Minutes of the January CPA meeting

There follow the minutes of our January meeting, which was our annual general meeting for 2016. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 3 February at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.


Cambridge People's Assembly, 6 January 2016 (annual general meeting)

  1. Agenda
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Minutes and matters arising
  4. Secretary's report
  5. Treasurer's report
  6. Amendment of the constitution
  7. Election of officers
  8. Report on the People's Assembly National Conference 2015
  9. Directions for 2016
  10. Next action on the county cuts
  11. Other business and announcements
  12. Next meeting

As the River Lane Centre was found locked after a break-in, the meeting was held at the nearest attendee's home, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Hilary, Martin, Maud (treasurer, acting minute taker), Neil (secretary, acting chair), Olivier, Owen, and Richard M. Names may have been changed.

1. Agenda

We approved the agenda.

2. Apologies for absence

We had apologies from Emma, Kamila, Nicki, Richard W., Simon, Stuart, and Yannick.

3. Minutes and matters arising

We planned to have a demo against the county council cuts on 15 December (see item 7 in the minutes for December) but we did not have enough people joining. We decided to cancel and to publish a statement on our blog.

At the last meeting we discussed how to support a friend of the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) charged with others for her nonviolent actions at a demonstration against the DSEI arms fair (see item 9 in the minutes for December). Neil had not been able to draft a statement as promised. We agreed that he should try again, and discussed how to support the demonstrators.

4. Secretary's report

Neil reported:

  • Members: 27
  • Mailing list: 224
  • Twitter: 809
  • Facebook: 553

5. Treasurer's report

Maud reported:

  • Last month's balance: £220.62
  • December meeting: £15.50
  • River Lane Centre: -£7.50
  • Donation to national People's Assembly: -£5
  • Current balance: £223.62

6. Amendment of the constitution

Membership

Neil proposed abolishing membership. The purpose of having paid members was to raise money and increase commitment, but he thought it was not very effective, and the rule that only members could vote was not enforced. The proposal had been submitted to the discussion list, and Dan referred to a reply saying that it would create a risk that another group could overwhelm a meeting and pass motions the usual members would disagree with. This point was occasionally discussed and we admitted that it had never happened over the last two years. We thought that it did not represent a real risk, and agreed to abolish membership.

Chair

Neil proposed and we agreed that the group's established practice of designating a chair for each meeting should be set down in the constitution.

Dissolution

We discussed what the abolition of membership meant for the power to dissolve the group. We agreed dissolution would be decided by a special majority of two thirds of those present at an annual general meeting, including all the officers. Owen suggested including in the constitution the name of the beneficiary of leftover funds in case of dissolution. We agreed it should be the national People's Assembly (PA).

Political parties

We agreed that we would continue not to support any political party or candidate running for an election but that it would be possible to work alongside political parties and support them 'on points consonant with [our] agenda'.

7. Election of officers

The following officers were elected: Emma to continue as chair (pending her approval as she did not attend), Neil to continue as secretary, and Maud to continue as treasurer.

8. Report on the People's Assembly National Conference 2015

Two or three hundred people attended and the CPA was represented by Neil, Richard, and Steve. Neil had posted a full report on the conference on our blog. We noted and discussed a few points.

  • The CPA submitted a motion on the NHS, drafted by Steve and presented by Neil, which passed unanimously.
  • The Cardiff PA submitted a motion that the PA should call upon Labour and Green councillors not to set austerity budgets but illegal needs-based budgets. This motion was passed but was not popular with the PA Committee. However, we were not clear if it was about actually voting for an illegal budget or publicising what this realistic budget could be. Owen reminded us that the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell asked councillors not to vote for illegal budgets as in such a case the government could legally take over the council. In Brighton, the Greens had to pass an austerity budget but it created a heated debate. He suggested that we write a blog post about this.
  • A motion was passed about the next steps following the big anti-austerity demo in June 2015 and Jeremy Corbyn's election as Labour leader. To sum it up, the conclusion was: keep going, do more!
  • The national treasurer appealed for individuals to make regular donations to the national PA.
  • This year's national demo would not be scheduled in June, but earlier in the year.
  • Disabled People Against Cuts complained that there was not enough disabled access to meetings and demos. In Cambridge we now had a monthly meeting venue with wheelchair access but we agreed we should do better for this year's national demo (coaches we hired had not always been accessible).

9. Directions for 2016

We each gave our priorities for the year.

Olivier said that we should take into account how much muscle and energy we have to set up events and campaigns.

Richard: we should support the junior doctors' strike and join the picket line next Tuesday.

Dan: we need to have a campaign against the county council tax.

Martin: we need a new venue.

Neil: we should improve our links with other organisations (unions, local political parties, Momentum, student organisations, etc.) as well as try to get more people more involved. Dan suggested sending the revised constitution to the other groups.

Maud: we should not divide our efforts but concentrate on the national demo. Maud also supported Neil's emphasis on our links with other organisations.

Owen: we need to be active against the county council cuts, to take part in the debate about the EU referendum and also demonstrate solidarity with the Syrian refugees who will resettle in Cambridge.

Hilary questioned the definition of the CPA: is it an umbrella of organisations or a group of individuals?

Actions: Martin to check on other venues (location, disabled access etc). Dan to contact Mitch to see if we can join other groups/events to show our solidarity with the refugees.

10. Next action on the county cuts

We agreed to call for a demo on Saturday 13 February, the weekend before the vote of the County Council: 12.00 on Market Square. From there we would march up to the County Council offices at Shire Hall. Owen suggested using the statement on the blog as the basis of a press release for the demo. We discussed the speakers we would like to invite and drew up a list.

Owen suggested having a stall with leaflets on the two Saturdays before the demo. Keep Our NHS Public would have a stall on 6 February from 11.00 to 14.00; we could join them and promote the demo.

Actions: Maud to seek authorisation for the march. Neil to contact the speakers and produce a leaflet for the stalls. Richard to check with Ozzy if he would lend us his public address system.

11. Other business and announcements

Maud reported that Cambridge Keep Our NHS Public had contacted the CPA to organise an event with the anti-austerity economists Ha-Joon Chang and Richard Murphy, which it now seemed to be organising with another group.

Maud asked to make sure we would discuss how to support Angela and the DSEI demonstrators at our next meeting.

Neil had previously mentioned the new Left Book Club: members would receive four new books a year for discussion in reading groups (see item 14 in the minutes for September). He now advised us that he would organize a Cambridge reading group, so anyone interested in joining should let him know. The first book had been Syriza, written by Kevin Ovenden, on the Greek party; the second would be Being Red by Ken Livingstone; and the third would be The Rent Trap, by Samir Jeraj and Rosie Walker, on the housing crisis.

12. Next meeting

The next meeting would be held on Wednesday 3 February, at 19.30 at the River Lane Centre. Maud would check the locked centre was open again for that date.

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