Imagine the scene — the Trust as part of a panel made up of Marie Royle (Assistant Head of Community Development & Outdoor Leisure, Canterbury City Council) Councillor James Flanagan (Westgate Ward, Lib Dem) and Councillor Ann Taylor (Reculver, Conservative), member of the CCC Executive and portfolio holder of the Westgate Hall. Who would have thought this possible in February 2010?

Last Thursday in Maidstone, we unofficially became the Westgate Hall Project Team. The event, organized by Kent County Council with the support of Bob Jones of Canterbury City Partnership, was dedicated to Making Localism a Reality. A two-day workshop, it examined the evolving role of the ‘frontline elected member’, or, from our perspective, how to encourage and support dynamic interactive democracy.

The Team illustrated how local politics and community can come together to achieve a result that has broad-based community support, in our case, saving the Westgate Hall for the community. It was tremendous to be able to exchange notes with the hope of encouraging other councils and communities to similarly cooperate, build trust and take risks.

Key thoughts at the local level: park the politics at the door, forget those walls that apparently divide us (whatever group we supposedly represent — Council, public, private or third sectors, voters etc.– we are in this together), listen to each other, define the objective, build consensus as the process builds trust, be honest about knowledge and lack of it, ask for help when needed, and dare.

The bottom line about what we achieved with the Westgate Hall? Constructive outcomes can definitely be achieved when everyone, regardless of standpoint, remembers community is what we share, works towards a common goal and doesn’t lose sight of it.