Mayor Candidates Welcomed by "Citizens of Bedford"
Bedford Mayoral Assembly
After two years of building relationships, listening to the local community, and identifying key priorities, a local community organising group held a ‘Citizens Assembly’ for the candidates for Mayor of Bedford. The event took place at St Paul’s Church Bedford on Tuesday 25th of June. All five candidates for Mayor were present and heard stories of lived experience from people affected by homelessness and poor wages. The candidates were then asked by community leaders if they would work with this citizens’ alliance to achieve specific goals if they are elected.
A group of local civil society institutions such as faith communities, education establishments, charities and trades unions has started forming in Bedford over the last two years, with the intention of forming an alliance as part of Citizens UK. Citizens UK is a national people-powered alliance of diverse local communities working together for the common good.
The Bedford group previously voted to chose two key priorities identified by their members through a listening campaign: homelessness and housing justice, and a ‘Real Living Wage campaign’. At the assembly, which was formally opened by the Bishop of Bedford, the candidates for Mayor heard from people affected by these issues, and were asked:
If elected will you:
- Work with us to create a co-produced Homelessness policy, similar to the safeguarding ‘duty to refer’, where professionals in local organisations commit to refer clients at high risk of homelessness?
- Meet with the Living Wage Foundation to explore Bedford Borough Council becoming a Living Wage Employer?
- Meet with a team from Citizens of Bedford within a month of being elected and every six months to update us on progress on these Asks?
All five candidates unanimously answered yes to the asks in a big win for the local group.
The event was co-chaired by Rebecca Stockman, a member of St Andrew’s Church Bedford, and Shannon Johnston, one of the co-founders of local charity ‘Homeless Best Practice Consultancy’. The chairs introduced powerful stories from local residents who have experienced the stress of homelessness and working in the care sector for low wages. Proceedings were kept to strict timings by the assembly’s timekeeper Elodie Hyden aged 12. Other leaders who spoke included Mike Hyden, co-founder of local charities Homelessness Best Practice Consultancy, and the Rev’d Luke Larner, Assistant Curate of St Paul’s Church Bedford.
The group plan to continue growing in numbers and diversity, to build a strong alliance of local civil society institutions who can work together for common good with residents in the borough.
The assembly felt like the beginning of something very special. I hope to see this alliance continue to grow, to keep listening to the local community, to keep identifying and training leaders, and to keep working with local power holders to make a brighter future for all in our town. Revd Luke Larner, Assistant Curate at St Paul's Church Bedfordquotation kitty