them. It was felt this needed to be addressed to assess the impact on children and their families, and to take account of possible mental health consequences.
A real need was voiced for make regeneration a priority to create new jobs and leisure opportunities.
New developments eg The Rise meant people moving into the area but there was a lack of places for them to shop or enjoy leisure facilities locally.
Developments are needed to give reasons for people to visit and enjoy the West End.
It was felt the discussions and points raised had been useful, and it was agreed that a reconvened meeting in around six month’s time would be welcomed by all present.
A review of the issues raised resulted in agreement that Chi’s priorities for Elswick Ward should be:
- Jobs & skills (across all ages)
- Children & Young People
- Health & Wellbeing
- Built environment( inc. general environment) & Regeneration
- Devolution of Power (to Local Authorities & Communities)