In these uncertain times our AGM had to be held on Zoom. Bryn gave athe following address
Firstly, welcome everyone to our first and hopefully last, virtual meeting of this South Suffolk Lib Dem AGM. I say hopefully last, because this is not somewhere that we would wish to be for another year as the cost in lives and general well-being of all is untenable and unsustainable.
As a constituency party we have coped well to keep our presence felt and help others and hold to account those that do not always share our principles and convictions through lockdown and since. While it has been difficult to hold meetings to discuss and plan constituency matters we did hold one outdoor meeting for six at Cafe Como at Brent Eleigh to plan a way forward and will now develop virtual meetings on Zoom to see that business can go on uninterrupted.
Having said this we can all be proud and thankful that Babergh District Council and its members of all parties have pulled together for the greater good of everyone and have performed well to give help and assistance wherever it has been needed.
Our partnership in the Home but not Alone helpline service and the grants to foodbanks have been a lifeline to so many people who would have been in very dire straights without this helping hand.
I would especially like to highlight the performance of our staff who in difficult circumstances have gone several extra miles to see that help is given where it is needed, be it financial, technical or just advisory, while keeping up with the day job and running as normal a service as has been possible during the Corona virus pandemic.
Our year has seen steady progress with member numbers holding up quite well and a general increase in new committed members has seen the launch and first full year of an excellent website with good contributions from councillors and hits from local and not so local readers. My sincere thanks to David Butcher for facilitating this project.
Also we now have a presence on Facebook thanks to the nimble fingers and brain of new member Nicky Moxey, while being way beyond my understanding I am sure this will appeal to a new generation of members and supporters and thank you to Nicky for leading on this.
Since our last A.G.M. our new secretary Rebecca Simpson has very ably taken over from Marjorie Bark and has agreed to stand again in this role for another term, my thanks to her for her year of service and for keeping the chairman in order for a whole 12 months.
While it has been impossible under the circumstances to hold any social events I will try with others to contribute and develop these new ways of working and keeping contact with our members, supporters and potential voters across the constituency of South Suffolk.
One thing that has continued with an increased membership is our successful 100 club which at the moment has become our main source of income, we have drawn the first six months' prizewinners at recent virtual meeting and the remaining six months will be drawn at a later meeting around Christmas/new year. Sincere thanks to Nigel Adam for facilitating and running this fundraiser for another year.
For myself, as well as being the ward member for nearly 2,500 souls across six villages in the Box Vale Ward, I am also chair of the Joint Audit and Standards Committee across Babergh and Mid Suffolk Councils which although sounding very mundane and boring is actually the council equivalent of sex, drugs and Rock and Roll (well two out of those three anyway) we deal with the very nuts and bolts of the councils' spending, purchasing, awarding of contracts, transparency and Councilors' standards at all levels, although we cannot pass judgement on our own we have now been called in to sit in judgement and adjudicate on members from adjoining councils and one from several miles afield, thankfully standards across Babergh have remained at a high level.
We are charged by our national government and the Audit Commission to achieve ever higher standards in everything we do and face serious penalties if we fail in any of our functions including complete transparency in awarding of contracts, tendering process's and investments. This comes at a time when our current national leadership is being called to account over and over again with regard to a lack of transparent tendering process's for large contracts that seem to be given to newly formed companies who have little or no track record or expertise in what they are bidding to produce, run or achieve.
I fear and rue the time that these poor standards filter down to local government from those who should raise the standards by setting a good example. Governments have very little money of their own but use the money given to them, by us in taxes to spend and invest wisely, or not as the case may be. A day of reckoning cannot be far away.
Why vote for or be a Liberal Democrat. Is it a wasted vote or cause??
I would sincerely hope that the Lib Dems continue to have a strong voice in national politics and feel that our strong voice is needed and heard louder than ever before.
We live in a time when the right wing press put us down at will, because of the danger we present to the status quo, also an embittered socialist party cannot afford to share the alternative vote with us which could bring their own demise and downfall. It is so tough in the political spectrum at the moment but we owe it to ourselves and to the greater good of our nation to present ourselves as a creditable and competent alternative to the disappointinly inept Labour party and the divisive far right wing policies of the new far right wing Conservative Junta.
The tide will turn as voters realise that our break from Europe will leave us as a nation weaker and poorer and isolated from a true leading place in world commerce and strategic decisions on climate change and the environment which will hit us soon as we move into the next decade.
We have a lot to fight for locally and nationally. Stick with us.