Something that has been amazing to behold over the past year has been the way in which people have come together in community to help out.

There has been the excellent work of Tin in a Bin supporting local foodbanks, then the mutual aid groups supporting those in need of different types of help.

One striking example of community action has been the effort to clear up the growing levels of rubbish around the place.

There have been the regular litter picks in Wanstead, Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats. All well attended.

Then there has been the work of the Friends of the River Roding, clearing up the river.

At a recent mass clear up along the river, near Ilford, the group discovered sewage spewing into the waterway doing a huge amount of damage. As a result of their work, the problem is being addressed.

There has been the effort of people across the borough to cultivate tree pits - 1200 have been adopted this year.

There seems to be a real empowerment going on across communities, as people really take control.

This is a most welcome development and it must be greeted with the right response from those in national and local government.

People will expect to be taken seriously and given a real say in the way things run in exchange for their efforts. They will not accept just being used as a cheap labour source.

It has to be a genuine partnership approach.

Real empowerment of people is the only way forward, the more who get involved the better. For too long people have been passive, alienated from what is going on around them, frustrated about what is being done to rather than for them. This breeds a resentment just to lash out, often at those simply trying to do their best in difficult circumstances.

If as a result of this pandemic period there is a real awakening of the community spirit that can then be harnessed for the common good, it can only be good for society. The next stage is to give these groups more of a say in how things are run, creating a truly inclusive system of empowerment. It can certainly be done, if we all have the will.