Opinion: ‘We are here whenever you need us’
Councillor Julie Howell, leader of the Green Group on Peterborough City Council, writes...
As city councillors, councillors Day, Knight and I are strongly motivated by the communities that we are elected to serve. We want you to feel safe in the places you live, and we want you to feel that you are a part of creating safe, happy communities.
‘Safety’ means different things to different people at different times. This became very clear to us from the start of the pandemic.
Some people, who seemed to cope very well in what we now call ‘normal’ times, found lockdown a real struggle.
People who were not used to being confined to the house all day, found being cooped up at home unsettling. Others found themselves overwhelmed with worries about money and job security, and how to pay for food, rent, or a mortgage.
Home-schooling was a huge pressure on some parents.
Not being able to see friends and family, or to hug a parent or child, had a dreadful impact on some people.
Then there were the people with health conditions who had to self-isolate for months.
Some people can cope with being alone for long periods, but for others, loss of human contact can have a marked effect on their wellbeing and mental health.
At the same time, we noticed how some people seemed to thrive under the challenging conditions, becoming community organisers, making sure those around them had food, heating and company, even if human contact could only be over the phone or online.
Over those lockdown months, we councillors spoke to many people whom we had never spoken to before.
Those who needed help having never needed it until that moment, and those who wanted to give help who had never volunteered in the community before.
It was humbling to experience how people looked out for and looked after each other.
A global pandemic is an extreme example of a situation that threw everyone into uncertainty. But every day there are incidents on the streets of our city that result in the coming together of local people, be that a family in crisis or an event that gives cause for concern to everyone living in that locality. It seems that when things are going well, it’s more common for us to be strangers to one another.
But when we are tested, or someone is in need, we spontaneously come together to make sure everyone around us is OK.
When this happens, it’s our role as councillors to provide any support that is needed, be that information or access to services. We don’t do things ‘for’ people, but we are there to answer questions and point people in the right direction for the things they need.
It’s been a privilege to be councillors during these more challenging times, and we have learned so much about how tenacious and sensitive to the needs of others people will be.
We think you’re awesome.
And we will be in your service for as long as you want us to be.