Over the summer months, I was pleased to see so many programmes announced which show that local voices and pressures are being listened to. These include:
- The announcement of the new hospital Cancer Therapy Extension, to be completed in 2019, on the North Site at the Hospital
- The opening of the new hospital entrance area in July, and a new Ward
- The funding from the DoT for a £1.1m improvement for Cycle SuperHighways, to enable improved linking of residential and commercial districts, and encourage true cycle commuting
- New car parking provision around the Station area, to reduce pressures on existing arrangements
- Proposals for the upgrade of older housing and community assets.
Additionally, we continue to see daily evidence that MK is on track and developing its educational, technical and cultural credentials:
- MK Academy yesterday announced its best results in its A level programme, with a 99% pass rate, and 100% pass rate in BTEC qualifications
- MK50 celebrations continue, with an ongoing programme of events through to the end of the year
- Plans for the MK Gallery continue apace
- On the business front, Red Bull have recently announced plans to develop a Technology Centre adjacent to the existing plant in Tilbrook, creating a motorsport centre of excellence in the city to add to those facilities already in existence.
With all this good news, one could easily be fooled into thinking that everything was on track for the city to continue to plot stellar growth, but as we all know in business, you cannot take your eye off the ball for a minute and become complacent with past achievements. The annual report from MK Community Foundation, called Vital Signs, continues to highlight social and other pressures in our community, and Mr Bob Hill, of ex MKDC fame, had it right when he said, “It’s about the community, stupid!” (small paraphrase there, but entirely true!)
Business engagement in the community is pretty high for a city of our size. Current examples include:
- Intu’s bus for the homeless
- Sponsorship of Electric Vehicles and the Transport Catapault
- Support for numerous charities by individual businesses
- The CMK BUSINESS Improvement District at £1m pa
How we continue to reach out and promote Pride in our City, encouraged by the local authority, supported by business, and promoted by local communities is a constant challenge. Our community leaders actively promote economic development, and currently the MK 50 celebrations, but then struggle to deal with issues, such as social exclusion and isolation, either through lack of funding, agreement at a political level or linked up support within the MK Community at large.
This is never more readily exemplified than to see the statistics, as outlined in the Vital Signs report, or more starkly in the Cycle Hire Scheme, supported by Santander, which may be withdrawn due to the damage caused to the cycles provided to the community. It is the worst ever experienced within the scheme provided by Nextbike (a company which provides 120 such schemes across the world.) Why a citywide community would accept this level of social irresponsibility (for what is seen by the rest of the world as a community asset) beggars belief; and, it seems to me that it indicates the degree of social respect in some areas of local communities is either sadly lacking or poorly understood.
People like Rob Harriman (the street warden in CMK and Pride of MK award winner) have shown how small changes can help. Maybe community street wardens would help!
Milton Keynes has grown through its vibrancy and willingness to embrace change, but as Bob Hill said, it needs to develop an ongoing, continuing and enduring sense of pride throughout all communities, even after the MK 50 celebrations have ceased.
By Paul Davis