Friday, 24 July 2009

Out of chaos comes opportunity?

If this is true, then hopefully the chaos that was that last night's (Thursday's) Annual General Meeting of the United Residents' Association of Ivybridge (URA) - which I chaired, at least for part of the time - will not have been in vain.

I arrived at the meeting just in time to fulfil the request of the outgoing Committee that I should chair the meeting and oversee the election of a new Committee. The presence of over 100 residents made it clear to me that there was a mood for change, but the agenda was straightforward - the outgoing Chair would give a report, and then there would be a vote at which a new Chair would be elected for the coming year.

It was during the reading of the minutes of the 2008 AGM that I was challenged by a particular individual, a notoriously obsessive and well-known New Labour agitator - a man who pines even today for a return to the old NITA system of One Labour Party Member, One Vote - who questioned my right to be chairing the meeting. Although I was under no obligation to do so, I called for a vote on whether I had the confidence of the meeting to continue acting as Chair. Sadly, the group of people who had attended with a view to changing the face of the Committee allowed themselves to be persuaded that I would try to subvert the outcome of the election - which I absolutely would not have done - and when the vote was taken the result was perilously close. Although, after two recounts, it seemed I had a slight majority in favour of allowing me to continue, I felt that under the circumstances the agitator and his new very temporary friends should be given the opportunity to find their own Chair, and so I voluntarily stood down.

After some deliberation, estate resident and former Labour candidate Chris Boucher stepped forward (supported enthusiastically by the agitator, whose objection to me had been that I was "political") and oversaw the election of former ICG Committee member Al Ayoby to the post of Chair, a task which he performed admirably under very difficult circumstances. Al then took control of the meeting and a Vice Chair, Treasurer and Secretary were duly elected. A second meeting will be held next week to decide which 14 of the remaining 23 volunteers will form the remainder of the new Committee, or indeed if a way can be found to include all of them given their willingness to serve the estate.

Whilst the meeting was chaotic the outcome was clearly that a new team had been elected which seemed to reflect very well the social diversity of the estate. Somali residents who had supported the "coup" queued up to explain to me after the meeting that they had sought nothing but fair and equal representation proportionate to their number, an aspiration that they felt, rightly or wrongly, that they'd not been able to realise under the outgoing regime.

Nominations to the new Committee comprise new additions as well as old stalwarts. Ironically, in spite of all the upheaval it will probably, in terms of manpower and ability, prove to be the strongest the estate has ever had.

I would like to pay tribute to the hard work undertaken by the outgoing Chair Tony Smith, former Chair Tina Howe and those other members of the Committee who have stood down. Equally I would like to congratulate Al Ayoby on his elevation to the top job, and to wish him all the very best in his new role.

Notwithstanding recriminations at the AGM it is right and fair that the new team should be allowed space in which to carve its niche, whatever that might turn out to be. I urge estate residents to get behind them and to work with Al - an honest and decent man - for the future benefit of the estate.


Anonymous said...

That meeting was an absolute farce and it's beyond most of the residents how the voting process could have been taken seriously- tiny scraps of paper, not knowing names of candidates, children voting, some voting twice or three times, no pens, non-residents voting! If the new committe consider themselves to have been voted in then they're dreaming. Local democracy in action? I and the rest of the estate despair. We're willing to accept whoever is voted in by a majority but the process has to be fair, free from corruption and organised. Last night was none of these things.

farah said...

Councillor Andrews, I think you conducted yourself with diginity yesterday night. The man who caused the trouble for you was not part of Als group and most of the people who voted with him didnt speak English and didnt know what they were voting for. You worked well with Al in the past and Im sure he will cherish your support and advice during this year.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Anonymous

I would wholeheartedly agree that the conduct of the meeting was unsatisfactory but I would suggest that the existing constitutional process was simply not designed for mass turnouts of the kind that we saw last night. Ordinarily TA meetings comprise a managable number of people, most of whom are known because they participate regularly in estate events. It could of course be argued that the constituion should not be based on this assumption, but it clearly is.

Having myself been a victim to some extent of the block vote last night I hope you will accept that I am far from being an apologist for it. However it is my honest belief that the man who won the vote for the position of Chair was the man who had the most support at the meeting and, like it or not, that is the way the system has worked since the formation of the URA.

If, of course, anybody has any evidence that non-residents were present then they should make that available, first to the Committee and then, if no satisfaction is forthcoming, to Hounslow Homes which recognises the association. I have to say that I personally saw no evidence that this was the case.

Residents who are unhappy with the outcome of last night's result are now faced with several choices - give up, set up in opposition a la Ivytag, call an EGM, or try to make the new Committee work.

The first resolves nothing and simply makes any existing problems more difficult to overcome.

The second, whilst it could be justified under the old undemocratic set-up, cannot be excused for as long as we have One Resident One Vote and I could not in all conscience support it.

The third is open to any resident, or indeed to the Committee, but would need to be clear about what it wanted to achieve. I would hope that if either the residents or the Committee chose this option it would be with a view to clearing the air and agreeing to work together for the greater good of the estate.

The fourth, if it is achievable, is obviously the best option. My experience is that once the excitement of the AGM has waned and people have to get down to the serious business of managing the estate the numbers will dwindle and by the onset of next year the Committee will have adapted by a process of natural selection into something resembling what it ought to have looked like in the first place. Those who stood for Committee for the wrong reasons will have resigned or drifted away, and those if any who have been elected to posts for which they are not suited will have been found out.

This is why, notwithstanding the obvious shortcomings of last night's process, I would strongly urge all residents to get behind the Chair and the Committee.

@ Farah

Thank you for your kind words. As explained above I believe the man with most support at the meeting won. I am not resentful in any way about the actions of the Labour Party man, he has been a long-standing thorn in the side of the Ivybridge community and last night he achieved his fifteen minutes of fame (acknowledgements to Andy Warhol) by exploiting division between two groups of people whom he despises in equal measure and exploiting the very democratic system that he has spent so much time campaigning against.

There was no result for him other than the fact that the second half of the meeting was chaired by somebody more to his liking, with the exact same outcome as would have been the case had I decided to continue chairing.

I look forward to working with the new Chair and he and the rest of the Committee will have my full help and support as well as that, I'm sure, of the other ward councillors.

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ tucker

I have blocked your post and recorded your IP address for future reference. Whilst this blog supports the principle of freedom of speech, you are not going to use it as a vehicle through which to pursue your destructive political strategies.

How predictably despicable it is that your instinct is to try to take advantage of the instability arising from Thursday's vote and sabotage the new Committee. Your actions do rather call into question the sincerity of your party's support for my Motion at Borough Council last Tuesday.

A Wider View said...

Just seen TW8, see what you mean. But is Taylor really the local party's Trojan Horse or is he a lone wolf? I saw the web play of the borough council debate and Matt Harmer's support for you motion seemed genuine to me. He might have a different agenda to the local party and I'd avoid making assumptions until we know the facts or we could end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I'm mean, what if Matt and Co wants to parlez and Taylor is trying to wreck it?

Councillor Phil Andrews said...

@ Wider View

If that were the case then I would expect to receive some indication from the Hounslow party that Robin Taylor wasn't acting on their behalf, given the potential of his actions to derail the local party's own strategy.

We have been given no such indication, and it is upon that fact that I base my suspicion that he is indeed a Trojan Horse.

However please be reassured that we always consider every possibility and approach every situation with an open mind.

digit said...

Vanessa Smith getting in on the act now over at TW8. They're like f***ing ghouls, aren't they. Give the bloody man a chance I say.

(No) Mann's Land said...

Ivybridge, twinned with Beirut
Always restless, never peaceful
More sods per square metre than Griffin Park
Just when you think progress is being made
The lights change to red and the gears slam into reverse
The sods always spoil it for everyone else
Political battleground supreme
Scarred by years of tribal in-fighting
Ignorant sods prepared to die for their cause
A decade down the line
Will we witness an oasis of calm
Or will the sods STILL be setting the tone ?

Whatz it all about (Alfie)? said...

Presuming when we say 'agitator' we're talking about Albert 'Loonytunes' Hadaway? Actually I don't know whether he is an actual Labour man or just a freelance nutjob. Itz true about Ivybridge resembling Beirut with myriad factions fighting their own wars but if there is a clear political battle going on then itz beyond me to fathom it. Both the main factions seem to be led by ICG members and there's Labour people pitching in on different sides as well. Bedlam!

simon anderson said...

As Far as i am Concerned the right man for the Job is Now Chair and I know he will Make sure everyone works together and will want the Past issues left in the Past and work together for the Better off the Estate.
There shouldn't be People stating its THEIR R.A and they should Choose it belongs to ALL residents on the Estate and i wish Al all the Very best off Luck with it all and i hope Everyone involved will support him put the past in the past and Work together as Friends and Fellow Members of Their R.A anyone who cant should stay away and let the rest off them get on with it. I am hearing alot off Disturbing Stuff at Moment and its Wrong also Mr Haddaway has a right to his Opinion and Vote he Lives on Ivybridge Too and i feel he should not be attacked for His opinion. Now lets leave Al and the others to get on with The Job.