Many people say, “If you don’t vote, you can’t moan.” I have never really agreed with that.
First of all, of course you can moan if you don’t vote. There are no laws against moaning without first having voted. Second, I like to think that democracy is of more value than simply acquiring a right to moan! It’s about how people can achieve more by working together than they can on their own and finding value in the process. Expressing opinions is a key part of that process and it’s fair to say there are a wide variety of views when it comes to local government.
I think part of the reason for this is because of the variety of services we provide. For many people, their main experience will be getting their bins emptied and using Council maintained highways. For about 12,000 people, the Council is their landlord.
Many people with very significant health and social care needs rely heavily on Council services to meet their everyday needs. For around 150 children, the Council is acting as their parent. Around 300 people a month experience hardship and receive short-term financial support from the Council.
Because we provide such a variety of services, we have a lot of data and I have been working to see how we can get that data out in the open. We have created a “dashboard” which has information about how we are doing providing services. This can be viewed online at https://dashboard.swindon.gov.uk/ I invite everyone to take a look and let me know what you think about it (you can give feedback through the website). What the information tells us that in some areas, we are doing quite well. But in others, we do need to improve. That’s where you come in.
That’s because, to me, providing data is more than just giving information as part of being an open and transparent organisation. It’s an invitation to get involved and make a difference. There are many people who are absolutely passionate about what goes on in Swindon and I hope providing this data empowers you to be involved.
With the funding cuts the Council is facing, what Swindon needs (now more than ever before) are active and empowered residents who are ready to work hard to make sure that the change that will be happening can take place in the best possible way. I understand that change is difficult, but it has to happen.
I hope that providing information will help all of us to have good quality discussions about the issues we face, but more importantly help everyone to get involved. It’s your information, so please make good use of it.