According to a recent survey, Finland is the happiest country in the world, with the United Kingdom ranking 19th for happiness. Surprising, perhaps, because we are one of the richest countries in the world. Not surprising, maybe, as we have endured eight years of Austerity, declining living standards and for many, very little increase in their income. This may be one of the richest countries, but if it is correct that more of that wealth is concentrated in the hands of fewer people, then it follows that those who are now getting by, just, are not feeling particularly happy. Let alone those who are not getting by at all.

A recent explanation of the happiness of Finland, & other Scandinavian countries, is a lack of inequality, and also strong societies with communities where collective endeavour is more valued than individualism.

I think that local government has a role to play in enabling communities to come together, and I have always supported our Council’s work to further ‘social cohesion’- through neighbourhood forums, Let’s Face It events and my own favourite, Crawley parks’ ‘Friends’ groups.

It was on a warm summer evening back in 2004 when the first ‘Friends’ group was formed in Goffs Park. The group is still going 14 years later, & now there are ‘Friends’ groups for all of Crawley’s major parks. The groups complement the Council’s work in maintaining the parks, doing work which the Council may not otherwise have the resources to do. The huge amount of invasive rhododendron which the ‘Friends of Broadfield Park’ have cleared springs to mind- work which has replaced a sterile environment with one which opens up new views in the park & gives wildlife a chance to flourish. A Saturday morning working in Broadfield Park is like going to an outdoor gym, without the membership fee.

Of course, the Council does not expect that Crawley’s parks should be run by volunteers; that would be unrealistic, and unfair.

‘Community development’ was very popular in local government , until Austerity began to bite. I prefer to think of it as helping residents create communities, and even though funding is short it need not cost a great deal, especially in terms of the benefits it can offer to everyone.

Crawley may never achieve the levels of ‘hygge’ enjoyed by the residents of Copenhagen or Helsinki, but by taking part in our communities, we can have a great time trying.

Cllr Ian Irvine,

Broadfield North  

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