More than 270 people representing groups across Somerset came together in Taunton for the Founding Assembly of Citizens Somerset and agreed a series of social justice campaigns they are going to work on together; housing & homelessness, public transport, and street safety.
Citizens Somerset is one of the newest community organising alliances in the growing Citizens UK network. Citizens UK organises communities to act together for power, social justice and the common good. Community Organising is based on the principle that when people work together they have the power to change their neighbourhoods, towns and ultimately the country for the better.
The Diocese of Bath and Wells is one of the founder members of Citizens Somerset alongside other groups such as Richard Huish college, Wellington School and Taunton Dean and South Sedgemoor Methodist Circuit. All member groups helped set up and organise a huge listening project which helped identify the area of most concern to local people. Fair housing; ensuring everyone is able to have the security of a roof over their heads that they can pay for. Transport; for communities, enabling them to function properly with efficient and affordable bus services and good cycle lanes. Street safety; making sure the streets are safe and vibrant in the evenings.
Chris Waddilove is one of the founders of Citizens Somerset, “Community organising in this way has already proved to be an effective means of making change in other parts of the country so there is no reason why it shouldn’t be the same here in Somerset. The living wage was one just one of the things that started out as a Citizens UK campaign.
We recognise that Somerset is very different and that was reflected in our first assembly, it was very diverse, most sections of the community were represented.
As an organisation we are strictly non partisan, we don’t have an agenda, we reflect the views of our members. This is why we are genuinely democratic, we listen to the people. They make the agenda; we help them make it happen. We give them a voice. “
Talking at the event were those who have experienced first hand some of the issues being addressed; Neil talked told how he has been forced to live in a tent despite holding down and job, others spoke of their fear at walking alone late at night and many of the younger members explained how they struggle to use and pay for public transport.
And Citizens Somerset has already organised community action campaigns, one of the first will be held on April 29 when a mass bus ride action is being held to draw attention to the problem of poor public transport in Somerset.
Go to Citizens Somerset for more information and to find out how you can get involved.