"I'm a volunteer, and I'm on overload."
With my colleague Martin Dudley I was talking to a community activist in Swindon today about how the context for meaningful neighbourhood governance gets developed. She immediately hit on a point that I have raised before: people are exhausted and disillusioned, they feel unsupported, and they can't see anyone coming through to take up the baton.
I asked her if I could visit her estate and talk to other members of her community association committee. She said, there's only four; one's very new, and she and the others are on the verge of resigning.
"It's the bureaucracy, the procedures," she said. Earlier we had heard about the exhausting and demoralising nonsense of reams of central, regional, and local government strategy papers, area agreements, local strategic partnership papers, neighbourhood management papers, and performance targets all over the place, and spurious consultation exercises; and the not-unreasonable feeling that these burdens were all sent to damn local people for taking an interest in their own localities.
Throw neighbourhood governance at this situation, and see if you can make it stick. You can see why people might think that it doesn't stand a chance because it is a top-down strategy, designed to sleight-over some desperate looming budget and social problems, which still has not taken into consideration the impact on its victims - local people.