4. Civic Pride

(November 20, 2009)
PEOPLE who have pride in their community nurture and cherish it and try to improve life for others less fortunate than themselves.
Those who have no pride do the opposite and can come to the attention of the authorities for everything from truanting, littering, graffiti, criminal damage to more serious misdemeanours.
In Warminster we have much to take pride in - ranging from our historic buildings, to our beautiful park and on to our community itself.
Despite our many problems a good degree of community spirit still manages to manifest itself in things like the annual carnival which is the biggest in Wiltshire, the Christmas lights which are the best in Wiltshire, the many local clubs and societies and the general good neighbourliness of many quarters of the town.
We need to look at ways of bolstering our valued institutions, heightening community spirit and ensuring good neighbours are the norm.
But how?
Firstly we should look at our most important institution and building.
Our town hall is nothing short of a disgrace.
Can you imagine a French town or a well-ordered English town such as Romsey, allowing its prime building to deteriorate to such an extent?
It is a stain on the town’s heart and those who take charge of our affairs under the unitary authority need to address the situation with the utmost urgency - something those currently in charge are unwilling or unable to do.
The town council operates from Dewey House, which is in itself a wonderful and listed building but, tucked away in North Row, is not of central importance.
Without the civic powers demonstrating enough pride and confidence to take on the town hall how can we expect others to take pride in their localities?
At the heart of the town the rejuvenated town hall should be both the base for the town council and the meeting venue for the new Warminster area board - hopefully opening up the debates to a wider, more representative audience.
Ideally we would like to see the magistrates return here to do their work even if it is only for non-custodial cases, while some space could be earmarked for a memorable museum. Its rejuvenation should stand as a symbol that Warminster means business and is operating as a town in charge of its own destiny after 35 years’ rule by Trowbridge.
Tackling the scourge of litter
We also need to address the issue of litter, which some communities in Hampshire have tackled with great success. Travel to Romsey and you’ll hardly see a scrap of litter.
The council there has taken a strong line in enforcing the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005 by imposing £60 fixed penalty notices on those who dare to throw even a fag end from a car window or drop a chip paper.
After a period of education we need to adopt similar tactics.
But we will never eradicate litter entirely and need look no further than Corsley and Chapmanslade to find another part of the solution. In these villages teams of community litter pickers make regular sweeps of the roadside.
When an approach was made to Warminster Town Council’s annual meeting in 2007 about creating a network of litter wardens the councillors queued up to attack the idea with one councillor saying enough was already being done.
Clearly he doesn’t know the town very well or never walks its streets as, despite the heroic efforts of our town centre litter man, some areas are overwhelmed by litter.
Greater emphasis and more effort needs to be made to promote the town’s best kept garden award which needs to be broadened out to a Warminster Blooms contest involving schools and businesses as well as domestic properties
The Mayor’s Annual Gala Awards
How can we increase civic pride ? Another difficult area but we have an idea.
There are many clubs and organisations playing a hugely beneficial role in the life of the town and many people doing fantastic work, often unpaid and often unsung.
We need to bring more of the unsung heroes into the light to inspire others and to show that good things are going on even in the bleakest of economic times.
We already have a Mayors Award. Why not expand it?
We could create The Mayor of Warminster’s Annual Gala Awards event to celebrate the achievement of our unsung heroes nominated by their employers, groups or friends for exceptional commitment and service. Many could be nominated and the winners of the various categories could be presented with a specially made mayor’s crusader award badge based on the town badge.
Similar events have been staged with great success in other towns and in the Athenaeum we have the ideal venue. Local business has, in other towns become involved in similar projects bringing in finance, expertise and sponsorship.
Town councillors also need to play a role with perhaps each member being given a specific civic pride portfolio and be required to report back at regular intervals.
Such areas could include signs, shop fronts, litter, community spirit, schools, business links, twinning, the park, pavements etc.
Many of the ideas we have been propounding need to have the solid support of Warminster Town Council as well as the new unitary authority.
Those concerning civic pride have the town council near their fulcrum.

It is a matter of concern that next year a new unitary authority will be elected but the town council will continue to sit for six years without an election.
In sorting out the problems of litter and the town hall it is important  to have people who have a ‘can do’ attitude .
Those elected next year will have a fresh mandate, hopefully achieved on a high turnout, so those town councillors who are unhappy with this vision should perhaps reconsider their membership of the town council if supporters of this vision are elected to the unitary authority.
This should apply particularly to any town councillors who stand for election and are defeated.
Our vision for civic pride is of a confident town whose local government has taken a lead in fostering the strengths and celebrating the uniqueness of Warminster.

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