There follow the minutes of our April meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 4 May at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 6 April 2016
- Agreement of the agenda
- Apologies for absence
- Approval of last month's minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- National demonstration, 16 April
- Unite the Union May Day festival, 1 May
- Trades Council anti-austerity event, 2 July
- Junior doctors' action, 6 and 7 April
- Library service cuts
- Other business and announcements
- Date of next meeting
The venue was the River Lane Centre, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Ally, Emma, Hilary, Jenny, Martin B., Maud, Mick, Neil (secretary), Nicki (treasurer), and Richard M. (acting chair). Names may have been changed.
The meeting agreed to discuss the Cambridgeshire National Union of Teachers' campaign against forced academization, which had been scheduled as item 9, at another time when a representative of the association was available. Instead it would discuss the latest action by junior doctors. It also agreed to add a discussion of cuts to library services as a new item 10.
Eva, Owen, Stacey, and Steve had sent apologies.
Neil noticed he had wrongly typed the number of Facebook users who liked the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA): it should have been 558, not 448. Otherwise the meeting approved the minutes.
Neil reported on the loose plans for a rally on budget day (see item 11 in the minutes for March). These had been overtaken by a national People's Assembly initiative to ask councillors to sign a letter protesting austerity and the predictable new cuts to local authority budgets, with a photo call on the day. Neil as secretary had written to 54 city and county councillors, but although some had agreed there was not enough interest to organize a photo.
There were no other matters arising.
Neil reported that the CPA had 237 subscribers to its mailing list (last month 226), while 860 Twitter users followed it (839) and 561 Facebook users liked it (558).
He apologized to the meeting and especially to Nicki for having made little progress with registering her on the CPA's bank account as its new treasurer (see item 3 in the minutes for March). He had prepared two letters and contacted one of the former officers, but nothing more. Maud had now also enquired at the bank and was able to clarify what was required.
Nicki reported a bank balance of £415.57.
The CPA had received donations towards the cost of coach hire for 16 April of £310 (including a cheque for £100 not yet paid in) from the Cambridge and District Trades Council, Cambridge University Unite the Union, Cambridge University and College Union, and an individual supporter; the collection at the March meeting had raised £17; and Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) had kindly replaced an unreceived cheque for £55.15 in respect of a joint event in October.
The CPA had spent £7.50 on the hire of its meeting venue and £5 on its monthly donation to the national People's Assembly.
Neil had booked a wheelchair-accessible, 48-seater coach and created an Eventbrite page to handle seat booking. He had sent appeals for funding, a model motion, and a notice for mailing lists to local trade unions.
To promote the coach, the CPA had held a stall at the Grafton Centre the previous weekend next to KONP's regular stall: Henry, Neil, Richard, and Steve had distributed leaflets for the CPA. (Hilary remembered there had been ten or more people working across both stalls, an impressive sight.) Neil had been posting notices on the blog; Maud and Steve had been inviting people on Facebook. With all these efforts the coach had slowly filled up, until 40 of 48 seats were booked.
Jenny, Richard, and Steve would be able to hold another stall on Saturday.
Neil read an invitation from Cambridge Unite Community to their May Day festival on Parker's Piece, a tent city symbolizing Cambridge's housing crisis and the threat of the government's Housing and Planning Bill. The meeting welcomed the invitation, and Neil would write to accept it. Richard suggested preparing materials to distribute there.
Neil reported that this event had been put back from 7 May to Saturday 2 July. Nicki observed that this was the day of the Mill Road Summer Fair; Neil would make sure the organizing committee realized this.
Jenny and Mick would be able to visit the junior doctors' picket line, and would be ready to mention the coach. Other members had witnessed encouraging gestures of solidarity on the doctors' previous picket lines: the sounding of car horns (Nicki), gifts of chocolate (Richard), and a visit from the fire service (Hilary).
The meeting discussed the new cuts that followed from Cambridgeshire County Council's severe austerity budget. It noted that the media narrative on public libraries under austerity was beginning to change, from amusement at the novelty of volunteer-run and pop-up libraries to recognition of deteriorating services and job losses.
Neil advised that he had been unable to make the CPA's intended donation to the solidarity fund for its friend Angela and seven others due to stand trial in April for disrupting the DSEI arms fair in autumn (see item 9 in the minutes for February): the fund's web page required the use of a bank card. The meeting (with Neil) consented to Richard's suggestion that Neil should donate using a personal card, and the CPA reimburse him.
Martin announced that the annual Marxism festival would take place between 30 June and 4 July, and distributed leaflets.
Richard asked about Disabled People Against Cuts' view of the budget. Nicki believed the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith had been seen as too little, too late. Although the cuts to Personal Independence Payments announced in the budget had been withdrawn, the worse cuts to Employment Support Allowance announced earlier would still take place.
Nicki mentioned that she had been to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Clinical Commissioning Group's Fit for the Future event at the Central Library (see item 11 in the minutes for March). Unusually for a consultation it had been run by clinicians, not administrators. It was sponsored by the Monitor regulator.
Maud reported on a new movement in France to occupy public places overnight, Night Awake (Nuit debout; literally, 'standing night'). It had been triggered by the government's proposed labour law which would increase working hours, change tax rights, and open attacks on permanent contracts. So far it was fairly anarchic; no leaders had emerged. She would continue to follow its development.
The meeting noticed that the first Wednesday in May would be the day before local elections, when some CPA supporters might be busy canvassing for their parties. It agreed to put the meeting back one week, to Wednesday 11 May.
(Note: it proved not to be possible to arrange a venue for 11 May. The May meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 4 May at the River Lane Centre.)