Last week I went to my first meeting of the ‘Quality of Life and Sustainability Policy Commission’, as part of my new role as a Socialist Society rep on Labour’s National Policy Forum. The focus of our work for this year is around transport – specifically, how we can give communities more of a say in our buses and railways.
Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle started the discussion, presenting her current thinking around the subject and the paper that had been prepared for the meeting ‘Our Buses and Railways – Giving Communities more of a say’. Many of the ideas raised would be music to SERA members’ ears. We all agreed that one of the biggest problem with the current transport situation was that people felt is was ‘done’ to them – passengers feel helpless in the face of rising fares and poor services. To tackle this problem, we talked about new structures of ownership for our railways that would ensure that profits are reinvested or used to reduce fares, the potential for more community and cooperative ownership of railways, and ways to give power to local councils to stop private bus companies ‘gaming’ the system and profiting from poor services. Of course I highlighted the work that SERA and the Cooperative Party has been doing on a Rail Cymru – a people’s railway for Wales.
One of the important points of the discussion was to look at the submissions that we had received on the ‘Your Britain’ website. In case you aren’t already aware, anyone can read and comment on the papers that we are considering in the policy commission. Any comments you write will then be looked at the next commission meeting – and considered for inclusion in our policy thinking. Since we have so much transport expertise within SERA, I would encourage anyone with thoughts on the matter to join the online discussion as your submissions really will count. I’m also keen to help organise discussions within CLPs, regional SERA groups or other community groups, to feed into the process – if you would like to do that, please do get in touch with me directly, or via this website.
Melanie Smallman, National Secretary, SERA.