Friday, 16 November 2012

Our road to getting signage

We have previously mentioned our hope to have "A Fairtrade Town" signs installed at each of the four "Welcome to Prestonpans" gateway signs.

We are pleased to say that thanks to funding from East Lothian Council's Civic Pride Fund, they are now installed. 

However, it has been quite a journey to getting them...

December 2011: we contacted East Lothian Council to ask how to go about getting signs putting up at the entrances to the town and an idea of cost.

This provoked a lot of discussion, not least because the Transportation Department were concerned because a) it might set a precedent (we hope so!) and b) the Council's own website didn't mention its Fairtrade County status on the front page. 

It was clear that this particular department didn't really 'get' that Fairtrade Town status is an official accreditation and spoke volumes for the prevailing attitude of the local authority to Fair Trade (for many steering group members it confirmed a long-held belief that Fair Trade was little more than a box-ticking exercise). We were a little disheartened but continued our discussions.

February 2012  The Council were "not against" the idea, but it wasn't a prority for the cash-strapped Transportation Division.  Even given the modest mount we were quoted by the Roads Department of £400, we simply didn't have the funds to pay for this so applied to the council's Civic Pride Fund.  Yes, that's right, we were applying to one department of the council to pay another department of the council...

April 2012 We found out our application to the Civic Pride Fund was successful.  However, we weren't able to crack open the Fair Trade champagne truffles just yet....

May 2012: Problem #1 We contacted the Transportation Division to order the signs only to find that it was going to cost more than quoted.  Fortunately, this was soon sorted out but was a heart-stopping moment.

Problem #2 The cheque arrived made payable to "The Prestonpans Fairtrade Town Signage" -  and required to be paid into a bank account.

Athough we're a constituted group, we do not regularly receive and make payments, we operate on an informal basis and don't have a bank account (and certainly not one specifically for signage).

Bearing in mind that the award comes from the council and will be used to pay the council, it was rather vexatious that there didn't seem to be a common sense approach to this.

As a group that promotes fair trade and seeks to educate about social justice, ideally we would wish to "put our money where our mouth is".  The only ethical bank that offers a current account to community groups is the Co-operative Bank.  This account is only available to members of a trade body (whose objectives we share but whose membership we can't afford).

So what about the unethical banks? Even if we wanted to bank with them, the ones we have looked at say we would need to make a deposit to open an account - and guess what, we haven't got any money.

June 2012 - To cut a  l-o-n-g  story short, the council were prepared to issue another cheque made payable to The Small World, which is a registered charity and one of the organisations that make up the Steering Group.

September 2012 - The signs were erected!

November 2012 - The invoice arrived.

We began to wonder if the signage saga was a metaphor for Fair Trade itself....
...the fewer steps between the customer and the producer, the better. shouldn't be this complicated
...we'll get there eventually....

Thank you to everyone who made it happen.