Speaker

The meeting opened with an address by Debbie Abrahams MP.  She gave us a brief but comprehensive summary of the difficulties we all see everywhere, every day, and tied them firmly to the Austerity policies introduced and implemented ruthlessly by the Coalition and Tory governments since 2010.  Widening inequality is THE biggest issue of our times, she said, greater here than elsewhere in Europe and in the OECD.  Income disparities are worse for the poor, with children and women losing out disproportionately, with impact on reducing growth too.  None of these matters were recognised in the Chancellor’s Spring statement, though they had all been foreseen by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.  England has become the country of poor pay, job insecurity and the ‘self employed’, (most earning less than a living wage).  Debt was flat-lining as a whole, but has increased in the poorest of the population.  Education should be about preparing children for life, not just as workers and social security should provide for those out of work, children, the elderly and those who have become sick and disabled; with £34 billiion cuts already and more to come, the policy was an absolute failure.

The largest wealth determinants are land and property, and as fewer people own these, and their holdings have increased, they have led to further increased generational and power inequalities – the business of who makes the decisions and how.  Add to these factors, lower investment and a shift in funds from poorer to wealthier areas, we now have differences reminiscent of Victorian times.  Relating funding to the age profile, England is now below the EU average, public spending is down and life expectation down too (Marmot June and Dec 2017), whilst the state pension age has risen.  In England, 300,000 more pensioners are in poverty than in 2010, 4 million children in poverty are in working households, with CPAG estimating 900,000 are under 5 years.  3.7 million disabled people have had social service cuts since the Health and Social Security Act (2012), with twice as many now living in poverty.  Although 4 million disabled people want to work, only 25,000 have found paid employment.  Disabled access to a full public life, employment and other opportunities continues to be poor or absent contradicting the manifesto mantra, ‘Nothing about me, without me’.  This is a catalogue of failure at the most basic levels.  She ended by suggesting we need a new social contract, a Beveridge for our times.

Debbie was thanked for her contribution.

*

Action points in BOLD

Agenda with apologies

Minutes of the 2017 Annual General Meeting

Accepted by Vivien Giladi and seconded by Mike Roberts

Elections

Alex Scott-Samuel as Chair and Jean Hardiman Smith as Secretary had been re-elected unopposed

Tom Fitzgerald was re-elected as Treasurer

Two auditors were appointed, Councillor Mark Ladbrooke, nominated by Tom Fitzgerald and seconded by Helen Cranage, and James Gill, self nominated and seconded by Mike Roberts.

A new position of Minutes Secretary was suggested by Jean Hardiman Smith and Judith Varley was proposed  by Vivien Giladi, seconded by Helen Cranage

Twenty new Central Council  members had been elected. Several branch AGMs had been held shortly before the Central Council AGM.  This had led to confusion as some branch Central Council delegates were also present on the national Central Council list of candidates for election.

Vivien Walsh was thanked for her work as election scrutineer and for her timely report.  The second scrutineer’s report was not yet available.  The election results were accepted and the officers needed to see the second scrutineer’s report.  Mike Roberts suggested outstanding issues should be examined by the officers to give a rapid response, with confidentiality for any additional areas of concern.

Jean Hardiman Smith apologised that her report was still as notes currently.

Constitutional amendments

It had been proposed and agreed at an earlier CC meeting that branch AGMs should have at least 4 weeks notice given, and ordinary branch meetings 2 weeks. John Lipetz proposed a further amendment – that in addition to this, branch AGMs should be held well before the national AGM. Further debate led to agreement that branch elections should be concluded no less than 3 and no more than 12 weeks prior to the national Central Council ballot being circulated so that branch delegates already on Central Council did not contest national places.  A clarifying statement was added to the effect that anyone succeeding in a branch election to Central Council will not be eligible to stand in the national election in that cycle.

Martin Rathfelder had proposed that SHA should in future have 2 rather than 4 vice chairs and they should have honorary officer status.  Andy Thompson was in favour of keeping 4.  Caroline Bedale suggested up to 4 vice chairs be retained in order to support special areas of work and to prepare reports for the AGM. The amendment was withdrawn.

Venues

It was agreed that Martin should have 3 weeks advance notice of any proposed change of dates/venues for either Central Council or AGM

Women’s Group

With more women amongst Central Council delegates, a Women’s Group with a core of 3 CC members should be inaugurated, and it would need to meet to be effective.  Alison Scouller covered maternity issues and she commented that in practice it was difficult to arrange meetings since everyone was so busy.

Grievance procedure

Mark Ladbrooke said SHA needed a grievance policy, perhaps based on that of the Labour Party.  Grievance issues should not be raised at the AGM. (NB SHA does have a a grievance procedure)

Annual Report

Martin commented that membership was increasing substantially (now provisionally 964) and new branches were being created – all welcome developments, although the distribution of branches was concentrated in safe Labour areas.  Could all members think about recruiting members in neighbouring Tory areas?

Tony Beddow had long thought a review of SHA organisation was overdue considering the skills, competences, gaps in expertise etc amongst Central Council delegates, and proposed some professional backup working with Martin.  (???Mark Appleby) suggested we should welcome more disabled members recognising that they might need further support, financial and other to participate.  Tony Jewell commented that his locale, Fenland, was large and diffuse and it was difficult to organise a local group – suggestions as to how this could be done and how many people were needed to create a viable branch etc.. would be welcome.  SHA should try to attract more young (defined as under 27) and BAME members.  In general, more structure was needed to help new members and more local  activities organised, but in general, local groups giving opportunities for members to meet, discuss, connect, pick up ideas for campaigns etc.. were all beneficial.   Martin said national funds were available to pay for meeting rooms for branch meetings.  Organisational issues to be on the next Central Council agenda

Tony Beddow said that affiliation costs to the Welsh Labour Party had risen 4-fold from £60 – this was on the basis that SHA was equivalent to a Union and had at least 1000 members.  This needs to be taken up at national level.  Martin has raised the issue of affiliation costs previously and will take it up with the Democracy Review.

Tony Jewell suggested we could gift aid subscriptions to the David Stark Murray Trust, think in terms of legacies and investigate and revive it – all and Martin to do.

Caroline Bedale wanted information about local branch activities and Martin said he would organise a page for each branch on the website for this purpose.

Affiliations

Affiliation to other organisations were agreed as follows:  The Labour Party, Medact, James Lind Alliance (supports evidence based medicine), Smoke Free Action, KONP, Health Campaigns Together (HCT), Equality Trust, and European Public Health Alliance.  New NHS Alliance was disaffiliated although Brian Fisher, a NNA officer, spoke in its support.   Vivien Giladi stated that HCT was moving towards building solid links with Trade Unions.  Tony O’Sullivan said KONP groups were maximising working together and had a new website. A London demonstration for the 70th birthday of the NHS on 30 June was planned and they were working on the Naylor Report and Virgin Healthcare.

Resolutions:

1  Caroline Walsh, represented at the meeting by Martin, was involved in the Handbook on the Equality Act.  The Act applied to all organisations including the SHA.  It should be easier for people to participate, perhaps electronically.  This was welcomed, we would commend it to the Labour Party and make a financial contribution to effecting it.  Meetings might be streamlined – the Manchester youth group might help with this. 

This Association welcomes the legal handbook “Equality Act 2010 (disability) and the Labour Party” produced by the Disability Equality Act Labour group. The hard work that has gone into this document by disabled members and experts in the field are to be commended. We commend the handbook to the Labour Party and call for it to be accepted, in its entirety, as official Party guidance. We agree to make a donation of £50 towards a print run to enable the group to make the handbook available at Party events including conference.

The resolution was carried.

Future meetings

Our meetings need to move around the country, and care taken to review dates we have already and to avoid clashes with other meetings

Policy discussions

Brian Fisher reported on the work with the Labour shadow health team.  A small group had tackled Primary Care initially, specifically the independent status of GPs, the Out of Hours situation, Social Care and how to integrate it.  They aimed to develop a brief leaflet, 3 pp in soundbite sentences.  The front bench want expertise, not necessarily from the SHA or Labour Party members.  Jacky Davis asked how we know group recruits agree with our views.  Brian stressed that confidentiality was crucial throughout and that policy was not a ‘silo’ situation – housing, education, socio-economic factors all contributed.  The people to speak on other topics had not been decided, but the numbers must be small and security ‘tight’.  Mental health was to be covered next

Central Council meeting

The AGM was followed by a brief Central Council meeting at which four vice chairs were elected. Two women – Alison Scouller and Diane Jones – were nominated and elected unopposed. X men were nominated, and Tony Beddow and Andy Thompson were elected.

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