Please find below the minutes of our April meeting. Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday 6 May at 7.30 p.m., at the CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 15 April 2015
- Election of a chair
- Minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Transport to the People's Assembly's national demonstration, 20 June
- People's Manifesto
- No TTIP campaign
- NHS campaigns
- Library services campaigns
- Action on the Living Wage
- The Cambridge Commons
- Other business and announcements
- Date of next meeting
The venue was the CB2 Bistro basement, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Ally, Emma, Hilary, Kamila, Maud (acting chair), Neil (minute taker), Richard W., Simon, Steve, and Stuart. Apologies were received from Olivier. Names may have been changed.
The meeting accepted the draft agenda which had been circulated.
Neil clarified that the meeting had to elect a permanent chair for the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA). The issue was wasting time in every meeting. No responsibilities attached to the office: by the group's previous decision, the functions of the chair would rotate from meeting to meeting.
After a number of unsuccessful nominations the item was referred to the next meeting. Nominations could be sought before then on the group's e-mail discussion list, as Richard had earlier suggested.
Maud was elected to chair the meeting in hand.
Neil noted with regret that the group had been unable to organize a People's Question Time in Cambridge for 29 March, as it had been invited to do after the event had to be cancelled in Oxford (see item 10 in the minutes for March). Steve reassured him that the event had taken place in another city.
Neil reported on the Education Question Time held on 11 March by the Cambridgeshire National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the local branches of the University and College Union (UCU). The group had agreed to send a question on Sean's suggested subject of early years education (see item 8 in the minutes for March), which he and Neil later drafted as follows.
The early years are a revealing index of the educational effects of inequality, as the careers of initially higher-achieving pupils from poorer families may be compared with those of initially lower-achieving pupils from richer families. Please could the panel explain where and how the Coalition government's austerity programme, which has sharply increased inequality in Britain, has affected outcomes in the early years?
The question had been treated together with two others arising from austerity, and speakers had focused on the educational disadvantages arising from child poverty. They had welcomed a movement to 'poverty-proof' schools – that is, to make sure no child is excluded from activities by that circumstance – with the reservation that we must not rest at adapting to child poverty, and rebutted the government's insistence that it had not cut education spending.
The Cambridgeshire NUT secretary had outlined the idea of a broad local campaign on education to be announced shortly. The meeting expressed its full support.
Maud reported that the CPA had 170 subscribers to its mailing list (last month 169), while 295 Facebook users liked it (unchanged from last month) and 588 Twitter users followed it (last month 557). It had 19 members (last month 14).
Neil reported a balance of £441.49. He asked the meeting to note
- the receipt of a donation of £150 from the Cambridgeshire NUT,
- the receipt of a donation of £20 in a collection at the March meeting,
- the receipt of a donation of £8 from an individual supporter,
- the receipt of membership fees of £10, and
- the monthly gift of £5 to the central People's Assembly organization.
The meeting expressed its warm gratitude to the Cambridgeshire NUT. Neil noted that its donation brought within reach for the CPA the organization of transport to the People's Assembly's national demonstration, on 20 June. To hire a coach to London at the price it paid last year, it would need to raise another £200.
Maud remembered that she and Neil had hoped to exchange their roles at the February meeting (that is, resigning as secretary and treasurer and nominating each other respectively as treasurer and secretary), but that she had been unable to attend in February or March. She and Neil renewed their request and it was accepted by the present meeting, so that Neil was now the secretary and Maud, the treasurer.
Kamila argued that the group should not spend all its funds on providing transport to the national demonstration. Instead it should consider the many things it could do with even the funds already in hand, and consider other means of transport for members.
Steve argued that the group should try to provide transport. It brought people together, and brought them into the orbit of the CPA. (Kamila responded that the previous year's coach had not brought any new members to the CPA's monthly meetings.) He believed it would be possible to raise money from local union branches, perhaps with the coach being provided jointly by the CPA and another organization. It would be important to show the new government a strong demonstration.
Stuart asked whether the previous year's coach had been full. Maud's memory was that it had not been quite full. Neil's memory was that the coach had been oversubscribed, but that not all those who had promised to come did. He remembered 41 or 42 passengers on a coach that seated perhaps 55. If the CPA provided a coach this year, those on the waiting list for seats should be invited to come to the stop on the day in case any were left.
Hilary raised the idea of a ticket price. She asked how much had been raised by the voluntary collection on the previous year's coach. Neil (who still had the group's accounts book to hand) reported that it had been £131.
Stuart agreed with Kamila that it would be a mistake for the group to spend all its funds on providing free transport when they could be applied to many other important purposes. Steve stressed that the group could appeal for contributions from unions, and so avoid having to spend its entire funds. Neil upheld all points of Steve's argument.
Stuart believed that the group should set a limit on what it was prepared to contribute to a coach: it was so important to have some money. Richard agreed.
Maud explained that she and others were not simply hoping that this time the coach might work. They thought that it had worked; that the previous year's coach had been a success. To Kamila she suggested that although it had not brought new active members, it had brought people to CPA events (the group had mentioned the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership for the first time on the coach, the subject of its most popular event to date). She believed that it was much easier to raise funds for specific purposes like the hire of a coach.
Stuart suggested that the group should protect £300 of its funds against the expenses of transport. Maud suggested that it would be better to decide now whether to set a price, but defer a decision about protecting any part of its funds until the June meeting, and the present meeting accepted this.
The meeting went on to discuss ticket prices. After discussion it took a vote on whether to set a ticket price: there were two votes for it, seven against, so that the motion fell. The meeting next discussed how the suggestion for donations should be worded (including the amount). After inconclusive discussion Neil suggested that the meeting should vote between the two clearest proposals that had emerged: first, 'If you are able to give a donation, we suggest one between £2 and £8' (Stuart), and second, 'Suggested donation, £5' (Steve). Maud remarked that it was more usual to vote for and against a single motion, but let the vote be taken nonetheless. There were two votes for the first proposal and six for the second, so that the second would be used.
The meeting agreed to refer the organization of a street stall with a sign-up sheet to the next meeting. Maud noted two forthcoming events with prominent supporters of the People's Assembly where it would be good to have a sign-up sheet: the journalist Owen Jones would be in Cambridge as the guest of the Cambridge Universities Labour Club on Monday 20 April, and the comedian Russell Brand would be taking questions by a video link after the screening of his film The Emperor's New Clothes at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse on Tuesday 21 April.
As time was short after items 2 and 6, this item was omitted.
As time was short, this item on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal was largely omitted. The CPA had not organized anything for the Day of Action on Saturday 18 April. Under an earlier item Maud had reported that its petition to the City Council against TTIP had about 240 signatures.
As time was short, Steve offered to circulate a written report on the People's Convention for the NHS on Saturday 11 April. For the present he noted two actions decided upon by the convention: the foundation of local conventions, and a new campaign, Seven Days to Save our NHS, to be launched on 30 April. A recall convention would be held in October.
Emma summarized the progress to date of the campaign against the privatization of most of the third floor of Cambridge Central Library. The combination of thousands of people signing an online petition and some pressurizing their councillors had led to the County Council yesterday deciding to return the decision to the original committee. She believed the council was now preparing to make the argument that the abandonment of the proposals would necessitate greater cuts elsewhere. She added that there had been general disappointment at the Labour Party's response.
Stuart suggested the involvement of Cambridge writers and intellectuals: a letter could be prepared for their signatures. Steve advised that unions such as Unison could send a deputation to the council in such cases.
Ally believed there was a danger that privatization was only postponed until after the election. Emma thought people had to be brought to understand that this was just the beginning of cuts to library services (see item 17 in the minutes for March). Ally agreed: the council had pledged to cut and privatize. It could not be allowed to present the policies as alternatives.
The meeting agreed that an event should be organized on the issue using the CPA discussion list.
Richard advised that he was organizing a lobby of customers of the Cambridge branch of the John Lewis department store on Saturday 2 May. Its agency cleaners were excluded from the benefits of partnership in the company, which John Lewis insists include remuneration at least equal to the Living Wage. (Note: the last sentence has been corrected according to item 4 in the minutes for May.) The intention was to raise awareness of this unfair anomaly among John Lewis customers, and persuade them to sign a petition to the company. Richard hoped that Alberto Durango, general secretary of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) union which organized the company's agency cleaners in London, would be able to attend; he would also invite councillors and parliamentary candidates. (Maud and Neil remembered that the chair of the University of London branch of the IWGB, Henry Chango Lopez, had spoken brilliantly at the People's Assembly event in Cambridge on 31 May 2014.)
The meeting agreed that the CPA should use all its channels to promote the lobby.
Stuart advised that The Cambridge Commons (TCC) conference, Ruling Britannia, would be held on Saturday 6 June. Cambridge groups and individuals could use the Open Space to be facilitated by TCC. Big Issue magazine sellers would be among those speaking there, and Stuart hoped Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public and the Cambridge People's Assembly would speak too.
The meeting agreed that the CPA should take part, and use all its channels to promote the conference.
There was no other business.
Hilary had previously booked the CB2 Bistro basement for the usual first Wednesday of the month, Wednesday 6 May, at 7.30 p.m.
Simon proposed that the meeting should be moved. The 6 May was the day before the general election, which would affect the CPA's future plans. Neil argued that the CPA was not the sort of organization that had to respond to every twist of Westminster politics. The election was going to produce another austerity government (Stuart questioned whether this was really known). What the new government changed where the CPA was concerned could be discussed at its June meeting.
Hilary remarked on the frequent difficulty of booking space at the widely-used venue. The meeting agreed that it would not vary the date.