Shipley Labour is at the forefront of a small but significant revolution within the Labour Party in which alongside winning elections we support community organising – localised campaigns that come out of deep listening in communities, a movement not just ‘for the many’, but ‘by the many’.
The impact of current government policy on ordinary people is huge – it affects our health, our education, our housing. We can’t wait for the next general election for change, we need to campaign now by working with communities on the issues which affect them. Community organising will empower local people to have a voice, and start to transform the way we do things.
On 15th August, we launched the Shipley community organising project. We heard from local people about the issues that concern them, issues such as living with a long term disability, and left behind neighbourhoods.
H is living with a long term disability that means she has unpredictable bouts of illness and pain. In 2017, when Disability Living Allowance was replaced by Personal Independence Payments, H found she no longer qualified. She also lost her motability vehicle, meaning that she couldn’t get to work. She described this as being “robbed of her dignity, self worth and ability to provide for her daughter and herself”. Systematic cuts to the benefits system mean that she can’t wait for the next general election, and is campaigning for change now.
R is involved in the Higher Coach Road Residents Group. The location of the estate is idyllic (across the river from Roberts Park, overlooking the river and surrounded by green fields) but there is a chronic lack of services in the local area – there is no community centre, no GP surgery, no shop and a poor bus service. Problems are compounded by it being on the edge – geographically it falls into Shipley Ward but Baildon Parish Council, it is also in the Saltaire conservation area buffer zone. In summer there is a real sense of community, but in winter there is nowhere to meet, and groups such as the kids art club have to go on hold.
Other people also spoke of issues affecting them – fly tipping in Burley following the introduction of charges at the Otley tip, reduced public transport, and the proposal by our hospital trusts to privatise services including cleaning and car parking. Other people spoke of their concerns about services affected by the cuts to local Council funding, such as children’s centres and provision for children with additional needs.
Our Parliamentary candidate Jo Pike spoke about how the Labour Party lost its connection with local communities. Jo joined the Labour Party after the general election in 2015, when it felt that politically we were at rock bottom – the country was being run by millionaires who had no connection with the millions of ordinary people in our communities. Since then, Labour has seen a resurgence – both in the number of members, and in the 2017 election result. Labour is now offering an opportunity to do things differently, a chance to be courageous and be the change you want to see.
We also heard from Ian Lavery MP (Chair of the Labour Party), who spoke of the need to reduce inequality (we are after all the 6th richest economy in the world), and the opportunity to do something different. The Labour Manifesto set out last year how a Labour government will transform the lives of the many. A contract with the people, for the people. Like us, Ian is excited with this new direction that the Labour Party is taking, and the hope that it offers to communities.
For more information, or to go get involved with the community organising project, contact Jo Hiley firstname.lastname@example.org
Sue Easterbrook – Shipley Branch member, August 2018
Please note that member blog posts do not necessarily represent national or local Labour Party policy.