Category Archives: Community

People’s Assembly Against Austerity

Peoples Assembly Notts 2013 cropThe People’s Assembly Against Austerity has been called to bring together campaigns against cuts and privatisation with trade unionists in a movement for social justice. This is a call to all those millions of people in Britain who face an impoverished and uncertain year as their wages, jobs, conditions and welfare provision come under renewed attack by the government. The Assembly aims to develop a strategy for resistance to mobilise millions of people against the Con Dem government.

Tony Youens, a member of Derbyshire Green Party, attended the Nottingham People’s Assembly on 18th May and the following is his report.

The Assembly was a very well attended event, which was probably a measure of the amount of anger and frustration with the Coalition Government and their seemingly relentless attack on the most vulnerable members of our society.

The day began with an introductory session and speeches from Alan Simpson (ex Labour MP for Nottingham South), who focused on climate change and renewable energy and Liz Kitching from the Leeds Bedroom Tax campaign who made an outspoken, and I’d say outstanding, attack on this heartless and outrageous policy.

There were a number of different sessions running throughout the day:

  • Keep the NHS Public
  • Women and Austerity
  • Direct Action
  • Disabled People Against Cuts
  • Welfare Cuts
  • Alternatives to Austerity

For my first session I chose ‘Direct Action’.  As it turned out this was a popular choice and space was severely limited. The speakers were activists from Greenpeace and therefore had a lot of experience to share. They outlined tips on how to plan a campaign and to practise we split into groups each of which chose a particular cause. It occurred to me that ‘fracking’ would be a good choice but the clear favourite was the afore mentioned ‘bedroom tax’ and as it turned out it was the choice of all the other groups too. Another indication of how much it is despised. To finish we were shown the best way to construct a human chain so as to create a strong barrier.  

Alternatives to Austerity

After lunch I went to another extremely well attended session ‘Alternatives to Austerity’.  There were two main speakers, Professor Andreas Bieler and Greg Marshall a local Labour Councillor and amongst those shoe-horned into this packed event was our very own Katherina Boettge and Deputy Leader of the Green Party, Will Duckworth.  Following both talks people were invited to ask questions and make comments, which led some of us present to make a very interesting observation.  Most, if not all, of the suggestions put forward were already Green Party policies. So the clear answer to building a fairer society is to vote Green!

The Final Plenary was so popular that we had to move to larger premises and looking at the list of speakers you can see why.

  • Tony Benn, Former MP for Chesterfield
  • Owen Jones, journalist, author and activist
  • Lindsay German, founder member of the Coalition of Resistance
  • Francesca Martinez, Comedienne, actress and disability rights activist
  • And of course Will Duckworth, our Deputy Leader.

It was a real privilege to listen to these speakers all of whom received enthusiastic applause. Francesca deservedly got a standing ovation.

I think a special word of thanks should go to Stewart Halforty who made this all happen.

On a personal note I came away feeling very proud of the fact that I am in The Green Party that puts social justice for all at the heart of its policies.

The local Assemblies will provide a national forum for anti-austerity views building up to The People’s Assembly Against Austerity at Central Hall, Westminster, on 22 June (register at www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk). There is also an event planned by the Derby People’s Assembly on 3rd June to prepare for the Westminster assembly. It will be at the Derby City Council House in Corporation Street at 7:30pm.

Tony Youens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Need to Talk about Democracy

DemocracyThis year’s County Council elections take place against a background of deep cuts to funding that are restricting the ability of all Councils to carry out their functions.  One of the purposes of the cuts is to force Councils to look for different ways of discharging their responsibilities, compelling them to look for private providers.  They are also a brutal reminder of the political power structure in this country.  Despite all the Tories talk about localism, this structure is strictly top down; local government being little more than an agent of central government.  What little power remains at the local level is being deliberately eroded by this Government with its policy of cutting council budgets.  Eric Pickles, the minister responsible for Local Government has a simplistic vision of the role of Councils, which is to be no more than a commissioning authority. In his ideal world, they would meet just once a year to allocate contracts to private companies that would provide all public services – this meeting to be followed no doubt by a lavish celebratory meal.

Our system of local government has its origins in Saxon England when the Shires were established, each divided in to Hundreds that took responsibility for the management of day to day affairs. Since then we have seen the growth in power of the nation state, and the domination of local affairs by the interests of central Government.  Now we are seeing this process take a new direction with the functions of Councils being handed to private companies.  We are seeing the interests of the community secondary to the drive to cut costs and make profits. These are profound changes that are happening without any serious debate or understanding as to where they will lead.  Opposition to Government cuts is missing the bigger question of the role of Local Government in a modern democracy.  This Government is effectively destroying local Government that has its traditions in Saxon England, and replacing it with private interests that have more in common with the Norman Barons’ feudal system of the total subordination of communities to the interests and desires of the Feudal Lord.

Just as Greens deplore the emasculation of local democracy by private and unaccountable interests, so do we oppose the increasing centralisation of political power within the Whitehall machine that has been going on since the Second World War.  We are a democratic party and see this concentration of power and the growth of the associated bureaucracy as a threat to democracy.  The concentration of power takes us along the road that ends in dictatorship, where the interests of the few transcend those of the many.  We support the devolution of power, not only to the British Nations, and not only from Europe, but most significantly from Westminster down to Local Government.  For us, nothing should be done at a higher level of government that could be done equally well or better at a lower level.

For Greens, the highest form of democracy is direct participation. This principle has been all but eroded by the centralisation of power encouraged by both right and left wing governments. However, we find it most encouraging that the desire for people to be involved in decision making and to make their voice heard is far from dead.  The growth and popularity of electronic campaigning coupled with direct action is forcing central government and even powerful corporations to take note of the views of ordinary people.  The numerous U turns by this Government, from the climb-down on the sale of the public forest estate to its dropping the forced tendering Orders for the NHS is testimony to people power.

It follows therefore that for us, the heart of democratic power should lie in the communities where people live.  Representative Community Councils should then delegate up to higher levels those functions that are better coordinated over a wider area, and finance would follow that delegation of function.  The dog would take back control of its tail; higher levels of Government would be required to attend to the needs and interests of the collective communities.  Idealistic yes, but this is the model on which we approach government.  It is the complete opposite of the present structure of top down authoritarian finger wagging that treats us so badly and with such contempt. With a clear vision, we can then identify the steps necessary take us on our way, and promote policies that will help not hinder our progress towards a participatory democracy.

For this reason we support freedom of information and transparent government since democratic participation requires citizens to be able to access the information they need in order to be able to take part in decision-making.  This is why authoritarian government is secretive.  The best form of democratic involvement for large-scale activity is voting, in elections and referenda, in such a way that the outcome reflects the pattern of voting which itself represents peoples considered wishes, and where no vote is wasted.  This is why we want electoral reform.

Democracy requires cooperation across communities and between different political structures so that the interests of one group don’t violate the legitimate interests of another.  We know that divisions, intolerance, prejudice, wide inequalities and failures in communication all weaken communities and preclude such co-operation.  For this reason we campaign for a Bill of Rights and a written Constitution so that citizens are aware of both their rights and their responsibilities and those of their fellow citizens.  This is why we will work to build a more equal and tolerant society.

The rampant inequalities that both Labour, Conservative and now the ConDem Coalition have allowed to build up in our society are counter to functional democracy.  Their collective refusal to address social inequality demonstrates their disdain for the ordinary citizen, and leaves the Green as the only Party for Democracy.  A vote for the Greens is a vote for Democracy.

[Mike Shipley  March 2013]

A Policy for Youth

Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signIn a remarkable piece of Orwellian ‘Newspeak’ the Tories running DCC are trying to claim that their proposed budget cuts to the County Youth Service were in fact part of an ambitious plan to make youth provision in the County ‘Bigger and Better’.  Their original plan to axe all youth clubs and to scale back its professional youth workers met with such an outcry of opposition that the Council has been forced into a rapid rethink, which they are trying to dress up as the product of a consultation.  One is forced to wonder why they didn’t think to consult first and avoid all the uncertainty for young people, parents and workers.

Adults have a moral responsibility to ensure there is adequate provision for young people in society, enabling them to develop and mature into citizens who are able, in time to take over the running of society.  It is wrong to think that we can cut and privatise youth services, leaving them to the whims of ‘the market’, as if youth provision was some sort of expendable luxury.  It is not. It is a necessity, never more so than in times of economic hardship and high youth unemployment.

Young people face the same range of problems that adults do, but of course they can lack the experience of knowing how to handle them.  It is in our collective interest to ensure that they are able to find and implement solutions to these problems before they become deep seated and built in to the fabric of the emerging adult.  Of course some of these problems can be properly handled by parents or by close relatives, some can be addressed at school, but in many instances this is not enough.  A young person may feel unable to approach a parent or simply doesn’t have the opportunity to do so and teachers might seem too remote.  In the absence of any other provision, they will turn to friends, who also lack experience, to the internet, that may give poor advice, or fall into a fantasy world making up strategies that have no basis in reality.

??????????????????????????????????????To give structure to a youth service, the Green Party supports the introduction of ‘youth schools’ in every community, as found in some European countries such as Denmark.  These are informal, but professionally managed providing a safe place for young people to go and meet out of school hours.  They are like an enhanced youth club but offering a much wider range of activities, and free at the point of use.  In addition to structured courses along the lines of adult evening classes, they offer the opportunity for socialising and for finding informal but informed advice, attendance is voluntary and the management aims to be inclusive.

Green education policy recognises the importance of involving young people in the design and content of their education. This is taken from article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Any policy relating to youth provision must closely involve young people themselves.  It is not enough to ask them what they want, often they will not know.  Why should they?  It is adults who have the understanding of what works and of what is possible, and who hold the purse strings. But they must ensure that what is being provided does meet young people’s needs and not the needs and wishes of the older generation.  We want to see ‘youth schools’ develop as a partnership between  the users and the providers, not tied to an imposed curriculum with targets, but meeting the needs brought by the young people involved.

While we want to see a properly financed and managed structure to youth provision, we also recognise the importance of the voluntary sector.  The enthusiasm and energy that volunteers bring to youth activities is inspiring and so important in firing the young imagination and sense of belief.   To hand over youth provision to voluntary groups as the Tories want to do under their ‘Big Society’ banner will overwhelm this volunteer enthusiasm with the day to day demands of management,  financing and insurance regulations.  We believe that the Local Authority has to back up the volunteer sector with professional management, help and advice, training and secure finance.

The idea of the ‘youth school’ is not meant to be some stand alone solution to the ‘problem of youth’.  We do not see young people as a problem, however we do see that too often their ability to grow and develop their own potential is frustrated by the constraints of adult society, and too often by the policies of Government fixated by the demands of the avaricious market.  Too often politicians, who talk of the ‘problem of youth’ rather than the ‘opportunity of youth’, seem incapable of making any other provision than organised activity that usually centres on sport.  Providing properly funded and universally accessible sporting opportunity is good, but it is not a complete youth policy.  Of greater importance is developing the means by which young people can become active members of their society, including becoming economically active. Green economic policy recognises the importance of fostering the often dismissed informal economy and self employment. Often crudely dismissed as the black economy, this sector makes a significant contribution to the local economy and can provide a route into employment.  Helping young people into self employment would be another function of the ‘youth school’, giving help and advice on converting their ideas into a viable business proposition.

Greens therefore want to see increased provision for young people away from formal education.  We accept that this has cost implications but we regard these costs as an investment not a waste.  It is our responsibility to make this provision, it is not some ‘bolt on’ extra.  The fact that Government does not do this is symptomatic of their priorities, set by powerful vested interests.  Despite the so called ‘economic crisis, we can afford to give a £160 million tax break to the oil industry, the richest business on the planet, with a visceral aversion to paying tax.  We can afford to spend a similar amount on a decade long programme of weapons procurement for the Ministry of Defence.  Spending £5 billion on refitting the Aldermaston nuclear weapons facility passes ministers without even an announcement.  The Treasury is defrauded annually out of £30 billion on unpaid tax that is legally due to it, and of course we can’t even begin to discuss the £37 billion bonus pot paid out by business, most of which will disappear off shore.  So it’s not a matter of what we can afford, it is where we choose to spend – and in a democracy, that should be down to us. It is time for the people to speak.

It is in our collective interest to provide a nurturing and enabling environment for each emerging generation, they after all will inherit the Earth.

© Mike Shipley

A Policy for Youth

Portrait of a young boy crossing guard standing on the road holding a stop signIn a remarkable piece of Orwellian ‘Newspeak’ the Tories running DCC are trying to claim that their proposed budget cuts to the County Youth Service were in fact part of an ambitious plan to make youth provision in the County ‘Bigger and Better’.  Their original plan to axe all youth clubs and to scale back its professional youth workers met with such an outcry of opposition that the Council has been forced into a rapid rethink, which they are trying to dress up as the product of a consultation.  One is forced to wonder why they didn’t think to consult first and avoid all the uncertainty for young people, parents and workers.

Adults have a moral responsibility to ensure there is adequate provision for young people in society, enabling them to develop and mature into citizens who are able, in time to take over the running of society.  It is wrong to think that we can cut and privatise youth services, leaving them to the whims of ‘the market’, as if youth provision was some sort of expendable luxury.  It is not. It is a necessity, never more so than in times of economic hardship and high youth unemployment.

Young people face the same range of problems that adults do, but of course they can lack the experience of knowing how to handle them.  It is in our collective interest to ensure that they are able to find and implement solutions to these problems before they become deep seated and built in to the fabric of the emerging adult.  Of course some of these problems can be properly handled by parents or by close relatives, some can be addressed at school, but in many instances this is not enough.  A young person may feel unable to approach a parent or simply doesn’t have the opportunity to do so and teachers might seem too remote.  In the absence of any other provision, they will turn to friends, who also lack experience, to the internet, that may give poor advice, or fall into a fantasy world making up strategies that have no basis in reality.

??????????????????????????????????????To give structure to a youth service, the Green Party supports the introduction of ‘youth schools’ in every community, as found in some European countries such as Denmark.  These are informal, but professionally managed providing a safe place for young people to go and meet out of school hours.  They are like an enhanced youth club but offering a much wider range of activities, and free at the point of use.  In addition to structured courses along the lines of adult evening classes, they offer the opportunity for socialising and for finding informal but informed advice, attendance is voluntary and the management aims to be inclusive.

Green education policy recognises the importance of involving young people in the design and content of their education. This is taken from article 12 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Any policy relating to youth provision must closely involve young people themselves.  It is not enough to ask them what they want, often they will not know.  Why should they?  It is adults who have the understanding of what works and of what is possible, and who hold the purse strings. But they must ensure that what is being provided does meet young people’s needs and not the needs and wishes of the older generation.  We want to see ‘youth schools’ develop as a partnership between  the users and the providers, not tied to an imposed curriculum with targets, but meeting the needs brought by the young people involved.

While we want to see a properly financed and managed structure to youth provision, we also recognise the importance of the voluntary sector.  The enthusiasm and energy that volunteers bring to youth activities is inspiring and so important in firing the young imagination and sense of belief.   To hand over youth provision to voluntary groups as the Tories want to do under their ‘Big Society’ banner will overwhelm this volunteer enthusiasm with the day to day demands of management,  financing and insurance regulations.  We believe that the Local Authority has to back up the volunteer sector with professional management, help and advice, training and secure finance.

The idea of the ‘youth school’ is not meant to be some stand alone solution to the ‘problem of youth’.  We do not see young people as a problem, however we do see that too often their ability to grow and develop their own potential is frustrated by the constraints of adult society, and too often by the policies of Government fixated by the demands of the avaricious market.  Too often politicians, who talk of the ‘problem of youth’ rather than the ‘opportunity of youth’, seem incapable of making any other provision than organised activity that usually centres on sport.  Providing properly funded and universally accessible sporting opportunity is good, but it is not a complete youth policy.  Of greater importance is developing the means by which young people can become active members of their society, including becoming economically active. Green economic policy recognises the importance of fostering the often dismissed informal economy and self employment. Often crudely dismissed as the black economy, this sector makes a significant contribution to the local economy and can provide a route into employment.  Helping young people into self employment would be another function of the ‘youth school’, giving help and advice on converting their ideas into a viable business proposition.

Greens therefore want to see increased provision for young people away from formal education.  We accept that this has cost implications but we regard these costs as an investment not a waste.  It is our responsibility to make this provision, it is not some ‘bolt on’ extra.  The fact that Government does not do this is symptomatic of their priorities, set by powerful vested interests.  Despite the so called ‘economic crisis, we can afford to give a £160 million tax break to the oil industry, the richest business on the planet, with a visceral aversion to paying tax.  We can afford to spend a similar amount on a decade long programme of weapons procurement for the Ministry of Defence.  Spending £5 billion on refitting the Aldermaston nuclear weapons facility passes ministers without even an announcement.  The Treasury is defrauded annually out of £30 billion on unpaid tax that is legally due to it, and of course we can’t even begin to discuss the £37 billion bonus pot paid out by business, most of which will disappear off shore.  So it’s not a matter of what we can afford, it is where we choose to spend – and in a democracy, that should be down to us. It is time for the people to speak.

It is in our collective interest to provide a nurturing and enabling environment for each emerging generation, they after all will inherit the Earth.

© Mike Shipley

Nuclear Power is Not the Answer

Cloud_over_Sellafield_(non_radioactive)_-_geograph.org.uk_-_335287I am very concerned about the problem of the storage of nuclear waste.  The government wants to build new nuclear power stations. If their plan succeeds, it will be at the cost of blocking the real solutions to climate change and a reliable future energy supply. It will also result in the continued production of dangerous nuclear waste and an increased risk from terrorism, radioactive accident and nuclear proliferation.

Some environmentalists, faced with the urgent need to combat climate change, have reluctantly decided that nuclear power will have to be part of the energy mix.  However, climate change itself also threatens the safety of nuclear power stations; many reactors are built on coastal sites vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise, including flooding and erosion.

I am pleased that Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet decided on 30th January 2013 that West Cumbria should no longer be considered as a potential location for a deep geological repository. However, the problem of what to do with radioactive waste already in storage will not go away.

One of the fundamental problems of nuclear power is the hazard posed by the radioactive materials it produces. No one can guarantee that this highly radioactive waste won’t leak back into the environment, contaminating water supplies and the food chain.

To me, the government’s plans to allow ten new reactors to be built are shortsighted to say the least.  This would add threefold to the amount of highly radioactive waste we already have to deal with.

The nuclear industry is hugely expensive. The construction and generating costs of nuclear power are greater than most renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Added to these are the costs associated with dismantling nuclear stations and waste disposal.

Green Party policy is that nuclear power should be phased out and we should not consider building new plants.

This quote from Clean Technica sums up my view:  “Essentially, renewable clean energy technologies are a better choice than nuclear in every way. They are cheaper, faster to build, don’t create radioactive waste, aren’t as susceptible to environmental disasters, don’t require the same level of safety measures, and have far more public support. At current rates of growth, renewables are predicted to generate more electricity in the UK than nuclear by 2018, and expected to power 1 in every 10 homes in the UK by 2015.”

This is a much more encouraging picture than we are led to believe by the government.  They want us to believe that we cannot do without nuclear power.  It is ironic that the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has the responsibility for the legacy of decommissioning nuclear reactors, roughly £1billion per reactor (averaged international figures). The expenditure on decommissioning in 2012-13 is £1.5 billion which is 42% of DECC’s budget.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change is, of course, having its budget cut by Chancellor George Osborne, and it, in turn, has cut funding to a range of energy conservation and renewable energy schemes.  This is the legacy of nuclear power; every year from now to eternity, the government of these islands, whether Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, Purple or Pink, will have to find funds to safeguard the legacy of the long-ago nuclear power programmes.  This is why I believe the Green Party’s policy to phase out the use of nuclear energy makes sense.

© Jean Macdonald

Information taken from: 

Green Party Policy         http://greenparty.org.uk/policies.html

Greenpeace                   http://www.greenpeace.org.uk/nuclear/problems

Clean Technica                  http://cleantechnica.com/2013/02/14/new-nuclear-power-in-the-uk-looking-increasingly-unlikely/#GXJY9Zi7HREGT86c.99

 

 

Building a more equal society means standing up for Welfare

120px-Welfare_Not_Warfare

Thanks to the Daily Mail and the Express, anyone claiming benefits has been made to feel as though they were born into a lower caste, hiding their scrounging and skiving behind drawn curtains. The inconvenient truth is, of course, rather different.  Most of those on housing benefits are working but wages are so low they can’t pay the rent. Its high rents in both the public and private sectors that has driven up the cost of housing benefit.  Almost all the money paid in benefits is invested in the local economy. Higher wage earners invest elsewhere including for example the global arms industries.

Does this matter to the Green Party? Well I for one think that “welfare reform” is the most important issue we are currently facing, let me explain why. A few years ago I came to the conclusion that the consumer society bequeathed to us by capitalism has hollowed us out eroding communal assets, skills and values because they cannot be turned into commodities. Consumerism doesn’t help us address climate change; we have to value people we will never meet, in lands we will never visit, who won’t be born until we are dead, consumerism doesn’t help. As Dawkins observed we aren’t hard wired to cope with issues where cause and effect are smeared through time and space, we need to adapt.

To build a society that has the capacity to take effective action we need to minimise inequality. The Spirit Level showed how inequality is the cancer that will wreck lives. We have to challenge the foolish mindset that sees inherited wealth as somehow earned and tells young people that if you haven’t got a job you are worthless. We have to value voluntary activities, raising children, caring for relatives and struggling to overcome mental health problems or addictions as just as valuable to society as stacking shelves in Tesco’s.

Thirty years ago when mining communities were under attack, elements of the Labour party organised a fight back. This time round Labour Councils are happy to dance to the Tories tune. Chesterfield, Bolsover and North-east Derbyshire Council for example have just voted to demand that every working person on Council tax benefit pays 8.5%. If these Councils are short of money, and from the money I have seen wasted at Bolsover that certainly isn’t the case there, then they should be increasing the Council tax not cutting benefits. The Council tax is paid by everyone and it is mildly progressive, those in large houses pay more. Instead they are taxing the very poorest in the community. They should remember from the dark days of the Poll Tax that this doesn’t make social or economic sense. Across the country other Labour authorities are requiring even larger contributions and when a Government grant drops out next year they will come back for more and more from the very poorest.

Council tax benefit is just one element of a phalanx of cuts which will come in on the 1st April, they include the Bedroom tax, which the Children Commissioner has said will harm our children; capping of universal credit which will have a particularly detrimental effect on ethnic communities;  and the continued destruction of support for the disabled.

As Greens I feel we need to stand-up for those on benefits at every opportunity and argue for a more equal world where the rich contribute more. We need to carry this message home not just in urban deprived areas but also in the leafy shires where poverty is still present but camouflaged.

© Duncan Kerr

Despite the cuts, Green councils deliver

There is no doubt it’s not an easy time to be in local government: The Tory-led coalition are imposing massive austerity measures with councils bearing far more than their fair share of the cuts in public funding. This has been complemented by ongoing public attacks on both council officers and councillors by pugnacious Tory ministers like Eric Pickles, Bob Neil and Grant Shapps. Finally councils are being pushed and pulled between suggestions of more powers being devolved, more central direction on how to do things and massive centrally decided reforms to their funding and legal powers. Local government is a bit punch drunk.

Despite all this, councils can and should deliver. In Brighton & Hove the Green administration came to power in 2011 with a very clear manifesto which we have been working hard to implement. In less than a year, Greens have made significant changes, we have:

  1. Introduced a Living wage of £7.19 for the lowest paid council staff.  We have created a Living Wage Commission for the city that is working with the largest employers to advocate that living wage across the city.
  2. Won over £6m of new external funding for major improvements to the city’s transport infrastructure & public spaces.
  3. Protected the Children’s & Adult Social care budgets, including for carers – they will not change over two years, whilst neighbouring authorities are withdrawing care and support from many in need.
  4. We are building the city’s first new council houses in decades, and bringing more empty properties back into use.  We are also working with local squatter groups working on ‘meanwhile’ leases for empty properties awaiting development.
  5. Introduced a new approach in the council that prioritises openness, democracy & participation – as shown by our budget process, commitment to open data and plans for neighbourhood councils.

None of this would have happened without Greens taking control of the city council in Brighton & Hove.

We are also unique in how much we’ve protected in our first budget, despite incredible pressure from the government, and ill-conceived amendments from the opposition parties. The Green administration’s budget will:

  • Double capital funding for transport and the public realm.
  • Build new non-academy school places in our best schools.
  • Keep an in-house Youth Service, unlike almost every other council in the country.
  • Preserve the main grant programmes for the 3rd sector at the same level as previous years.
  • Create a new £300,000 grants programme for 3rd sector youth services, and a £150,000 fund to support capital investment in the 3rd sector.
  • Protect Staff terms and conditions.
  • Preserve parks services
  • Keep all our branch libraries remain open, with an increasing book fund.
  • Preventing Homelessness’ funding is protected and domestic violence support increased by £100,000.
  • We will be bringing forward pilots for communal recycling, food waste collection and commercial waste collection.
  • We will be piloting participatory budgeting and neighbourhood councils.
  • We will be consolidating council buildings down to a few hubs that will be upgraded to be super energy efficient, have solar panels and support mobile working and hot desking.
  • We will be pursuing a unique bid for urban UN Biosphere status.

Whilst the government’s austerity measures are forcing back to scale back in some areas, we are still able to make good progress in many important areas. For example we are going to be working towards achieving One Planet Council status in the coming months.

As Greens we’re utterly opposed to much of the coalition’s wrong-headed policies, but we have a duty to make the best of the situation for our residents. If you have elections in your area vote Green this May for more dedicated councillors fighting for fair solutions to the challenges in their areas.  Greens deliver!

[Cllr Jason Kitcat Brighton & Hove Green Party]

Sherwood Green SOS

Sherwood Green

Generations of Bolsover families have enjoyed the green oasis that surrounds Sherwood Lodge. Although the bandstand has gone, andmore offices have been built, it is still a tranquil park and it’s not too late to stop it being lost forever.

How we can save Sherwood Green?

By law, open land that has been used for 20 years by the public for leisure can be registered. There are over 3,000 registered greens including one beach! The protection lasts forever indeed it is illegal to build on a registered green, even if planning permission is granted. In considering applications the County Council will review evidence gathered from members of the public.

You can give your evidence on our special form available for download here:

Evidence Questionnaire OSS

or by emailing: kerr.duncan@hotmail.co.uk

Just a few minutes of your time could preserve this green for future generations.

Also, using the link below you can find out how to oppose Morrison’s application to put a large superstore and petrol station on what is now Sherwood Green and Lodge, and to oppose Bolsover Council’s plan to put an office building on Middle Street car-park:

How to object to the Morrison’s application and/or the loss of Middle Street car-park

Use it or lose it

Come and show you care about your green spaces by joining one of our community picnics on the first Sunday in every month starting at 3pm.

Find out more

Members of the Green Party and BADGL have joined with local residents and traders to organise a Public Meeting on Tuesday 8th May at 7.30pm in the North Star Club. You’ll be able to ask questions, meet the District Councillor who is fighting Morisson’s proposal and hear about the campaign.

The Riots – by Duncan Kerr

There’s been a lot of scratching of political heads over the riots, and I fear the results will simply be splinters in the fingers. I came across this post from on a forum by Brynley Heaven, an unlikely name, but I happen to have met him and know that he is a Green Party supporter. He certainly articulated my thoughts very well:

A fish rots from the head down and so do nations. We let Fred Goodwin’s bankers off. Greed is good, we were told. So young idiots took note and explored midnight opportunities in the retail sector.

Best story so far is from Dalston where the Turkish Cypriots and Turks of Stoke Newington Road got themselves organised and successfully repelled the mob heading towards Stoke Newington Police Station. Muslims save cops.

There was something rather wonderful about all these incredibly rich, soppy public schoolboys having to break off their holidays in Tuscany as the oiks run wild. In fact, rioting was a lot worse in Toxteth under Thatcher or in Bradford in 2001, but memories fade and I’m sure we’ll have a hue and cry and let’s hope the police can get on top of it.

I want a fairer society not a Big one. I want corporations that pay taxes so that youth projects are funded. An end to greed at the top and their culture of impunity. Will it be like the war on Thatcher? Probably not, but I’m nostalgic already.

Cuts To Our Democracy

The 7% cut being made to Derbyshire services is not just a blow to public services, it’s a strike made directly at those with the least amount of power to fight back. The £1.4 million cut to the local Library service is a shock to the system, and many feel that it is merely the tip of the iceberg. Once the quality of services begins to dwindle, the customers and investment will inevitably follow. Many people rely on the services provided by the Council and their Libraries to do things most of us take for granted. Not everyone in Derby can afford internet access, so the Library has it for free. Not everyone can afford books, clubs or ‘how to lessons’, so they are provided for free. Taking away these services is taking away the voice of those who struggle most in society.

In the light of these cuts the Lib Dem pledge to save the libraries starts to look a bit hollow – once you examine how they plan to cut jobs and automate the service, rather than retaining knowledgeable staff. Many local residents in the city rely on the facilities of the local Library, especially young people, parents of young children, older residents and disabled people. This policy has the same ConDem trade mark as the Education Bill, a plan to reform schools into Academies. Speaking about this Bill, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP said

“We should be improving the quality of every local school for all children, rather than accelerating Labour’s programme of academies to deepen divisions between schools.”

The National Union of Teachers has described the bill as an “attack on the very existence of democratic accountability, free state comprehensive education.” Only a hand-full of Derbyshire schools have applied for Academy status so far, but the real worry is this change in mindset. Once we start to accept that privatisation is a part of our culture then we are giving away our rights to democratic representation.

The access to education is not something to be reserved for ‘more privileged’ children, and the same goes for the right to access basic services like our Libraries. Derbyshire will to loose out on £39.9 million in the coming budget; £23.6 million is going from child and adult services. It looks like we are entering into a time where Democracy is reserved for the rich and able, and Academic elitism is set to ruin the dream for countless young people.

Tom Reading

No Pitch For The Racist Vote, Thanks

Yarl's Wood Immigration Detention Centre

It is certainly disturbing to log on to the Derbyshire Green Party channel on YouTube and find the British National Party among its subscribers, for our party and the BNP have absolutely nothing in common. Quite apart from the fact that the BNP’s position on man-made global warming is that it does not exist, it is a racist party which attracts violent hooligans and sees its remit as stirring up ethnic conflict. The Green Party, needless to say, is not and does not.

In Chesterfield the BNP has no presence. It has never put up a candidate in a General Election and the tiny handful it has put forward in local elections have always been trounced at the ballot box. Unfortunately, however, the extremist BNP is not the only party to attract xenophobes, nor to seek to do so, as we shall see.

The British establishment has a long and ignoble history on this subject and continues to set a shameful example. Wikileaks has revealed that the Foreign Office’s director of overseas territories in 2009 referred to the dispossessed Chagos Islanders as “Man Fridays” in his conversation with his American counterparts while the head of state’s consort has referred publicly to the “slitty eyes” of Oriental people and asked Aborigines in Australia whether they still throw spears. I suppose that off-the-cuff stereotyping and casual racism are the stuff of upper-class japes though, so maybe we should look at a few more disturbing examples:

It was Peter Griffiths, the Conservative Party candidate in the Smethwick constituency on 1964, who became infamous for fighting and winning the seat using the slogan “If you want a nigger for a neighbour, vote Labour.” When, in his maiden speech as Prime Minister, Harold Wilson described new MP Griffiths as a leper, 50 Tory MPs walked out in protest at what they saw as an insult to their colleague. Peter Griffiths lost the seat in a by-election 2 years later but was welcomed as a candidate in Portsmouth and was a Tory MP again from 1979 to 1997 notwithstanding his appalling history.

Individual Conservatives MPs and parliamentary candidates regularly step out of line, apparently failing to comprehend that racist jokes are no longer acceptable or that to refer to Rhodesia’s Ian Smith as a hero might be offensive to non-white people. Recently the Lib Dems’ Jeremy Browne, foreign minister in the coalition government, showed that he at least has gone native since joining up with the Tories by going on BBC Question Time and referring to the French riding bikes and wearing onions round their necks. Before the General Election the Liberal Democrats pledged to end the incarceration of children in immigration service detention centres but presumably this is just another promise they would not have made had they known they would be in government, because kids are still locked up in dreadful places like Yarl’s Wood seven months later.

While the Tories have always provided a natural home for those with right wing views, more recently Labour has been courting the same constituency with some determination. Peter Mandelson was quoted, after this year’s General Election, saying that Labour were defeated because they had failed to engage with the white working class, as if there could be no other logical reason why the electorate should have spurned the Party that gave us the war in Iraq, ID cards and abolition of the 10% tax rate while allowing an unregulated financial sector to cost us billions in bail-out money. You might think that having been MP for Hartlepool Lord Mandelson might have more insight into working class people than to categorise them as racist bigots and thickos, but one man who certainly put Mandelson’s thoughts into practice was Phil Woolas. His campaign of lies against his main rival has led to his making history, seeing his win overturned and a by-election ordered – so grave were his accusations that the Liberal Democrat candidate was a supporter of Muslim extremists. Of course, Phil Woolas’s tactics were bare-facedly an attempt to woo Oldham East and Saddleworth’s racist voters; this in a town where the race riots of 2001 are still fresh in the memory. “If we don’t get the white vote angry, he’s gone” was the advice of Woolas’s agent after canvassing voters, and there followed a torrent of rubbish through the letter boxes of Eastern Oldham including made-up tales of death threats and a fake picture of his opponent being arrested. Phil Woolas has not gone quietly into the political wilderness and still proclaims to have done nothing wrong.

Before Woolas was cast out of parliament, new Labour leader Ed Miliband appointed him Shadow Immigration Minister. A Tory opponent described this appointment as representing an appalling lack of judgment on Ed Miliband’s behalf, and on this occasion I think I agree. A nicer example of a leader putting a metaphorical fox in charge of a chicken shed would be hard to imagine.

In Barking, joy at the drubbing dished out by the voters of Barking to BNP Nick Griffin was only slightly tempered, but tempered none the less, by the fact that his conqueror, Margaret Hodge, has shown herself not averse to appealing to prejudice as potential vote-winner. Her quote in 2008 that 80% of her white-skinned constituents were thinking of voting BNP because “no-one else is listening to them” was part of a clear attempt to create tension by implying, wrongly, that people from non-white backgrounds were being given priority in services and housing. The effect of the remarks was, as she must surely have been expecting and therefore presumably thought worth doing anyway, that the BNP gained both additional respectability and much useful publicity in the area.

So what of the Green Party? We don’t have an open-door immigration policy but we do have one based on compassion and we certainly do not seek to represent those who would like to foment racial tension. We will not be subscribing to the BNP’s YouTube channel! Having grown up and gone to school in a Northern town my fellow candidate Sarah and I have a more balanced view of working class people than Peter Mandelson and we are not expecting people, on their doorsteps, to make race or immigration an issue. There are far more pressing concerns in Holmebrook Ward, notably security of tenure and the area’s relatively high dependency on means-tested benefits, which are due to fall in real terms next year, making the poor even poorer and low paid workers even worse off than they are now in terms of being able to care for their homes and their families. We believe that, regardless of what Peter Mandelson or the proprietors of The Sun, The Mail and the Daily Express may believe, working class people, of whatever colour, are not bigots or thickos, and unlike Peter Griffiths in 1964 and Phil Woolas in 2010 we shall not be peering into the gutter when searching for votes.

Chris Connolly
Candidate: Holmebrook Ward

New Eco-Community For Belper

Matlock based Wild Peak Housing Co-operative are in the process of purchasing 70 acres of land at Wyver Lane Nature Reserve from Amber Valley Borough Council which is currently leased and maintained by Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.

Included in the sale is Lawn Cottage, shown here in the background, which plans to hold eight people but will need to be extended in order to accommodate everyone. It is hoped to have a thriving self-sustaining community, with renewable energy such as a wind turbine and solar panels.

One of the proposals includes on-site camping facilities for visitors, although, there are strict rules on what can and cannot be done on the land and the number of vehicles allowed to come down the narrow access road.

With good organisation and communication skills this could be a showcase to influence and encourage other Belper residents to follow and embrace a greener lifestyle.

The Housing Challenge

Peter Allen says:

The Green Party knows that there is a housing crisis across Britain. We believe that access to affordable secure housing is a human right. In the High Peak nearly 4000 households are on the housing waiting list, yet less than 500 council and housing association homes were let in 2008/9.  To address this shortfall the government requires around 5,000 additional homes to be built in the High Peak by 2026. We accept that some new building is necessary but we would plan new housing on the basis of independent housing needs surveys. Builders’ representatives have far too much influence over planning policy at present. Green policy requires that new homes are built to high energy efficiency standards and sited to minimise their impact on the environment. Existing homes should benefit from a nationwide insulation programme, reducing carbon emissions and creating Green Jobs.  An immediate priority is to make better use of existing homes and buildings. Local authorities must use their powers to bring empty properties into use. It is wrong that wealthy second homeowners leave holiday property empty while local people are denied a home.

Peter Allen is your Green Party candidate in the High Peak. He continues:

The Green Party offers the voice of hope in Britain today. Our vision is for a fair and sustainable society. We have policies that tackle the economic and environmental crisis.  After the election of Barack Obama in the US, for a moment the world dared to hope. That hope is now fading. The unwinnable war in Afghanistan has got worse. Despite the economic crisis that they caused, greedy  bankers are still paying themselves massive and totally unjustified bonuses. Nothing was achieved at the Copenhagen Climate Conference. Nevertheless the hope and expectation that brought Obama to power remains. To quote Naomi Klein, “What the election and the global embrace of Obama’s brand proved decisively is that there is a tremendous appetite for progressive change; that many, many people do not want markets opened at gunpoint, are repelled by torture, believe passionately in civil liberties, want corporations out of politics, see global warming as the fight of our time, and to be part of a political project larger than themselves.”

We need to build a movement for radical change. Will you help us by getting involved (email: getinvolved@derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk) or by making a donation? Cheques, payable to Derbyshire Green Party can be sent to Slatelands House, Slatelands Rd, Glossop, Sk13 6LH

For more info on Green Party Policies visit  http://www.greenparty.org.uk/policies.html

Feeding The Homeless, Reducing Waste

I have a growing concern about the amount of wastage that big supermarkets create with the food they stock. Hundreds, if not, thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible, in-date food is thrown into skips every week, and it has to stop. Firstly, the millions of animals killed per week to supposedly feed Britain are slaughtered for nothing but to be packaged and never consumed. Secondly, there are millions of people living in poverty who are either on the streets or genuinely struggling to feed their family, so this food wastage is both unnecessary and unacceptable.

What I would first like to focus on is the subject of the homeless. I have done some research and spoken to homeless people, as well as having a volunteer place at Women’s Work in Derby starting in September, who deal with female sex workers who are often trafficked, in debt to their pimps or boyfriends, not to mention being emotionally, physically and sexually abused, and more often than not, addicted to drugs. I discussed with one of the leaders the subject of what the women eat, and the answer was nothing, apart from the chocolate bars and cups of tea when they go to the Outreach centre. As they are trapped in a very dangerous lifestyle, they need real food to sustain them. I also feel that if there was more care involved, they are more likely to consider to try and work towards a better lifestyle; to make the conscious decision to stand up for themselves and kick their drug habits. I feel that if they were able to get one meal a day, cooked for them, using what supermarkets would usually waste, they would begin to realise they are worth more than this lifestyle of prostitution, which is never a choice, it is a lifestyle born out of desperation which they are often conned into. For example, many of the young girls and women who come from abroad to work are either kidnapped, sold and trafficked by pimps, boyfriends, or even their family, or they are promised jobs as waitresses or cleaners, for example.

I know that in Paris, they take the food that is wasted from supermarkets and have agreements with local restaurants to cook the food which is then given by outreach centres to the homeless. This will create more jobs in restaurants, as well as giving homeless people a base where they can be fed and get the support they need to get them to a better place in society. When people go without food, they become aggressive and desperate; of course, they are more likely to steal from someone to buy drugs than food, but if we create a network of people who care, for those who need care, they can sit down and have a meal in a normal environment where they are not on the streets, and not displaying threatening behaviour. It will also bring them in to talk to the volunteers and get the advice they need as well as a meal.

All this will contribute to them having a better life while they are on the streets, and hopefully aid them as they work towards a more positive future. After all, to make this change which is often difficult and can involve many relapses if they are drug addicts, they need something to inspire them make this change. I truly believe that if we do this, the number of people on the streets will decrease, and they will begin a transition from being homeless to having a place in society where they are valued and not living in poverty. If we get the right funding, it will create more jobs in restaurants. As this is such an important and beneficial scheme, I do believe that we will get funding from companies, as it shows they are supporting the community and will make them more popular.

While the food wastage includes more than just meat, I know the Green Party are aiming to stop factory farming completely, which as a vegan I totally support this, but some of the food wastage will include factory farmed meat. However, although I think it would be fantastic for the scheme to only cook vegan food to promote an healthy lifestyle, if the unwanted meat was used in the meals, this would be better than it being wasted and rotting in a landfill.

I sincerely hope that we can use this scheme for our community and other communities around the country, and I want to be involved. Please consider the ideas I’ve put forward, as so many people will benefit, and our people, whatever there background, need to be supported somehow and we want the number of people on the streets to be as low as possible.