“Find three causes and focus on those”

…because chances are one of them will have a magazine about it.

Me quoting Moya Lothian-McLean quoting author Sarah Woolley in my previous blogpost. I had to go into town today (i.e. the centre of Cambridge) and picked up some reading material to last a month, including a couple from this selection:

Above – Easter holiday reading materials

  1. Tramways and Urban Transit Magazine – one for Cambridge Connect followers
  2. Buses Magazine – one for Cambridge Area Bus Users Group followers – which reminds me, we could do with a face-to-face gathering (even if outdoors) post-elections
  3. Modern Railways magazine – I used to buy this regularly in my commuting days on the grounds I wanted to see what my £5,000 annual season ticket was spent on
  4. CamCycle magazine – on all things new infrastructure and cycling in and around Cambridge
  5. Walk, Talk, Think– Living Streets magazine – digitised editions here, for the national campaign for improved pedestrian infrastructure. Pavements, walkways, barrier removal etc.

Also, the post-exertional malaise (fatigue) knocked me out for the rest of the day when I returned.

Left: Me with no hair – and fatigue-haunted eye shadows after only a couple of hours in town. It’ll probably take until tomorrow evening to fully recover, followed the next day at Addenbrooke’s for my weekly cardio rehabilitation exercise workshop. Balancing the need to exercise with trying to manage fatigue is tricky at the best of times. And not just for me – the over-stretched and under-funded NHS staff who support me too.

Sometimes you can buy back issues from https://www.magazine.co.uk/ without having to subscribe to particular organisations – important if like me you are on a low income and there are no concessionary rates. Some of you may be familiar with the old/new Left Book Club – their older, second hand copies dating from around World War II being available from Abe books.

I think it’s a bit of a shame that our magazine and pamphlet ecosystem isn’t as vibrant as it once was. I remember 20 years ago living in Brighton at University (of Sussex – days perhaps best forgotten on my part) ploughing through the weekly protest leaflets in the Brighton Peace and Environment Centre where I volunteered at their information centre – essentially running a small internet cafe next to the Komedia on Gardner Street. Some of you may remember Schnews.

The similarities between that and The Grapevine in Cambridge in the late 1970s (which I wrote about on Lost Cambridge here) are striking. It was only when I got to Brighton in 1999 that I learnt very quickly just how ‘depoliticised’ my entire education had been – something that still grates to this day. Combined with Section 28 and weekly church-going, coming to the conclusion that not just me but that our generation was (paradoxically) educated to become ignorant/unaware of so many important things about the world and people around is again is a chip on my metaphorical shoulder that will never go.

“Who/what are your community bloggers and social media pages and what to do they cover?”

Some of them could be local councillors – like Cllr Sam Davies MBE (Ind – Queen Edith’s) in South Cambridge. In East Cambridge there’s a Cherry Hinton News Group FB page. On the other side of the airport there’s the Abbey People CIO. In the north of the city there is the Arbury Community Centre & Association. Others are neighbourhood-based, like the South Newnham Forum in west Cambridge. And finally there will be some that are supported in the short-medium term through developer contributions, such as the Clay Farm Centre.

Noticeboards and railings

I remain convinced that our public sector institutions need to organise a plan on how to make best use of community notice boards – only there are a host of things that should be publicised on such boards that are not. Such as invitations to become members of NHS trusts – in particular before elections to governing bodies are due to happen.

Above – community notice boards in convenience food shops/supermarkets, to health facilities.

My take? Every major supermarket that has a community notice board should have posters on the essential public service notices – such as election dates.

And bus stops. Why isn’t there anything at places where people are waiting?

Above – me moaning in 2016. After a while you just give up.

In the years I’ve been trailing local democracy, local government, and local public service delivery in and around Cambridge, it has become more clear to me that the fragmented structure & systems create more work unnecessarily for politicians, officials, campaigners, and residents alike. And for what? The problem is that such things are not the issues that get people motivated and active. In jest I sometimes say only three people in my old civil service department knew about local government finance. One passed away, another moved to the private sector, and I’ve forgotten what it was all about in the first place. Paraphrasing the Schlewsig-Holstein question. (Which due to my reading of that historical period I’m strangely familiar with. A bit like the playground myth of Antidisestablishmentarian being the longest word in the dictionary – historian John Pollard explaining that one to me about 20 years ago when I was a postgraduate student at Anglia Ruskin University, only to find out a few years ago we had protests on Parker’s Piece about that very thing in its proper context (Welsh Church Bill 1913)!)

Anyway, I digress.

Back to local issues and picking the small few. Such as these things being left around the place.

…above – e-scooters blocking pavements in South Cambridge – even though the firm has racks available in other cities…

…such as Stockholm in Sweden as mentioned here

Why hasn’t Cambridge got them as part of the agreement to license them in our city?

In the longer term – our cost of living crisis means we cannot rely on volunteers to do some of the essential public service scrutiny functions. Universal Basic Income could help deal with this.

School governors? Hospital trust governors? Residents’ Association committee members? Local charity trustees? One thing I’ve found is that entire groups of people are unable to take part because amongst other things, they cannot afford to take the time off to carry out the roles required. This could be due to things like very low wages, through to punitive measures from DWP on job-hunting.

For years I wondered why some forms of volunteering did not result in the opposite – doubling or trebling the social security payments for people who wanted to do something constructive rather than going through a soul-destroying job-hunting process that should have been overhauled ****ages ago**** to enable employers to find the people with the matching skills, competencies, and aptitudes far faster than at present. That combined with a lifelong learning infrastructure that was flexible enough to train people up in those areas that had the greatest skills shortages, and re-train those in areas where, for example technology was making some jobs obsolete. Such as the data inputting job I had in the late 1990s in a back-office function of a big bank.

In the grand scheme of things, volunteering does not put money in the bank and food on the plate in the short term. And if you’re someone like me, then any volunteering that I do is automatically subsidised by someone else – in my case my parents. It’s one of the reasons I think local councils and their local voluntary services network (in Cambridge it’s https://www.cambridgecvs.org.uk/ ) should look at how to fund the essential but burdensome roles (secretary, treasurer) that are all too often hard to fill, enabling activists to do the things they are passionate and good at. Having a pool of people on a scheduled &/or ad-hoc basis who can carry out those functions for a range of organisations could increase the collective capacity of the sector rather than offering endless annual competitive funding bids which uses up precious resources anyway. I know this has become a local political issue as Cambridge City Council is looking to move towards longer term grant funding rather than annual small grants with an overly bureaucratic application process.

Anyway, it’s nearly 1am so I’ll finish here.

If you are interested in the longer term future of Cambridge, and on what happens at the local democracy meetings where decisions are made, feel free to:

%d bloggers like this: