Sunday, 17 July 2011

Berwickshire Constituency Labour Party (CLP) AGM

On a very wet afternoon yesterday (Saturday, 16th July) I attended Berwickshire CLP AGM at St. James Church Centre, Pottergate, Alnwick. The meeting started with the current Chair, Bill Grisdale, introducing himself to BCLP members then we went straight into business with branch elections. The following list is the key positions which were filled on the day of the AGM.

Bill Grisdale, retained the Chair.
Joyce Guthrie, is a newly elected Vice-Chair
Scott Dickinson, retained CLP Secretary.
John Davison, retained the position as CLP Treasurer.

The AGM invited Grant Davey, Leader of the Northumberland Labour Group to speak about the ongoing challenges they face as part of the opposition to the Lib.Dems in Northumberland. Grant, talked about Northumberland in the context of youth provision, crime, learning disabilities and future arrangements of the Council in terms of Northumberland County Council handing the delivery of services to the parish councils. Many of these former district councils duties such as Cleaning of public toilets, Graffiti removal, Allotments and Parks are but a few to mention are expected to be delivered by the Parish Councils. Grant highlighted that many of these services were formerly managed through the former district councils, prior to the formation of the Unitary Authority in 2009 and highlighted issues which could arise from this transfer of delivery. In his presentation Grant also implied that the current administration failed to save money through making unnecessary redundancies when it had a year on year leaving rate of 850 staff.

From Trade Union perspective I believe there should be no need for any redundancy whether thats voluntary or compulsory. The crisis was caused by the bankers not public servants.
The discussion raised alarm that many of these services maybe outsourced as Parish Councils look to save monies in order to deliver services on a shoe string budget.

Following the debate with members the CLP thanked Grant for his attendance.

Our special guest for the AGM was Sir Jeremy Beecham(SJB), give a briefing on the Localism Bill, which was very informative covering a broad variation of issues and outlining the advantages (very few) and disadvantages of the Bill.

The Labour member for the House of Lords, identified how the forthcoming Localism Bill will remove strategic leadership with the dissolution of regional planning. In the drive towards localism, he argued that parochial interests could dominate and fail to reflect the national interest. For example few local communities will attend neighbourhood forums. In the context of Northumberland, Sir Jeremy raised concerns over how a vision for the towns and villages could be run by local wealthy business people where they could develop under the new localism. If power is to be devolved to the neighbourhood level, as proposed in the Localism Bill, it will be a mammoth task joining up the varying interests to create a local vision.

I can't help feeling that skills and resources may not be available at the neighbourhood and community to deliver the ideas presented by this government.
The reality is that those same old people will attend the planning meetings, of course those in the business community will welcome the watered down planning restrictions which will arise from this Bill and we will be swamped by business people wanting to push their plans through in order to fill their pockets.

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