Labour Joins UDC Listening Event

Last week Uttlesford District Council held an engaging and well-attended listening event designed to enquire into the experiences of BAME residents of the district.

Two of our Executive Committe members, Sam Naik (Women’s Officer and VC Membership) and Sanjukta Ghosh (Policy and Women’s Officer) were invited to speak and give their views.

We hope all members spare a moment to watch our friends in action:

Lockdown Reading

Stuck for something to occupy you whilst stuck inside on these dark winter nights? Our own Samantha Naik (BAME Officer and Membership Vice Chair) has kindly authored a few book reviews to help you pick a good read.

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell (1914)

In the early twentieth century, a group of painters and decorators and their families in a small town are exploited by their employers, and suffer from ill health, low life-expectancy, insecure housing, humiliation, and poverty. Some act with generosity and kindness; others go along with the Conservative and ‘Liberal’ (of that era) masters, believing they are their betters, and that socialism is evil; a few socialists persevere knowing that one day they will win.

This book has inspired many activists. It shows us what it was like to live in poverty, with no welfare state, and it is the answer to the elitist fiction of Ayn Rand; the workers are skilled and talented, yet cannot make a living. It surprised me that the issues of a century ago are similar to those that trouble us today: approximately 20% of working people in 2021 are poor (and this statistic is set to rise during the COVID19 recession) and may be in insecure employment, rents are exploitatively high, homelessness is a risk, and poverty causes ill-health. Back then too,  the Conservatives demonised poor people while cutting benefits. The mystery of ‘why do poor people vote Tory’ was very much in evidence in the early 1900s, too. Tressell skilfully told this story, with characters, good and bad, that will live on in your mind long after you close the book. An inspiring read.

The Warmth of Other Suns – Isabel Wilkerson (2010)

A non-fiction book that reads as a novel, with characters that are truly real. Beautiful descriptions, interspersed with the harsh reality of life in the USA for black people, after the abolition of slavery. What methods of painful exploitation could the South invent, to continue to control the black workforce, even in the aftermath of slavery? Why has it been difficult for black people to amass wealth, compared to their white counterparts, so that generations later, black people still suffer the historic injustice of ‘Jim Crow Laws? These questions are answered, in Pulitzer Prize winning fashion, by historian Wilkerson.

The great migration of Black Americans from southern states to northern states in 1915 to 1970 was not something I had contemplated: the bravery of those who sought new lives due to cruelty of racism, each of them taking a leap into the unknown, and often finding that the racism followed them. It is also useful to consider current racism in the USA and UK has developed from doctrines of white supremacy that were needed to justify the cruelty. The racism inflicted by southern states was not so long ago – racial segregationists were still arguing their case in the 1970s.

Both books show that race and class are used by the ruling powers to exploit people, without conscience, for material gains – even in rich countries where there are enough resources for everyone to live decently.  We see this in ex-President Trump’s ‘culture wars’ that set citizens against Muslims, Mexicans, and anyone who challenged fascism. We see it in the Tories demonisation of refugees, veneration of statues of slavers, and the slagging off poor people – refusing to trust poor people with money and instead giving vouchers for £5 worth of food (as happened in January 2021) as replacement for school meals, and calling such a pitiful parcel a ‘hamper’ (while charging the taxpayers a much higher price). The corruption portrayed in Tressell’s novel is evident in modern Tory Britain. 


The election of Biden may signify a turning point in the USA. Under would-be-dictator Trump, racial injustice came to an ugly head, with the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 and subsequent BLM protesters being tear-gassed, and the White Supremacists roused to insurrection and attempting to overthrow democracy in January 2021. In America, things must (hopefully) become fairer, because racial justice is now an issue that is recognised by the majority of US citizens. 


Perhaps Biden can also help us make the UK fairer too. Here, BAME people suffer health inequality, evident from the Marmot Reports of 2010 and 2020, and have died in disproportionately high numbers from COVID19. Whatever happens in the next four years, I think Biden will help move our discussion back into rational areas – and that can only be a good thing.

Saffron Walden CLP AGM 2020


Thursday the 26th of November saw the 2020 AGM for Saffron Walden Labour Party.
Despite being the first ever SWCLP AGM to be held online the event was well attended and hosted some very lively, comradely debate.
The evening started with debate on the following motion relating to electoral reform, put forward by Samantha Naik:
This Constituency / Branch Labour Party resolves:

  • To call upon the Labour Party to reject First Past the Post, the voting system
    currently used for General Elections, and to support the introduction of a form
    of Proportional Representation in which all votes count equally and seats match
    votes.
  • To call upon the Justice and Home Affairs Policy Commission of the National
    Policy Forum to consult the party membership specifically about their views on
    Proportional Representation in the next cycle of policy documents.
  • To call upon the Labour Party to set out how it will select a new, proportional
    voting system for general elections, in time to offer it as a concrete alternative
    to First Past the Post in our next manifesto.


This motion was passed by vote on the night and will be sent on to the Justice & Home Affairs policy commission of the National Policy Forum.

The meeting then moved on to the business of the AGM, full minutes can be found at the link below my signature, but the main body of the meeting was taken up with reports from the outgoing exec officers, an update to the CLP’s standing orders to add the new role of LGBT+ Officer to the Exec Committee, and the election of the new Exec Committee, in which I am proud to serve as Secretary.
A full list of the Exec Committee Officers is in the minutes or you can see them at the “Our Team” link to the left of this screen.
Your new Execs will get straight to work with a committee meeting next week, so you’ll hear plenty from us over the coming weeks.

There’ll also be an invite coming out soon to a festive themed social event, via zoom of course, in December. As usual this will be a great opportunity to meet some of your SW Labour comrades and to take all our minds off covid-19 for a while with some festive fun and a mince pie or two (bring your own I’m afraid). I hope to see you there.

Andrew Sampson
Secretary – Saffron Walden CLP

Labour call on Uttlesford to provide free women’s sanitary products

Uttlesford District Council should provide free women’s sanitary products so that no local girl or woman has to face the indignity of a lack of menstrual products, said Saffron Walden Constituency Labour Party at its annual International Women’s Day event at Saffron Walden Day Centre on Saturday.

Saffron Walden Labour Women’s Officer Sanjukta Ghosh launched the party’s petition, stating that based on statistics by the End Child Poverty Coalition, around 2,300 girls live in poverty in Uttlesford. She said: “In one of the richest districts of the fifth richest country in the world, this is completely unacceptable. It is a real, local issue which we as a collective can resolve. If toilet paper is provided freely in public toilets, period products should also be available.

“For the sake of dignity for girls and women, Saffron Walden Constituency Labour Party call on Uttlesford District Council and other local authorities in the area to provide free menstrual products in all of its public facilities. Schools, libraries, youth centres, public toilets, should all provide full access to a range of period products.”

Sanjukta launched the petition, which calls for non-means tested distribution in public buildings, such as toilets and libraries, and a drive to assist vulnerable sections of the population, notably households dependent on food banks and people facing housing insecurity.

Also speaking at the event was socialist Kashmiri human rights activist Faria Attique who spoke on the violence, discrimination and patriarchy faced by women in Pakistani- and Indian-administered Kashmir. She also highlighted the cultural taboos against menstruating women, who face exclusion and are gagged from speaking out against period poverty in Kashmir.

Gemma Davies, a nurse and a local Labour party member, spoke on sex discrimination within the NHS and the need for trade union organisation to campaign for women’s voices, both among staff and patients.

Siobhan Sliman, an activist with the Pension Reform Alliance and local Labour member, highlighted the problems many women now face as a result of changes to the retirement age, which has impoverished many working women.

Pamela Jenner, a retired local journalist, emphasised the need for trade unions to tackle ongoing sex discrimination within the news industry and challenge sexist stereotypes perpetuated in the media.

Fish & Chips + Quiz 21 Feb

Join us on Friday 21 February in Stansted for fish & chips (contact for delicious veggie/vegan options!), plus tea/coffee & dessert. There will also be a quiz and a raffle (please donate prize(s) if poss). And we will collect donations (food or cash) for the Foodbank. All for £11 per person! For those that fancy a glass of wine or a beer, there will be a bar – please bring cash for donations. See Event below for full details (click on the link). We need cash payment in advance, thank you for your understanding. This promises to be a fun event! Bring family & friends. And welcome to new members, please attend – this friendly event is a good way to get to know others! Look forward to seeing you all there!

Fish & Chips + Quiz 21 Feb
Where: Stansted Day Centre, Chapel Hill, Stansted, UK
When: Friday 21st February at 7:30pm
Yes, I’m coming

Tom van de Bilt selected as Labour Parliamentary candidate for Saffron Walden

Tom van de Bilt has been selected as Labour’s candidate to stand for Saffron Walden Constituency in the next general election. Tom lives in Stansted with his wife, Sarah and their two young sons. Tom works for a Cambridge based software house and has had a diverse career in both the public and private sector, including working for three local authorities and for a market leading software provider to public libraries. He is a parish councillor in Stansted. Tom’s political priorities are to secure a referendum on any Brexit deal, tackle the climate crisis and reverse the crippling Tory cuts to public services.

Speaking after Friday’s meeting Tom said:

“I am delighted and honoured to be selected as the Labour candidate. I’m a committed socialist and a proud European in a pro-European socialist party. I’m looking forward to hitting the campaign and talking to lots of local residents about how labour can deliver for people across the constituency and build communities for the many, not the few.”

Labour Highlights Local Housing Crisis at Manifesto Launch

Some of the Labour candidates and activists who attended the launch

Labour launched its manifesto for the Uttlesford district council elections on Saturday with a call to deal with the local housing crisis and defend public services from cuts.

Recently published figures show that the council housing waiting list surged 37.6% in 2018 to 1,112 households as over 300 more households found themselves in housing need. The rate of growth was the tenth highest in England and the highest in Essex. In contrast, the overall number of households on council waiting lists fell 3.5% in England and declined 3.2% in Essex. Meanwhile, Uttlesford had the highest social rent costs in Essex and the thirteenth highest in England, outside London.

Daniel Brett, Labour candidate for Stansted South and Birchanger, said: “Hundreds more households are being driven into poverty and housing need due to soaring housing costs and failing housing policies. Labour’s district manifesto sets out our objective of achieving 2,500 new council homes by 2030 through the delivery of garden communities and the establishment of a council-owned housing development company as part of the council’s commercial investment strategy.”

Guest of honour at the launch Daphne Cornell, former Labour councillor for Saffron Walden Castle ward and twice mayor of Saffron Walden, said: “It’s very easy saying no to everything the Conservatives do and promising the world, but this manifesto is marvellous and is a real alternative. There is a housing crisis and we need social housing. When I say social housing, I want council housing.”

Simon Trimnell, candidate for Castle ward and chair of the local Housing Board, said: “I want a fairer community where everyone has a chance to raise a family, without being pushed out because of housing costs. I want people to have the opportunity I got to have a council home in their community when they cannot afford market housing. Labour is the party of Saffron Walden and Uttlesford. We want to look after the whole community.”

 Labour candidates for Castle ward Laura Snell and Simon Trimnell with former Saffron Walden mayor and Labour councillor for Castle ward Daphne Cornell

Yvonne Morton, former Labour district councillor for the former Plantation ward and now candidate for Shire ward, said: “When there was a Labour group at Uttlesford, we achieved a lot. We were able to chair committees and get access to policy documents, so we could advance Labour values even when the council was Conservative controlled.”

Gerard Darcy, candidate for Great Dunmow South and Barnston, said: “Labour councillors will help transform the district. Labour is already changing the debate. We’re not Nimbys, we have a full set of policies that will create a better district and we’re excited about the possibility of playing a part in shaping Uttlesford’s future.”

Labour’s Uttlesford manifesto, which contains 42 separate policy
proposals, can be downloaded here:
http://labour4saffronwalden.org.uk/manifesto/

Library Battle Is Not Over, Despite ECC Agreement to Cough up £10,000

Stansted Labour Party warns that the fight to save the community’s local library is not over after Essex County Council agreed this week to pay £10,000 towards rent of the Stansted Exchange and foot the bill for the refit of the library.

Essex County Council had agreed to rent the library space in the £1.2 million building at a rent of £13,000 per annum plus a contribution to running costs. However, just days before the lease was due to be signed, ECC launched a library strategy consultation that put the library in the Tier 4 category, scheduling it for closure. The new multi-purpose building, which includes parish offices, opens next month after years of work, during which ECC committed to supporting the project.

Stansted Labour spokesman Daniel Brett, who is a member of the parish’s library working group that prepared Stansted’s response to the consultation, said: “The parish council was forced to hike its precept by around 10 percent to cover a shortfall that was mostly related to the uncertainty over the lease. It would have been better for residents if ECC could have listened to parish protests months ago so that the parish did not have to resort to raise taxes.

“The offer of £10,000 falls short of the annual rent expected and seems like the ECC is trying to squirm its way out of potential legal difficulty. It also suggests that Essex only plans to rent the space for nine months, potentially withdrawing the service in January next year. We have been handed a small amount of extra time to respond to the consultation outcome due in June, should alternative plans have to be made for the library.

“Labour supports the parish council’s position that there is firm evidence Stansted library has been wrongly classified and, based on past usage, local deprivation and rural isolation, it should be re-categorised as Tier 2 and kept open and properly staffed. We believe no libraries in Essex should face a withdrawal of services and the county council should honour its statutory responsibility to maintain a comprehensive library service.

“If Stansted and Thaxted libraries are closed, Labour will urge Uttlesford district council to step in and pay for the rent – totalling £20,000 across both libraries – and the cost of librarian staff to cover the opening hours as well as creating user groups. This could cost up to £50,000 per annum and is well within the means of UDC’s Communities and Partnerships budget.”

 

Uttlesford Tories Chasing Prestige Projects at the Expense of Community Sports

Uttlesford should help local football clubs get league promotion

Uttlesford District Council is plunging vast amounts of money into prestige projects in the Saffron Walden area at the expense of other parts of the district, said Stansted South and Birchanger Labour district candidate Daniel Brett following the authority’s annual budget.

The council rejected proposals by Stansted district councillor Geoffrey Sell to reallocate £500,000 of proposed spending on a running track at Carver Barracks to a new reserve for community infrastructure including sport provision.

At the full council meeting, Daniel Brett said: “Stansted football club is set to win the Essex Senior League, but to be promoted it needs to invest to meet the requirements for pitch and facilities, which it shares with the cricket club at Hargrave Park in Stansted. It was not promoted in 2010 because it failed to meet the requirements. It is unfair that vast resources are allocated to Saffron Walden while successful community sports groups in the south of the district need funding to grow and improve.”

After the meeting, he said: “I am disappointed that the Conservative administration rejected the motion and seems fixated on putting a lot of money into projects in the north of the district. Even some Saffron Walden councillors noted that community sports groups in their wards did not support the expensive running track, which still lacks clarity and certainty.

“Labour believes that community sports groups are fundamental to boosting participation in sport for people of all ages. We want to spread expenditure across a range of facilities, helping to improve facilities at community sports clubs in order to benefit the most amount of people. We believe it is only fair that successful community sports clubs get a share of funding.”