Monday, 27 December 2010

A Better Northampton

I have a deep love of where I live and I do get frustrated when it's not all I want it to be. I'd like less closed down retail units in the town centre, I'd like more people to have work and have the economic power to figure out the changes they would like in their lives and how to get them, I'd also like an environment where there was more chance that my daughters can have relationships with other human beings without some thinking that because they are women that they are lesser human beings. I'd like to bringing my son up in an environment where he does not have to walk past a lap dancing club every time he goes to play warhammer at gamesworkshop, past unclad female images of bill board proportions. The outside of the venue itself is regularly strewn with litter and rotting food which in addition to the graphic marketing tools scream out that our town is not family friendly, and doesn't have a pride in the way in the place we live or the way people can expect to be treated as citizens. My town would be a better town without it. Join with me and others in objecting to its licence.

There is until 11th January 2011 to get objections in.

Objections can be sent by post to:

The Licensing Officer
Northampton Borough Council
Borough Solicitors Division
The Guildhall
St Giles Square

Or by email to

What's the difference or making a difference

With thoughts turning to the new year and resolutions, it's worth considering what a citizens manifesto for the May elections would look like.

One key concept that hasn't enjoyed much discussion is a Northampton Living wage. This would involve the Council committing to pay staff a living wage rather than minimum wage and also committing to only contract with companies and organisations that paid staff a living wage.

It was a key policy platform that all candidates for the London mayoral elections fought on, however in the face of austerity is it still an aspiration that is deliverable or even able to capture the imagination of the electorate. With so many going into 2011 with uncertainty about the future maybe all people want to hope for is security as opposed to hoping for something better.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Change - anyone else up for it?

With those great guys at 38 degrees fundraising for this and the CWU folk mobilising against the proposals for the post offices and the post, it seems to be activism all round. However the proof of the pudding is in the change it creates or doesn’t as the case maybe. With the key change point being next May, perhaps it’s time to think ambitious in the an alternative coalition ... a coalition for change. Post-Xmas and new year those into electoral politics will be winding up for the target of success at Borough and District Council elections. For those of us that have been here before, in the past it has meant that the better organisation (historically Northampton Town Football Club Supporters Trust), canvassed the opinion of all candidates on their views about the Sixfields stadium. A while back there was the semblance of a coalition for change with the debate in the Guildhall organised by Northampton town football club supporters and Market Traders. Unfortunately, the ruling Lib Dem group declined to have a formal presence with some individual Lib Dem Councillors skulking in the audience. Perhaps it’s time to renew that energy and as citizens make our own manifesto for the town and then ask those putting up for office what they will buy into. What’s certain is that it won’t happen on it’s own but with more than one local community group thinking of hosting a hustings, IMHO should be something that the party pundits should be thinking of their responses to.
Who knows it may even change the stability of the Westminster coalition?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

In the fast lane with a whole load of crashes around

I was presenting a statement signed by about a dozen Black and minority ethnic groups and 80 individuals at the Northampton Borough Council Overview and Scrutiny Panel tonight. The statement was developed by Voice 4 Change with input from NREC and Council for Ethnic Minorities. The first shocking thing about the experience was the paucity of Councillors in attendance. Although the weather was dire it was traversable and clearly myself and several other members of the public had made the trip out. Having elected Councillors the least that they can do it to actually turn up and represent you or in this case listen to you.
The statement was not news. It was basically the articulation of the frustration that many Black groups have had with not achieving any resource from Northampton Borough Council. The Council’s position is that the applications made by the Black and minority ethnic organisations were simply not robust enough to get through the scoring framework. One could argue a very similar argument used by 21 Oxbridge Colleges here.
The other big news is about the cuts released by the County Council so far but so far very little detail exists on what this means for specific communities. It’s all very well stating that bus route subsidies will have to be re-negotiated but to look at this effectively with an equalities eye, it is really important to identify which ones we are actually talking about and which communities that they actually serve. In the mean time things that were seen as important for vulnerable members of the community now seem to be put on hold

Sunday, 7 November 2010


Growing up I can remember that this was important to me. My ideas were really influenced by living in India in the nineties. Here our ears are often attacked by statements such as “this country is going to the dogs” and reminiscence of a bygone age when summers we long and people kept their front doors unlocked. Outside of the UK it does seem that patriotism is much more in vogue than over here. In India and indeed on mainland Europe it seems that it’s far easier to love your country. I think part of the reason for this is that is seems owned by the political right and far right that makes those of us with a social conscience uncomfortable with sharing this space. However I really think that the time has come to take back this ground from the right.
Last year, my presence at a remembrance day parade in Wellingborough was commented on in a fascist blog locally. The writer intonated that I must have felt ill and sickened by participating in the very moving ceremony. They also I think you must be inhumane to not feel for the men and women who are the operational arm of British foreign policy whether you agree with the policy or not. Those that are killed and injured maimed and slaughtered in the service of their country deserve our respect and support. If it is Britishness that they are fighting for, I believe that the Britishness that we should be promoting is one of respect of humanity and respect for fairness.

Monday, 1 November 2010

When you are up everyone wants to know you ... its a different story when things aren't going too well. When Obama won, everyone wanted to be associated with his success whatever the political spectrum. The Tories developed Big Society and the Labour Party tried to up their game on community organising . Obama's experience is unique and I am not sure could eve be replicated in the UK. I'm off the the UNISON community service group conference tomorrow where I think most will be insecure about their futures. The real news I think will be what position UK politicians adopt after the mid term elections. Is this something that they are committed to or do they view this as some other easy cutting fodders?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Coming out in favour of ...

The Labour leadership contest has been significantly lack lustre to date but today Andy Burnham's battle bus rolled into town at the Earl Spencer White Water Rafting Centre and raised the game significantly with a message of "Big Ideas" such as a National Care Service and a central core of the need to fight for the principle of social justice in our country and across the world.

As part of the ethos of his campaign much was stated about the Labour Party needing to reclaim its ground as the Peoples party and taking back the party from a political elite.
With the likes of Pete Jenner acknowledging Andy's potential in his comments about the Labour Party needing to stop spinning and start inspiring, Andy really seems to be the passion in this contest with his feet firmly on the ground.

I'm encouraging people to back Andy as the one that can
  • really relate to people on the street
  • define the priorities that bring Labour back home to where it belongs on the side of the vulnerable and the voiceless
  • demonstrate that he has the ethics that have the values of social justice at his heart
  • have the courage to state the "bleedin' obvious" in respect of his sense of right and wrong
With many thinking that one or other of the Millibands has got it in the bag ... Andy gives Labour Party members a chance to vote for real change so sign up to support his campaign here.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Getting the change we need

It certainly has been eventful since the election in May and still can't quite work out what's going to change next. News comes this morning of proposals to cut milk for children. Something that takes many of us back decades in terms of campaigning against cuts in public services.

In Northamptonshire, first proposals about cuts in transport to over 16's with learning difficulties and then news that the County Council is reconsidering it's decision following Special Need Involving Parents (SNIP) higlighted the potential of the decision being discrimination against young people with disabilities and their carers.

It does seem for those of us that want to challenge the reduction in spending on public services we do need to know who are friends are and how to work together with others so we do not get services picked off one by one. Certainly the strategy of using Equality Impact Assessment maybe one that will disappear as legislation changes.

So all the more welcome are plans for a one day workshop hosted by Northampton Quakers under the banner of Turning the Tide. The workshop seeks to bring together active campaigners from a variety of organisations to share information and resources for effective campaigning.

It will be held on Saturday 13th November between 10am and 4pm at the Freinds Meeting House, Wellington Street, Northampton NN1 3AS (opposite Marks and Spencers side entrance). To register for the limited spaces at this event, contact Julia Bush on

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Northampton and austerity

Surprised to see David Kennedy in the Guardian discussing austerity in local government. The question going through my mind is whether it is really possible for doing more with less. I believe it is possible to change the way services are delivered to provide something better for a large volume of people with a certain set of needs but event that change costs money in the short term. It is certainly true that local government still doesn't know the actual amount of money that will be delivered or even how much they can generate themselves. However what is really clear is the future is going to be brutal in particular for those who are disadvantaged with multiple needs having to be addressed.

For those of us in the third sector there is even more uncertainty. For a government which talked about the opportunity of "Big Society" what's on offer seems to be considerably less than that. Ken Clarke yesterday suggested that third sector organisations could help offenders find jobs and be paid piecemeal only if an offender found work. In this economic climate certainly not a proposal that would survive the dragons den.

In the meantime, the County Council has released it's third sector commissioning strategy which simply isn't clear enough about what it is they we actually commission. For smaller groups the prospect of a small grants scheme is to be welcomed bringing a more open process to almost the grace and favour approach for doing small scale short pieces of work. Already this year with the demise of Ability Northants, it's no wonder that many in the sector are sceptical about commissioning given that local groups partnering together don't seem to be winning the goods. It seems that there will be a bit or a lot of a cull in the days ahead,

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Cruising for a bruising from the low life that complain about me not posting enough, but the need is to stick my head over the parapet.

I am particularly motivated by the news that Inspiration FM go live on thier new community radio station with recently granted license in the coming month.

The Inspiration crew are a vital part of community life in our town and the implementation of the license have been a long time coming and once it get's here I know that there are so many that are going to appreciate it

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Hope not Hate campaiging in the sun

It's been a fantastic morning delivering leaflets with more unexpected faces from across the area coming out to help. Thanks so much to anyone who came along. We achieved far more than I expected on today. I'm hoping that this has been the case across the country but especially in Barking.

Philosophy Football have just released a new T-shirt which I think will make anyone look fetching in the Springtime weather. There's even music to go with it. :-)

A13 The Road from Cable Street to Barking

The A13 starts in Whitechapel, just round the corner from Cable Street where Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts were stopped in 1936. Travelling east to the Essex coast it passes by Barking and through Dagenham where the Hope not Hate campaign are seeking to stop Nick Griffin and the BNP in 2010. SPECIAL CAMPAIGN PRICE JUST £14.99. Philosophy Football's A13 shirt will help raise valuable funds for Hope not Hate in Barking, wherever you live it wear in support.

Available from Philosophy Football

After having the local BNP passing judgement on the neck lines of my clothing recently perhaps even they will appreciate it.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Mike Prescod ... The Peoples Man

On Monday Mike Prescod died. Since then we have all been trying to come to terms with it. Mike had an immense influence on the Northamptonshire Voluntary and community Sector and local Northamptonshire politics. His contribution to public life included being the first Black mayor of Wellingborough, being the first Black chair of Northamptonshire Probation Service, but much, much more than that he supported and mentored so many of us into the work and activism that we do now.

My friend Roopa said looking back at the years she spent in the area,

"Mike's presence was there, guiding us, teaching us, watching over us and giving us a kick up the backside if it was ever needed! WE are Mike's legacy. We'll carry on fighting the cause, often with our backs against the wall but always strong together. Mike made sure of that. He WILL rest in peace as he's done his bit and it's time for us to carry on with him always in our hearts."

So what did this man from Barbados have that enabled him to command respect from such a wide variety of people across his adopted town and county? Mike was passionate about people, was straight talking and it was these qualities that won him friends where ever he went. He knew a lot from just immersing himself in the community events and activities in Wellingborough and across the County.

Condolences to Mikes's wife and family. Mike Prescod, Rest in Peace.

For those who would like to attend his funeral, it will be Friday 5th March at 1pm at the United Reformed Church on the High Street in Wellingborough.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

New politics for a new year

People have been asking me about life after the Labour Party. Craig asked whether I was in the wilderness ...with the antics of some ex-ministers last week it seems that I’ve left the wilderness for something more fertile.

There seems to be a profusion of political initiatives outside of party politics. The one that seems to be buzzing with the ballot action is power2010 where there seems to be interest across the political spectrum. As ever my passion is the democracy so do go out and vote and try and swing this campaign to a progressive agenda.
With 38 degrees that agenda seems far more left rooted but the campaign issues seem to be selected by a self selected team with little grassroots input.
My favoured campaign is still a local Citizens campaign like this. Anyone want to join in a bit of political groundbreaking with a Northampton Citizens campaign .. get in touch