Please find below the minutes of our July meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 5 August at 7.30 p.m., at the CB2 Bistro, Norfolk Street, Cambridge CB1 2LD.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 1 July 2015
- Minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Six-month constitutional review
- Election of a delegate to the national Assembly meeting in London, Saturday 11 July
- Report on the national demonstration, End Austerity Now
- Protest against the emergency budget, Wednesday 8 July
- Protest by Unite Cambridge Community against zero-hours contracts, Saturday 18 July
- Protest at the Conservative Party conference, October
- Union meetings tour
- Local campaigns: TTIP, NHS, library services, housing?
- Monthly meeting venue
- Call for book reviews
- Other business and announcements
- Next meeting
The venue was the CB2 Bistro terrace, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Hilary, Lesley, Martin B., Maud (acting chair), Michael, Neil, Olivier, Ozzy, Richard M., Shelagh, Simon, Stuart, Thomas, Tom, and Vern. Names may have been changed.
The meeting accepted the latest draft agenda which had been circulated.
Apologies were received from Emma, James, Jeanette, Kamila, Richard W., and Steve.
The minutes were approved and there were no matters arising.
Neil reported that the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) had 228 subscribers to its mailing list (last month 175), while 480 Facebook users liked it (last month 422) and 696 Twitter users followed it (last month 660). It had 22 members (unchanged from last month).
Maud reported that after collections at several CPA events held to build for the 20 June national demonstration, donations from local unions (Cambridgeshire NUT, Cambridge University Unite the Union, Cambridge UCU), and finally a collection of around £840 on the three CPA coaches to the national demonstration, the CPA would be left with a balance of around £660 once it had paid the invoice for £1190 still outstanding with one coach company.
The meeting was satisfied with the constitution the CPA had adopted in January. It would now stand beyond question until the group's next annual general meeting.
Ozzy was nominated as delegate by Richard, seconded by Tom, and unanimously elected.
Tom urged that the meeting should discuss what it wanted its delegate to say. Neil suggested it might want to keep up the pressure on the People's Assembly to campaign against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal, which the Cambridge group had put on the organization's agenda at the last People's Assembly conference. Maud noted that the organization had not publicized the four international days of action called since – and there were other commitments agreed by the conference that seemed to have disappeared.
Tom's own concern was that demonstrations like the one on 20 June were harnessed to raise the combativity of trade unions, since the strike action that could force an end to austerity was naturally not available to the People's Assembly itself. The build-up to demonstrations could include agitation in workplaces.
Olivier was concerned about internal democracy in the organization, and some seeming vagaries of its policy: for example, enthusiasm for Jeremy Corbyn's candidacy for the Labour Party leadership, but near silence on the struggle of Greece's ruling Syriza party to escape austerity.
Maud added that it would be useful if the People's Assembly's trade union supporters could be asked to encourage their branches to make contact with local People's Assembly groups.
Neil considered the group's organization of free coach transport to the demonstration as a success. The group had been able to book 175 seats, leaving only one name on a waiting list; on the day, it had transported about 160 people to the demonstration on three coaches. (Note: the previous year it had transported about forty people on one coach.)
As for the booking process, Neil thought the Eventbrite system had worked well. However the group, using it for the first time, had not realized its full potential: the order form had not been designed to capture all the information needed from passengers.
As for publicity, Neil believed the group's most directly effective effort had been the initial creation of a Facebook event. Within a week of its appearance, enough people had booked seats to fill one coach. Other efforts had included the 'speak-out' stall on 23 May, the local demonstration on 30 May, the stall at Strawberry Fair on 6 June, and People's Question Time on 11 June. Neil's memory was that few people had signed up at these events or afterwards, but it may be that those who signed up at other times were remembering them.
As for communication, Neil regretted that for those who booked seats earliest there had been a long silence between his confirmation of their booking and the next message they received as passengers, which was only in the week before the demonstration. Though there had been little new to tell passengers in the meantime, it would have been better to send some holding messages.
Ozzy, who had been a steward, was satisfied with the organization. (He was pleased that people had let the secretary know that they were no longer coming: unusual in his experience.) He thought the group had put down an impressive marker, in that it had transported the largest number of people to a demonstration from Cambridge for at least three years, which had contributed to a local upwards mood.
In reply to Neil's thoughts about publicity for the event, Richard stressed that it was important that the group continued its publicity and agitation in person and did not retreat to Facebook. Neil fully agreed.
To Michael, who had been a passenger and was coming to a meeting for the first time, the transport had seemed well organized. However he thought an opportunity had been lost (on his coach at least) after the demonstration, to have a conversation about the issues at hand and to recruit new members and supporters. Simon too wanted events like that one to bring in new members.
Tom, also a steward, thought the demonstration had been a phenomenal experience in terms of people getting together and getting organized. On the return journey on his coach, people had continually been speaking in turn on the microphone and campaigns had been built on several issues. He thought the body of passengers also reflected the demonstration, in that there were many new people. It was important now to keep them active.
Michael agreed. He suggested the CPA was at the stage between being a small group of activists and a larger movement. At that stage an organization had to start communicating differently; it had to keep people involved, and as participants.
Neil remembered the group's forlorn evening budget protest in a deserted Market Square the previous year. The meeting discussed a time and venue for 8 July and agreed the group should demonstrate from 5.30 p.m. at the railway station, distributing leaflets. It accepted Richard and Tom's suggestion that the leaflet should promote the planned People's Assembly demonstration at the Conservative Party conference. Tom would prepare a leaflet, and Neil and Olivier would collaborate on a press release.
The meeting agreed to support this demonstration.
The meeting agreed to join the demonstration on the first day of the conference, Sunday 4 October. Tom stressed it was important to start publicizing the event as soon as possible, before people left for summer holidays. It had to go on trade union agendas before the summer to build some momentum. Neil would create an Eventbrite page where people could book tickets, and Tom would prepare a model motion for unions.
Neil explained that at the end of May, the group had been invited by the Cambridgeshire NUT to send a representative to lead a discussion of the situation after that month's general election, at its meeting in Ely on 3 June. On the agreement of the CPA discussion list, Neil had spoken, and afterwards Tom and the CPA's friend Paula (NUT members) had suggested to him that the group should seek invitations to send members to speak at other union meetings. Michael had it clarified that the purpose of these visits would be to improve relations with local unions, and perhaps to help raise funds. The meeting agreed this was a good idea. Ozzy volunteered to prepare a list of branches and members who might be approached. Olivier suggested the group could use Doodle polls to help select its representative at a given meeting.
The meeting agreed with Maud's suggestion of an extraordinary meeting to discuss the group's activities for the next year. This would be organized by e-mail.
It had been pointed out to the group that its meeting venue was not accessible to wheelchair users. Maud presented a list of accessible Cambridge venues and their prices, as she had been asked to compile by the last meeting (see item 10 in the minutes for June). The present meeting agreed to hold the CPA's extraordinary meeting (see item 13 above) at one of these, the Akeman Street Community Centre, as a trial.
As time was short, this item was omitted.
Shelagh regretted that the market for supply teachers had been completely privatized. Instead of local education authorities supplying teachers, private recruitment agencies, many foreign-based, were taking millions of pounds out of the education system. She announced that she planned to start a petition urging the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, to make a statement against the expensive and wasteful use of agencies equivalent to that already made by the Health Secretary and urged CPA members to support it.
Hilary noted that it was possible cheaply to register as a supporter (rather than a full member) of the Labour Party, and so vote in the party's forthcoming leadership election for the candidate with an anti-austerity platform, Jeremy Corbyn.
Martin announced that the annual Marxism festival would be held in central London from 9 to 13 July.
Hilary had previously booked the basement room for Wednesday 5 August at 7.30 p.m. An extraordinary meeting (see item 13 above) would be arranged by e-mail.