Delegate Meeting Report – Geoff Turner

Sheffield Peoples Assembly steering committee elected Geoff Turner to attend the national delegate meeting in London on the 13th of September.
Heres Geoff’s report:

Delegate Meeting London 13/9/14

Chaired by Steve Turner (Unite)

About 60 delegates attended.

Agenda

1. Reports: local, national, finance, actions completed since 2014 Conference

2. Upcoming national actions

Planning future actions

1. Local reports given by delegates from many groups, including Fife/Scotland, Nottingham, Derby, Birmingham, London, Doncaster, Calderdale, Norfolk, Shrewsbury, Sunderland, Climate Change, Students, Stop the War, NUT, Labour, until time ran out, and this was cut short.

Many groups had activities similar to those in Sheffield, but some key points are worth noting.

a) A composite motion at the TUC, passed unanimously, to affiliate to and support the People’s Assembly.  We can use this when requesting affiliation of local union branches.

b)  A video has been made by PA to promote the October 18th demonstration, and should be used in local campaigning.  There is also a similar video by the TUC.  Both can be found on YouTube, or via the PA national site:

http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/local_and_national_events

c)  The NUT will not participate in the October 14th strike day, a setback for coordinated  strikes

d)  Birmingham, Nottingham and Sunderland reported Labour council hostility to the the People’s Assembly.  A Labour councillor had been sanctioned in Sunderland for even attending the local PA meeting.  This was not the case for all Labour councils and councillors. Some councillors had supported the March for the NHS (e.g. Sheffield, Nottingham).  Doncaster Labour council had initially supported a Multicultural Carnival to coincide with the Stand Up to UKIP demonstration at the UKIP conference, but had now pulled the plug, insisting that it could not be political.  Steve Turner mentioned problems caused by the government’s Lobbying (Gagging) Bill, which might be responsible.

e) Doncaster (Mick Wattan) reported on the Care UK strike, and the UK

e)  Nottingham was a very active group, and had raised £1500 by individual donations to fund publicity for the NHS march in the local press.  They were planning a regular broadsheet.  Scotland had produced a glossy brochure on People’s Assembly in advance of their AGM, to help maximise numbers.  This could be used by other groups, since the electronic version is available for modification.

f)    Norfolk intend to support the Stand Up to UKIP demonstration in Doncaster on Saturday 27th September, though PA nationally are highlighting the Tory Party Conference demonstration in Birmingham for the Midlands TUC Hard Up carnival and protest on Sunday 28th.

g)  The Labour delegate reported that the Labour National Executive had seen a swing to the left in the recent NEC elections.  Local councillors were getting very worried at the scale of the next round of cuts.

h)  Sharing of ideas and resources should be encouraged, and Regional Meetings to meet up with other groups.  I made contact with Mick Wattan (Doncaster), Stuart Halforty (Nottingham) and John Schworchert (web manager). The national web site could be used for this, but the Nation Builder website has not really been developed very well.  This should improve now that a website manager has just been appointed, who will improve the national site, and provide training for local groups to use the same software.

i)    Greece Solidarity Campaign reported on links with cleaners who had been on strike in Greece, and with London cleaners.

j)    Geoff Turner (Sheffield delegate) reported on current far right demonstration in Rotherham, and how Rotherham Child Abuse scandal had strengthened the far right in South Yorkshire in a traditional Labour area.  UKIP was also making a strong challenge to Labour.  In the absence of opposition to austerity from local Labour councils, many were turning to the right.

Financial report (Nick McCarthy, Treasurer)

A printed report was tabled.  Recurrent income was still insufficient to pay for outgoings, but one off funds had helped bridge the gap.  These included £18000 raised by the Hammersmith Comedy event, aided by Francesca Martinez.

Billy Bragg has offered to try to organise an gig in Manchester in February, which could be tied to a pre-election event.

The Lobbying (Gagging) Bill requires all organisations that are remotely political to register,  including Charities, and provide regular accounts of how money is spent.  Since it would be impossible for PA (and many other NGOs) to comply, many groups are likely to reject registration.

Upcoming National Actions (Pilgrim Tucker, Unite Community)

Building support and TUC demonstration Britain Needs a Pay Rise 18th October

There is a need to re-engage with those who came to London in June, and to build further support: Days of Action around those we need to reach – Job Centres, food banks, getting involved with local people.  e.g. in London, around the Olympia Property Fair, to highight homelessness, tenants, debt, and housing problems in London.  Work with local Unite Community, make use of their activities, training courses, and funding for leaflets.  Use the opportunity of the strikes on 14th October.

Nottingham PA had built a public meeting recently, attended by 200-300 people, linked to local evictions, debt, housing and banks.  They suggested a closed Facebook group as a way of exchanging materials and idea.  An open group could be too unwieldy.  Nottingham Trades Council was poor (inactive).

Calderdale (Halifax) was a small group, and needed ideas from others.

Scotland had contacted all signatories of the People’s Charter to affiliate to PA.

Now was a good time to contact students in Freshers’ week.  Take some leaflets along to the stalls, and encourage students to set up groups.

Sam Fairbairn (Secretary) suggested contacting the national PA via the web site for help in designing leaflets, if needed.  He also asked local groups to send details of local events – that was the purpose of the office.

Post October 18th

With the General Election approaching, PA had to be careful not to back any party, but needed clear ideas on how to respond/make statements.  There will be electoral divisions between PA supporters (e.g. Greens, Labour), but whoever won the next election, austerity would continue, and we must keep the PA together for post election opposition.  How to keep the austerity debate going in the face of electoral pressures?  One suggestion was to draw up a “People’s Manifesto” based on the People’s Charter, and try to influence the debate e.g. invite candidates, including at least one anti-austerity person, with Question Time type debate on economy/austerity.

Proposed activities included some days of nationwide local action:

Autumn Statement 3rd December

Budget Day – mid to late March, just pre-election, needs a big Day of (like Bonfire of Austerity last year).

The proposed Manchester gig (February) could also be linked to a political event.

- End of report

Geoff Turner
Sheffield People’s Assembly Delegate

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