Getting Involved: East Area Committee Meeting

PACT committee member Karen shares how she found her first experiece of attending Cambridge City Council’s East Area Committee Meeting on 4th April 2019 at Coleridge Community College.

I had heard about these committee meetings through PACT meetings and wanted to go to represent local parents and ask when the play equipment at St Matthew’s Pieces’ playground will be updated. I’d heard it was in the pipeline but having lived in the area for 2 and a half years now I haven’t seen any action on it.

I wasn’t sure what to expect at all. I’ve never delved too deeply into the world of politics and local governement. I’m a proud voter each time I go to the booths but maybe not as informed as I could be. I read the odd article here and there and I have the basics laid out in my mind but I don’t really know much beyond that.

I arrived in good time and walked into a school hall set out cafe style with 2-3 people sitting at each table and a long table with a few table microphones at the front. Most people seemed to have signs infront of them with their names and positions. There were local councillors and county councillors too. I think the idea was to mix up local people with councillors at the different tables so I went up to one table and asked if I could sit there. I was warmly welcomed and then the gentlemen on my table continued their chat, and bingo, it was about brexit.

My first focus was to work out how to raise my point about the playground on the agenda. I wasn’t sure what to do and I was nervous I’d have to stand up and say something during the meeting. Thankfully there was lots of information on the table and I soon found a little piece of paper I could fill in with my question for the committee. I completed it, asked where I should put it and dutifully took it up to the Chair at the front.

Soon after this the meeting got started. I found it really exciting and inspiring. It was a room full of people who were passionate about what they were talking about and really cared about what is going on in our local communities. I felt like I was able to be involved in something at a grass roots level. So often policitcs seems so distant and removed from everyday life and the idea that we an individuals can change things can seem laughable. But this was local government at work on a small scale and it really is having an impact on our streets.

Topics covered ranged from rubbish collections to arts in the community; the condition of our streets to syringes and needles found in local parks; parking issues to communtiy spaces and chairty grants and playgrounds. I was really surprised to realise how much legistation and policy making there is behind every action the council takes. No wonder it takes a while to get anything moving. But this shouldn’t have surprised me. It’s just until I attended a meeting like this I had never really thought at all about how things worked.

I came away with details of who to contact to follow up about our playground.
I really felt that if I hadn’t been there to chase up the developments they would have remained at the back of a list somewhere. Hopefully now they will be encouraged to pursue the improvements which have long been promised. I also learnt how to report problems with roads and pavements (a county council matter) and of course I was shocked to think how many needles are recovered from our parks!

The meeting started at 19:00 and was over by 21:00. I thought it was quite well attended but a few people told me it was a really small turn out. I will definitely be going along regularly and would encourage anyone else who is curious or has any local concerns to go along too. It seemed to me a great starting point to getting involved in local council.

The next meeting will be held at Anglia Ruskin on 11th July 2019. Details can be found at: