Danny Thorpe on Better Together meetings

Danny Thorpe is leader of Greenwich council

When I first became leader I said that I wanted the council to make it easier for residents to have their voices heard.

In recent months, thousands of residents have responded to consultations, helping us develop projects like the new leisure centre in Woolwich and our plans to reduce traffic in Greenwich town centre.

We’ve started regular online Q&A’s with cabinet members, and more people are talking to us through our social media channels.

Although our lives are increasingly lived online, it’s no replacement for proper face-to-face interaction. That’s why last Friday the first of this year’s Better Together meetings took place in Woolwich to give residents a chance to gather in one place to discuss local issues.

Lots of people value Better Together, but fewer people attended the last round of meetings than in previous years, which showed that the old model of long presentations and group discussions needed to change. Not everyone likes talking in front of a group of strangers (it’s taken me years of going to public meetings as a councillor to get used to it), so this year we want to do something different.

Our first meeting on Friday included a healthy meal where residents could chat to neighbours and friends about what’s happening in their community. It was also a chance to speak directly to people who provide local services and tell them what you think could be improved.

There are four meetings in spring, with another four planned for autumn. To make sure everyone has a chance to attend, some of the events are being held during the day, with others in the evening.

They’re taking place around the borough so that everyone can find one that’s easy to get to.

We want Better Together to be about residents’ priorities, so each event will have a different theme – we’ll ask attendees at the first round of meetings to suggest the themes for the autumn ones. See the council website for a full list of dates, themes and venues.

Better Together isn’t the only exciting thing happening in Woolwich.

As part of our work on the Woolwich Creative District, the council commissioned a series of stunning portraits of residents from across the borough, which are now on display at the Royal Arsenal.

People who took part were asked to describe where they were, what they like about Woolwich, changes they have seen to the area and what they think about the Creative District. Visitors can hear their stories while they walk around the exhibition. If you can’t make it down to Woolwich, you can see the photos and listen to the stories on our website. The Creative District will bring new people to Woolwich, but as this new exhibition shows, residents will remain at the heart of it.

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