Saturday, September 19, 2009

More from Bournemouth

This morning there were three consultative sessions – sessions run at conference to consult on possible direction for future policy development. I believe we’re the only major party which does that openly with all members able to take part. I went to the session on Quality of Life, a brave attempt to tease out those things which make a real difference to our quality of life and to see if they can be expressed in a way which will help all of our policies to enhance it. There was a lot of discussion, very passionately for and against government interventions in some things, and we could have spent at least as long again on it I’m sure. I look forward to seeing the second stage consultation next spring.

A session on participatory budgeting filled the lunch break, but there were some nice sandwiches, vegetable sticks and fruit to eat. Participatory budget setting is a relatively new idea which enables communities to decide priorities for funding in their area. It can be done with fairly small budgets right up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. A quote from a Brazilian man struck me: when talking about the difference between this and consultation he said “If it feels like we’ve made the decision it’s PB. If it feels like they’ve made the decision it’s consultation”. I certainly want to explore the possibilities in Stockton. It goes much further than anything we already do. What’s more, the speaker from the PB Unit talked about how it empowers LSPs because in order to make the money go further there needs to be partnership working and levering in of extra funds.

The major part of the afternoon agenda was on a policy paper on women’s issues. It’s an excellent paper on the whole, but some of the wording of the motion struck me as a bit sloppy. It produced an excellent debate and although I didn’t agree with all of the wording I could vote for the motion as a whole, confident that if we get to the position of being able to enact it into law the wording will be sorted out and in the meantime the drafters of the policy are working with some of the important bodies which need to be influenced in order to start the process of change voluntarily. That’s the value of bringing something to the forefront as a proposal for policy – outside bodies sit up and take notice.

And then on to a discussion on campaigning on the environment. Fiona Hall MEP spoke very well about how many jobs are up for grabs in the renewables and energy efficiency industries and the need to grab some of them for the UK. But she and Simon Hughes both made the point that unless we as councillors and individuals start to boost the market for the goods by granting the necessary planning permissions and by using the goods ourselves where possible and leading the way in the community the market won’t be there and the jobs won’t be created. Food for thought.

Conference rally was good in places – but I’m going to write a formal complaint about Sarah Teather’s “jokes” about individuals especially Mark Oaten. I just thought it was completely out of order.

Later tonight I’d a phone call to say that everyone was here and meeting up to discuss the amendment so at 10pm I was walking down the road to meet up with people I didn’t know. Only at conference!!

No comments: