GLOBAL Newtown, Local Governance
As well as Newtown being globally connected through its economic and industrial activities of the past and present , Newtown residents, like many others living in rural towns throughout the UK, are connected to the wider world via personal links, their everyday consumption habits and/ or cultural activities.
35 languages are spoken within Newtown and nearly 6% of Newtown residents hail from outside of the UK (Census 2011). This is slightly higher than the proportion within Powys, but significantly lower than the UK figure. Over a quarter of respondents have family or friends that live abroad, over 90% have travelled within the rest of Europe and over 40% have been to North America.
To get a sense of how people connect personally with non-local and international issues we asked people to choose newspaper headlines that would be most interesting to them (see graph below).
The most popular was the headline suggesting that a Welsh town would be getting investment and a boost to jobs (62% chose this option). The next most selected stories were those that connected the UK to global issues (see figure below). These choices seems to reflect a sense that Newtown is outward looking, with a conscience and concern for wider social and environmental issues. When asked what three international issues were most important to them, the most frequently chosen were terrorism (50%), hunger/ food security (47%) and civil liberties and freedoms (41%). Climate change was another key concern (37% selected this option) and when asked “How urgently do you think we need to tackle climate change?” the majority of respondents (79%) considered climate change a serious issue over which action is needed.
Governance, needs, hopes and fears
Part of our survey asked questions about the role of the town council, what activities it should prioritise and what their area of Newtown needed. We found that many residents were not clear who has responsibility and influence over which services and facilities connected to the town.
Although there is some confusion there was also a clear set of common areas where residents think the town council has a role and that improvements can be made:
- Engaging with the community and acting as a catalyst for improving community cohesion
- Improving the look and feel of the town
- Providing amenities and green space
- Creating a vision for the revitalisation of the town centre
- Improving provision of youth facilities
- Promoting the town externally, both to encourage economic activity (e.g. tourism, new businesses) and to be an advocate of the town with other partners
Local businesses/ entreprenuers, local politicians, residents, community groups and the Welsh Assembly Government were also seen to be significant in shaping the future of the town, whereas UK and international equivalents were not.
We also asked about what people’s hopes and fears for the future of the town were. Overall, people were optimistic about the future: more people thought the town would become increasingly prosperous rather than less so, and more hopes were expressed than fears. The most frequent hope was for Newtown to ‘thrive’, the most common fear was that Newtown would ‘become a dead town’. Residents were less certain about the future of the high street, an area where residents perceive that change will be necessary to more fully adapt to the arrival of supermarkets and internet shopping.