A personal speech by Chairman Penny Smith closing the Epping Forest District Council Civic Awards held at Gilwell Park Conference Centre on 18 March 2010.
Let me begin by congratulating you John as our new Citizen of the Year. Yours is richly-deserved recognition. Tony and Dave also deserve great praise, as do all of this evening’s award winners. What a splendid district we have with so many wonderful people.
As councillors, we take pride in knowing our communities. We work with people, take on their problems and try to make things better – all of which is good. But as Chairman I think you see another perspective.
I thought about this after meeting some old friends at Christmas, past chairmen of Epping Forest District Council who agreed to give readings at the Carol service in All Saints` Church. I think we have a bond of common experience because of the people the chairman gets to meet.
It is very refreshing. Our residents are simply getting on with normal daily life. They are the volunteers at Macmillan Coffee mornings. They are our own council staff or mums and dads with their children at a new playground. They are police, fire and ambulance officers, and the countless other people going about their normal business but adding immeasurably to the benefit of our district.
So for us as councillors, I think the Civic Awards is a chance to stop, draw breath and take a fresh look. To see that behind the newspaper headlines, the political battles and debates, the marvellous award winners we have met this evening represent the tip of an ice-berg. A district full of people achieving great things. A district of kind, generous and gentle people, protecting, helping and caring for each other. But there is one group in our community I particularly want to mention before closing.
I want to tell you briefly about another event I attended. Last week, students and youth councillors converged on the Council from all corners of the district to participate in our latest Epping Forest District Youth Council conference and debate.
Young people are labelled with negative stereotypes and this was highlighted as an issue during the conference.
But the Conference was another remarkable illustration to me of the fine qualities to be found among the younger generations. I would recommend you take a look at the webcast of their debate on reducing the voting age. As personified by our new Young Citizen of the Year, Tom Peters, our youth councillors and in all the young people who came to the Council last week, we have the finest young citizens.
We should be proud and not disparaging of our young people.
The Councillors of Epping Forest District Council represent a community of which we can be truly proud. Tonight we say thank you to some of our brightest and the best, old and young. But we are also saying thank you to every good citizen of our district – formally recognised or not.
It just remains for me to wish you good night. Thank you to you all. I hope you have had a lovely evening and I wish you a safe journey home. Good night and God bless.