Sunday – catching up with emails (mostly Green Party work – writing text for another newsletter) and then canvassing. We are priding ourselves that it hasn’t actually rained on us so far this year.
Monday – meet a constituent in the Town Hall to help him with an appeal for bus fares for his daughter to continue at the primary school where she was placed when he first arrived on the Gateway programme from a refugee camp in Kenya. They have since been moved within Sheffield, but it is just inside the 2 miles which his 6 year-old daughter is supposed to walk. He takes her on the bus which is costing them more than 10% of their weekly disposable income. The nearest school is full and in any case he is determined to hang onto this first link with the community he settled in. Strange how in the face of massive trauma, people hang onto certain familiar comforts.
Lunchtime – meet the chair of Highfield Adventures (they started by campaigning against the cuts and are now running the playground).
Tuesday – two home visits, one to someone who has lost her homelessness priority and is facing eviction, the other back to the Somali lady in the cold ground floor maisonette, this time having arranged for a friend of hers to translate for us. At least now she understands the choices. Briefly back to the Town Hall (where I saw Rob on his way to a meeting with the Boundary Commission – they are still pushing SCC for more evidence about why we don’t want to reduce the number of councillors, haven’t got onto the boundaries yet. Central ward is the largest in the country with a population of 36,000 and twice as big as at least one of the wards in Sheffield. And much more complicated!).
Then out to visit Portland works – a prominent member of the campaign to save it and the part time manager were out on the roof helping to replace tiles and windows. I climbed out to join them. NAR. Not Actually Raining. Then to visit the Regather Cooperative, who would like to manage the council land behind the building they rent. By then it was raining, so we went inside and tried to convince the council officer that Regather do not want to deprive the council of the opportunity to sell it (as he points out, if it went for less than £10k, Kier would keep the receipt anyway). Why should it be so hard for a community group to improve and use a piece of grass? The officer was trying his best to be helpful, but has since sent an email warning Regather that they will need regular inspections for any play equipment they install. They hadn’t mentioned installing any play equipment …
In the late afternoon, the Broomhall Centre Management Committee. They have just got a license to sell alcohol, which has caused some disquiet in the local community (though in fact it won’t change much in practice – groups were getting Temporary Event Notices, which will now have to comply with the permanent conditions, an improvement in fact). But it does highlight the question of how the centre can become sustainable in the longer term. And then, in the evening proper, to a Green Party meeting where I facilitated a discussion about coordinating our leaflet production. We are getting bigger and more active and finding a balance between central direction and peripheral freedom is an interesting challenge. Felt positive and found energy to go on to the pub, though only for fruit juice – I’m doing the 2/5 diet and it was a non-alcohol, non-snacks day. But there was a good stout on, to look forward to for our Friday visit to the Bath Hotel.
Wednesday – day at home, doing Green Party and personal desk work. Out in the evening to an amazing concert at the Crucible, with friends.
Thursday – a training day about fracking and flooding put on by the Local Government Association in association with the Planning Advisory Service. The fracking session was particulary useful and well run though very depressing that planning has so little control over what happens in a local area. Even without fracking having been designated a national infrastructure project. It will come down to the impact of transport and the appearance … a bit like trying to oppose supermarkets. The real objections (in that case damage to local economy and jobs) is immaterial in planning terms. If anything, the situation around flooding is even more depressing – multiple responsible bodies and no-one appears to have the power to make strategic decisions or investments across the whole area.
Friday – Sheffield First organised a morning conference on Civil Society with speakers from the Nottingham branch of Citizens UK, and our own Paul Blomfield MP and Peter Bradley from the cathedral (who conceded that Occupy! was at least expressing a vision when other organisations in society had ceased to do so). Paul gave a great speech, really going to the heart of why people are disengaged with civil society, and why we (politicians included) need it. The event was well attended and there were some interesting ideas about why such a movement might not take root in Sheffield – too much competition between groups already doing things (rather than campaigning for a change in the rules) and a paternalistic city council. Vicky Seddon was there and gave me … a small bottle of Henderson’s Relish.
Saturday – gathering of Green Party activists in Broomhill, but free for the rest of the day.