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Democracy doesn't stop with Covid 19

A picture of the virtual Accountability Assembly in progress

Last night, members of Citizens Essex hosted an online Accountability Assembly with Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst as the elections have been delayed.  Essex PFCC also hosted the event on their Facebook page which, at the time or writing this post, has had some 800 views.  There were big wins for youth work campaigners as Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner Roger Hirst agrees to all Citizens’ Essex asks.


Citizens Essex, a chapter of community organising charity Citizens UK, hosted an online Accountability Assembly on 27th April 2020 with Commissioner Roger Hirst.

Members of communities and organisations from across Essex came together at the Assembly to voice their collective concerns to the PFCC Commissioner in order to improve the lives of families and communities across the county.  Having listened to over one thousand people across Essex about their experiences of crime and safety, they shared stories and had 3 asks of the Commissioner.

Bishop Roger Morris, The Bishop of Colchester and Jamie Sawtell, CEO of Bar ‘n’ Bus, led a call for the PFCC to prioritise detached youth work with 8-13 year olds strategically and financially. They also called for a restorative strategy to help young people when Covid-19 lockdown is lifted. The Commissioner warmly supported these ideas and agreed to meet next week to work together on how to take this forward.

Rev’d Dr Sara Batts-Neale, newly appointed Chaplain to Essex University, led a call for young people to be involved in training police officers to better understand young people and build better relationships with them.  Commissioner Roger Hirst agreed to work with Citizens Essex to explore how to take this forward with the senior police officer responsible for training.

Jimena Vazquez and Anne Steinhoff, PhD students at the University of Essex, shared the concerns they heard about poor street lighting around the Greenstead/Tesco underpass in Colchester and asked for the Commissioner’s help on this issue.  Roger Hirst agreed to work with Jimena, Anne and others to explore with the local councillor and Police Commander what can be done to help Tesco keyworkers and local residents feel more safe in this area.   

In responding to a request to meet quarterly Roger Hirst said “I would be delighted … It’s rare for me to get a gathering of so many representatives of different groups across the county with such meaningful insights … you clearly have got reach and insight which we will only benefit from sharing”.

The Assembly took place on Zoom and was streamed live on the Essex PFCC Facebook page. Jon Smith, co-chair of Colchester Citizens says ‘At this time when we are physically distant it is important that we continue to find meaningful ways to engage with authorities and ensure the voices of civil society are listened to and acted upon. Democracy shouldn’t stop because of Covid-19’.


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