Last night I attended the Conversation Event – hosted by The Bracknell Conservative Association this event was billed as being “the conversation which shapes local and national policies”.
Official Guests Included:
- Introductions by Michael Gbadebo (Chair of the Bracknell Conservative Association)
- Bracknell’s MP Dr Phillip Lee (who was unfortunately late due to parliamentary commitments)
- MP George Freeman (MP for Mid-Norfolk and a self-styled Conservative Party Reformist)
- Paul Bettison OBE (Leader of Bracknell Forest Council)
- Charlotte Haitham Taylor (Leader of Wokingham Borough Council)
- And chaired/Facilitated by Shelley Collins (Director of Just Resources)
The event had an open invite, as such a reasonable variety of local residents from various political persuasions and backgrounds attended and nearly every seat was filled.
Personally I don’t fully align my self with any political party in-fact I believe party politics creates an unnecessary divide both politically and socially but I wanted to attend because I enjoy listening to passionate, genuine & informative politicians and of course debating policy.
Attendees were invited to submit question before hand on the theme of policy formation and Question Time style format would be followed.
The attending council leaders and MPs started by fielding a few submitted questions as well as further follow-up questions from the floor however it became extremely clear that Housing was the primary concern, as such the debate on housing both in regards to affordability and appropriate development absorbed most of the evenings debate.
MP George Freeman spoke eloquently about his passions for enhanced powers to local government to encourage responsible & appropriate development with combined health & local economy benefits -. He believes that each authority should be tasked with nominating a large pocket of land to develop new plan-led sustainable towns focusing on affordability, infrastructure and wellbeing.
MP Dr Phillip Lee headed up the debate on adult social care and pulled no punches when it came to being a realist on the subject – he’s a firm believer that assets should be levied (i.e. peoples homes) to pay for adult care rather than taxing the working further.
As expected (with many attendees being homeowners over the age of 50) Mr Lees point of view in regard to paying for adult social care was highly controversial however it was nowhere near as controversial as Shelley Collins statement that Young people aren’t interested in owning their own homes which promptly caused the room to erupt in response – I found it worrying to hear statements like that especially when its at an event hosted by a party that is actively trying to engage with young voters.
Parking around the town and the recent introduction of penalty charges by Bracknell Forest Homes was also a relatively hot topic although the councillors and the MPs didn’t really respond to the residents concerns.
The event run on until 10:30pm yet only a handful of submitted questions were actually covered due to much of the debate focusing on housing. In summary I found George Freeman to be an inspiring individual and it was worth attending simply to hear him speak, however the event on a whole didnt seem very well organised – whether that shows poor management or just how frustrated residents are is a debate in its self.
Local councillors Peter Heydon, Dale Birch and Alvin Finch remained afterwards to speak to residents and re-enforced their desire to listen to (and address) residents frustrations & concerns directly.
Personally I’d like to see the other main-stream parties follow suit and host similar open invite events.