There follow the minutes of our November meeting. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 7 December at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.
Cambridge People's Assembly, 2 November 2016
- Agreement of the agenda
- Apologies for absence
- Approval of the minutes and matters arising
- Secretary's report
- Treasurer's report
- Library reservation fee campaign
- Supporting boat residents on the Cam
- Report on Cambridge Stand Up to Racism meeting, 24 October
- Other business and announcements
- Next meeting
The venue was the River Lane Centre, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Faraz, Hilary (meeting chair), Jenny, Martin B., Neil (secretary), Nicki (treasurer), and Richard M. (campaign chair). Names may have been changed.
As only three of those present had seen the film, which depicted the cruelty of the welfare system under Conservative austerity, Jenny suggested the meeting should discuss instead how the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) could make use of the film in its campaign.
The meeting accepted that the CPA would not be able to use the current cinema screening, having no relevant materials in stock to distribute, for example. However the national People's Assembly (PA) office had asked local groups to show the film themselves in the new year. Dan suggested hiring a cinema screen, as at least one friendly group had done previously. It was thought this would impose some minimum number of attendees. Nicki suggested joining up with another organization to make it easier to reach that number.
The meeting considered a number of alternative wheelchair-accessible venues and agreed that Dan would contact the Arts Picturehouse cinema; Martin, the Friends' Meeting House; and Hilary, the Cherry Trees and Meadows community centres.
Neil apologized that he again had not finished his promised contribution on antisemitism. Dan questioned why the subject should be on the CPA's agenda. Neil recalled that it had been suggested earlier in the year that the CPA should issue a statement in support of the Labour Party against allegations of antisemitism, but that none was agreed in that meeting or the next (see item 9 in the minutes for June and in the minutes for July). Since then a conclusive discussion had been put back, while Neil had come to think it was worth left groups talking about what antisemitism was. However he was ready to drop the subject if others did not agree.
Neil advised the meeting that he had replaced a People's Question Time with a screening of I, Daniel Blake as the subject of item 9, which seemed to be the priority for the PA. As it had been covered by the discussion, it could now be removed. Faraz had ideas for publicity, which would be discussed as a new item 9.
Maud had sent her apologies.
The meeting approved the minutes.
Neil had not found chance to prepare a statement in support of a recent Health Campaigns Together conference as he had been asked to do (see item 8 in the minutes for October). The meeting agreed that he should do so this month. There were no other matters arising.
Neil reported 245 subscribers to the CPA's mailing list (no change from last month), while 928 Twitter users followed it (927) and 594 Facebook users liked it (593).
He reported that the North Herts People's Assembly had contacted the CPA in the hope that the two groups could link up, exchange ideas, and learn from each other. The meeting agreed with Richard's suggestion that Neil should invite them to the next CPA meeting.
Nicki reported a bank balance of £206.26. (All monies had now been transferred from the CPA's PayPal account.) Income last month was a record collection at the meeting of £48 and an individual donation of £6, while all the union donations noted the previous month had been paid in. Expenditure was £140 repaying supporters' loans and £10.61 in Eventbrite fees in respect of the October coach, £22.50 on venue hire for July, August, and September, and £5 on the group's regular donation to the national office.
A further trade union donation was expected soon in respect of the October coach.
Neil reported that the group had published a 1,700-word article on Cambridgeshire County Council's inadequate response to its requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act ('No Light on the Library Reservation Fee', 25 October; see also item 7 in the minutes for October), with four key findings:
- The council had been unable to produce documentation of the decision to introduce the fee.
- The council had been unable to produce evidence that the fee's impact on communities has been considered.
- An internal council report had projected that the fee could discourage two thirds of adult reservations.
- The fee was to be announced 14 days after the council passed a budget for 2016/17 which didn't include it.
Neil had sent a notice to a local newspaper which, although it seemed to raise interest, had not issued in a story. He had also circulated the article to local library friends' groups.
Neil urged that the group had to build its petition. He suggested preparing a leaflet of 'frequently asked questions', summarizing its publicity so far, for distribution on the street. The meeting agreed that Neil would write and Dan would design a leaflet.
Neil noted that Cambridge City Council was considering raising various charges associated with boat moorings, and preventing boats from mooring at Riverside. Boat residents had already demonstrated outside the Guildhall with Cambridge Unite Community which had long campaigned strongly on housing issues.
Dan advised that the council was backtracking, but that there was still a threat. Nicki had said to James Youd, the Unite Community secretary, that the CPA would support it on this issue as others; the meeting agreed that Neil as secretary should write to James to reaffirm this.
Richard reported that about twenty people had met in the basement of the CB2 Bistro to hear the national Stand Up to Racism organizer Zak Cochrane, the co-convener of the Cambridge Green Party Sharon Kaur, the mayor Jeremy Benstead, and the leader of the Labour city council Lewis Herbert, speaking on why migrants must be welcome in Cambridge.
Students from Anglia Ruskin University had attended, and planned to set up a group in the university; in Neil's view, another achievement of the meeting was having local politicians commit themselves to anti-racist work. Dan believed the meeting had marked a shift in emphasis for Cambridge Stand Up to Racism, with more attention to the racism aimed at Eastern European immigrants alongside that aimed at Muslims.
Faraz proposed two publicity ideas: first, using billboard posters to counter the rightwing messages prevalent in the media, and second, making available a template for the production of leaflets that supporters could distribute in the streets where they lived.
The meeting decided not to pursue billboard advertising, wary of its cost and unconvinced it would be effective for the CPA's purposes. So as to keep democratic control of its publicity it would not produce templates, but it agreed that it could be useful for members to distribute materials in their neighbourhoods.
Hilary suggested that publicity should be a permanent item on the agenda.
Richard announced that Unite the Resistance would hold its annual conference on Saturday 12 November, under the title 'Building Fighting Unions in the Era of Jeremy Corbyn'.
Martin announced that there would be a meeting of the Joint Health Scrutiny Committee, formed to consider the merger of the Hinchingbrooke and Peterborough and Stamford hospital trusts, on Wednesday 9 November.
The next meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 7 December, at the same venue of the River Lane Centre.