Thursday, November 1, 2012

Welsh Labour Grassroots AGM 2012 - report & resolutions

Forty WLG members attended our annual conference and AGM in Cardiff last Saturday. Mark Drakeford began the day, addressing the theme of 'Austerity & Public Services' by setting out some thoughts as to what the left's alternative vision for public services might look like. Mark explored issues like co-production, pre-distribution, localism, social protection and equality in the course of a typically stimulating address, which kicked off a lively debate.

Next, a panel of WLG members who sit on Welsh councils shared their experiences and their perspectives on the problems of austerity. Siobhan Corria (Cardiff), Gareth Phillips (Bridgend) and Jessica Powell (Torfaen) are all new councillors - as is Nick Davies (Swansea), who chaired the session - while Mark Whitcutt (Newport) is a more experienced councillor and, as of May, a cabinet member. They talked, variously, about the challenges of defending their communities, protecting jobs and services, avoiding outsourcing and overcoming democratic deficits. The ensuing discussion focussed particularly on how socialist councillors in different authorities could work together, learn from each others' experience and develop a common approach to the cuts.

After lunch, Cllr. Julia Magill, Cardiff cabinet member for education, was the guest speaker for a joint session with the Socialist Educational Association. Julia answered questions on a number of issues - notably, the balance between enabling parental choice and upholding catchment areas to support neighbourhood schools.

Finally, we dealt with AGM business, taking officers' reports and carrying resolutions to increase membership subs; ensure greater engagement with the Labour Representation Committee; oppose moves to outsource local services, particularly in Cardiff; and adopt a statement of WLG 'principles and priorities' (see attached for the final text of all resolutions). The incoming steering committee is: Nick Davies (chair); Fran Griffiths & Maggie Simpson (vice chair - job-share); Darren Williams (secretary); Len Arthur (asst. secretary); David Ll. Davies (treasurer); Bob Clay; Uta Clay; Siobhan Corria; Bob Davies; Annabelle Harle; John Ivor Lewis; Jessica Powell; & Mark Turner. The auditors are Bill Harle & David Meurig Thomas.

For those who weren't able to attend Saturday's meeting, please renew your membership a.s.a.p. (unless you already have a standing order) by sending a cheque for £10/£5 to me at 33 Lansdowne Road, Cardiff CF5 1PQ - or email me about setting up a standing order.


This AGM:

·        notes that, although the WLG constitution and rules states that membership fees ‘will be reviewed at each Annual General Meeting’, the annual rates of £5 (waged) and £3 (unwaged/low-waged) have remained unchanged since WLG was formally launched in 2004;

·        recognises that the cost of running a growing, all-Wales organisation, along with the cumulative effects of inflation over the last eight years, mean that these rates now provide insufficient income to guarantee the financial stability of the group.

This AGM therefore agrees:

·        that annual membership rates should be increased, with immediate effect, to £10 (waged) and £5 (unwaged/low-waged); and

·        that all WLG members should regard payment of membership fees as a basic political responsibility and that those who persistently fail to keep up their payments will be regarded as having lapsed.


1) recognises the Labour Representation Committee as a key body in the LP where socialists organise and an important site in the struggle for working class solidarity across Britain;

2) notes that WLG is an affiliate of the LRC with the right to send delegates to its AGM and to submit resolutions and nominations to its national committee and to the editorial board of its journal, Labour Briefing;
3) resolves to co-ordinate the timing of future WLG AGMs so as to facilitate the submission of resolutions and nominations to the LRC AGM.


This AGM:

·        notes, with grave concern, the recent Cardiff Council cabinet paper considering new ways of providing council services, which identified outsourcing to the private sector as an option, despite the lack of any reference to outsourcing in the Cardiff Labour manifesto or the preceding policy process;

·        believes that the very inclusion of this as an option risks alienating staff, undermining the critical relationship with trade unions and diminishing the prospects of achieving the required service improvements and efficiencies;

·        therefore agrees that privatisation must be ruled out, in favour of applying the Welsh Government policy of pursuing collaboration between authorities, at regional and national level, as set out in the Local Government Minister’s ‘Collaborative Footprint’ document, to achieve critical mass within the public sector;

·        calls on WLG members who sit on Cardiff Council to work with trade unions and party activists to prevent the adoption of outsourcing, and on WLG members on other Welsh councils to take a similarly robust position in response to any privatisation proposals that may arise elsewhere;

·        also calls on Welsh Labour councillors to oppose all compulsory redundancies.


This AGM:

·        values the breadth and diversity of opinion and experience within WLG but also recognises the need for a common understanding of our political orientation and objectives as an organisation;

·        therefore agrees to adopt the statement of Principles and Priorities that has been circulated and discussed in recent months, as now amended, as a restatement of the basic political line that we have developed over the course of previous AGMs and an attempt to guide our work over the longer term (while recognising that many of the details may be overtaken by events).





We are socialists in the Labour Party

§  We do not accept that there is anything ‘natural’ or ‘inevitable’ about the injustice, insecurity and exploitation that characterise free-market capitalism.

§  We believe in the possibility of an alternative way of organising society that is more equal, democratic and sustainable, where the economy is driven by need, not profit, and people have control over own lives.

§  While we are ready to build alliances with socialists and progressives in other parties, and in no party, we are committed to working within Labour, as the only party potentially capable of representing the interests of ordinary people at the level of (British) government.

Labour government – at all levels – should be about transformation, not management

§  Winning elections is only ever a means to an end, not an end in itself.

§  Among other things, transformation should be about ensuring that our representatives reflect all sections of society and that women and ethnic minorities are not sidelined.

§  The worst Labour government is better than the best Tory government – but a Labour government that simply wants its turn to operate the status quo is hardly worth having.

§  Our responsibility is to do more than get Labour candidates elected and to defend their actions afterwards – we should scrutinise their work, hold them to account and actively lobby for the policies we think they should be carry out, as well as for greater openness and engagement with citizens.

§  As an organised left, we have to challenge those in Labour who subordinate social and political change to electoral expediency, or who deny the need for change altogether.

Austerity isn’t working anywhere

§  Cuts are a political choice, not an economic necessity.

§  Political and economic elites are applying the ‘shock doctrine’ – using the crisis to restructure their economies and societies in the interests of the rich.

§  The injustice of the cuts is exacerbated by the fact that they are falling disproportionately on women, Black people and the disabled.

§  Official Labour policy can be characterised as ‘austerity lite’ and represents an inadequate response to Con-Dem policies.

§  Credible alternative policies have been persuasively set out by trade unions, by Compass, by Mark Drakeford and others; we should do more to publicise and argue for these alternatives and to contribute our own ideas.

§  The anti-cuts movement needs a principled but constructive voice, which we could help to provide.

Our allegiance is to working people, the poor and the oppressed everywhere

§  We stand for international solidarity, not putting Britain (or Wales) first – although our efforts are centred in Wales, where our political roots lie.

§  We have a duty to defend those scapegoated by the right for the economic crisis – benefit claimants, economic migrants, asylum seekers – as well as those threatened by reactionary policies because of their gender, ethnicity, nationality, faith, sexuality or disability.

§  We should promote – and, where possible, organise – practical solidarity with people in Greece and elsewhere, who have been hardest hit by austerity.

§  We must continue to oppose imperialist military, economic and diplomatic policies – including the possibility of further wars in the Middle East – and support climate justice and debt cancellation.

Thanks to democratic devolution, and our political traditions, Wales has something worth defending

§  Welsh Labour’s record of strengthening public services and advancing equality is an example to promote at a British level.

§  We have to defend Welsh Labour’s achievements from austerity and from ‘innovations’ that risk undoing the good that has been done.

We’ll never have socialism without democracy

§  Labour hasn’t broken the anti-democratic habits it acquired over the past two decades.

§  Despite the warm words about accountability from the present leadership, there has been virtually no appreciable change in the ‘Partnership in Power’ regime; to this end, we defend party democracy, open policy debate and accountability at all levels.

§  We still have control-freakery over candidate selections – along with inadequate measures to ensure the selection of women and ethnic minority candidates – and accountability has been further weakened by the abolition of county parties.

§  Trade unions are potentially an important part of the alliance to secure greater democracy – but they can also be part of the problem, with most of them needing democratic reform too.

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