The Act defines four aspects of sustainable communities thus:
- the improvement of the local economy,
- protection of the environment,
- promotion of social inclusion, and
- participation in civic and political activity.
The importance of this cannot be overstated. It effectively means that, even for those who have bitterly opposed the ICG since its inception in 1994, it is now acknowledged that we have been right all along. Our rationale as an organisation has been utterly and unanimously vindicated.
Just last March a Community Group motion tabled a motion to Borough Council which included the following: "This council undertakes to extend its support and assistance to all independent community organisations which can reasonably demonstrate that they represent the aspirations of the community they serve, without seeking to influence or direct those organisations in any way other than with their consent.
"Furthermore this council accepts as a fundamental principle the equal right of all residents to participate in all fields of community and civic activity, and deplores any action which might give office or other advantage to any on grounds of political preference or affiliation.
"This council therefore instructs the Executive member responsible for improving community engagement following Annual Borough Council in May 2008 to investigate and thereafter to implement measures through which the consultative and participatory processes may be improved, and all officers to recognise and to actively assist in the delivery of this policy."
Although passed by Council, New Labour at the time could not bring themselves to support these sentiments and the whole Group abstained.
Obviously any policy statement is about the doing and not just the saying. However the fact that all parties felt able to offer even their in-principle support to such a radical departure from previous thinking could be a sign that the message is at long last getting through.
Never before has this space been so keenly watched as it will be over the coming months.