“I joined to get my voice heard”, Citizens’ Panel member talks about hopes for the West Midlands
Members of the new Citizens’ Panel set up to help guide the West Midlands’ recovery from Covid-19 have been putting forward their views
The group, which is made up of 36 residents representing the diverse make-up of the region, are spending this month (June) learning about the impact of coronavirus on communities, and will help guide what recovery plans should focus on.
Panel member and IT project manager Punita Bhakta has been sharing her thoughts about the recovery of the West Midlands. She said: “I joined the Citizens’ Panel because I wanted to know more about what councils and government are doing to make the world restart again. I wanted to put my stance on this to a certain degree and make my voice heard.
“I think really the main thing to focus on is to get businesses and shops back up and running again in the manner they need to, purely so we can function again and people can go out and about and do their purchases, run their businesses and get the economy back up.”
The Citizens’ Panel has been commissioned by the West Midlands Recovery Co-ordination Group (RCG) - a collaboration of senior officials from the region’s local authorities, emergency services and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
This community engagement will complement the region’s ongoing economic recovery work, which is being spearheaded by the Economic Impact Group, which brings together business leaders, central government, banks, trade unions and local authorities.
The panel is now half way through its programme of meetings and group sessions which are being held online. The sessions involve members sharing their experiences, considering evidence on impacts from expert witnesses, and deliberating over challenging trade-offs, before putting forward a set of recommendations to the RCG.
Cllr Brigid Jones, the chair of the Citizens’ Panel steering group and WMCA portfolio holder for inclusive communities, said: “The panel members have been learning how key decisions that affect them and their communities are made.
“They are spending a considerable amount of their own time taking in a lot of information about how the region is run.
“They will be able to use their new-found knowledge to make suggestions about how to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.”
The RCG will use the recommendations of the Citizens’ Panel to help inform the region’s political leaders on their post-Covid-19 recovery plans.
The programme is being delivered by BritainThinks, an independent insight and strategy agency, and is supported by Engage Britain, which is a charity focused on bringing together people with different views, knowledge and experience to help tackle the biggest challenges facing the country.