Neil Perry, Romsey Mill's Chief Executive wrote this feature, which appeared as a Foreword in the Summer 2024 issue of Mill News, following the announcement of the General Election and issued during National Volunteers' Week:

Neil Perry

I write this the day after the next UK General Election was called for Thursday 4th July, 2024.  

At a time when trust in UK politicians and politics is at an all-time low[i], large numbers of people are discouraged when thinking about how their vote will lead to positive change in their communities and national politics.

Charities supporting young people, families and local communities have begun releasing manifestos detailing what they want from the next Government in the run up to the General Election.

I’ll share three examples that Romsey Mill takes a particular interest in.

The national body for youth work in England, the National Youth Agency (NYA) is calling for better youth work services for all young people. Its six-point manifesto[ii] includes a call for a long-term national youth strategy, a dedicated youth minister at cabinet level who works across departments; and long-term, joined-up funding to reverse the £1 billion funding cuts over the past decade.

The Sports Think Tank manifesto[iii]  has over 150 policy ideas, including a stronger framework to ensure children reach the recommended amount of outdoor activity each day. Recognition of community groups and appropriate approaches to building and planning are also recommended to make sports accessible.

A third example is Citizens UK, a people-powered alliance working with hundreds of civil society organisations - schools, universities, faith groups, charities, unions and more - to help them make change in their communities. 18 local Citizens UK chapters have set out eight key issues they are asking the next UK Government to address, including work and wages, mental health, housing and homelessness, and racial equity in education.[iv]

The election provides an opportunity to illuminate local issues and draw the attention of candidates to how local groups and organisations are providing positive responses and why they should continue to be engaged following election result.

In this Mill News there are stories about the positive responses that Romsey Mil is a part of within local communities. We will give a copy to all candidates in the areas Romsey Mill is present and active.

Politics can be tribal and divisive. I believe that more positive engagement happens within communities that recognise shared interests and the common good. I read an article recently, written at the time of a previous General Election, that expresses some inspiring thoughts about how we might do a politics for the common good:

We can’t expect politicians to make a better world or make us better people. Doing a politics of the common good means starting at the bottom, building coalitions, alliances and associations across communities of interest and identity, awakening and mobilising energy around common concerns and issues, and bringing in national politics when our local initiatives invite and require it…

Politics begins when you realise if you want power, you have to work together and find common goals. Politics comes alive when you feel within you and see around you the empowerment that comes from a valley of dry bones starting to sing and dance with the energy of making a difference and bringing about change.[v]

Monday 3rd to Sunday 9th June is National Volunteers' Week and there are stories in this Mill News about some of our volunteers. Romsey Mill celebrates and thanks all of our wonderful volunteers and supporters who are committed to bringing about a good, greater than just their own.