As we celebrate a period of three years of Green Mayors for the town of Oswestry in Shropshire, I can look back at what we've achieved in the past year since we became the leading group on our council (12 Green, 6 Conservative).
During the previous four-year period, there were only six of us – despite this, we still had some successes, largely due to a better attendance record at meetings. However, this year has been far more productive. With the great gains that Greens have made across the country this May, I'm sure many other councils will feel the warm wind of change too.
At our first meeting of the year, we adopted the ten-point manifesto we had created for our election campaign as our corporate plan, committing the council to following those aims for our four-year term. This allowed the Clerk to make extra appointments to his workforce, greatly ramping up the level of action that could be managed.
To date, we have many projects in the pipeline, some nearing fruition and some still in early stages, including a splash park and skateboard park, as well as a family festival to increase free activities for families in a time of great financial hardship. We are also trying to bring a cinema to the town, we are increasing planting to improve biodiversity in our parks and cemetery, and are working with schools to plant more trees.
After an initial Christmas pilot, we are introducing free Saturday buses around the town, alongside a rickshaw providing free lifts, highlighting the potential of alternative forms of transport. In response to the cutting of youth provision by the county council, we have increased funding for youth services, including a special pot for mental health projects.
Developing new ways of working with councillors in ideas workshops, we have renamed working groups as ‘partnership panels’, and have invited relevant community groups to work with us on issues such as police and climate change, bringing in expertise from the community to seek better solutions.
We have tried to engage with our Conservative councillors to ensure they are represented in groups offering chair roles in proportion to their numbers. Our new Mayor, in his first speech, replaced the prayers and chaplain, which had historically taken place at the beginning of full council meetings, with a new format. Instead, at each full council, someone who has shown outstanding commitment to work in the community – an unsung hero – will receive an award.