Framework sections highlighted: Action, Listening, Power, Reach, Strategy

Active listening lands Glastonbury a new PCSO

As a result of budget cuts to the police and drug and alcohol services, in 2016, the town of Glastonbury found itself with a crime and anti-social behaviour problem.

The issue was a major concern for the residents, as community organiser Jon, who was Mayor at the time, explained:

“We had stabbings on the high street, and everybody was up in arms about it.  There was open drug dealing, there was a lot of really abusive behaviour going on.”

Jon used his power as Mayor of Glastonbury to facilitate a conversation between Sue Mountstevens, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), and the public, using the local paper as a platform to conduct a listening campaign.

Based on the responses people gave throughout the listening campaign, the PCC offered a number of potential solutions – one of which was funding a PSCO for Glastonbury through increased Council Tax.  Jon pushed for the idea to be taken back to the community, for them to decide on.

“When the Police and Crime Commissioner came up with the idea, that we could get a PCSO, and pay for it, the council wanted to make a decision about that,” Jon explained.

“And I said to them, ‘we can’t make that decision, the community has to make that decision.’ It’s like talking a foreign language to some these councillors.”

So the suggestion was put to the community through another campaign involving local media, asking citizens if they would be happy to pay £1 a month extra in Council Tax to fund an extra PCSO.

The response from the community was an overwhelming yes.  Through an ongoing process of active listening, the council now had a mandate to raise the council precepts and employ a PCSO just for Glastonbury.

Jon highlighted that this success was a result of councillors being community organisers, and taking an active listening role in the communities they serve.  When coupled with the power they have to raise funds, this listening process can create real change.

It needs to be standard for councillors to go out and listen to their communities. We need to get them door-knocking. They’re elected here for four years. They go door-knocking before they get elected, saying, “Vote for me.” And then no one ever sees them again for another four years.
Jon Cousins, Community Organiser

“Even if they went out once a year on the anniversary of them being elected, and knocked every door in their ward and said, ‘What do you love? What are your concerns? How do you see the future? Do you feel that you have a voice?’ All that good stuff. If they did it, it would be fantastic, because these things come out when you do that.”

The presence of the PCSO has not solved the town’s problems overnight, and decisions made by central government continue to have an impact on crime levels in Glastonbury.  However, these events marked the beginning of a shift in the way Glastonbury’s parish council brought the community into its decision-making process.


If you've got a great story about community organising and the positive impact it is having in your community we would love to hear from you.