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18 May 2024

Mayor’s Blog – W/E Saturday 18th May 2024 

Well, this is it. This is the last Mayor’s blog of this mayoral year. 

On Tuesday evening, the full Town Council will meet and vote for the Mayor for next year (the Mayoral year runs from mid-May to mid-May). 

To say it’s been an honour to have been your Mayor for the last year would be a massive understatement. To say I’ve learned a lot would also be to underplay the impact the last year has had on me. I’ve met so many marvellous people, all doing marvellous things in our town, many unpaid and unrecognised by the public at large. I’ve been lucky enough to see firsthand just how a small gesture of kindness and compassion can change somebody’s life for the better. 

We really do live in a caring town. I know there are those who like to run us down, those who always focus on the negative, and who invariably try to find fault with everything about Trowbridge, but the reality is that the vast majority of people in this town appreciate the town we all live in and only want to help make it even better. 

You’ll always get the anonymous keyboard warriors who hide behind a pseudonym and like nothing better than to tear things down. Very few of these people actually have any positive alternatives to offer though, and those that do then often expect someone else to put their ideas into action for them! 

So here’s my end-of-year challenge. If you really care about the town you live in, then get out there and get involved. If all you do is sit at a keyboard and complain about the efforts of others, then get out there and get involved yourself. 

If you’ve got ideas for the town that you think could make a real difference, then don’t hide behind a negative social media post or an anonymous comment in a local paper. Get out there, stand up for your ideas, join a community group or a campaign on an issue that you care about, even stand for your Town Council … But above all, don’t sit at home in front of a screen; get out there and, please, get involved! 

*** 

Now, I can’t let this year end without paying tribute to the two wonderful local charities that, back at the start of my term, I chose for my Mayor’s Charity Appeal. 

Over this last year, I’ve grown to understand better just how both of these groups, for those of you that have been hiding under a stone for the last twelve months, that’s Trowbridge Future and Stepping Stones…really do change lives for the better here in Trowbridge. They’re two very different organisations, offering help and support to very different groups of people, but the one thing they have in common is the absolute abundance of empathy they show for those they exist to assist. 

They’ve both taught me so much, and I can’t thank them enough for helping me shed the somewhat cynical blinkers that I think we all sometimes wear and see our town in a far more caring and positive light. 

*** 

Back now to what’s meant to be the real point of this blog: my Mayoral activities during the last week. 

My one and only formal Mayoral engagement last week was a trip to Royal Wootton-Bassett last Thursday evening, where I was a guest at the inauguration of their new Mayor and Deputy-Mayor. 

Now Royal Wootton-Bassett does their Mayor-Making far more like Salisbury (where I’d been the previous week) than we do here in Trowbridge. To be honest, we don’t have a “Mayor-Making” ceremony as such; we have a vote of our Town Council and that’s it; the chains are passed from the old last year’s Mayor to the newly elected next years’ Mayor. The new Mayor is then sworn in, and the meeting of the Town Council carries on seamlessly under the chairmanship of the new Mayor, and that’s it. No great fuss, and there was no public ceremony at all to speak of. 

Anyway, Royal Wootton-Bassett held their annual Mayor-Making in St. Bartholomew’s Church in the centre of town. It was a very formal occasion with robes and wigs, town criers and sword bearers, a Mayoral Chaplain, and, well, an ample measure of ceremony. 

Like I said last week, maybe we’re missing a trick here in Trowbridge by not making more of our Mayor-Making! 

*** 

Then came Friday. 

Now, Friday evening was a bit different. I was out as Mayor, but I wasn’t there in chains or robes. This was because I wasn’t out at a formal civic event, but I was at an important event for Trowbridge. 

I’d been asked to meet a reporter from BBC Radio Wiltshire, along with a representative of the PCC’s Office (that’s the Police and Crime Commissioner), the Trowbridge Chamber of Commerce, and an entrepreneur engaged in our town’s night-time economy (and that’s pubs, bars, and clubs to you and me). 

Oh, and also there, and actually the whole point of the gathering, were the two new “Night-time Economy Wardens” that are now present on our town’s streets on a Friday and Saturday night. 

These wardens are from a private security company and are funded by the Wiltshire PCC’s Office on the back of a grant given to them by the Home Office. They aren’t here to replace the police. Their function is not to tackle crime or act in some kind of private police role. Crime is in fact falling in Trowbridge, with Public Order offences down over 20% from this time last year. 

The main function of the wardens is to provide visible reassurance to those (especially women and girls) out and about in the town centre on a Friday or Saturday night. They have no formal powers of arrest but are trained in mediation and will act to “defuse” any potentially awkward situation they come across. 

Obviously, if anything occurs that is outside their scope, they’ll immediately notify the police, who will (hopefully) attend and deal with “the incident,” as only warranted officers can! 

These wardens have been on our streets for two weekends now, and the BBC wanted to interview us all for a piece about them that will probably be broadcast next Friday (although that’s yet to be confirmed). Having met up at County Hall with Tori from Still Sisters, we walked over the park to the Still Sisters bar in St. George’s Works. If you haven’t visited this newly opened gin bar just off Silver Street, you really must; it’s a real little gem! 

The PCC’s Office has funded these wardens for the next twelve months, and it’ll be very interesting to see what impact they have on people’s perceptions of street safety here in Trowbridge on a Friday or Saturday night. 

But this isn’t the only initiative in place aimed at promoting and protecting our night-time economy here in Trowbridge. The town council has invested heavily in upgrading the CCTV across the town centre, and this is now of such quality that it can (if needed) be accessed by the police and used as evidence. 

The town’s Chamber of Commerce is also looking into the national “safe spaces” scheme. This is the scheme in which certain premises (again, bars and pubs spring to mind) will be designated “Safe Spaces” where anyone feeling threatened or nervous can enter and ask for somewhere to stay off the street and be safe. 

This scheme does require staff to be trained before a notice advertising the premises as a Safe Space can be displayed, but a number of venues across town have expressed an interest in taking part, so hopefully these notices will be appearing in pubs, bars, and clubs across the town soon. 

The real message here is… Trowbridge wants to be known as a safe town to be out in at night, and we’re doing everything we can to make it not just safer but feel safer as well. 

So please come and enjoy yourself responsibly while supporting our increasingly vibrant nighttime economy. 

*** 

That’s it for this year. Keep safe, and please be kind to each other. 

 

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