Introduction Even though Milton Keynes continues to develop and evolve, in many ways Milton Keynes today has not changed from the Milton Keynes of 2008 when Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes was originally published. It’s still a land of roundabouts that continue to amaze people. People still associate us with concrete cows. It’s maintained it’s lush greenish within a very urban environment Milton Keynes has also maintained its ‘Can Do’ attitude evidenced by the establishment of Stadium MK and the MK Dons within the community. Milton Keynes also aspires to be a low carbon city and in line with this it is a pioneer city for electric cars. Milton Keynes is also intent on a role in the 2012 Olympics and has already been identified as a key training centre. Milton Keynes population has continued to grow with an estimated population for the Borough of Milton Keynes of 236,700 as of June 2009, according to Milton Keynes Council (2009 Mid Year Estimates ONS). Milton Keynes as in fact still one of the fastest growing cities in the country within one of the fastest growing regions in Europe. New jobs are also constantly being created. Its population is also becoming increasing diverse with Black and Minority Ethnic groups now making up to 31% of pupils population. Like the rest of the country, Milton Keynes has, however, been affected by the recession – two key implications of this have been increased unemployment and the slow down of the development of new housing. The leadership structures within Milton Keynes are also changing. In July 2009, David Hill became the new Chief Executive of the Council – moving from Ashford Borough Council in Kent. Although no party has an outright majority, as of 2011 the Conservatives have now replaced the Liberal Democrats in holding the largest number of local Council seats and both Milton Keynes MPs are also now Conservatives. The policy of the Conservative/Lib Dem Collaboration Government to abolish a number of Quangos has a major impact on Milton Keynes yet to be fully realised as a number of bodies with leadership responsibility within Milton Keynes such as Milton Keynes Partnerships inclusive of Invest Milton Keynes and Milton Keynes Economic and Learning Partnership have been dissolved with a lot of their responsibilities now moving to the Council. This means that Milton Keynes will have more responsibility than ever before for Milton Keynes. Some regeneration work has taken place in Milton Keynes since the Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes was first published, but there is still a lot to be done. Furthermore, even though Milton Keynes was largely untouched by the August 2011 riots, the concerns raised in this book relating to young people become all the more pertinent with the riots. These are just a few highlights. Most important of all for most of us that live here, work here or have some other stake in the City, it still remains a place the we love and we cherish. I hope that through reading this book you will gain some insights as to why. I’m just looking forward to the next big Can Do projects that we can all get together to achieve. Welcome to Milton Keynes! Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, Professionals built the Titanic. Anon Milton Keynes is synonymous with roundabouts and concrete cows. However if, after over 40 years as a new town and centuries of prior existence (as a number of different small towns and villages), this was all that Milton Keynes had to offer, Milton Keynes would not be such a diverse place with people from all backgrounds, colours and creeds and an ever-growing population. It would also not be deemed England’s most successful new town and a showcase city visited by people from across the world who want to understand how to develop a successful new town, which is earmarked for growth into one of England’s ten largest cities by 2030.i It would also not have been identified by the Centre for Cities as one of the top five UK cities to watch for the future. I’m possibly not the most knowledgeable person on Milton Keynes as I’ve only been here for eight years, but the more I learn about it, the more passionate and in love with it I become and the more I come to believe that there is a need for greater awareness of what Milton Keynes is really about for the people outside of the town, some of whom will never ever visit, but carry an often very strong opinion of the place. Of equal 19importance, I believe it is necessary for those of us who live and work in Milton Keynes to be more aware of the diverse opportunities and options that it offers. Recognising the limits of my experience and knowledge of Milton Keynes, I have taken the time to visit different parts of Milton Keynes and speak to different people who I know have a much clearer, in-depth knowledge than I do on specific areas. Having done all of this, I am very conscious that I only just touch the tip of the iceberg as there is so much more that I have consciously or subconsciously omitted or am possibly unaware of. For this reason, I hope that what I have put together will inspire you to investigate and find out more. You can find a number of links on the Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes website.ii As with everything in life there are negative things about Milton Keynes as well as the many positives. I have chosen to focus more on the positives: the possibilities and opportunities to overcome the negatives. I’m in no way deluded, but I don’t believe it is constructive to focus on the things that have been tried that have not worked or the mistakes that have been made along the way, unless there is a direct lesson to be learnt from doing so. It is therefore not a contradiction that on occasion I have been compelled to mention some of the ‘mistakes’ that have been made in order to explain some of the current circumstances and, I hope, to provide some suggestions on how to avoid them and to move forward into the ultimate future for Milton Keynes. I also hope that, through this book, people outside of Milton Keynes will come to understand that while we love our roundabouts and concrete cows, there is so much more to be said of this vibrant town. Fireworks and Birthday Cake Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words. Plautus I didn’t realise how much I’d come to appreciate Milton Keynes until its 40th birthday. I was about to go out in the morning when I heard a few large bangs. This brought a slow, big grin to my face as I remembered that it was the 23rd January 2007 – our 40th birthday. Yes indeed: Milton Keynes brings with it a sense of both belonging and responsibility. I went off to London for the day, excited and eager to get back home for the birthday celebration concert in the evening. Prior to this, I hadn’t really thought much of Milton Keynes being 40, let alone recognised the event was taking place, until I saw the concert advertised in the papers. In fact I didn’t really know what to expect from the concert, but £5 for a concert ticket wasn’t asking much so a couple of friends and I thought – why not? Let’s do it. It was a great concert, with a variety of music ranging from rock to pop to a disco inferno musical journey through time. There was something for everyone. One of the other great things about the concert was that all the artistes were either based in or originated from Milton Keynes. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and I received an additional charge from all the people I bumped into that I knew either personally or through my work, or knew of because of the positions they held within Milton Keynes such as Isobel McColl, the Council leader and the Council’s former chief executive, John Best. There were also a number of schoolchildren who had stayed up late to join in the celebrations. Virtually everyone seemed to be there. But at the back of my mind there was a concern. I couldn’t immediately understand what it was, but later, when I went through the events of the day, I realised that there were some people missing. There is a group of people in Milton Keynes (like the rest of England) that we often forget and hardly talk about unless something goes wrong. These are the people from the less prosperous areas of the town – sadly they seemed to be missing from the celebrations. I think I found it particularly saddening because these were of the earlier arrivals in Milton Keynes – they formed the foundation for the town we have today. Without them, the story of Milton Keynes may have been very different. With this in mind, I was very much looking forward to the Party in Park and all the other celebrations taking place in June. My hope was that with the variety advertised there would be something for everyone. The events were planned so that there was something for everyone. It did, however, require business sponsorship to enable them to be free and accessible for everyone but, sadly, there was not as high a take-up as one would have hoped. It was however a lot of fun and a setup that I believe helped people who may have previously been marginalised to engage in the events and not be left out. It was a success and I do hope that it becomes an annual event. The fact that the June events were more all-involving gives me some hope that all the people of Milton Keynes will be considered and involved in the future developments and changes that take place as it goes forward. This is because Milton Keynes is continually developing and changing, just as it has now been doing for over 40 years. There’s always something new happening and, possibly, that’s an indication of why the people who live here are so passionate about it.