Roade: Double the school, double the problems?

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As it was reported here: http://www.northampton-news-hp.co.uk/8203-Plans-double-size-Roade-Primary-School-210/story-25728510-detail/story.html#ixzz3MD3eCqBX Roade School is going to double in size from 210 places to 420.

I attended Roade School from 1995-2000 but since then I have had little to do with it outside of attending a planning meeting to get a crossing put outside the shop, so I am not the most knowledgeable on the current state of the school nor its facilities.

However there are some concerns that I have about this development, the roads not only outside the primary school but in the wider infrastructure of Roade already face problems in the morning and evenings, just how much stress are these extra places going to put onto the roads?

The development is of course happening because Roade it self is nearly doubling in size with various housing developments completed or about to commence, which means more people, more cars and more kids.

This is further evident in the fact a large chunk of the money is coming from a Section 106 developer contribution, which for those that don’t know mean developers who are going to build in the area have to provide money to fund a certain project, in this case expanding the school.

While it is of course obvious that if Roade is going to grow then our infrastructure needs to grow with it, there are still pressing concerns that need to be addressed before the building of new houses and more stress is added to the road network.

We need an improvement to the roads in the area, the a508 is struggling to cope with the present traffic, and this is going to add further stress alongside the houses that are being built. That being the case any developers first concern should be sorting out the road network before being able to add more cars to the mix.

On top of this nothing has emerged to replace the services we have lost over the last five to ten years, with Roade expanding we still lack amenities we once enjoyed, which not only enrich our community, they provide valuable job opportunities.

I have been contacted by numerous parents who have children that attend Roade Primary and they have expressed concerns that the vital Bumblee Bees service currently housed at the school is going to be ended due to the development, as there will be a lack of room.

This means that they are doubling the school, while cutting another vital service from the area! Which makes me think, just how are the school going to afford the extra staffing costs and other stresses which this is going to cause?

Under no circumstances should the school be cutting away a vital service to the village, that is lets not forget well used, for any reason what so ever. Those involved and the wider community should not only come together to support this service, we should be looking at how we can ensure its survival.

Under the Localism Act 2011 local communities have certain powers which they can use to take control of their areas, and we should be exploring how we can do this to ensure whatever happens to this village, is in the benefit of the people who live in it. (Information on the Localism Act can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/5959/1896534.pdf)

Lets take our community back!

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You wait ages for a bus, then ten come along all at once…

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Just how long are we going to have to suffer because of an ill planned and ill equipped facility? The bus station just does not work, all it takes is one small mistake to happen somewhere, anywhere along a single bus route and then all hell breaks loose.

The council need to act because as it stands the current bus station just isn’t big enough for our bus service. Yes it looks great, the old one hadn’t been updated in years but if it doesn’t actually function properly it could look like the Mona Lisa, for all its worth.

Every week now we are having to put up with long delays, the traffic system grinding to a halt and a massive build up of people on the drapery. All of these things could and should have been avoided when the public first started telling the council about them before the station was even built.

The council steamed ahead of course, and now we are left with a situation where taking a bus ride into town is a gamble, you do not know how long it will take, or what time it will take to get back and this is just not on.

The sooner the council owns up to its mistake the sooner it can put it right, because I for one have had enough of the excuses. It seems everything is always to blame except the bus station it self, just how stupid are we suppose to be?

Regardless of what excuse we are given this week the simple fact is the bus station is not big enough for our bus service, that is all there is to it. It was bad planning and until they put their hands up in the air and admit their mistakes it is unlikely the problem is going to get fixed.

What needs to happen is they need to build a second bus station preferably near the train station which can service national express coaches as well as alleviate the amount of buses using Northgate.

A free shuttle bus should run between the two stations so elderly and vulnerable can get easily into town, as well as those entering by train because as it stands we are one accident or traffic mistake away from gridlock.

Or as the public demand over the old site suggests they build a new bus station on top of the old one, because it may have been ugly and in need of a new lick of paint but it did the job, which is more than can be said for Northgate.

Roade, no jobs, no future?

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What has happened to Roade? When I was a child growing up here the majority of people not only lived here, they worked here too, yet by the time I reached working age there was next to no job opportunities.

My grandparents worked in the Factory, my mum and stepdad worked at Walkerpack and much more than providing a stable source of employment for Roade residents, these places were important for creating a sense of community and belonging.

In the coming years Roade is going to almost double in size, yet where will these people work? Roade to me is much more than just an ideal commuting location, it is a community and a community I love.

There is nothing wrong with commuting to work but having to do so means we have less disposable income, as a huge percentage of our pay gets spent on getting to and from work, on buses and on petrol.

Lets face it now all these people moving here, how many will be working within the community? What job opportunities are there for the next generation of Roade residents? The answer to both is of course very few and very little.

You only need to have lived here a relatively short time to see sources of employment for Roade residents diminish, and it is such a shame because with the loss of these places a little bit of Roade is lost with them.

It is time the council both parish and district begin looking at how they can provide job opportunities not only for those who currently live here but for the future too.

For a long time now I have witnessed the decline of the village I love, and I find it sad when I walk around the village and see what we have lost. Roade is our village, it is our community and I do not want to lose another piece of Roade, we need to fight tooth and nail so the council doesn’t forget about us, so that Roade is not left behind!

Doing conferences differently

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Our conference has been and gone, but our commitment to a new kind of politics should be as strong as the fire from whence it came. It is great we have made it to our one year mark but the journey we set out on is far from complete, the masterpiece we are carving out on the political landscape still needs plenty of chiseling.

Ideally it will never be finished as the party adapts and changes along with the rest of society. We need to adapt to the challenges we face, discard what is useless while promoting that which is useful.

Politics needs to be open, it needs to be inclusive but most importantly, it shouldn’t feel like a chore. I could only attend Sunday and after being there for the first hour I felt like I wanted to walk out. It felt like a big waste of my time, and it shouldn’t be that way.

So how can we improve on our conference format? Where can we take our inspiration from? Podemos regardless of their politics held their conference in a football stadium with 20k people, with many more taking part online. We are calling for delegate conferences at 2000 members, is that the sum of our ambition and inventiveness?

We can implement these four things to improve our conferences:

  1. Conference should signal the start of a voting period which takes place online and via post.
  2. Greater use of social media i.e tweeting and facebook discussions so there is online participation
  3. Skype or video conference software in use to allow those watching online a way to interact with the conference
  4. A mechanism for internal referendums needs to come into existence

Conference should be where we have discussions, debates, workshops – a place to feel plugged into the wider LU machine. Debates it seems were rushed at times, large swathes of votes get pushed off the agenda. How we are doing things now is not only impractical in this day and age, it isn’t working.

If we were to have two day conferences which used multiple rooms and fulfilled multiple purposes, we could not only accomplish more, we would have a better experience.

As it stands conference exists for those with the funds, time and capability to participate. This creates less internal democracy, where we have the tyranny of the attendee and it just doesn’t have to be that way in the 21st century.

We are really starting to utilisize modern techniques of media, the website is coming on and the Facebook page is doing great. The more effective and inclusive we are at this during conference, the more people we can include in our debates.

This could be something as simple as a few words describing the topic we are currently discussing, or detailing a specific workshop. To more time consumed infographs, detailed information, pictures and videos.

The more people we can engage in our debates, whether they are members or not – the better they will be and to this end we should utilise video conferencing software. We have less spare time, but more things to do – we are overworked and should have the luxury of engaging with politics how we choose.

If you suffer from anxiety the conference atmosphere might not be for you, but why should you then be excluded from having a voice? If you are a single mother working two jobs, why should you then be excluded from having a voice? If you cannot get to the conference without physical support and are unable to get it, why then should you be excluded from having a political voice?

We have a great part in our constitution which allows us to have e-conferences on specific issues, this is great and needs to be expanded so there is a mechanism for members to call party-wide referendums.

This will ensure that if an important event takes place, we can react to it quickly and with the backing of the majority of the party. The greater power the membership can have over the decision making process, and more importantly the easier it is for us to wield that power, the more inclined we will be to do so.

We need to digest our politics how we digest everything else in the 21st century, that is at our convenience and quickly. Political participation needs to be brought dragging and screaming into the 21st century, and if we are to be doing politics differently, we need to be doing it with more than just words.

Left Unity Northampton: Yearly report

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Our year anniversary approaches and what a year it has been! A massive thank you is in order to everyone that has supported us this far. We are new to the Northampton political scene but we have been at its forefront, and we may still be finding our feet but it is safe to say we have had an impact.

In this article I will briefly mention some of the great things we have took part in, and how we are running as a branch of Left Unity, so that we can reflect on how far we have come and look at where we may be heading. Strictly speaking we have been running for over a year but we became a political party in November, some of the things mentioned will have took place beforehand.

We really hit the ground running in Northampton and things are really coming together and it just wouldn’t of been possible without the hard work and dedication of our members, approaching everything with enthusiasm and dedication week after week and while it has not all been plain sailing it is safe to say we have come along way.

The article shall be split into three sections, branch development, local and national as these are the three main areas of interest. Before I start however I think Bianca Todd deserves a massive shout out for all the hard work she has put in to Northampton branch and representing us on a national side as well, she has worked tirelessly for little reward this past year and a bit, so thank you Bianca!

Branch

Our branch meets on a weekly basis at the same place and on the same time, 7pm Cafe Del Sol and every Wednesday. It took us a while to find this format but it works well for us, as we get to keep each other up to date with any developments, react quickly to anything and can discuss what we would like to do, the majority of these meetings are more like a coffee with friends than a political party meeting.

Our meetings started off being less frequent and in the back room of a pub, which is all well and good if like me you enjoy a drink but we realised that this was not the most inviting of places for non-members, which led us to the cafe and it is working better.

We have been wrestling with how to make our meetings more inclusive and accessible, and to this end we have set up a Skype account. We text our members when ever we are meeting, on top of the standard e-mail, as well as provide lifts for people if getting there is a problem or the weather is a bit rubbish.

The most interesting thing for me at least, is we are not sticking to a rigid model, we are adapting as we grow, we are adapting as people come and join in, we are not looking for definite answers but are trying to shape our branch around the realities we are facing at any time, so if I had to sum it up in one word, I think our branch development has been flexible.

All in all we seem to have fell into a good groove, attendance figures go up and down as people are unable to attend every week, our rationale behind weekly meetings however is that if you go to a martial art class or a night class it will be every week.

There are some new and interesting developments coming out, we want to have a meeting in the day, as we believe night time meetings are excluding certain groups (single mothers), and we want to carry out a “ttt” – tea, toast and talk to remedy that.

On top of all this we also have a student society, the first in the country and this has helped give us a little bit of a headway into the student union, it has provided us with some funds which we sorely needed and means our branch is supported by a university contingent.

Local

Each local area is different so a little bit of info on shoe town needs to be said, Northampton doesn’t have any strong left wing groups, meaning there is a big gap for a political party like Left Unity to fill and we have been busy trying to fill it. We are very big on localism in Northampton and are doing everything we can to lay the foundations for a strong and active left wing political movement within the town.

We have taken part in national protests but instead of heading to the big ones, we have held our own little ones, we have taken part in local campaigns and will be standing a few local councillors, as well as supporting strikers as when needed. We have regularly featured in the local rags and Bianca now has her very own blog on one of their websites.

In terms of actions, we have led some, while taking part in others. We organised the national Atos Demo’s I and II, as well as #BootOutBoots. We organised the 999 March for the NHS Northampton leg (with help from Left Unity Milton Keynes). We also held our own homesnotspikes protest against a shop that uses them in our town. We also took part in the Bedroom Tax Sleepout and the bedroom tax demo.

On top of that we have been active with the People’s Assembly and Reclaim NHS, as well as supporting the Fbu strikes, the pathologists #lockedout and national strike action. Finally we supported the campaign for independent pcc and had a LU stall at freshers fair, these are the traditional work we have engaged in with the town and as you can see we have been fairly busy.

I’m pretty certain there are things I have forgotten as well, It seems that a month doesn’t go by where we haven’t took part in some form of local action or held some event.

We have been trying to think of more fun and inventive ways to engage the town and carry out politics in a new and exciting way, one of our most successful actions being a thing called BooksWithBenefits. We handed out free books to the public, while chatting to them about politics and publicised anti-cuts meetings while doing so.

We have took the approach locally to carry out solidarity actions with those fighting cuts, one of these was going around the town and handing out food to some of our homeless people, as we feel we should not be talking about ourselves about these issues but be on the streets where it matters most.

Finally we have begun a monthly speakerscafe, where we invite people to come and have a chat with us one week about a certain topic and depending on the issue being raised can be fairly successful.

National

It is a wonder with how busy we are at a local level how we have any time to do the same nationally, and again Bianca has been tireless on this front. I don’t think a month has gone by where she hasn’t had to travel to this place or that, and a day hasn’t gone by where she hasn’t had to either give an interview over the phone or speak to this person or that.

This is on top of regular attendance to the standard NC and EC meetings, so on a national front Bianca has been our main champion but she hasn’t been our only one! Jade who recently moved to Abu Dhabi was an integral member of the womans caucus, while I was instrumental in the formation of the youth caucus. We have also taken part in a few of the national rallies in London, as well as People’s Assembly meetings.

Jade travelled to My Belly Is Mine demo and various woman caucus’s meetings, as well as representing them on the NC and EC, with the great work she was doing it was a loss for us when she left to pastures anew. We travelled to support the Birmingham Occupation, where Bianca gave a talk, which can be found online.

We also attended the Homes Not Spikes protest outside of Tesco, which successful saw the removal of the spikes. On top of this we have attended various festivals around the country, and Bianca got down to support the Focus15 Mothers. On top of organising the 999 March in Northampton, we met them in London and carried the NHS banner through central London.

We attended conference, founding and 1 year on and are always keeping an eye out for new national protests which grab our attention, but local comes first.

Looking to the future….

We are always learning and adapting to how we can change and grow to be more inclusive and how we can improve the party, the movement and our branch. Looking for new ideas and new opportunities, I think the over riding philosophy of the branch is solidarity not charity, in that we want to help people who are struggling with their lives and believe fundamentally that this is how the movement will grow in our town and beyond.

We have set up a Skype account so people unable to attend our meetings and events can take part, this has been a big hit with parents unable to get child care and has allowed greater level of participation.

We still have quite a lot of areas of improvement, and are standing a few councillors in the local elections but all in all it has been a positive year, and if we continue like we have been doing this next one will be to. Things are coming together slowly, but steadily.

Thanks once again for everyone that has made it possible, lets make 2015 be our year. We are also looking to support our comrades on a regional level in any way possible, so that we can have a strong and active region of friends and comrades.