Lyme Regis & Charmouth by-election

Belinda Bawden
Labour candidate for the West Dorset District Council By-Election 14th September 2017

I moved to Lyme Regis over twenty years ago to be part of this warm, vibrant community and to give my daughters the chance to grow up in this beautiful area. I have worked in local businesses and schools, and now work at the University of Exeter.

I am standing as your Labour councillor to put forward an alternative to the current policies of austerity. With the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour has a clear and coherent alternative. West Dorset needs a Labour voice and I would be honoured to represent Lyme & Charmouth in campaigning for social, economic and environmental justice.

My mother was inspirational in her devotion to the Lyme Regis Town Council and subsequently as volunteer Hon Curator for the Lyme Regis Philpot Museum. My brother has been a Labour Councillor for many years. As my family and caring responsibilities have reduced, I am now able to devote more time to public service and to helping my local community as best I can.

It has been an exciting time in politics since the 2015 general election and particularly because membership of the Labour Party in West Dorset has rapidly increased. People are crying out for change and the Labour Party is offering hope and genuine alternatives to the unsustainable and unjust policies of austerity and cuts we have suffered under Conservative and Coalition governments. More people are becoming engaged in politics at every level and I would be delighted to be a Labour voice on the District Council, representing the people of Lyme Regis and Charmouth to the very best of my ability. I will campaign for more social housing, for better transport provision, for protecting public services and the NHS from further cuts and for the protection of the environment from fracking, pollution and over-industrialisation in areas of natural beauty and scientific interest.

Belinda Bawden

Council Elections 4 May – Our Candidates

Phyllida Culpin – Bridport (Dorset County Council)

Phyllida’s background is in social housing, and until recently she worked in South Somerset. She believes that people deserve the opportunity to achieve the best for themselves and their families. Phyllida lives in Pymore and is committed to supporting Bridport’s economy which means bringing more jobs that pay well to the area, improving public transport so that people can get to college, work, and get out to enjoy themselves, and providing low cost housing. Phyllida uses local shops wherever she can and volunteers on a regular basis for conservation projects. She will Stand Up for the people of Bridport.

 

Bill Mellish – Bridport (DCC)

Bill Mellish was born in Lewisham, South London. He is a retired senior C.I.D. officer with the Met. having served on the Flying Squad and at New Scotland Yard. He retired after 32 years service and went on to be a governor at a boy’s comprehensive from which he received a long service award for his contribution to education.

Bill grew up on the same council estate as the famous boxer Henry Cooper. Bill’s uncle was Bob Mellish the Labour MP. Since moving to Bridport four years ago he has been an active fund raiser for Cupboard Love and other charities, he enjoys playing golf and skittles locally.

 

Mark Gage – Beaminster (DCC)

Mark says “The most important things that hold a rural community together and are education and transport. Should you elect me, I will work to give you back your bus services and ensure that they are regular and affordable. I will also work to resist the reintroduction of grammar schools and ensure that the funding for education for all of our children, no matter what their circumstances, is improved. A key part of this will be to refund our youth centres. These are things that the Conservatives working with the Liberal Democrats have taken away from you; voting Labour will return them.”

 

Joy Everington – Marshwood Vale (DCC)

Joy has been a resident of Marshwood for 35 years.

Supporting publicly-funded:

EDUCATION – NO to new grammar schools
TRANSPORT – Enable the young and elderly to get about
SOCIAL CARE – We may all need it some day
Retired public servant and formerly local Registrar of Births, Deaths & Marriages.
Upper Marshwood Vale Parish Councillor for 15 years. Currently Secretary & Treasurer of Dorset Federation of Horticultural Societies, supporting member clubs in Dorset & neighbouring counties. Long-standing charity shop volunteer.
“As your County Councillor I would bring my considerable life skills to the complex problems now facing our County”.

 

Nick Boothroyd – Bridport South Ward (Bridport Town Council)

A professional musician and teacher, Nick made his home in West Dorset over 25 years ago. His children grew up here and attended local schools. Four years ago he moved to Bridport and has since put down deep roots. Nick believes the key issues facing us in Bridport are affordable homes, better jobs and opportunities for our young people, our Health Service and transport links. Nick says “If elected I will defend public services, challenge vested interests and do all I can to make Bridport a better place to live and work”.

Dorset County Council Election – Labour’s manifesto

Putting Dorset First

Labour Party County Council Election Manifesto 2017

Introduction

Local government faces its biggest challenge for decades with further swingeing cuts reducing funding.  The Tories are removing all direct funding to local government by 2020. The County will be forced to rely entirely on the council tax, a highly regressive form of taxation proportionately hitting low and medium earners most, and on the business rate, already a burden on small businesses. The crisis in funding for adult social care grows daily with services disappearing, handed over to a struggling charitable sector, or privatised.  Securing fairer funding for Dorset must be the priority for the new County Council.

We also face the opportunities and uncertainties for Dorset of a post-Brexit Britain.  In the current unstable world the Labour Party believes it is even more important to promote the values of inclusion and diversity.   We unequivocally condemn discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion and belief, and we are committed to combating hate crime, to promoting equality and to fostering good relations between all.

The Labour Party pledges:

  • To working to make sure Dorset gets the best possible deal out of Brexit – love it or hate it we must protect the people of Dorset
  • Defend Dorset’s health services from privatisation and make sure everyone gets good services at hospital and at home
  • Campaign for a real living wage, opposing regional pay, ending zero hours contracts and resisting further privatisation of council services
  • Promote environmentally sustainable policies at all levels and oppose Fracking
  • To increase homes available at affordable rents. Too many people are living in substandard private sector accommodation; we will get tough on bad landlords and drive up standards.
  • Mental health care is in crisis. We will expand the support available to schools and young people and provide further support provision of services for adults.
  • We will work with the NHS to resist the closure of services and instead work to create health and well-being centres across the County to guarantee that good health advice and treatment is available to all.
  • Labour will build new schools and replace of old classrooms to give our children the best learning environment we can. We will work to ensure the highest possible standards for our schools and that teaching and support staff are properly resourced and rewarded. We oppose the re-introduction of grammar schools.
  1. Developing Dorset’s Economy

 This Government’s economic plans are not working – the loss of Britain’s triple A rating being the latest evidence.   Tory austerity means that inequalities are growing, yet even more welfare and public spending cuts are planned.  The continuing trend of outsourcing public services will result in more job losses and fewer services. These policies will not tackle Dorset’s chronic problems of low wages and too much reliance on part-time and seasonal work. The introduction of the real living wage would make a huge difference and reduce reliance on benefits to subsidise low wages.  We need a growth and innovation strategy that supports both private and public sectors. Business needs public services and infrastructure, and people’s wellbeing depends on work and enterprise.

We value the contribution made by those from other countries who come here to work in our health and care services, agriculture and business.

Our economy is constrained by a lack of affordable housing and greater efforts must be placed on building more homes and offering accommodation for key workers. We need to ensure that our young people feel they have a secure future in Dorset rather than have to move elsewhere.

There continues to be an issue with the number of second homes and the distortion this brings to the housing market. Labour would want to ensure that those who want to have  a second home here pay an increased Council Tax contribution.

Labour has supported the creation of two new Unitary Authorities to replace the existing nine Local Authorities across Dorset. Whilst this reduction is driven by Tory cuts, unlike them, we are not giving up on Economic Development. Labour is totally committed to attracting private and public investment to bring well paid jobs and attract skilled people across the whole County. The Tories, who have run Dorset for years are content with low paid work and insecure jobs but Labour is not. We will work with the Local Enterprise Partnership and others to attract new businesses to Dorset. Only a creative and pro-active partnership can attract more employment and we will ensure that land is set aside not just for housing and offices but also to ensure we maintain and enhance our manufacturing base.

Labour recognises that many of the new jobs in our economy may be in smaller companies. We will ensure that there is professional business advice available to those starting their own company and will encourage and support co-operative and social enterprises to flourish and the provision of super-fast broadband everywhere in the County.

We will help promote a prosperous and sustainable tourist industry. This is not just about beaches and picturesque countryside but also about the arts and culture.  This will benefit not only tourists but also enrich the lives of our communities, improving health and wellbeing. We will  support organisations bringing theatre, music and art into schools and venues that are able to provide space for cultural activities.

  1. Defending Health & Social Care

 Dorset faces further upheaval in an already underfunded NHS. The Clinical Commissioning Group is proposing to close community hospitals and reduce bed in those that remain. These plans will also reduce accident and emergency services at Poole Hospital. There is an urgent need for a more joined up approach rather than having unnecessary organisational barriers that do not improve patient care.

Labour will:

  • Ensure everyone has access to free medical care and understands what they are entitled to receive, and that the needs of mentally ill and disabled people are not neglected
  • Oppose the closure of community hospitals and the reduction of beds
  • Support “hospital at home” and early discharge home from acute hospital  provided there is full funding for sufficient skilled nursing and social care staff providing adequate levels of care
  • Improve and sustain mental health services

A Labour administration will increase, not cut, investment in the services that help our older and more vulnerable residents to continue living in their own homes. We will work with the NHS, voluntary organisations and housing providers to ensure that everyone who wishes to continue living in their own home can do so.

Under this Government Social Services are being starved of funds but it simply isn’t fair to make Dorset’s most frail and vulnerable bear the brunt of the cost of Tory economic failure. Apart from the impact on individuals who need support the current system is placing huge strain on families and friends who seek to navigate an increasingly complicated system in order to identify the best sources of care.

Public Health, on issues like pollution and obesity, is the responsibility of the County Council. Labour will develop a coherent policy on public health, in consultation with the NHS and others, that would make the people of Dorset healthier and reduce the financial burden on the NHS.

  1. Supporting Children and Young People

 The policies of the previous Tory/LibDem coalition government and of the current Tory government have done great damage to our schools and further education colleges.  The introduction of academies and free schools, which are not obliged to follow the national curriculum or employ trained teachers, has proved an expensive distraction from the task of raising the quality of teaching and pastoral care, and enriching children’s learning.

Vocational education remains the poor relation and further education colleges have suffered damaging cuts to their funding.  Too many of the most vulnerable children, such as those with special educational needs and those entitled to free school meals, do not do as well as they should in our schools.

The result of the increased funding pressures and emphasis on exam results is increasing stress for both teachers and pupils, with damaging consequences for some of them in terms their mental health.

Labour will provide a good local school for every child. We oppose the government’s proposal to re-introduce grammar schools.  It must be remembered that every comprehensive that converts to a grammar school and every newly created grammar school impacts on schools elsewhere.  Research shows that grammar schools do no better in terms of pupil attainment than those without, and that grammars disproportionately provide for children from the most affluent homes.

There is a lack of accountability in Academy schools and we need much greater transparency. Academies are letting our children down! No school in Dorset should be allowed to be judged as failing.

We will look at every aspect of schooling from nursery provision, breakfast clubs to longer school days and additional support for parents who are working. Labour will put greater emphasis on protecting all Dorset’s children. We will work tirelessly to ensure that children who are or have been in our care are not disadvantaged in later life.

Labour is very opposed the closure of council-run youth centres which we believe adversely impacted on local communities. We advocate the extension of youth provision to areas where there is an evident need. Under Labour, Dorset County Council would do much more to improve youth provision, and we commit to reopen our youth centres

  1. Improving Transport

 Our transport policy is based on developing the existing public transport network, and improving walking and cycling routes.  We will develop Green travel plans for the public and private employers  across Dorset  including increased use  of public transport, greater car sharing, and encouraging the development of  work hubs and home working.   We also support the existing bus pass scheme which reduces car usage and combats isolation amongst older people.  We believe our bus services should be transferred to public ownership and we would reinstate those bus devices closed by the Tories.

Congestion has reached a new high, air pollution is already at a worrying level, and our roads are becoming less safe.  More needs to be done to make public transport an attractive option, and to promote walking and cycling.

Labour will:

  • Lobby government, Network Rail and train companies for  increased capacity on trains serving Dorset and increased reliability including dealing with  disruption caused by flooding
  • Demand increased financial support for essential but “uneconomic” bus and train routes as well as securing lines like the one between Swanage and Wareham
  • Reduce traffic speeds to improve safety, reduce emissions and noise
  • Seek funding to deal with the backlog of road and footway maintenance to improve safety for all road users
  • Work with all organisations to improve transport planning throughout Dorset
  • Make it a priority to secure effective park and ride schemes
  • Our aim is to reduce congestion and pollution by developing and improving walking and cycling routes. Far too little is being done to facilitate alternatives to using private motor vehicles.
  • Improve bus services not just in urban centres, but also across the whole County ensuring that rural communities do not become isolated and that fares are affordable.
  1. Caring for our Environment

Our historic market and coastal towns, and our varied countryside are all beyond price.  Labour will not put our environment at risk and we will work harder and smarter to use renewable energy and fuel efficiency. Labour will resist all attempts to introduce fracking and seek to make our county ‘Frack-Free Dorset’.

Labour will campaign for environmentally sustainable policies at all levels and to promote biodiversity within our natural environment.

We will:

  • Introduce carbon budgeting with the environmental impact of every decision being addressed
  • Support renewable energy initiatives using wind, biomass, and water, across the county, encouraging community ownership, and community and co-operative energy procurement to reduce household costs
  • Develop policies to reduce litter and fly-tipping and establish local resource recovery parks which re-use and repair waste material and create green jobs
  • Use waste to create energy and to make re-usable products that benefit our community
  • We will ensure that all public footpaths and rights of way are kept open and create an improved network of cycle-ways to enable more sustainable travel around the county.
  • We will place great emphasis on protecting our rich heritage of buildings in town and village communities.
  1. Keeping Dorset Safe

 Labour supports community policing and we will continue to oppose Tory cuts to the number of police stations, police officers and PCSOs in Dorset. While the Tories continue to cut local Police on the beat, Labour will continue to invest in more CCTV and other crime prevention initiatives.

Labour will work to ensure that the Police and Crime Commissioner is held to account regarding the priorities for Policing and Community Safety. The aim is to reinforce mutual trust and confidence between the police, the public and the many other services and voluntary organisations that deliver public safety.

We will:

  • Restore effective local policing by demanding a commitment that the Police serve all communities, with an increased visible presence and with the policing skills needed for today’s complex challenges like online fraud and domestic violence.
  • Strongly oppose any attempt to increase privatisation of policing and justice services.
  • Bring more direct accountability through improved policy input from community representatives, ultimately holding the Chief Constable to account for operational policing.
  • Stop the cuts to our Fire and Rescue services.

 

We will work to ensure that the people of Dorset are protected in case of fire or other emergencies with a speedy response to calls from the public. Alongside the vital role of fire fighting, it is essential that service works to prevent fires through its programme of fire education within schools and the community, including the promotion of sprinklers in new homes and public buildings. This needs adequate funding, continued support for training for all personnel collaboration with other emergency services.

  1. Where next for Dorset?

 It is still not clear whether the suggested reorganisation of Local Government will go ahead.  What is clear is that Councils will lose all of the revenue they receive from Government by 2020. Under a Tory administration this is will mean an increase in Council Tax and further cuts to local services. Labour will strongly challenge this approach.

The lack of any effective scrutiny and the absence of real transparency is shocking. Whatever the final outcome of the May 2017 County Council elections that is something which must change, Labour will fight to make that change!

Letter to Councillor Byatt

Dear Councillor Byatt,

I am writing on behalf of the Bridport and District Labour Party following your resignation from the Labour Party, and now it would seem your intention to vote with the Conservative Party. Taking our information from the press release following your resignation, it would seem that your reasons for doing so are, firstly you have lost faith in Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to lead the Labour Party. Secondly, you say you have lost faith in ‘the direction’ of the Labour Party and you are of the opinion that the Conservatives have ‘ambition and vision’.

We raise these points given that three wards in Weymouth are within the top ten in the West Country for child poverty, and increasing numbers of local workers are subject to zero hour contracts. Of course you will be aware of such matters given you sit on the South West Provincial Council alongside the Leader of the Conservative Party, where you discuss such matters as terms and conditions of workers with I might add, Trade Unions. These facts are compounded by the fact that you also sit on the Economic Growth and Scrutiny Committee, so you must be aware of the ‘direction’ of the Conservative Party which is to undermine the Trade Union Movement, thus allowing the use of short term contacts and zero hour agreements to prosper. A matter of which I am sure the Trade Unions will have expressed their displeasure at any meetings you have attended.

However, given your position that the Conservatives have the ‘vision’ for the future, we must now assume that you are very much in favour of the privatisation and deregulation of the National Health Service. As has been reported in the local press in Bournemouth, a NHS provider has now given the shortage of funds for the NHS as the reason for creating a private medical section to run alongside the NHS provider. The charges as reported are for £40 for a ten minute telephone consultation with a doctor, £80 for twenty minutes and £145 for a forty minute face to face consultation. Here, as a member of the Conservative Party we must now assume you support such a development, and it would be interesting to have your views regarding not only the increasing privatisation of the NHS, but the increasing public funds being allocated to fund such organisations as Virgin Health.

Of course, as with any political party, there are, and always will be divisions and internal struggles. But it goes without saying that we are appalled that you are using the excuse of the leadership of the Labour Party to defect to the Conservatives. In this respect we can only assume you have always been a Tory, and you probably revel in the fact that so many children in Dorset are subjected to not only poverty, but to the demise and destruction of the NHS.

Richard Nicholls.

Chair Bridport and District Labour Party

Chair’s Report

Apologies for not getting out a report earlier, but have had a bad dose of the dreaded lurgy and retired to my bed. However, better late than never. However, the curry night was again a success, even though there was some panic in the kitchen as the caterer’s van had broken down and we were desperately looking around for some rice. However, all ended well, and I am sure people passing the WI Hall wondered what was happening given the cheering and booing emanating from the hall.

However, the next few months are going to be busy ones as we lead up to the local Dorset County Council elections. As agreed at the last Branch meeting, three groups are in place that will produce leaflets covering housing, the local economy and public transport. However, we still require an Agent for the Bridport election given that it is generally agreed that we will only run paper candidates for Beaminster and the Marshwood Vale. Given this position we will be asking for a volunteer to act as our Agent at the next Branch meeting on the 18th January. We will also be able to discuss the content of the leaflets provided by the three groups, as well as amending or adding to them as necessary. We must also discuss as to how we leaflet the wards concerned, especially Bridport. This again will require volunteers to leaflet at least in their own street, as well as looking for weekend campaigning in areas we traditionally look for support. Also at the next Branch meeting we will be looking for volunteers to stand in the Beaminster and Marshwood wards.

Leafleting is of course crucial in Bridport given the hold the Lib Dems have over the Town and increasingly the Greens. Whilst of course as a Branch we have nearly 600 members, the Labour Party standing in the country is still well behind the Tories and we must make a real effort locally if we are to succeed in winning seats on the DCC. We also as a Party face a Parliamentary by-election in the North West, on which in my opinion much will depend how successful we are locally.

Also UNITE Community Union are organising a Public Meeting in Bridport Town Hall to discuss the future or otherwise of the NHS. This will be held on the evening of Wednesday 8th of February. At present the start time is not fixed, but it will be an evening meeting and more detail will be made available when a time is finalised. However, it is essential that as many members as possible attend. Also members along with UNITE Community Union had a presence in Bucky Doo Square on Monday 9th January demonstrating against the proposed cuts in Dorset NHS.

Whilst we have been making every attempt to make Branch Meetings more interesting, the Branch Meeting on the 18th will be mainly a business one in which we plan and put forward candidates for the coming Local Elections. As said previously, we now have nearly 600 members, and if even half that number turn out to leaflet in the coming local elections, we can cover the whole of Bridport quite easily. Looking forward to seeing you all on the 18th January, 7pm the WI Hall.

Richard

A simplified general structure of the Labour Party policy-making machine

Chair’s report – The Labour Party policy-making machine – A simplified general structure.

 

Members———-Branch———-Branch Officers.

Constituency Party (CLP)——–Officers/Executive Committee/From Branches.

Regional Labour Party—–Full time Officers/elected members.

Regional and National Policy Forums.

National Executive Committee (NEC)—-consists of General Sec and full-time officers plus elected members and trade unions. Oversees Annual Conference policies between Annual Conference.

Annual Conference—–Policy making body—-for a week?

The Parliamentary Party (PLP).

Also involved—fringe groups such as Momentum and CDLP. Also an innumerable number of Labour Party Friends groups, and Trade Unions.

The House of Lords.

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Role of Party MPs

In opposition—–should MPs simply follow Party policy as defined by Annual Conference if a given political situation changes? If not, how do we strengthen the relationship between Branches, CLPs and the general membership?

If in power—–Role of Cabinet. Cabinet members faced by senior civil servants and advisers. Also House of Lords. How should they deal?

When in power as is clear from past experience, the Cabinet does not always follow Party policy and on many occasions has ignored both MPs as well as Annual Conference policy. How do we counter such a situation if decisions are intended to come from below?

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As I have said before at branch meetings, politics is very much the organisation of conflict, and even more so today within the Labour Party. But at its root for change is our Leader’s political perception of changing the way that we ‘do’ politics in the Labour Party. The question that flows from such a position is, how will it be achieved? It will certainly not be easy, and if members are to achieve a greater say what changes will be required in the way Labour Party policy is not only arrived at, but carried through? In facing up to such a question we must firstly look as to how the Party is organised at present, and the roles played by the different structures that exist in today’s Labour Party.

For example, at a local level we have the membership. They attend their local Branch which has its own elected officers. Then there is the local Constituency Party organisation, again with officers elected by the branches, which in turn is overseen by a Regional Office of the Labour Party. The Regional Office is staffed by full-time officers and elected members. Its role is to ensure that the rules of the Party are upheld, and deal with any issues within Regional Branches that may arise, as well as overseeing any nominations for individual members who wish to stand as either an MP or Councillor. Also at a local level we have fringe groupings such as Momentum, and affiliated Trade Unions who add pressure to arrive at Party policy, both locally and nationally.

In terms of building National Labour Party policy, it requires in the first instance for a local branch to put together a branch proposition which is then discussed at a Constituency Party (CLP) meeting prior to Annual Conference. A vote is then taken by those attending the CLP meeting and a decision arrived at. The CLP proposition then goes forward for consideration to the Labour Party Annual Conference. But there is also a process whereby an individual Branch can make its position known on a particular issue by writing directly to the NEC. The present system allows for an individual Branch to make its feelings known, but it is difficult if not impossible to know if such an action has any effect on a given policy outcome. Of course this is not the end of the policy making process. Branches and CLPs must accept that policy decisions are also taken at both National and Regional Policy Forums whose decisions may run counter to a particular Constituency Party or Branch position.

And so through this process, individual members are distanced from any final policy decision. The question posed is, if decisions in the future are driven from below, how can local members be more directly involved in policy decisions? It also asks the question, does a CLP have a role in the future? And what is the role of the CLP?  What is the role of the Branch? What is the role of the Regional Party? I doubt if these questions have even been addressed by the Party given its complexity and challenging nature. However, as I hope I have made clear, the above is a simplification of the policy making process.

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But what when the Party is in power?  Here if we are to consider changes that directly involve the general membership and of Branches, how will they organise? That will by definition place under the microscope as to how the PLP functions in Westminster as well as the role of the Cabinet. When in opposition the main role of the Shadow Cabinet and the PLP is fairly straight forward. Their role is to challenge the presiding Government, and look to either defeat, amend or change Government policy. But when in power, we are faced with the traditional roles of both Government and Cabinet. From an historical standpoint, it is not unknown for example that a Cabinet both ignores Party policy as well as its PLP.

As to the House of Lords, its demise has been discussed since the beginning of the 20th century, but it is still there. Do we need a Second House, and if yes, should it be an elected body based on proportional representation to ensure it has the authority to challenge policies passed in the House of Commons?

Above are just a few ramblings of the Branch Chair. Its intent is to open up a debate as to how the Party organises and sets policies in the 21st century. Any comments or opinions gratefully received, as if we are to achieve a more open and honest approach to political decisions, members really need to enter into the debate in order that in the first instance the Branch can have a position. We also have to show that a new form of political engagement is the way forward. Given recent Branch debates, the Bridport and District Labour Party could be at the forefront of that debate.

Some interesting reading as to the forms of political organisation we have been subjected to, as well as the economic challenges we face in today’s global economy.

The Iron Law of Oligarchy——Michels.

Elitist theory    Mosca and Pareto.   Geraint Parry

A Brief History of Neoliberalism       David Harvey

Richard Nicholls

Branch Organisation Update

The new leadership has been around for several months now and is continuing in its attempts looking for a new approach to politics. This has been made more complex in that with a huge increase in membership, not only has the National Party had to look at its own organisation, but the way in which local branches function have been put under the microscope. For example, how do we use the new technologies that are available? How are branch meetings organised? How do we involve more directly the local community? How do we campaign? How do we involve young members?

Here, as a Branch, we have made some inroads, but trying to put change in place, especially with an ever increasing membership base will always be a difficult task, but it is something that must be carried through. But progress is being made in that not only does the Branch now have all the officer posts filled, but members are now increasingly engaged in this debate. For example we have now identified the three issues that branch members feel are the ones we need to campaign on locally. Those being, Affordable Housing, Youth Services and Public Transport. Here, in order to pursue these three issues, we are looking to set up three groups of interested members to not only make recommendations to the Branch as to how we pursue these policies, but also produce pamphlets that can be used in getting our ideas into the public arena. In this way, it is hoped that not only will the Branch become more directly involved with the local community, but also begin the process of developing a branch manifesto that we can put to good effect at forthcoming local elections.

There is also the continuing debate as to how branch meetings are organised. The format has been subjected to some minor changes, but the debate continues. From my position as Chair, a number of issues have to be taken into consideration. Firstly, branch meetings as per the rule book are business meetings, and there are certain matters that must be open for discussion. There is also a time element to be taken into consideration and as to how we fit in all the business required. For example, it was past practice to have an invited guest speaker at the end of a branch meeting However, given time restraints, it was felt by a number of members that not enough time was given to question the speaker. To this end we now have the guest speaker at the beginning of a meeting, and that aspect seems to have worked to everyone’s satisfaction.

However, this is a matter still under debate, and in my opinion will require us to look very carefully as to the role of a branch meeting, and how policies flow from it. In this respect, the campaign groups could be a crucial element of any new approach to branch structure reorganisation. They would meet before branch meetings, and it would be for those groups to put forward motions for debate and present their ideas for the content of pamphlets to be distributed locally. In this way not only would we have a process in which policies came from the ‘bottom up’, but would also allow the Branch to formulate a branch manifesto for forthcoming elections. In this way, it would allow for branch meetings to be open to change.

We must also look for change in terms of bringing more young people into the decision making process. They have in many respects a completely new approach to life, and their views must increasingly be taken in to account. We are lucky that we have a Youth Officer, but as to be expected, they inevitably in my experience, are soon off to university, and we must try to ensure we have the numbers of young people available to fill the post. We also have a Woman’s Officer, and I have invited a member of BRIDFEM to address the Branch at a future meeting. At present, women trade unionists constitute 52% of trade union membership, but still have to struggle to be paid the going rate for a job. They also work in the care industry; note I say Industry, which are among the lowest paid jobs in this country. So we must look in our branch manifesto for policies that reflect the plight of not only women working in ‘care’ industry, but to those thousands of single and widowed women surviving on little or no pension.

Overall, these are exciting times, and there are many challenges we face in terms of the reorganisation of the Branch and National Party. I am aware of these issues, as when a member of the CWU Union Executive I was given the role of reorganising and merging trade union branches. This was no easy matter, as individual branch traditions and branch policies and political leanings varied, as one would expect. The same difficulties now also face not only the Branch, but the Party in general. However, if we are to bring about change that allows for a difference as to how we make policy, and to how we organise as a Branch, it will take time, and would simply ask for patience as we move forward.

Richard Nicholls

Cuts

As I am sure members will know, our Council Tax will be increasing this coming year, leaving us, as the 6th biggest economy in the world paying more for less. Also we are now seeing volunteers increasingly used to run our public services such as our libraries. So what of the future under this right-wing government? Today, as you will be aware, we are faced with huge cuts in the provision of rural public transport. In an attempt to counter these cuts, volunteers are increasingly being sought to overcome the fact that many elderly Council Tax payers in our villages will become increasingly isolated and cut off from friends and relatives.

Of course if you live in an urban area such as Westminster, in which so many of our MPs have accommodation, there is one of the most efficient public transport services in the country. Even so, in Westminster last year, the Council Tax for a Band A property was only £448.50, a Band D £672.74 and a Band H £1345.48. One only has to compare these Council Tax figures with our own, to realise that austerity now begins in the countryside, not in Westminster.

The same situation now also faces our Youth Centres, and members who attended our last Branch meeting will have heard the sorry story from both Mike Byatt, a Dorset County Councillor, and three young members who use the service. Here it would seem that whilst some youth workers will be retained, a considerable number will be made redundant given that the County Council have to make cuts totalling £1 million from its youth budget of £2 million. To counter this, a sum of £200,000 is to be made available for the whole of Dorset to set up groups of Trustees to run the system. However, for Bridport that is only part of the problem given that the local Youth Centre uses the accommodation provided at the Bridport Youth and Community Centre. This in turn means that it is not only the Youth Centre that is under threat, but quite possibly a number of other community groups. They are as follows:

The Music Centre and the Bandits Motor Project as well as the Bridport Boxing Club. For small children there is the Fizzy Boppers club for under 5’s and also the well supported Jelly Bean Toddler Group. The Electric Café provides after school activities for young people aged between 11 and 15 as well as on Sundays the Bridport Music Theatre for those aged over 14. The Youth Club is opened on two evenings between 7.30 and 9.30pm and is open to young people aged between 11 and 19.

However, it would seem that the decision to make these cuts was made by the Dorset County Council Cabinet, which calls into challenge the power that this small Cabinet has over crucial decision making. It is also claimed that these cuts were a matter of public consultation, but looking at the Council papers that makes this claim, it does not seem to have been widely known about. I wonder why?

Richard Nicholls

Oliver Letwin – Our letters to the Press

Letter to The Observer

Your article last week, ‘Letwin: inner-city youth ‘more alien than serfs’, ignores one important aspect. Mr Letwin’s argument is not only directed at inner-city youth, but especially against their young black communities. In doing so he completely ignores the situation faced by a growing number of young disenchanted and underpaid white young people in his own Constituency. Youth clubs are being closed whilst at the same time there is a growing drug problem. One only has to talk to publicans, chemists and local doctors to find out the reality of the situation. This fact is compounded by the fact that the cost of renting a property, let alone buying a house, is prohibitive given the low wages and casual employment that persist in his West Dorset Constituency.

In the article, Mr Letwin also argues that he is ‘a strong supporter of David Cameron’s drive for social reform’. We therefore as the local Bridport and District Labour Party look forward not only to our MP pushing through legislation that will allow our young people, whatever their colour, to find somewhere affordable to live, but also to local authorities being provided with the financial and political support to retain their youth clubs. And in doing so, offer the opportunity to positively fight the growing political and social disenchantment amongst our young people, not only in West Dorset, but nationally.

Richard Nicholls

 

Letter to the local papers

What is quite extraordinary for our MP Oliver Letwin, is his continuing ability to remain as the senior advisor to the Prime Minister when it is now reported of his openly racial attitudes to young black people. He is also reported as saying that in terms of poverty and poor housing, ‘white communities had endured such conditions for decades without rioting.’ In this respect alone, he shows a total lack of knowledge of working class history. Workers historically have and did, as did slaves, riot to gain change, both socially, politically and economically, only to be put down by State violence in the form of the Establishment. It was only with the development of the trade union movement in the twentieth century, a movement the present government is trying openly to undermine and destroy, that conditions in this country, both in housing and the workplace, actually improved through negotiations and political pressure. Today sadly, we are again faced with an increase in individual poverty, seen in the escalating number of ‘food banks’ and the increasing numbers of young people, both black and white, having little chance of buying or renting a property that includes security of tenure.

In an apology regarding his remarks, Mr Letwin states the published document was both badly worded and wrong. Of course it was wrong, and in that his apology can be accepted. But to say it was badly worded can only be accepted as an insult to our intelligence. But at least we now have an understanding as to Tory thinking, and the real consequences we all now face as a society.

Richard Nicholls

Chair’s Report

Our new Party Leader has only been in place for weeks, but changes are already showing themselves within the Party. As Karen our Treasurer indicated, in the South West, Labour Party membership had grown by 150%. This figure is reflected in the Bridport and District Branch as membership is now in excess of 350 members. Also what is apparent for those attending the last three Branch meeting, the new members politically are not only well versed, but they bring a deal of experience along with them. In this respect it has been a pleasure to chair the last three meetings, as the majority of those attending have not only contributed, but have put forward differing views as to how we go forward as a Branch.

Also, given the experience shown by many new members, we must as a Branch consider as to how they can contribute over the coming months. I did make the point at the last Branch meeting that we needed to change the way in which the Party organised itself, and that we must in my opinion include the way in which the Branch operates. Here the Branch AGM will be held in March, and we need to discuss before that meeting, any shortcomings that new members feel should be addressed. In this respect, we have already had some suggestions which we will circulate to our membership for their consideration. At a National level, it is also being suggested that between Annual Conferences, all policy issues should be put to a ballot of the general membership by electronic ballot. A revolutionary concept.

Of the last three meetings, the first was really an introduction exercise for new members and for the present Branch Officers to introduce themselves. The second, and very well attended meeting, gave a platform for Green Town Councillor’s, and the debate was open and positive. The third meeting, given it debated Party organisation, was to say the least dry, but it was necessary if we are to change the way in which policy is arrived at. However, it was positive in that we agreed as a Branch to contact Tom Watson MP and request a meeting either in Bridport or the House of Commons to discuss our position on the reorganisation of the Party structure. My understanding is that Billy Bragg met Tom for a coffee in London, and we await a reply from the Deputy Leader. It was also raised at the last Branch Meeting that the Branch becomes more involved in local issues such as housing and public transport. To this end it has been suggested that Branch members attend the Democratic half hour of the Town Council to raise such matters, and in doing so not only give us a political platform, but show we have a real interest in to what is happening in Bridport and the surrounding area.

However, we still have a way to go, and we must ensure that the momentum, (no pun intended,) is not only maintained, but built upon. With this in mind we must not forget the social side to the Branch and we have organised a Curry Night on Monday the 14th December in the British Legion Hall, Victoria Grove commencing at 7pm. The intent is to not only raise funds for the Branch and entertain members, but for members to get to know each other in a more informal setting. I do hope as many as possible can attend. In this respect, if we are to develop as a campaigning Party in the area, we will need the funds not only to produce leaflets, but given the size of the Branch, possibly hire transport to get members to demonstrations in the South West and London.

Overall, I am confident that we now have both the political experience and commitment of the membership to make the next 12 months both interesting and proactive in terms of local issues.

Richard Nicholls (Chair)