This time last year, I wrote in this column about the concerning decline of Wymondham's high street in the context of a national trend in our town centres. I suggested that it would likely fall to our 'strong and engaged community' to revive the high street in the same way that events which are cornerstones of Wymondham's calendar rely on dedicated volunteers.
When I sought election to the Town Council in May, I did so because I wanted to contribute to the revival of our Town Centre and our community. I noted that Diss Town Council organises its carnival and Christmas lights through council sub-committees whilst Dereham Town Council runs its own community taxi scheme.
Many readers will be preparing to enjoy a day out at Wynterfest on 26th November. After years of being organised by incredibly committed and passionate volunteers - and still supported by many of them - 2023's event has relied on Clear Company - a local non-profit organisation - and funding from Wymondham Business Group for its organisation. Similarly, the award-winning Wymondham in Bloom campaign was organised and produced by wonderful volunteers whose energy transformed our town centre. The watering of these plants though was, in large part, drawn from private businesses such as The White Hart rather than public sources. If you wanted to host a meeting in the Council building to discuss such a community event, a room for just ten people would set you back £18 an hour.
Fellow councillors have sometimes argued it is not the place of the council to be at the centre of issues within the town but to support volunteers and groups who are passionate about particular issues. When the council recently declared a climate emergency, it was determined that a group linked to the council would be formed as opposed to an official arm of the council. Furthermore, when Labour's Town & District councillor, Cllr Rosen, proposed the council consider adopting play facilities if the opportunity arose, it was unsuccessful.
Our Town Council cannot be everything to everyone. I would argue that it would better serve the town, however, if its approach were more proactive and outward-reaching then the passive one it takes now. If we are to continue to rely on the sterling work done by these groups to bring our community together, the council must be more supportive. The council must open up its spaces, buildings and – wherever possible – its resources for community groups to use. We cannot rely on the good nature and commitment of local residents forever.