Sunday, 12 March 2017

Hyde councillor calls for a volunteer army of unpaid workers!

Rising Star - "SEO Andy" Kinsey
By Steve (Starlord) Fisher

The Town Council roadshow in Tameside is currently being rolled out across the Borough with gusto. I recently wrote on the NV blog about the first Town Council meeting which I attended at the Stalybridge Civic Hall on Wednesday 15 February. Last Monday, I ventured into Hyde to attend the first of their Town Council meetings at the Grafton Centre.

This was a much smaller meeting than Stalybridge, with around forty people attending including councillors. It was also far more tightly controlled by Labour councillor, "SEO Andy" Kinsey, (a search engine optimizer), with a special interest in community groups, who chaired and set the tone of the meeting. Unlike the Stalybridge Town Council meeting, there was little that was spontaneous about it, being far more directed and controlled, with a largely passive audience. Much of the meeting was focused on a power-point presentation by Andy Kinsey, called "Community Groups Together." Before beginning his presentation, Andy insisted on laying down some basic grounds rules. We were told that this was not a District Assembly or a councillors surgery.

Andy told me later, when we went into group session with an unidentified councillor on each table, that each Town council was different, and this was the way, they were going to things in Hyde. This was Andy's response when I drew a comparison with the Stalybridge meeting, which was far more involved and democratic in my view. However, councillor Helen Bowden (Hyde Newton), told me that she felt the Stalybridge meeting had been taken over by a few disgruntled individuals.

Although the lead Third Sector (voluntary, community and faith) organisation, 'Action Together', had been billed as attending the meeting, they sent their apologies. Andy's presentation was focused on how community groups, social enterprises and non-profit organisations, could all come together to work unpaid for the betterment of the community, undertaking jobs previously done by council employees. On our tables, we were told to make a list of all our skills and talents which we use in our community groups. This we were told, was necessary to build up a "Skills Database", that would be put on Facebook and called "Doing More Together - Skillshare Hyde."

To me, it seems that the whole object of Town Councils is to pretend that the public are actually invloved in decision making when there is no real autonomy or communities being in control. I very much suspect that this is really a mask to disguise the real intention of co-opting volunteers and community groups to do council work for free. As the Labour leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese, said last November, it was the job of the voluntary sector to now "fill-in-the-holes" left by public sector cuts. How about voluntary councillors?

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