When I took over the chair of the Worcester Park Residents' Association in July, one of the first things I did was ask the members to agree to a change in the constitution to include people from the whole of KT4. Previously membership was restricted to those in the two Sutton Wards of KT4 (Worcester Park ward - mainly north of Central Road, and Nonsuch ward - mainly south of Central Road), making the WPRA a Sutton centric organisation. This was done for good reason at the time however I felt it was time to reach out to those on the other side of the bridge and bring all of Worcester Park together in an organisation that can tackle issues that affect all of us wherever they happen to be in the KT4 area. Thankfully the membership agreed with me and the constitution was changed.
A very positive direct result of this is that it was now time to start forging bonds with the local stakeholders (for want of a better word) in these other regions. I had already started a dialogue with the Councillors in Old Malden ward (the part of Worcester Park in the Royal borough of Kingston) but had not until recently spoken with the councillors in Cuddington ward. And so I emailed them regarding the WPRA, inviting them to future meetings and to start tentatively building up some links.
Cllr George Crawford very kindly invited me to a meeting of the Cuddington Residents' Association and last Thursday I took him up on the offer. For those who don't know, Cuddington Residents' Association has over a thousand members and the three ward councillors are from this residents' association rather than from any political party. In fact the majority of councillors on Epsom and Ewell borough council are Residents' Association members rather than from any political party.
I was made to feel very welcome by the members and very much enjoyed seeing how things were done in their part of the world. While many aspects of the meeting were quite familiar - the reports by councillors and others on various things going on, membership, neighbourhood watch etc, it was interesting to see the different emphasis on certain things and how people there engage with their area. It was also refreshing to see any references to politics as being 'out there' affecting some issues as opposed to directly affecting things in the room.
Regular readers will know I do have political affiliation - I am a member of the Conservative party but that came later on in life and after many years of non-political community work. And like the chair of a parliamentary select committee, much of what I do still remains non-political (like chairing a residents' association for instance.)
It was also interesting to note some of the areas where we in the Sutton part of WP could learn from them and other areas where we could perhaps offer something back, clearly demonstrating another of the advantages of working together.
Either way it was a very interesting meeting and I believe the start of the WPRA and Cuddington RA working more closely together in the future. And certainly a little of the veil of mystery has been lifted from this part of Worcester Park, at least for me.