Members, Colleagues and Friends
I have prepared this short report to update you this evening on the activities of the Association since the report that was the Chairman’s statement for the civic year 2019/20 and sent to you when the planned AGM in March was postponed due to the COVID-19 restrictions that were put in place and still are in force. I hope that the meeting will accept and adopt the 2019/20 report and accept this update. The Officers were hoping that we could hold a real meeting but the guidance from CCHQ does not allow this so this evening we are holding the AGM in the Virtual world of ZOOM.
This has been the most difficult 6 months for the Association due to the restrictions to normal operations caused by the pandemic and its effect on the day to day running of Association business. All meetings of the Officers and Executive, have been held on Zoom and therefore we have not met face to face since early March. Early in the Pandemic it was decided to close the office in Lakes Road and set up the Office Manager, Karen Skinner, so that she could operate from her home and continue with managing operational activities. This entailed switching the telephones and computer access remotely, and purchasing a new lap top and software including Zoom, in partnership with WCCA, to enable this change and help in future with operations in the “new World”. This proved to be a successful transfer and the management of the Association continued with minimum disruption but it has meant new skills being learned and ways of working to be developed. Sometimes the Association and Officers have not always been able to support as we would have wished.
Before proceeding to the remaining agenda items, I would like to thank Kevin Bowers and Lynette Bowers-Flint for all their support for the Association over the past few years, particularly the last two and a half years where they both served as Officers, however for personal reasons they have both decided to stand down at this AGM, unfortunately they are both unable to attend this evening due to a family event which could not be changed.
Kevin and Lynette on behalf of the Association , Thanks for all that you have done for the Party and the Association
Local Government Report
During the Covid-19 restricted period, CCHQ have issued regular guidance regarding the selection of suitable candidates for local Government elections including County Council elections for 2021 and any By-Elections caused by candidates resigning or standing down. The Association has followed the guidance, and fortunately we had already selected and approved at the Executive four of the candidates for the five divisions in the Braintree Constituency. The last division, Bocking, the guidance was to advertise for further candidates which resulted in one additional member nomination. An approval Panel was held on 5th June and Lynette Bowers-Flint was approved as a candidate and has joined Andrew Hensman and Peter Schwier, creating a slate of three candidates for selection at the Divisional meeting of Members when the guidance from CCHQ allows the final selection meeting to be held.
The selected candidates and approved by Executive Council on 5th March 2020 are:
- Cllr David Finch Halstead Division
- Cllr Graham Butland Three Fields and Notley
- Cllr Tom Cunningham Braintree Town
- Chris Siddall Hedingham Division
As of writing this report, there is still uncertainty regarding any elections in the spring of 2021, the Party has only this week given approval for continuing to the final stage 3 of the selection process for ECC elections, furthermore we await the Government White Paper on Local Government re-organisation, expected mid-October. This could cause the elections for Essex County Council and the Police and Fire Commissioner to be cancelled. The thrust of the direction for the reorganisation is that all of England will have directly elected Mayors and the current two tier Local Government will be replaced by Unitary Authorities, planned to be in place by 2022/23 thus rendering unnecessary elections to a tier of Government that may not exist shortly.
Whatever the outcome we will support the Party and remain ready to campaign and work for a Conservative Government in Braintree, Essex and Westminster.
On the political front the membership has continued to play, an active part in steering the Conservative Party policies by holding quarterly Conservative Policy Forum (PCF) meetings with set the agenda for these meetings set by CCHQ, now are held in a virtual form using Zoom not in the local pub which was much more convivial and conducive to healthy debate. I would like to thank Iona Parker for her hard work and persistence in maintaining the momentum of the Association meetings and contributions to the Party Policy making.
Social Events and Fundraising
Due to the pandemic restrictions, which were implemented in late March there have been no social events organised by the Association, however as soon as the guidance from the central party allows we will reset the program of events and communicate them via email and snail mail in some cases.
Lynette Bowers-Flint and I wrote to members asking for assistance in these difficult times and several members were generous in their donations which was a much needed contribution toward the running of the Association. Thank you to all the donors, the Officers really appreciate your support .
10th September, 2020