HITCHIN AND HARPENDEN CONSTITUENCY LABOUR PARTY
Minutes of the ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING held at 8 p.m. on Wednesday 11th February 2015 at The Ratcliffe Arms, Hitchin
AGM1/15 PRESENT: Simon Watson (Chair), Gavin Ross (Secretary), Nigel Agar, Judi Billing, Valerie Brown, Frank Carr, George Fraser, Chris Gillen, Angela Griggs, Rosemary Ross, Gurdip Sandher, Deborah Segalini, Derek Sheard, Adrian Smith.
Apologies: Rachel Burgin PPC, David Lawlor, Frank Radcliffe, Vivienne Windle.
AGM2/15 WELCOME FROM THE CHAIR: Simon Watson welcomed new delegates and visitors.
AGM3/15 LABOUR AND THE TRADE UNIONS:
George Fraser (GMB delegate) agreed at short notice to address the meeting, replacing an expected speaker who could not be contacted. He described the history of Tory attacks on the Trade Union activity since the Thatcher years, including the elimination of much of the UK manufacturing sector, and disappointment at the failure of the Blair government to reverse some of the worst of these measures. While the Unions welcomed the minimum wage and the restoration of some employee rights, the situtation since 2010 had become much worse, with cuts to legal aid, reduction in numbers of employment tribunals, and massively reduced union membership. Women in the textile industry had lost jobs to lower paid labour forces in the Third World.
Now the Tories threatened totally unrealistic demands in respect of strike ballots, which did not seem to apply to political elections where the proportion of registered voters actually participating could be very low. The shocking growth of foodbanks, household debt and and zero-hours contracts showed inequalities increasing dramatically, with the richest 1000 individuals owning £190 billion, while working familes had lost over £2500 in the same period. While the press called anyone on benefits a 'scrounger', there was little condemnation of tax avoidance.
Labour must concentrate on the real issues, the NHS, Housing, Tax Avoidance and real employment. The Trade Unions back Labour, not to direct Labour policy, as the Tories claim, but because Labour is the only party committed to protecting workers' interests.
In discussion members welcomed the support of the Trade Unions and the need for wider participation, particularly in respect of small employers. George reported that many workers in need of help were joining unions to help support their case.
The Chair thanked the speaker for a stimulating discussion.
AGM4/15 MINUTES OF AGM HELD 15th FEBRUARY 2014: Agreed and signed.
AGM5/15 REPORT FROM SECRETARY: Gavin Ross presented a written report, describing the main events of the year following the selection of Rachel Burgin as PPC, and the change of chairmanship in the summer.
AGM6/15 FINANCIAL REPORT: The Treasurer, Frank Carr, presented an audited written report, extracted from the format required by the Labour Party. There was a surplus of £405 for the year, in contrast to the previous years, although the proportion of subscription income remitted to the CLP was down. The fundraising event 'Stand Up For Labour' had been a success and branches had made donations from fundraising events. The Treasurer was thanked and the report accepted. The promised election fund contribution from Ruobal Properties had just been received at the beginning of the month.
It was agreed to affiliate to the Socialist Education Association, the Socialist Environment and Resources Organisation and to the Socialist Health Association.
AGM7/15 MEMBERSHIP REPORT: Chris Gillen had taken over as membership secretary at the end of the year, and reported a net increase of 14 members to a total of 314.
AGM8/15 EUROPEAN LIAISON OFFICER: Judi Billing reported on a phone-in with Richard Howitt. Richard had attended several County Party meetings and distributed his newsletter every two months. The Euro-elections had been disappointing as the hoped for one or two additional Labour MEPs were defeated.
AGM9/15 IT CO-ORDINATOR: Deborah Segalini continued to provide the role, but new helpers were required to be trained to be of use at election time. The Chair had been granted access to Contact.creator.
AGM10/15 WEBSITE CONTROLLER: Liz Dennis had made preliminary arrangements for the CLP to use the Nationbuilder system, liaising with Valerie Brown over the existing website. Pictures of Rachel and Hitchin members were displayed on a screen. The new site would require short biographies of local councillors with campaign points, description of the constituency, and content of some branch newsletters. Valerie was thanked for her work over the years.
AGM11/15 BRANCH REPORTS:
Verbal reports were given from Harpenden and Hitchin branches, and there was a written report from St Albans and District Co-operative Party Branch.
a) Harpenden had held regular meetings and two fundraising events, and there were plans for a further Quiznight on March 7th.
b) Hitchin had new Labour councillors, and campaigned hard in Walsworth. They ran a canvassing phone bank, stalls in the market, the Stand Up For Labour show in October, and planned a 'Club85' event in April with free music for youngsters.
c) Redbourn branch had Vivienne Windle as parish councillor, and Valerie Brown taking responsibility for leaflet delivery. Vivienne had fought a District by-election in Marshalswick North, with disappointing result in a four-way split of votes.
d) Wheathampstead and Sandridge had difficulty in finding active members, apart from Peter Woodhams who was a parish councillor, and had proposed merging with Harpenden branch, a matter which would be considered by the GC. New members in the Jersey Farm area of Sandridge had contacted Rachel and might become more active in future.
e) Martin Stears-Handscomb had arranged meetings of N Herts Co-op Party branch.
f) St Albans Co-op Party Branch had presented the ICA flag to be flown over St Albans Town Hall in July. They had contributed to the fund to commission a new statue of Tommy Watters, a local volunteer in the Spanish Civil War, which has been presented to the Museum of St Albans.
AGM12/15 ELECTIONS: The following were elected unopposed:
Chair: Simon Watson. Vice Chairs: Vivienne Windle and Chris Gillen. Secretary: Gavin Ross. Treasurer: Frank Carr. Women's Officer, vacant. Youth Officer, vacant.
Auditor: Chris Gillen
Functional Officers: Agent, Deborah Segalini Membership Secretary, Chris Gillen Political Education Officer, Adrian Smith. Campaign Co-ordinator, vacant. Trade Union Liaison Officer, George Fraser. Press Officers, Nigel Agar (Hitchin) and vacant (Harpenden). European Liaison, Judi Billing. Computing co-ordinator, Deborah Segalini. Website controller, Elizabeth Dennis.
Annual Conference Delegate: Frank Radcliffe
Nominations to County Party: Nigel Agar, George Fraser, Chris Gillen, Rosemary Ross and Peter Thomson. Two more delegates could be sent.
Branches were urged to look for volunteers for unfilled posts.
AGM13/15 PARLIAMENTARY CAMPAIGN
In the absence of Rachel Burgin, Simon reported on recent activity and plans for the coming months to May 7th. Thanks were offered to the canvassers in Hitchin and leafletters who had already been out in Hitchin and Harpenden and the villages. A further one or two general leaflets were planned for March and the freepost election address content was to be decided. Hitchin branch had a monthly market stall, and plans were in preparation for hiring a double decker Labour Party bus for a week, and for a large poster at Hitchin Station. Telephone canvassing was being organised. The CLP had also been helping in Stevenage, and some members had given help in St Albans.
AGM14/15 LOCAL ELECTION PREPARATIONS:
In addition to District elections in North Herts and St Albans, parish and town elections would be held in Harpenden, Wheathampstead, Redbourn and in Chesfield. Candidates for Wheathampstead and Sandridge were still required. St Albans Co-op Party would probably not have any Labour and Co-op candidates this time. If Co-op candidates were selected they would be required to include an agreed statement in their election literature.
The meeting closed at 9.35 p.m.