Opinion: ‘Community pride is not a political act’

By Cllr Julie Howell, leader of the Green Group on Peterborough City Council writes...

Sunday, 6th June 2021, 3:00 pm
Green Party councillors in Orton Waterville: Julie Howell, Kirsty Knight and Nicola Day celebrating after last month's elections.
Green Party councillors in Orton Waterville: Julie Howell, Kirsty Knight and Nicola Day celebrating after last month's elections.

The spirit of Peterborough has shone through over the course of the pandemic.

Take just a few examples from Orton Waterville ward, the ‘Green’ heart of the city.

In March 2020, a group of Orton Wistow residents sprang into action to form a community help group.

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Leaflets were posted through every letter box in the area with information on how to give, or get, help. There was a great response, with at least one community volunteer in every street.

The initiative soon spread to Orton Waterville village, as word got round. Plenty of people were helped, with volunteers delivering essential items, such as a simple pint of milk to a more substantial shop.

People also made themselves available for a socially-distanced chat with people who felt cut off from the world.

Cyclists were out in force for their daily exercise, some aided by a kind gentleman from Orton Southgate, who made himself available to repair and service bikes without any charge.

His kindness was gratefully received. By the beginning of May 2020, he’d got 45 bikes up and running. The only favour he asked for in return was that the bicycle owner should do something nice for someone else. A small act of kindness can go a long way.

Earlier this year, Halls the Chemist opened a vaccination centre at Napier Place in Orton Wistow.

Local people and volunteers from further afield queued up to offer assistance, be it with traffic management, administrative work, reassurance to people in the queue, or making sure the team of volunteers were watered and fed.

The vaccination centre has now delivered more than 20,000 jabs, which is some achievement for a community chemist. The sense of community cohesion has shone through, with the council and local councillors supporting the chemist to ensure additional traffic into the area was managed safely.

The East of England Showground has also played a major role in helping the city through the pandemic, serving as both a testing centre and a regional vaccination hub.

In Orton Goldhay, local residents and Peterborough environmental charity Up the Garden Bath worked together to create attractive planters on an area of land that had long been neglected. Last weekend, they organised a community litter pick, with 51 bags of litter collected.

Incidents of fly-tipping didn’t increase by a huge amount over the two lockdowns, with most residents waiting for the welcome return of the parish council free bulky waste collection last weekend.

Many households were finally able to get rid of large items of waste that had been in their homes and gardens for over a year.

Pride in one’s community is not a party-political act.

Councillors from all parties have been involved in supporting their local communities throughout this most difficult time, with issues ranging from environmental damage to mental health and physical wellbeing.

If this show of community strength is our new normal, we hope it is here to stay long after the pandemic is behind us.