Minutes of the September and October CPA meetings

There follow the minutes of our September and October meetings. Our next monthly meeting will be held on Wednesday 1 November at 7.30 p.m., at the wheelchair-accessible River Lane Centre, River Lane, Cambridge CB5 8HP.


Cambridge People's Assembly, 6 September 2017

  1. Agreement of the agenda
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Approval of the minutes and matters arising
  4. Secretary's report
  5. Treasurer's report
  6. Report on the Burston school strike commemoration, 3 September
  7. Report on the McDonald's strike, 4 September
  8. Coach to Take Back Manchester, 1 October
  9. Homelessness and foodbanks
  10. Other business
  11. Next meeting

The venue was the River Lane Centre, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Faraz, Hilary, Jenny, Lucy, Martin B., Richard M. (chair and acting secretary), and Richard R. Names may have been changed.

1. Agreement of the agenda

The meeting accepted the draft agenda.

2. Apologies for absence

Neil (secretary) and Nicki (treasurer) had sent their apologies.

3. Approval of the minutes and matters arising

Jenny pointed out that the minutes had a mistake for the date of the joint activists' meeting for the Manchester demonstration: they read March but should have said August. Otherwise the minutes were approved and there were no matters arising.

4. Secretary's report

Neil had reported 254 subscribers to the mailing list (last month 255), 966 Twitter followers (964), and 631 Facebook likes (630).

5. Treasurer's report

Nicki had reported overall funds of £1,929.90. Income was £20.35 from last month's collection and £45 from coach ticket sales; expenditure was £5 on the group's regular donation to the national People's Assembly (PA), and £2.33 on PayPal fees.

6. Report on the Burston school strike commemoration, 3 September

The coach organized by the Cambridge and District Trades Council had been half full. A McDonald's striker from Cambridge spoke to the rally, which was also addressed by John McDonnell who gave a message of support for that strike and various other disputes. McDonnell argued for the need for a Labour government. There was a People's Assembly stall, with 'Tories Out' t-shirts.

7. Report on the McDonald's strike, 4 September

There had been a fantastic turnout at the strikers' picket line from supporters: 50 or more people. Dan remarked that it was lively for 6 a.m. on Newmarket Road. Hilary and Cassie had carried the Cambridge People's Assembly (CPA) banner. Among lots of speeches, Hilary read a text agreed on the CPA discussion list after Neil's draft ('For Fast Food Rights', 1 September).

Richard R. said it had been very inspiring to work alongside the strikers during the summer: those that got involved changed by becoming more confident and wanting to speak at meetings. The strike was built from small beginnings, but there were solidarity actions around the country and internationally.

Jenny asked if the CPA could invite a striker to speak at a meeting, and asked about the PA's support for the living wage. Lucy mentioned an upcoming meeting at Sports Direct.

Hilary suggested that a donation be made to the strike fund: £50 was agreed. Lucy advised that Cambridge Unite Community had agreed to donate £25 to the CPA. Dan pointed out a video that Faraz had found on universal basic income that could be shared on the CPA's Facebook page.

8. Coach to Take Back Manchester, 1 October

Neil had notified the CPA mailing list, invited passengers from earlier coaches and several friendly local organizations, and posted on the CPA blog the model motion sent with some invitations. Martin had been posting to Facebook and phoning people. Dan and Neil had prepared a leaflet, which had been approved on the e-mail discussion list. A stall was planned for 16 September at the Grafton Centre between 11 a.m and 1 p.m. (a leaflet on homelessness/foodbanks was to be produced for it). Faraz had an idea to make a recording and play it back on the stall. A stall was also to take place on 28 September outside Anglia Ruskin University.

Richard R. went through the contacts list he had for booking people onto the coach and said he would ask the McDonald's strikers.

Stewards for the coach would be Dan, Richard M., and Richard R. It was thought that Neil (who would not be able to go) might draft a speech. A leaflet for the next CPA meeting should be available for the coach. It was suggested two stops could be made, going and coming back.

9. Homelessness and foodbanks

It was agreed that a discussion of the link between low pay and homelessness should appear in the leaflet mentioned above (item 8). Faraz suggested drafting a letter to be sent to the City Council regarding Cambridge Street Aid.

10. Other business

The Bristol People's Assembly's major march planned for 9 September was noted, as was a showing in Cambridge of the film Freesia (dealing with Islamophobic attacks) using the Arts Picturehouse cinema's 'My Screen' facility.

11. Next meeting

The next meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 4 October, at the same venue of the River Lane Centre.


Cambridge People's Assembly, 4 October 2017

  1. Agreement of the agenda
  2. Apologies for absence
  3. Approval of the minutes and matters arising
  4. Secretary's report
  5. Treasurer's report
  6. Report on Take Back Manchester, 1 October
  7. Save Our Children's Centres, 10 October
  8. Homelessness and foodbanks
  9. Scrap the Pay Cap, 18 November
  10. Other business
  11. Next meeting

The venue was the River Lane Centre, at 7.30 p.m. Present were Dan, Faraz, Hilary (meeting chair), Jenny, Lucy, Neil (secretary), and Martin B. Names may have been changed.

1. Agreement of the agenda

Jenny suggested that the meeting should discuss the Scrap the Pay Cap demonstration called for Saturday 18 November by the Cambridge and District Trades Council, and this was added as a new item 9. Otherwise the meeting approved the draft.

2. Apologies for absence

Nicki (treasurer) and Richard M. (campaign chair) had sent their apologies.

3. Approval of the minutes and matters arising

Hilary noticed a joke of Richard's under item 7: after speaking (to acclaim) on the McDonald's strikers' picket line, she certainly had not asked for more opportunities to speak in public! Otherwise the minutes were approved and there were no matters arising.

4. Secretary's report

Neil reported 252 subscribers to the mailing list (last month 254), 968 Twitter followers (966), and 629 Facebook likes (631).

5. Treasurer's report

On behalf of Nicki, Neil reported overall funds of £1,092.04. Income was a £15.50 collection at the September meeting and £220 ticket sales; expenditure was £1,000 on coach hire, £22.50 on venue hire, £20.66 on Eventbrite fees, £14.49 on ticket refunds, £10.71 on PayPal fees, and the group's £5 donation to the national People's Assembly (PA). Donations from UNISON Cambridge Health and Cambridge Unite Community had not yet been paid in.

Neil advised the meeting that the Cambridge branch of the Cambridge People's Assembly's (CPA's) bank had now closed. He, Nicki, and Richard still had to move the campaign's account to another bank as previously agreed.

6. Report on Take Back Manchester, 1 October

The CPA had booked a 29-seat coach to take Cambridge demonstrators to the People's Assembly's Take Back Manchester demonstration, opposite the governing Conservative Party's 2017 conference. Twenty-six people had booked seats, at prices between £5 and £15. The trade union branches UNISON Cambridge Health and Unite Cambridge Community had donated towards the cost of the coach.

Neil, who was going to be unable to travel on the day, had been coach organizer; Dan and Martin had been the stewards. Dan and Martin reported that 20 people had travelled on the coach: 16 of those who had booked, and four who hadn't. However the coach didn't feel close to full, as the coach company for its own reasons had sent a bigger 57-seat vehicle. (The CPA had already paid for the smaller.) Dan had spoken on behalf of the CPA to introduce the day ('We Have the Streets', 7 October), adapting notes prepared by Neil, and the PA committee member Steve Sweeney had also spoken.

In Manchester Dan reported a strong and noisy demonstration, with a great atmosphere. The Cambridge party had stood with the CPA banner for a photo, then five had stayed together to march with the banner. Two McDonald's workers who struck on 4 September had travelled on the coach, and in Manchester left the march early to speak at a Unite the Resistance meeting. Jenny was glad the CPA had been able to get the strikers to Manchester; Neil agreed, remarking that with them and Steve, the Cambridge coach had made a significant contribution to the day. Jenny noted that there had been wide, if brief, media coverage of the demonstration; it had not been ignored.

The meeting agreed with Jenny that all in all, the Cambridge coach had not been a bad effort. Hilary asked how the group could make the next coach better. Why hadn't more people come? Neil gave three practical reasons: the long distance, the early start, and the difficulties of Sunday travel to the meeting place. Dan added a political reason: it was hard to keep people motivated to go on march after march with no obvious strategic gains. People realized that the noisiest demonstration was not going to bring down or even bother the government.

7. Save Our Children's Centres, 10 October

The meeting unanimously agreed the CPA should do what it could to support the Labour Party's campaign against the Conservative-led County Council's plan to cut £1m from its budget by closing 30 of 40 children's centres. Neil and Lucy would carry the CPA banner to a demonstration at Shire Hall on 10 October.

Neil was troubled that he had argued in May against supporting a Green Party campaign against another austerity cut, the withdrawal of NHS IVF treatment (the CPA had to remain independent of any party). Jenny suggested that the present case was distinct. For several reasons, support for the present campaign seemed to involve a looser tie to its party sponsor. Dan reminded Neil it had been a group decision, recalling that for some supporters there had been a question of campaigning priorities.

8. Homelessness and foodbanks

The supporter who had volunteered to draft a text was not present to report on his progress. Dan noted that the number of homeless people in Manchester had been as striking as in London: there seemed to be people everywhere. He also remembered that when he was travelling home in Cambridge that night, he had met someone who had come from Italy to work in Addenbrooke's Hospital, but who had ended up sleeping on the street due to administrative delays.

9. Scrap the Pay Cap, 18 November

The meeting unanimously agreed the CPA should support the Cambridge and District Trades Council's demonstration against the public sector pay cap, which would take the form of a march down Mill Road. It should be on the agenda for the next meeting. Dan noted that there were linked demonstrations in Cambridgeshire across three weekends: perhaps the CPA could take its banner to the others too.

10. Other business

Faraz advised that a study conducted at Bradford University suggested there had been 30,000 excess deaths linked to austerity policies in 2015. Dan noted that campaigns like DPAC were saying as much week after week, and being ignored by journalists. Lucy asked whether demos outside Jobcentres could help draw attention to these facts. Dan was unsure about this as a tactic: few people noticed such demos, while they could depress the staff.

Faraz asked what tactics had generally been found effective. Neil found it hard to point to local successes. Dan believed that the campaign against the TTIP trade deal had been a success, when the CPA and Global Justice Cambridge had handed out leaflets in the street and organized public meetings with good speakers: at the beginning it seemed no one knew what the two groups were talking about, later it seemed everyone did. However he remarked that persuading people to risk themselves in direct action was very hard. It had not so far been a main tactic of the PA or the Cambridge group.

Martin announced that Stand Up to Racism would hold its conference on 21 October. On the same day the racist English Defence League would hold a march in Peterborough, and Cambridge activists might organize a coach to support the counter-demo.

11. Next meeting

The next meeting would be held at 7.30 p.m. on Wednesday 1 November, at the same venue of the River Lane Centre.

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