So, where have we been? At the end of 2014, due to various other commitments that were upon the previous steering committee, it unfortunately went quiet. I would personally like to thank the efforts of the previous steering committee, as they delivered some excellent meetings, with great speakers and superb turnouts. Moving forward it is important for us to draw from the strengths of the previous Merseyside People’s Assembly, but equally it is also important to have a critical awareness of its shortcomings if we are to become just as, if not more effective.
Since October 2014 there were a number of people that have been in touch with the national People’s Assembly. During the run up to a national Peoples Assembly march last year, it became clear that there was a significant amount of people in Merseyside that were interested in re-forming the Merseyside PA. Those of us who were in contact through the national PA convened a meeting about re-forming the local group. The small group of people present agreed that we should re-establish a local PA and they nominated an acting chair, secretary, treasurer and member (Martin Kelsey, myself James Harrison, Sarah Evans and Natalie Denny). This formed the new steering committee. We have had meetings throughout the year as part of our small steering committee, making enquiries into the old groups website and contact list, as well as establishing our own and spreading the word about a re-launch by distributing printed materials at protests & events. This was slowed down slightly by the fact that my girlfriend and I had a beautiful baby girl in August, which, as you can imagine, has very much taken a priority. None the less, slow and steady wins the race. As some of you now know, we have the old website back in our possession. We are in the process of amalgamating all the social media accounts into one for each medium and also consolidating the email contact lists so we can send emails from the registered Merseyside PA email. We will give plenty of notice before any of these are phased out, so that you can stay up to date with what is happening.
For several months we were planning for a public relaunch in February this year. The steering committee paid for the use of the room in the Casa out of our own pockets, mainly due to the fact that we have no funding, something we are hoping to resolve. Due to some more volunteers stepping forward to assist, this has very much helped us to deliver the event on the 3rd of February. Thanks to everyone who promoted this event, but special thanks to Ben who helped us with the website, Natalie whose determination & hard work have been indispensable to our promotion, and Neil for tenaciously plugging away in promoting us across the board. I would also like to thank Sam who has come on board with us since this meeting and made an outstanding contribution to organising demonstrations in support of the local NHS. We are always looking for skilled and dedicated volunteers in order to do more good work on Merseyside. If you are interested in getting involved you can either message us through the Facebook page, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would encourage people to consider making a donation to Merseyside PA, either personally or by encouraging their organisation to donate. Donating is of course on a voluntary basis, as we understand that the people disaffected by austerity are those with no money and we wouldn’t want this to be a barrier to being involved, as those who are unemployed or underemployed are probably those with the most time to get things done for our cause, a donation of your time is even more valuable than a donation of money, as ultimately local action is one of the key aims of the newly reformed Merseyside PA, and we can’t do that without our greatest strength, people. This need for people to get involved and take forward some local campaigns led us to consider what key things we should be focusing on. As such we decided that this was a decision for the people to make. We therefore ran an online consultation with a number of examples of what could be priorities for our local community in terms of the fight back against austerity. The results came back 1) NHS 2) Public sector cuts 3) Poverty, and 4) Homelessness. Also we have received some miscellaneous ideas from this survey, which the steering committee is going to be looking at in greater detail over time.
At our most recent public meeting in May, we discussed the problems that the local NHS is having due to privatisation and cuts, as well as homelessness being on the increase for those in poverty in the city. On another note, it is going to be incredibly important for us to work together with other groups who have the same broad aims of anti austerity as us. As such we are starting a calendar and planning tool. We hope this will be as useful for us as it will be for everyone locally in the anti-austerity movement, so that 1) We are not duplicating each others work, and 2) So that we are all aware of exactly what is happening in the region (and sometimes nationally) at a glance. If you have an anti-austerity group or meeting to suggest for our calendar, please submit it here: http://www.merseysidepeoplesassembly.org/events/
I can’t stress enough that people getting involved is the only way for us to achieve anything. Its very easy in this day and age to rely on social media. Social media can be great, especially for those who cannot get out the house due to personal circumstances like disability or child care issues. However, although its a useful tool, it isn’t going to depose an austerity government in isolation. The real core of what we need to bring back into the ring in this society is humanity, practical compassion and community. We have a very proud history of this on Merseyside and a proud history of fighting back for better conditions, that is why the Tories hate us so much. This is why they are starving the city of the vital funds it needs to operate its key services. This is also why the Tories are trying to devolve austerity to the local council,to cause desperation and disarray so we aren’t as likely to reject austerity and win. The only way we can keep fostering and encouraging our proud legacy of community is to talk face to face with people, in our roads, towns, the corner shop, in the pub etc. Finding out what the issues are, engaging in local democracy to make our presence felt when people are making decisions that will effect our livelihoods. If the councillors and politicians don’t feel our political will, then how will they act? Corporations and businesses will always lobby local councillors and MP’s. It is in the very nature of corporations to extend their influence. So who is going to exert and extend our influence? Something that I often ask myself is “if not I then who?” but in this case I pose the question to you… Who will save our NHS? If not us then who? Who will campaign to stop our public sector jobs going and our economy suffering? If not us then who? Who will highlight the absurdity of working people needing to visit food banks in modern Britain? If not us then who? Who will work to put an end to local poverty whilst businesses are buying up our city? If not us then who?
In terms of these four key areas, what we need is for people to get involved to start the fight back. I think during the last year, despite our best intentions, progress is very slow with only a small handful of dedicated (and very busy) people working to keep things going. What we really need are some sub-committees for these top four priorities, which then feed in their ideas and work back to public meetings and the steering committee. We also want the steering committee to grow with a proportionate and representative membership of those effected by austerity in our local area. So if you feel as though you either have the skill set, or the anger at what is happening just gives you the passion to get involved, please get in touch with us via email or via the website. If you have no experience or only have a bit of time, don’t worry, we will work with anyone who wants to get involved and work hand in hand to get all our projects off the ground (no one ever did anything without support from others in some way). Additionally if you can let us know your preference of the type of group you want to work on, that would be very useful. I look forward to working with you all going forward and doing our utmost best to understand what is happening, get angry and do something positive about it, to start the practicalities of a fairer alternative.
Merseyside People’s Assembly Secretary