Minutes of the January CPA meeting

Please find below the minutes of our annual general meeting for 2015. Our next meeting will be held on Thursday 5 February at 7.30 p.m., CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD.


Cambridge People's Assembly, 7 January 2015 (annual general meeting)

The venue was the CB2 Bistro basement, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Clément, Dan, Eva N., Hilary, Joss, Kamila, Lucy, Martin B., Neil (minute taker), Olivier, Paul (acting chair), Steve, and Was.

1. Agenda

Paul invited Steve to bring the meeting up to date on campaigns against NHS cuts and privatization. The meeting agreed that this should be added to the agenda after the discussion of the minutes.

2. Apologies

James, Maud, Paula, and Simon sent their apologies.

3. Minutes and matters arising

The minutes were approved and there were no matters arising.

4. Update on NHS campaigns

Steve said that the NHS was in crisis, no matter what the Prime Minister David Cameron and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt might say. That week Addenbrookes and many other hospitals had declared 'major incident' status: that is, they could not take any more patients. The implementation of £20bn of NHS cuts – the 'Nicholson challenge' – had stretched services, and parallel cuts to social care and the cost of the Coalition government's privatization agenda had made the crisis inevitable. (Another factor at Addenbrookes was the Epic e-hospital system, recently introduced at the beginning of the predictable time of peak demand for health services.) Jeremy Hunt's response to the crisis had been to write to hospitals asking if they had any ideas! Steve believed the neglect of the NHS to be a deliberate strategy to ease its continuing privatization.

However there had been some victories, as here in Cambridgeshire when the £800m contract for community care services was awarded to the NHS bid, or in Lewisham (where the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign was supported by Millwall Football Club). Now it was necessary to build on the 300-mile People's March for the NHS of August and September. Steve had been working on an initiative to bring together the organizations fighting NHS cuts and privatizations across the country in a People's Convention for the NHS, and hoped to secure the support of the People's Assembly at the national level.

Steve proposed that the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) continued its participation in the struggle for the NHS, first, by sending delegates to the People's Convention for the NHS, probably in April; second, by supporting local activities to be organized when the Care Quality Commission releases its damning report on the privatized Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

5. Secretary's report

Maud reported through Neil that 277 Facebook members liked the CPA (last month 263), and that on Twitter it had 531 followers (last month 512). The number of subscribers to the CPA mailing list was not easily available. (Note: a roundabout method of computer counting was afterwards found. The number was 170.)

6. Treasurer's report

Neil reported a balance of £233.79. He asked the meeting to note

  • a collection of £34.59 at the last monthly meeting on 3 December,
  • a collection of £124.70 at the joint event on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on 4 December,
  • total costs of £107.70 for the TTIP event, the remaining donation of £17 to be divided equally between the two host groups,
  • an outstanding receipt for £24 poster printing costs (included however in the statement of costs above).

The member who had organized the poster printing indicated that his receipt could be waived. This left total costs for the event at £83.70, and a remaining donation of £41 to be divided equally between the two host groups.

7. Amendment and adoption of a new constitution

Olivier proposed that only members of at least a year's standing should be able to vote to dissolve the CPA (item 11.1), which the meeting agreed.

Neil proposed two changes of wording to achieve a consistent third-person expression (items 2.4 and 4.2), and the insertion of a new item 5.1.4 so that the Annual General Meeting (AGM) had the power to 'set a membership fee for the year', all of which the meeting agreed. He proposed that it should be clarified that officers were elected 'for the year' (item 5.1.3), which the meeting rejected as unnecessary, and that two signatures should be required only 'to draw a cheque on', rather than 'to withdraw money from' the CPA's bank account (item 8.3), in line with the requirements of its bank, which the meeting rejected on considerations of security. Two signatures would be required for payments by electronic transfer as well as by cheque.

With these amendments, the meeting approved the new (Second) constitution unanimously.

8. Election of a chair, secretary, and treasurer

Dan nominated Paul as chair. Olivier asked whether the functions of the chair would still be rotated from meeting to meeting, as was the CPA's earlier practice, which he proposed should continue. Paul suggested that this was to propose that the AGM elected a chair who did not then carry out the role. Neil said he had assumed the new constitution would end the sharing and rotation of officer functions.

Lucy suggested that the first responsibility of the elected chair could be to nominate, in rotation, the chair for the meeting at hand. Dan agreed: this nomination could be written into each agenda at an early point. (Steve noted that in this case the term 'convenor' might better designate the constitutional role.) Was believed rotation would help to involve newcomers, the role of a chair being easily grasped. Paul did not agree with the argument for rotation: having a single person carry out a role allowed responsibility. He suggested that the chair and other officers elected in the present meeting should submit descriptions of their roles for the next one. Olivier reaffirmed his objection: rotation had worked well and there was no need to change it. The election of a chair was referred to the next meeting.

The meeting agreed that the functions of the treasurer should be carried out by the person elected to the role. Olivier nominated Neil, whom the meeting elected to continue as treasurer.

The meeting raised the possibility of rotating one function of the secretary, that of taking minutes, but agreed that the others should be carried out by the person elected to the role. Dan nominated Maud, whom (with her consent by telephone) the meeting elected to continue as secretary.

9. Discussion of a direction, aims, and programme for 2015

Olivier suggested that opposition to the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade agreement should continue to be a priority for the CPA. Eva agreed and remarked the million signatures to the current 'Stop TTIP' European Citizens' Initiative as an index of the strength of the opposition (although she accepted that it alone would be ignored). Paul suggested that TTIP could be an item on the agenda every month in 2015.

Neil communicated that Maud had prepared a leaflet in support of the CPA's petition to Cambridge City Council against TTIP, which the Cambridge World Development Movement, the Cambridgeshire National Union of Teachers branch, and the Cambridge and District Trades Council were willing to endorse. The meeting agreed that the CPA should distribute this leaflet in the street and gather signatures to its petition on Saturday 7 February. (Note: moved from chronological order.)

Kamila noted that the Green Party had a firm anti-austerity programme, and wondered whether the CPA should endorse the party in the May elections. Paul observed that the CPA aimed to involve people from many different political parties and organizations, and it would be difficult for a member belonging to, say, the Labour Party to remain involved if the CPA supported another party's election candidate. However Kamila was reassured that CPA members were free to vote or not as they each saw best. Eva and Neil both thought that the CPA should pick up the issues the major electoral parties raised in their campaigns, and raise structural questions – about, say, the deregulated economy or the marketized NHS – against the major parties' preferred managerial questions of trust and competence.

Lucy suggested that the CPA should try to set the political agenda in Cambridge by presenting the local parties with demands specific to the city: 'if you want our support, this is what we want!' Paul and Thomas raised the idea of organizing hustings where the party's candidates would defend their platforms, but Eva doubted that giving politicians another opportunity to talk was a good idea. She suggested events on topics instead. Paul agreed, and suggested an event on housing, which could launch a year of campaigning on the topic. Olivier remarked that what the CPA had always lacked was not ideas, but hands to carry them out.

Hilary stressed the importance of reaching people in Cambridge who would not usually come to or know about left events.

Was suggested that the CPA should work with Keep Our NHS Public and other local groups campaigning on the NHS to demonstrate at the next meeting of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group, which the meeting agreed. (Note: moved from chronological order.)

The meeting discussed some national demonstrations planned for March. Paul noted the Time to Act march called by the Campaign Against Climate Change for Saturday 7 March, and suggested that the CPA could organize transport with the Cambridge Green Party. Hilary observed that this would clash with the march against male violence called by Million Women Rise for the same day. Paul thought that the CPA could support both demonstrations. Neil remarked that the next day, Sunday 8 March, was International Women's Day, and that the CPA could organize an event in support (note: it did so in 2014, with the event 'A Woman's Place is In Her Union'). Paul noted the march called by Stand Up to Racism for Saturday 21 March, and suggested that the CPA should again collaborate to organize transport. Olivier remembered the difficulty and high cost of organizing transport to the People's Assembly's national demonstration on 21 June 2014. The meeting agreed that the CPA's resources could not stretch to supporting two coaches.

Clément remarked that he was aware of other small groups in Cambridge trying to do much the same things as discussed above. Lacking 'critical mass', they finally supported only national campaigns. He asked whether there were any small victories the CPA could win, on housing for example. Was suggested that the CPA could physically prevent evictions from council housing, as had been done elsewhere in the country; it could also research and publicize the rate of evictions, and develop a critique of housing development in Cambridge.

Lucy stated that she and a few others in the meeting were members of the student group Cambridge Defend Education (CDE), which had access to considerable resources: among them, many of the buildings of the University of Cambridge. She suggested that CDE could help bring different groups together, perhaps by holding a meeting in a university room where representatives of the CPA and other groups would speak. (Someone offered 'Cambridge Left Convention' as a title.) Paul cautioned that the CPA had to keep looking beyond the university, but the meeting welcomed the idea.

10. Agreement of a membership fee

The meeting agreed a membership fee of £2 for the calendar year 2015. As stated in the constitution, only those who had paid a membership fee would be able to vote.

11. National Assembly meeting on 28 February

Neil recalled that the constitutional body called the Assembly, comprising representatives of all the local People's Assembly groups, had been created by the People's Assembly Conference 2014 as a means to introduce some internal democracy at the national level. No agenda for the meeting, on Saturday 28 February in Manchester, had yet been circulated, but it seemed as if it would take place fairly early in the day, to be followed by a 'People's Question Time' in the afternoon and a gig in the evening. The CPA needed someone to attend as a delegate, but no volunteer was found in the meeting.

12. Economics event

Neil reminded the meeting that the CPA had intended to organize another event on economics soon, if possible in collaboration with the students of the Cambridge Society for Economic Pluralism. Its planning was referred to the next meeting.

13. Other business

Thomas reported that he had created an e-mail discussion list for the CPA, as he had been asked to do by the previous meeting. It could be found at the web address below:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/cambridge-peoples-assembly

Martin noted that the Unite Against Fascism national conference would be held on Saturday 21 February at TUC Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

Was said that friends of his who had wanted to come to the CPA meeting had not been able to find out when and where it was, and he himself had found the People's Assembly website (which hosted the CPA blog) hard to navigate. He asked if this information could be made more prominent on the CPA Facebook page. He and Neil, who maintained the blog, would discuss improvements by e-mail.

14. Next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 4 February. However it proved not to be possible to book any room at the CB2 Bistro for that time and day. Hilary found that it was possible to book one on Thursday 5 February, and the remaining members agreed that the meeting should be held then.

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