There follow the minutes of our February meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 7 March at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 9 February 2018
- Agreement of the agenda
- Apologies for absence
- Approval of the minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Report on NHS in Crisis demo, 3 February
- Report on demonstrations against Cambs County Council budget, 4 and 6 February
- One Day Without Us migrants' solidarity rally, 17 February
- Other business and announcements
- Next meeting
The venue was the River Lane Centre at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan (meeting chair), Faraz, Hilary, Jamie, Jane, Jenny, Lucy, Neil (secretary), Nicki (treasurer), Martin B., and Richard M. (campaign chair). Names may have been changed.
Hilary asked that the meeting should discuss an absent supporter's concerns about Cambridgeshire County Council's proposal to move its headquarters from Shire Hall, but in the event there was no time.
Otherwise the meeting accepted the draft agenda.
Simon had sent his apologies.
The meeting approved the minutes and there were no matters arising.
Neil reported 251 subscribers to the mailing list (last month 249), 974 Twitter followers (972), and 643 Facebook likes (628).
Nicki reported overall funds of £917.04. Income was a £23 collection at the January meeting. Expenditure was £50 on covering the printing costs for Save Our Children's Centres campaign materials; £22.50 on venue hire for October, November, and December; and £5 on the group's regular donation to the national office.
Jamie reported an excellent turnout (on what Hilary remembered was a wet and dismal day) for a march from Gower Street to Downing Street. Speakers at the closing rally had included the actor Ralf Little, the junior doctor Aislinn Macklin-Doherty, the disability rights activist Paula Peters, the nurse Danielle Tiplady, and the Labour Party's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth. Hilary noted that Jonathan Ashworth had used the word 'reinstatement' of the NHS, though still without giving his party's support to the NHS Reinstatement Bill. Richard advised that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had now said that he personally supported the bill.
Hilary was concerned that the clear message of such demonstrations should be not only that the NHS needed more money, but that its privatization had to be reversed. She was also concerned that the speakers had not challenged the flawed proposal of a hypothecated tax to pay for the NHS.
At least one speaker had addressed the trend for NHS bodies to restructure themselves as 'accountable care organizations' (ACOs), after the market-based American model. Nicki had been disappointed by an uncritical recent discussion of ACOs on the usually sharp television comedy show, The Last Leg.
Dan proposed that the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) should develop materials which explained these issues. Jamie suggested a pamphlet which addressed the facts but also presented case studies: he would be happy to work on this. The meeting agreed this would be welcome. Nicki noted another issue in the increasingly frequent demand to prove one's British citizenship for free access to healthcare.
Sunday 4 February
Neil reported that more than 50 people had attended the CPA's demonstration ahead of the budget meeting in Market Square on Sunday 4 February, to hear speakers from the Labour and Green parties, Save Our Children's Centres, Disabled People Against Cuts, Cambridge Unite Community, Cambridgeshire National Education Union, and Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public. Neil as secretary had introduced and closed the demo, and had read a message of support from the MP Daniel Zeichner (for the texts see 'Speeches Against the County Cuts', 11 February).
The CPA had publicized the demo on its mailing list and blog, and thanks to administrators Dan and Nicki on its Facebook page, where Nicki had paid to boost its posts. Jamie and Neil had produced a colour leaflet, then a press release. The Save Our Children's Centres campaign had also undertaken parallel publicity with great effect. The Cambridge News had printed a report which stressed the planned cuts to children's centres (Tom Pilgrim, 'Protesters Call on Council to Reverse Children's Centres Cuts Decision', 4 February 2018).
Jane had distributed leaflets at the demo, and reported that passers-by had been receptive: they had read them carefully and discussed the contents with their friends. Dan had perceived that more people stopped to listen than was usual at such events.
Tuesday 6 February
Jamie reported that a small group had protested outside the county council's Shire Hall headquarters on the morning of the budget meeting, Tuesday 6 February, with CPA supporters joining a UNISON official. He and others who had attended were dissatisfied with the protest however: although some councillors stopped to talk, Dan remembered that often the protesters could only shout at them, and the councillors only retort that they didn't have any money. Jamie reflected on how difficult it was to start conversations: perhaps the CPA could think about how to do this. Jane believed that genuine discussions would have made more of an impression on the councillors.
Hilary had afterwards gone with others into the meeting, and she remembered good speeches by the councillors Joan Whitehead (Labour) and Lucy Nethsinga (Liberal Democrats), respectively attacking austerity in general and the council's 'smoothing fund', where tax revenue would be diverted from public services and held in reserve.
What should the CPA do next? Nicki believed that its task was to raise awareness of the cuts and their effects. Dan cautioned that since the county beyond Cambridge returned large rightwing majorities (now Conservative, formerly Conservative and Ukip), the council was practically unaffected by politics in the city.
Jamie thought an important part of that task was to explain what the council's own words softened and concealed. The meeting supported his suggestion of another leaflet, which he would begin to draft. Dan stressed that a campaign would have to be sustained in order to reach people.
Jane noted the great potential of radio for spreading political ideas: once someone was speaking live on air, she or he could say what he liked. The speaker did not have to be one of the regular CPA organizers: it could be a friend of the campaign with special knowledge on an issue.
Neil suggested that another side of strategy would be to look at specific cuts, and try to calculate which might provoke enough resistance to support a campaign.
All this should be discussed electronically (Jane suggested three email threads, on the leaflet, on how to get on radio, and on choosing campaign areas) and again in person at the next meeting.
Neil advised that the One Day Without Us campaign would hold an immigrant solidarity rally in Market Square on Saturday 17 February, supported by UNISON and the Global Justice Cambridge, Cambridge Stays, Amnesty International Cambridge City, and Cambridgeshire Hope Not Hate campaigns. The meeting agreed that the CPA should do what it could do publicize the rally.
Nicki noted that Cambridge Central Library would soon start charging for internet use, which would affect adults looking for jobs or claiming benefits, and children doing homework.
Martin advised that Stand Up to Racism would hold a national demonstration in London on 17 March. The meeting agreed this should be noted in the next CPA mailing.
Richard reported that the Football For All meeting on 7 February (for which the CPA had moved the present meeting) had been very worthwhile in bringing together fans, players, managers, and activists against racism.
Jenny advised that Health Campaigns Together and the People's Assembly had called a national demonstration for the NHS in London for 31 June. This should be on the agenda for the next meeting.
Jane advised that the Cambridge–Calais Refugee Action Group was turning 600 blankets into ponchos for migrants in France (clothing being more difficult for the police legally to seize). She appealed for anyone who could help to join them that week at the Artworks studio on Green's Road. No sewing or fashion design skills were needed.
Faraz suggested placing adverts in CPA leaflets to raise money. This should be discussed at the next meeting.
The next meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 7 March, at the same venue of the River Lane Centre.