Category Archives: Economy

Time to take a stand for our social security system and the common good

A typically timid Labour Party has felt unable to properly oppose the latest cuts to welfare benefits being proposed by a smug new Tory government. The Green Party has no such reservations.Green MP Caroline Lucas said, ahead of this week’s vote:
“Our crumbling social security system is on the brink – now is the time to take a stand “

Cuts are proposed to Tax Credits and there is a plan to limit all financial support  to two children only. The slightly more generous benefits currently paid to those too unwell to work are being abolished. Young adults (under 21) will no longer be able to claim Housing Benefit at all and those under 25 will not benefit from the introduction of a so called ‘ living wage’ which, when combined with cuts to in work benefits will be nothing of the kind for many low paid workers.

Perhaps the most vicious of the proposed ‘reforms’ is the lowering of the Benefit Cap from £26,000 to £20,000 ( £23,000 in London). Under the existing cap the families affected are mostly large and living in London and the South East. The cap has had drastic consequences for many of them, forcing them to move away from areas where rents ( and the prospects of a job! ) are highest.
Under the reduced cap almost all families with 3 or more children will be affected, in all parts of the country.

A couple with 3 children living in Brighton in private rented accommodation for instance will only get £50 per week towards a rent which is usually set at least at the Local Housing Allowance level of £230 pw. This means that £180 has to be found from £334 of benefits ( which are set at a level that even this government believes is the minimum amount required to afford essentials, not including
housing costs) leaving £154 pw for a couple and 3 children to live on, less than half of this minimum amount.

But even in Derbyshire, where rents are lower, the impact is huge, with such a family likely to be contributing up to £100 towards a private sector rent and not even having enough Housing Benefit to cover a council or housing association home , even if they all squeezed into a one bedroom flat!

The Benefit Cap must be strongly opposed on grounds of social justice but also because it makes no economic sense. Families will have to choose between eating and paying the rent, and many are likely to be made homeless as a consequence. They will then become the responsibility of cash strapped local councils to provide emergency accommodation, local councils which will have to implement the cap and are likely to take the blame for something over which they have no
control. Perhaps such families , who have chosen to feed and cloth their children rather than pay the rent , will be declared ” intentionally homeless” and not entitled to assistance, in which case children will presumably end up in care at even greater expense and often with disastrous outcomes.

The main intention is probably not to save money but rather to scapegoat the unemployed , to divide those in work from those looking for it or not well enough to do so. The whole thing is based on the lie that it is easy to stay on ‘welfare’ with a higher income than those in work when the reality is that a family of five earning £20,000 a year in employment is also dependent on benefits ( Child
Benefit Tax Credit and Housing Benefit) to survive.

The Green Party is determined to oppose such scapegoating, and is pleased that at least a minority of Labour MP, were prepared to join Caroline and other opposition MPs in voting against the bill , breaking the whip to do so. We will work with members of all parties and of none to oppose this dreadful government, which is anxious to ensure the continued and growing prosperity
of the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

Join us in the fight for the common good. There is more wealth than ever in this country. It is just in the wrong hands.

Peter Allen

The Greek crisis is about Democracy not Debt

euro-373008_640It is interesting that Greece, the cradle of democracy is now having to defend that very concept in the face of an onslaught from the corporate masters of the global economy. With the Greek referendum vote, the issue in Greece has escalated from an economic crisis, to a crisis of democracy.

As Caroline Lucas has said:

“The Greek people have made a decision which must now be respected. This referendum has seen EU states do their very best to undermine the democratic will of the Greek people but it’s time to draw a line under the past and move onwards”.

We cannot argue that former Greek governments, both of the right and left, badly managed the Greek economy. The EU and international finance were complicit in making this bad situation worse by failing to ensure that further loans to Greece were used for investment and did not end up lining the pockets of the wealthy. But the neo-liberal ‘free-market’ policies that dominate world finance want and need debt and Greece was encouraged to increase its debt rather than address tax avoidance and increase Government revenue.

By crippling Greece with debt, international financiers have been able to force her Government to sell assets to the private sector. They have also ensured that the bulk of Greek revenue goes to debt repayment, that is, to the private sector financiers, rather than to the welfare of the Greek people. Debt has become a commodity; it is traded and used by the private sector to increase personal wealth. Neo-liberal economics needs debt to create money and wealth. By loading governments with debt the financial institutions can divert tax payers’ money away from social provision and state investment in to their own coffers as interest repayments. For these institutions, cfreating debt is good business and leads to hugh personal bonuses.

The Greek crisis is not really about debt but about repayments. Debt is now a corporate asset, if a borrower defaults, then the asset becomes valueless. This was the root of the 2008 financial crisis. If Greece defaults it is the big financial institutions that will be hit, and they are using austerity to protect their interests.  They are demanding that money that should go to support the welfare of citizens goes instead to themselves. So the people of Greece must suffer in order to protect the assets of the wealthiest institutions and people in the world.

The interests of money and international finance are being put ahead of the needs of people – this is a democratic crisis. What are Governments for, to serve the people or international finance?

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, said:
molly scott Cato2“This referendum has provided an opportunity for all EU states to reflect on the balance of power between finance markets and democratic governments”.

This isn’t just a Greek crisis, it affects us all. The Conservative Government is determined to continue with its austerity measures in order to pursue its privatisation agenda and to reward its supporters with tax breaks. Austerity is not about sound economics, it is an ideology driven by the neo-liberal free-market. It is being driven by the corporate sector that has effectively hijacked governments. The rich and the powerful are once again driving the political agenda in their own interest and are ignoring the needs and wishes of people. They are challenging the very concept of Democracy.

The Greek people have raised their voices and have demanded that their government listen to them and address their needs, as they should in a Democracy. There are solutions to the Greek debt crisis and part of that solution is to recognise that some of the debt is un-payable.

Caroline Lucas has pointed out that there is a historic precedent for this:
caroline-close“History shows us that countries can escape crippling debt in a just way. In 1953, at the London Conference, Greece was among the European nations signing a deal which allowed for the cancellation of German debt, to enable the country to grow again after the destruction of the Second World War. Europe needs to come together to offer the Greeks a deal which allows their country to be rebuilt.”

But the difference then was that the debt wasn’t a corporate asset; Governments weren’t controlled by big business. It is essential now for the Governments of Europe and America to address the debt crisis and to be seen to be standing for the interest of the people and not spinelessly bowing to the pressures of the global corporations. This is the demand from Molly and the European Greens:
molly scott Cato2“We now urgently need to see a conference to address the issue of Greece’s debt with restructuring and debt relief a clear outcome. There also needs to be clear support for rebuilding the economy, especially by investing in sustainable sectors of the economy”.

Further, we now need to see Governments acting as part of democracies, in deed and not just in word; to listen to the calls coming from their people for economic justice and for the gross inequalities in society to be leveled off. If they fail to do this, the global corporate sector will be triumphant and democracy will be effectively dead.

Mike Shipley

First posted on East Midlands GP Blog on 7 July 2015

A Message to our Leaders, from Andy White, Derbyshire

Andy WhiteIt is argued that the middle ground of English politics has been captured by what is effectively a centre right Tory Party, and Labour has lost what was once it’s core support of ‘The Working Class’. Indeed, those on the right argue that there is no such thing as the working class, and that demographic now identifies itself as ‘Middle Class’.

The dispossessed and less fortunate, those with little or no income are portrayed as an inconvenience by the policy makers, who constantly tell us that money has to be saved on welfare – there is no alternative – conveniently forgetting the real lives that are affected by market capitalism and the chase for constant growth. No place for compassion here.

Over the years since 1979 politics has changed from being representative of, and controlled by the people, to just being controlled by big business, with the masses kept in their place by a constant stream of propaganda that reassures them and carefully defines them as ‘hard working and doing the right thing’, because if you don’t, the wrath of the system will surely grind you down. The subliminal message is ‘do as you’re told or else’ …. With the ‘or else’ being the constant fear of a life in poverty, or being targeted as a scrounger, or not being able to find money to keep up. Sound familiar? True Victorian values are returning, we even have people working for nothing on penalty of losing welfare support…..a disgrace in 21st century Britain!

Such is the power of these messages that few actually question anymore! To do so suggests that you are a doubter, that you don’t believe in the good that is being done in your name, that you are an outsider, a radical and not ‘one of us ’. You’re not doing the right thing!

This state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue. We see daily on a global scale the damage done to our planet in the name of change and so called progress. The Green Party have a huge responsibility to educate our potential core support. That support, in a large part, is disaffected Labour and Liberal voters (and even some Tories), who are currently looking for the right alternative. They know the Tory way is wrong, but are unsure what the real alternative is. We need to construct a discourse that is legitimised by sustainability, and we need to get that message across at every opportunity. The 67% that didn’t vote Tory are a big audience waiting to hear the things that will give them stability, and that will ensure they can live life with all the comfort and support required in a civilised society.

Our priority messages should be simple and focus around security – of income (sustainable jobs, proper welfare), housing, transport and public services, – and sustainability of the planet, of the natural world, of our food and water supply. Our message needs now to be that only our policies can build that secure and sustainable world without fear, based on civility, human rights and a respect of all of life.

We need to begin that task now, and I would like the message to come from our leadership fairly quickly. Time is not on our side.

First published on 25 May, 2015 on East Midlands Green Party Blog

Just a reminder: ‘Austerity Hasn’t Worked and it Won’t Work!’

Andy White, Local Candidate in Ashbourne, Derbyshire Dales says:

Andy WhiteAusterity is framed as being the saviour of our economy. We’re all in it together is the mantra! We all have to make sacrifices. This, of course, is obvious nonsense and it is proved so by the cynical promises the parties are making now to win votes.

Millions…. no – billions, have suddenly become available to inject into all sorts of areas, now that there is an election to win. So was the need for austerity a lie?

Austerity, in fact, is a word that is calculated to evoke the concept of hard times. Once you as taxpayers accept that the country is deeply in debt and the ONLY way to get out of it is by ‘Austerity’ quite naturally a patriotic reaction kicks in and you will gladly make your contribution to ‘balance the books’.

This Government’s so called ‘long term plan’ relies on you believing that you have to make this contribution, whilst they quite happily give tax breaks to millionaires. It is all a con …. to cover up the real culprits of a huge fiddle that not only cost this country billions, but cost the western world dearly too.

Bankers and speculators, in their rush for ‘growth’ gambled and lost and we, the general population are expected to pay. The Greens will change that and recoup money for major investments from those that caused the alleged ‘crisis’. It is time for change, it’s time that society worked for the many, and it’s time that those who have the most actually contribute the most.

Only the Green Party will do that. The other 3 all believe in MORE AUSTERITY – £30 billion of public sector cuts after the election is won.

But it hasn’t worked up to now, our national debt is increasing by the minute (almost £1.5 TRILLION) – and it won’t work in the future.

Don’t believe the lie about the need for Austerity; vote in this election for the Common Good. Vote Green

Originally blogged on East Midlands Green Party blog April 23, 2015

Imagine a Fair Economy

Imagine a Fair Economy

Vote for What you Believe In
One that Works for All

Quick Quotes:     

Charlotte Farrell – Candidate for High Peak Constituency?????????????????????????????
“I believe that there needs to be a fundamental change to our present economic and political system to combat the inevitable global destruction which we otherwise seem to be heading towards. I believe in providing a fairer and more equal society which is not at the expense of the environment. “

Ian Wood – Candidate for Derbyshire Dales ConstituencyIan Wood
“I believe there is in the end no alternative to a steady state economy as the basis of a sustainable economic system. It follows that I support Green policies for energy generation, planning and transport, and those which promote income equality, the integration of nations and peoples, and, ultimately, peace; all things that are consistent with the abandonment of growth as the central objective of economic policy.”

Marianne Bamkin – Candidate for South Derbyshire ConstituencyMariane Bamkin
“I believe that the economic theories being used to promote the concept of ‘Austerity’ are flawed and not well thought through, leading to a greater social divide between the rich and the common man.”

Green Party candidate contact details

Growth – The Elephant in the Room

Charlotte Farrell, Parliamentary Candidate for High Peak and candidate for Hope Valley in the Local Elections says…

?????????????????????????????To date I’ve attended five hustings, and at each the questions about the economy and austerity come up. The other 4 parties all talk about the need for growth to get us out of austerity. They say that with better economic growth the country will once again be able to start spending and austerity will come to an end. Every time, I make the point that we cannot have infinite growth in a finite world and that we need to rethink our whole economic plan. However, it feels as if my words fall into a void and nobody quite hears them.

I am never picked up on what I say, though I would dearly like to expound on why continued growth is bad; it’s as if there is a conspiracy not to validate mine or the Green Party’s position generally by asking the serious questions that arise from it.

Of course this may be the truth. It seems so blindingly obvious that we cannot continue to grow in the manner we are doing. Whereby the world’s population (and by that I mean the population of the wealthiest countries) continues to use more each year in terms of raw materials than the planet can replace in that time, and to throw out more waste, atmospheric and real, than the planet can deal with in the same time frame.

It seems that the other parties have no answer for this conundrum; but rather than admit it (or better still work towards finding an answer) they choose to ignore it altogether. Ostrich like, they cover their ears in the hope it will go away.

I am not denying that all of the parties recognise some need to avert climate change (except UKIP who seemingly do not believe in it); and that even under the coalition there has been some increase in renewable energy consumption, but until they address the fundamental issue of growth, their attempts will not be enough to avert global economic, environmental and social disaster.

I have always struggled with maths and so never bothered with economics. I thought it was just something for those much more intelligent than I, but now I realise that most politicians also don’t understand economics. What they do is support the existing system, either because they’re devoid of ideas for anything better, or to protect their own vested interests.

Under the present system we have to keep growing. That is because if we base our economy on debt, as is the case (97% of all “money” in circulation was originally created by the high street banks as debt); to create sufficient to pay it back (not to mention the interest) we have to produce more. And so it fuels a vicious circle.

Of course it’s difficult and unpopular to challenge the status quo and that is the reason the Green Party is constantly derided by the media, but sooner or later politicians are going to have to face up to the ‘elephant in the room’ – the question of infinite growth in a finite world.

If we’re going to exist within the limits of what our one planet can give us then one of the first things we need to accept is that there needs to be a redistribution of wealth. If we don’t have growth, then that which we have has to be shared a lot more equally than it currently is, both globally and nationally.

Again, our debt-based monetary system predicates against this. In a debt based economy the poor acquire more debt simply to live, while the rich, who do not need to borrow, acquire the benefit through tangible assets such as property, stocks and shares and the other trappings of privilege.

I believe that it will be hard to reach the kind of steady state economy we need while wedded to the old monetary system. How can something as fundamental as the creation of money, be left in the hands of those who profit most from its production? The banking system has failed us, but rather than think about a better way, we simply tinker at the edges and let it continue largely unmolested.

The Green Party wants to see money creation removed from the banks and given back to state control. This in fact used to be the case until computers did away with the need for there always to be a tangible real bit of money on the other side of the debt. Under the Green Party’s plans the National Monetary Authority would control the production of money, issuing it as and when needed straight into the real economy. It would be used (amongst other things) to build houses, schools, hospitals and railways etc and as these were built the money would filter down through the workers’ pay into the local economy.

I admit its difficult looking at things from the present position to see how we would get to that state or how we would achieve this; but that in itself is no reason not to work towards finding a way.

The destruction of the planet and our economic system go hand in hand. We desperately need to change both before its too late. If nothing else, I hope that with Green Party candidates standing in 90% of parliamentary seats this message gets across loud and clear, so long as it does, I won’t mind how often the media chose to mock us because ultimately I believe we will be heard.

Green Party candidate contact details

Green Party Manifesto

Mike ShipleyMike Shipley writes:

The Green Party has launched its manifesto today, [14th April]. At the launch Natalie Bennett said “This manifesto presents the Green Party’s genuine alternative to our tired, business-as-usual politics. We desperately need a more equal society and the policies we announce today pave the way towards a brighter, fairer future for all.”

This is a long document, featuring policies relating to the economy, our society and our shared environment. It is also costed to show that it is possible to implement policies that will improve everyone’s lives and help stabilise the economy without the need for austerity.

Like most elections, this in 2015 is dominated again by arguments over the economy. No one can deny the importance of economic policy, but in a General Election that will vote in a Government for 5 years, we should be asking other, more profound questions. We should ask about priorities and about what sort of society our politicians are wanting to create with the power we will give them.

The Conservative Party is focused on money, it wants a society in which those who have it can keep as much of it as possible and do with it as they please. Labour seems now to be content with simply shadowing the Tories, accepting their economic strategy and hoping to be able to put a bit more of a human face on to it. Their real focus is power – vision has deserted them.

By comparison the Green manifesto sets out a clear vision of what we can build through our policies:
Print• a human scale economy that works for people and doesn’t damage our planet
• public services that deliver what people need
• a society that cares for the future of the young and the welfare of the vulnerable
• a more equal society that accepts diversity and offers opportunity regardless of background, governed honestly by elected representatives dedicated to the common good.

None of this is wishful thinking, neither is any of it unaffordable. What is wishful thinking is the idea that we can go on trying to solve through ‘growth’ the endlessly recurring crises that the economic strategies of the post war period have created. Perpetual growth in the economy is not possible; forever increasing the rate of consumption of natural resources is not possible, any economic strategy based on either or both will fail. Chancellors may engineer a temporary upturn of the indexes that they control in order to win an election, but in the long term the “growth and consume” economic plan dooms us all to failure.

The Green manifesto catalogues the failure of successive governments to which our present leaders seem to be blind. More than one in four children growing up in poverty, nearly one million people reliant on food banks, growing levels of inequality that sees the wealth of the richest 1% greater than the poorest 55% of fellow citizens, and the spiralling growth of debt that will see more that 2 million households paying half of their disposable income paying off loans by 2018.

For many, these grim realities do not add up to the success story that the Coalition Government is trying to claim in its bid to hold on to power. They spell out failure, and what the other manifestos are offering is very slightly different versions of this failure. More cuts, more austerity for the majority of voters, more tax cuts for the affluent supporters of the status quo, more privatisation that will lead to us paying private providers more for poorer services. Just more wishful thinking.

We are at a critical time and the outcome of this and the next election will shape our future – although you would barely know this from the trivia that is gushing out from the mouths of our so called ‘leaders’. Climate change is gathering pace. We need a clear action programme to be agreed in Paris at the end of the year otherwise global temperatures will overshoot 2 degrees centigrade. The cost of the damage will break all but the strongest economies – and the British economy is not one of the strongest.

Democracy is under threat by a corporate takeover of Government policy-making. This is demonstrated in the secret Trans-Atlantic Trade negotiations, TTIP, that will strip Governments of the ability to enact laws to protect public health or our shared environment lest they threaten corporate profits and bonuses. Inequality is stoking tensions in society that can only lead to a rise in crime, in fear and a decline in general well-being and health. The capacity of our natural environment to provide the food and clean water that we all need to survive is being eroded by increasing unregulated development and pollution.

These issues are ignored by politicians and commentators alike, they are too big for them to comprehend. But they are not ignored by the Green manifesto. Here, we set out a route that will steer us away from the dangers inherent in ‘business as usual’. We show how it is possible to build a sustainable society in which each individual can build a life of purpose, within the natural limits of the one planet that we have to live on. Our aim in this election is to campaign on this manifesto, to maximise our vote and so demonstrate that there is a serious and growing level of support for our policies; policies that work for the Common Good.

Mike Shipley April 2015
Mike is standing as Green Party candidate in the Local Elections for Sett Ward on High Peak Borough Council

Ian Wood – Derbyshire Dales Constituency

Candidate Statement for the General Election 2015

Ian WoodI live in Bakewell, am fifty-seven years of age, a freelance journalist, a husband and father of four children (aged from ten to twenty-two), and I used to be a lawyer.

A quarter of a century ago, I stood for the SDP in a parliamentary by-election in Mid-Staffordshire. I can now see with almost embarrassing clarity how little distinction there actually is between any of the old established parties’ economic analyses and those of their opponents, and how much they make of such tiny differences.

The world is whirling towards an economic cataclysm that will prompt widespread changes in the way we earn our living and share the proceeds of investment and labour. In consequence of my economic views, I respect and would observe the natural limits of the planet that, inevitably, have to be ignored by capitalists if it is to provide the growth that they have come to expect. And, accordingly, I believe there is in the end no alternative to a steady state economy as the basis of a sustainable economic system. It follows that I support Green policies for energy generation, planning and transport, and those which promote income equality, the integration of nations and peoples, and, ultimately, peace; all things that are consistent with the abandonment of growth as the central objective of economic policy.

I am also in favour of a federal Britain and our place in the world being firmly at the heart of a federal Europe. When it became safe and sensible to do so, I would support the UK’s adoption of the Euro. The central objective of Green policies is to place the emphasis on the sustainable distribution of natural assets rather than exploiting them for growth. Hence, we would have to deal with the economically essential support of uncompetitive member nations, just as our own Chancellor of the Exchequer raises most taxes in the richer south and uses them in part to fund services in the poorer north. However, I would wish to see efficient enterprises – for example, those conducted by Derbyshire farmers – succeed against unduly subsidised continental ones, and there is little wrong with the free market when it operates between smaller and more equal businesses that do not grow by debt and stock market leverage.

This is the best and most optimistic time to be green in history. As the Green Party candidate in the Derbyshire Dales constituency I am passionate about putting forward a truly viable, radically different and increasingly popular alternative for voters to consider. I would be a diligent and persuasive advocate for the constituency. I am also intending to stand in Bakewell for election as a district councillor.

Green Party candidate contact details

How Secure is Britain’s Food Supply?

Written by Victoria Martindale, Parliamentary Candidate for Erewash

Victoria MartindaleAs part of British Science Week (13th to 22nd March 2015) I joined a panel of experts and politicians to discuss food security in Britain at Derby Museum and Art Gallery.

The UK faces a number of challenges to its food security, including long food supply chains, ‘food deserts’ in inner cities, wealth distribution imbalance, climate change and competition from abroad. These pose a real threat to the UK consumer; it is possible that food will become more expensive, choice limited or foods unavailable. Only this week we were warned that the cost of a new “Driver Certificate of Professional Competence” for transport haulers across the EU raises the prospect of ’empty shelves’.

In the 1980s the UK used to be about 80% self-sufficient in foods that can be grown here. This has now dropped to around 65%. The National Farmers Union (NFU) has recently raised concerns that this may be too low. As a nation, we increasingly rely on international markets to provide us with the huge range and affordability of food which we have grown accustomed to.

Questions put to the panel included:

• Is the UK in a vulnerable situation regarding its future food security?
• Following the horsemeat scandal in 2013 should consumers be concerned about the quality and security of their food?
• Are organic foods healthier and better for the environment? Is it fair to expect UK consumers to pay the price premium for these products?
• Are low food prices responsible for the incredible levels of food waste in households in the UK?
• What can be done concerning the incredibly low prices paid by supermarkets to UK dairy farmers forcing them out of business?
• Food banks are rising across the UK. Much of the burden has fallen on charities but is this really the Governments responsibility?

Panel – The chair was Professor Paul Lynch, Head of Natural Sciences at the University of Derby.

The speakers were:
Wyn Morgan, Food economist at the University of Nottingham;
Paul Paine, Garden Co-ordinator at Ecoworks;
Julia Davies, Head of Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University;
Lucy Care, Liberal Democrat candidate for Derby North and
Victoria Martindale,  Derby Green Party Representative.

There was an informative and lively discussion on the night.  For space reasons, let me limit this blog to a few key messages.

I am sure many of you can remember the shocking headline news last autumn. Britain, we were informed, could be plunged into blackouts over the winter. We were warned of the risk of power cuts and electricity failures wrecking havoc over the winter for many households and businesses across the UK. But did we have any of these black outs? No we didn’t. Who was responsible for putting these stories out there? The big energy companies. Why? In response to new EU legislation that restricted their dependency on fossil fuels these massive profit churning companies wanted to legitimize their ongoing use of polluting fossil fuels and justify getting their dirty hands onto our shale gas and fracking up our country. They did so by spreading fear across the country.

This tendency to generate a state of fear, insecurity and panic among the British public and government is a ploy corporations often turn to in an attempt to justify their means to realise vast profits for themselves. It’s nothing more than scaremongering and their agenda is driven by nothing other than corporate greed.

IF_logo_banner_2_420x210The food security issue is similar to the energy security one. We are frequently warned that with a predicted extra 2 billion mouths to feed by 2050 we could be facing food shortages. We were scared with threats of ‘empty food shelves’ this time. Really? Will we all be struggling to find enough food to feed ourselves and will our children’s children be at risk of starving to death? Shock! Horror! However, just like in the energy debate, you need to stop a moment and look at who lays behind these sensationalist stories. In this case it was the NFU scaring us with empty food shelves.

The NFU is effectively the political arm of DEFRA. With its huge wealth comes huge power and influence over the UK’s agricultural policies. Its agenda is to maximise production, yields and exports in order to maximize the revenue and profits for its members, many of whom are already among the wealthiest of this country. It wants to drive an industrialised food production process which is heavily chemical dependent, savages the environment, and spits out poor quality mass produced food that is bad for our health and forces smaller scale farmers out of business.

CowsIt’s time we faced up to the powerful monolithic institutions like the NFU and put the food security issue into perspective. If we display one iota of honesty we are not in a food crisis and we are not by any means about to be confronted with a single empty food shelf. However, that’s very different from saying we don’t need to address how we feed everyone and look closely at our production and distribution processes. We do and we also need to face up to our responsibilities to those in developing countries who don’t have food security even in today’s modern world.

The other likely scaremongering suspects are the global high tech enterprises like Bayer Cropscience, Monsanto and Syngenta. They use food scares to legitimize their development of GM crops under the Panglossian guise it is the answer to all the world’s problems and is the only means to achieve food security for everyone. Yeh right.

The continued industry promises about the ability of GM crops to tackle the world’s growing social problems are pure myth. GM crops are linked to massive increases in herbicide use, increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the expansion of mono-cultural farming practices and increased costs all along the food chain which the already starving and poor of the world can’t afford. They require huge areas of forests and valuable natural habitats to be cleared.

This is ecologically devastating and overrides people’s rights to their native ancestral land, food, natural resources and traditions. GM crops are patented too with over two thirds of all patented food crops in the hands of the top ten companies such as Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Pioneer and Dow. This means they monopolise the market and it allows them to control the research, breeding and ultimately the entire food chain of GM crops which returns them profits of eye watering proportions.

Attempts to produce GM crops that are resistant to climate change, floods, drought tolerant, altered photosynthesis, and exacerbate intensive farming are all attempts by corporates to earn billions at huge cost to the environment, society and local communities, and our health rather than addressing the real challenges of sustainable food production like combating climate change in the first place.

Over_Farm_produce_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1611242Research shows that we can feed a growing global population a nutritious diet without environmentally damaging factory farms and GM crops. This requires addressing the underlying difficult, but very important issues that currently affect food security and making fundamental changes to the way food is produced, distributed and consumed. The aim should be to provide healthy sustainable diets for all whilst living within environmental limits.

The Green Party believes that GM foods are not the answer to food security. Instead, it promotes a set of sustainable policies based upon local production and distribution, lower meat and dairy consumption, more seasonal produce and which protect livelihoods and biodiversity to provide everyone with healthy nutritious foods.

So, when asking about Britain’s food security, be careful who you ask.

Victoria Martindale
Green Shoots Editor

Alice Mason-Power, Parliamentary Candidate for Derby North comments on the Budget

A few choice quotes from Gideon Osborne’s last Budget speech with thoughts by Alice Mason-Power, Parliamentary Candidate for Derby North

“A record number of people in work.
More women in work than ever before.
And the claimant count rate is at its lowest since 1975.”

Alice Mason PowerWork means something very different to that in 1975 – the number of people employed on zero contracts has increased by over 50,000 or 25% since 2010. Those people out of work are being stigmatised more than ever and are struggling to the point of resorting to food banks to feed their families – not a feature of a strong economy.

“This week we accept the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission that the National Minimum Wage should rise to £6.70 this autumn, on course for a minimum wage that will be over £8 by the end of the decade.”

Alice Mason PowerOn this minimum wage people would still need to claim benefits including housing and council tax benefit. People will still be in the cycle of poverty despite employment, raising the benefit bill yet further because of the failure to pay the Living Wage that both people and the economy need

“I am clear exactly how that £30 billion can be achieved.
£13 billion from government departments.
£12 billion from welfare savings.
£5 billion from tax avoidance, evasion and aggressive tax planning.”

Alice Mason PowerMore money to be reclaimed from those on the lowest incomes than from those with the highest incomes who can afford an advisor to cut their tax. This will affect many, many more people. Where will these welfare savings come from? the disabled? the unemployed? pensioners? Note that child poverty in Derby North stands at 19%, with no prospect of it being reduced.

“In two weeks’ time, we will cut corporation tax to 20%, one of the lowest rates of any major economy in the world.”

Alice Mason PowerThis should be higher – why are we cutting tax for corporations when cutting welfare? It’s obvious, big business is more important than us, the people, and no Mr Osborne, the wealth does not ‘trickle down’, it floods away into tax avoidance schemes and bonuses for the already excessively rich.

Overall – the budget does not address the stark issues this country faces. The rich get the extra help they don’t need. Those who are struggling have not been mentioned. They will have to struggle on. The Chancellor is banking on the hope that many of them won’t vote in the election and turn his Party out.

Also of course no mention of climate change or the rising cost of energy. The real issues once again ignored by this Business as Usual Government.

Alice Mason-Power 18th March 2015

Please can we have our NHS back?

Charlotte Farrell, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for High Peak writes…

?????????????????????????????While I was walking home from work today, I was musing about the NHS and in particular wondering what evidence has there ever been to support the idea that ‘marketising’ the NHS would improve the services offered or even reduce costs and save it money? Furthermore what was actually so wrong with the old system?

I began working in the NHS in the late 1970s. I realise that as a nurse I probably wasn’t particularly aware of the management structure, even less the processes that went into providing patient care beyond the wards level. But on the other hand I also wasn’t aware of there ever being problems. Things seemed to run smoothly enough though.

In those days, as I remember, the hospitals were broadly controlled by District Health Authorities and above them the Regional Health Authorities. Then in the 1980s things began to change, the first glimmers of privatisation began, and competitive tendering was introduced for ancillary services.

We began to notice that the wards were suddenly not kept as clean as they used to be, the cleaners were rushing their work and things got overlooked. Hygiene suffered. It was not the cleaners fault though. The concept of tendering meant that the service providers would only secure the contract if they were “competitive” and that meant lower priced bids, which also meant cutting corners. There were fewer ward cleaners, working longer hours for less. By devaluing the staff in this way they also broke some of the public service ethos that had run through the NHS for so long. Interestingly the spread of contracting out cleaning services also coincided with a rise in infection rates including MRSA.

But not to be off put by this, both Labour and Conservative have pressed ahead with the total reorganisation of the NHS into something that Aneurin Bevan would hardly recognise. The idea that the NHS should replicate the private sector has taken root: the private sector knows best and market forces will deliver better care.

Labour introduced PFI funded hospitals, saddling the NHS with debt for years to come with the benefit going to the private funders. It developed foundation trust hospitals so that hospitals could be run as businesses, even to the extent that they could become bankrupt! It introduced the “choose and book” system which opened the door to private hospitals working “alongside” the NHS. Hospitals now had chief executives in control, people often drawn from the private sector on salaries to match. The ethos of public service was further degraded.

The NHS was continually being criticised, waiting list times, poor levels of nursing care, treatments not being provided etc etc (mostly all due to being too underfunded to provide the kind of service people had come to expect, rather than an inherent problem with the staff) – paving the way for the Health and Social Care Act 2011 which promised to make the service more efficient and fit for the 21st century. But all that has been achieved is to change from a system which operated relatively straightforwardly, to one which has become almost Byzantine in complexity.

I don’t know for certain whether this is assertion is true but I would have thought it is not inconceivable that the more layers of management involved, the more labyrinthine the purchasing processes, the more individual transactions involved in providing care and the less affection the providers have for the system, the more costly the service is likely to be.

The NHS Reinstatement Bill aims to rid the NHS of the marketisation, and put it back to how it was conceived. I fully support it.

For further information you can find out more about the Campaign for the NHS Reinstatement Bill 2015 on http://www.nhsbill2015.org/  There is also a link to contact your parliamentary candidates in the run up to the election.

10 Reasons You Should Be Worried About TTIP

TTIP_banner_cropped560with_text2On Tuesday 18 February I, along with several other members of the Green Party, attended a packed meeting in Derby. This was the second meeting this year at which John Hilary, Director of War on Want, had spoken about the threats posed by TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership). The people were then asked to form four groups to focus on one of four areas threatened by TTIP – Jobs, Health and NHS, Food Safety and Animal Protection, and World Trade. People were asked to suggest what actions we could take in Derby.

What can we do? One thing everyone at the meeting agreed was the need to use every available means to make voters aware of the serious threat to our way of life that TTIP poses and to ask them to challenge all candidates on whether they are for or against TTIP.

In terms of political parties, we know that the Conservatives, Lib Dems and Labour are all in favour of TTIP, and UKIP is in favour of what TTIP is setting out to do but just doesn’t think it should be negotiated by Brussels. The Green Party (and Plaid Cymru) is the only main party that is against TTIP.

Greens can work through our party structure and our MEPs to try to stop TTIP’s progress. We can also join with many other individuals and groups such as War on Want, Derby Peoples Assembly, the Unions, Friends of the Earth, 38 degrees and many others worldwide who are all working towards the same goal.

Ten reasons why you should be worried about TTIP

1. A Threat to Democracy – if agreed, TTIP would give corporations the power to sue governments over decisions that could harm their future profits, undermining democratic decision-making made in the public interest.

2. A Threat to Public Services – TTIP will create new markets in public services such as health and education, leading to greater liberalisation and privatisation. It would also make it very difficult to bring these services – as well as our energy and water – back under public control or renationalise them.

3. A Threat to Food Safety – Through a harmonisation of good safety regulation, EU food safety standards would be lowered to US levels. This would remove EU restrictions on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides and hormone-treated beef.

4. A Threat to the Environment – TTIP would see EU environmental regulations being harmonised and reduced to US levels, allowing a US-style fracking boom in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

5. A Threat to the Climate – With strong investor rights, TTIP would allow corporations to sue governments for bringing in new policies to leave fossil fuels in the ground.

6. A Threat to Workers’ Rights – Workers’ rights could be reduced to US standards and businesses could relocate to US states and EU countries with the lowest labour standards.

7. A Threat to Personal Privacy – Leaked documents indicate that TTIP could be used to reintroduce central elements of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which was rejected by the European parliament after popular protest. This could force internet providers to spy on their customers.

8. A Threat to Financial Control – TTIP is set to remove many of the new financial regulations (such as banking safeguards) that have been introduced since 2008 to prevent a future financial crash.

9. Negotiated in Secrecy – While corporate lobbyists are playing an integral role in negotiations, the public have been shut out. All negotiators must sign nondisclosure agreements. There is no access to the draft text or the agreement – even for MPs – so most of what we know is from leaked documents.

10. A Dangerous Blueprint for the Rest of the World – If TTIP is agreed, countries in the global south will come under huge pressure to apply TTIP standards to avoid losing trade. The business lobby are upfront about their aim of creating ‘global convergence towards EU-US standards’. This would see free trade policies forced on poorer countries, that they have had no part in negotiating.

PrintGreens say no to TTIP – If TTIP goes through there will be no point in electing a government, it will be government by corporations!

You can find a previous posting on this site giving more detail about TTIP itself and the War on Want website offers resources and information about their TTIP Campaign http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/ttip

Jean Macdonald

 

Tax Dodging, is costing us £70 Billion a year, we need action not words

Sue MacFarlane Parliamentary Candidate for Mid Derbyshire writes…

Sue MacFarlane cropI have received a number of messages in the last few days from electors expressing concern about the latest tax scandals involving HSBC. Like all my correspondents I find these revelations shocking and, as a Green Party Parliamentary candidate, I pledge to do everything I can to highlight that tax avoidance is wrong, cheating us all, and demand that the new Government in May takes effective action to put a stop to it.

In the wake of the HSBC, Swiss Leaks and Lux Leaks tax avoidance scandals, the Green Party has pledged to introduce a Tax Dodging Bill in the first 100 days after the election. The campaign for such a Bill is being widely supported by a network of NGOs, cooperatives, faith groups, MPs and Unions. During the election campaign, all Green Party candidates will attempt to get the other candidates to pledge to support such a measure, or explain to their electors why they don’t find tax avoidance wrong.

The Green Party has long championed firm action on tax avoidance as an alternative to austerity and fully backs the Bill which calls for new rules to make the UK tax regime more transparent and tougher on tax dodging. Green Party policy is to crack down heavily on tax havens and other methods of tax evasion and avoidance, and press for a transparent country-by-country reporting so that company profits can be located and taxed.

Green Party finance speaker, Molly Scott Cato MEP, who is a member of the European Parliament’s tax working group, said:
“In the wake of repeated tax avoidance scandals, it is now all the more vital that we put in place legislation to ensure corporations and wealthy individuals pay the taxes that treasuries need to invest in public services and infrastructure. Greens have been pushing hard in the European Parliament for a full inquiry into the Lux Leaks scandal but unfortunately, despite the rhetoric from both Tories and Labour on the issue, they have refused to back such an inquiry.”

Four years ago, in 2011 Green MP Caroline Lucas launched the Tax and Financial Transparency Bill in the House of Commons. She exposed the fact that HMRC was failing to prevent serious tax evasion, totaling £billion’s of lost tax each year. Despite two attempts at getting the Bill passed, it failed to gain enough Parliamentary support.

Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, has said “Tax avoidance has cost this country tens of billions of pounds over the course of this Parliament, at a time when public services are being slashed. If the Government’s political priorities had been clamping down on tax avoidance, rather than dismantling our welfare state and public services, then we’d be in a far fairer, more humane, and more economically stable Britain. We need new laws to make the UK tax regime tougher on those who wish to avoid contributing to our society.”

This Coalition Government is telling us that Austerity is necessary because the country cannot afford a social welfare programme to help the most needy, or a health and education service that fairly serves all. If the Government took the necessary measures to collect the tax that is legally due to it, taxes that have been agreed by our democratically elected parliament, then I believe that there would be no case for the failed policies of Austerity.

Figures from the Tax Justice Network show that each year the Treasury looses £70 Billion to the tax dodgers. Figures from the last budget state that the cuts to Governmental departmental spending since 2010 have been £25 billion. The pain, suffering and damage to the economy caused by those cuts was unnecessary and caused by the Government’s failure to collect what is due to it.

First published on the Green Party East Midlands Blog on 18th February, 2015

Austerity is not working – well for most of us …

Sue MacFarlane, Green Party Candidate for Mid Derbyshire has this to say about Austerity.

Sue MacFarlane cropI’ve been watching what is happening in Greece with interest. The people there have had enough of the austerity measures imposed by Europe that clearly aren’t working. The left wing Syriza party’s recent victory was unthinkable when their share of the vote was 5.6% in the 2007 election. Think about that, from 5.6% of the vote in 2007, to 36% of the vote in 2015.

Yesterday in Spain, tens of thousands of people marched in Madrid – they too are looking for change. The ‘Podemos’ (meaning ‘We Can’) party is also ploughing ahead in the opinion polls, and is talking about writing off Spain’s debt if it comes to power. Their leader, Pablo Iglesias, has said that a ‘wind of change’ is starting blowing through Europe. I agree.

Who are the people that think austerity is working? The bankers? The politicians? The 1%? The media? Ask almost anybody you know if they think that austerity is working, and they will say that it isn’t. So why are we persevering with it? Could it be because the bankers, the politicians, the 1% and the media have something to gain from the widening gap between rich and poor?

Let’s take the bankers. Our government (well, it was actually our money) started to bail out the banks. Yes, that’s right, the government gave our money to the banks saying ‘We will never appreciate how close we came to a collapse of the banking system’ (Paul Myners, City minister 2008-10) You’d think, given how strapped for cash the banks were, they would have instigated austerity measures of their own, wouldn’t you? You know, stopped paying obscene bonuses and such. I don’t need to tell you how this all worked out…

The politicians? In 2010, when the current government was formed, 23 of the 29 members of the new cabinet were millionaires – and over half of them were multi-millionaires. Do you really think these people could possibly understand our lives? With the best will in the world, these people have no idea what it’s like for the poorer people in our society. They talk about ‘the poor’ like this is an unchanging demographic instead of a situation that should be temporary. They do this because, under their government, it has become harder and harder to escape the ‘poverty trap’.

The 1%? The people who own as much of the world’s wealth as the poorest 50%? Whilst the rest of us are suffering under the austerity cuts, the luxury goods market has doubled every year since the measures were put in place. Why wouldn’t they think austerity is working – it IS working for them! They are getting richer!

The media? Don’t even get me started on the media! The cosy relationship between the media and the government is well documented, so no need to go into it here. Suffice to say that Andy Coulson was working in Downing Street as the Conservative Party’s Director of Communications when he had to resign due to the phone hacking scandal. There are some people in the media who can report honestly on what is happening – Owen Jones is one of these – but there aren’t many.

A report published by Oxfam last year (http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/the-perfect-storm-economic-stagnation-the-rising-cost-of-living-public-spending-228591) showed that the austerity measures here in the UK are causing substantial hardship to people living in poverty. The gap between rich and poor is widening, and is obscene. Apart from that, as Greece is finding out, it is not good for anyone – and not something that people will stand for any longer.

Apart from anything else, this austerity and inequality is just not necessary for the recovery of our economy. The National Audit Office said that we spent £850 billion on the bank crises in 2009 – that equated to £26,562 per taxpayer in the UK. Imagine if the government had given this money to you and me, to every adult in the country, to spend into the economy. Imagine the boost this would have had to the economy – and the people of this country who provided the money in the first place. We are still bailing the banks out – and they are still paying bonuses.

Finally, I’ll finish by saying that I think that the widening gap between rich and poor is not an accident – it is a strategy of power. It is a tool being used to keep people ‘in their place’. It hasn’t worked in Greece, and I don’t think it’s going to work here in the UK for much longer. As Frederick Douglass once said ‘ Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organised conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe’.

(First published 8th Feb on the Green Party East Midlands Blog)

TTIP – the Battle between Big Business and Democracy

TTIP_banner_cropped560with_text2TTIP isn’t a deal for citizens, small farmers, consumers, workers or small business. It’s about pushing a ‘big business’ agenda.

At a meeting in Derby on Wednesday 8th January, 2015 we heard a very clear presentation on the implications for us if TTIP becomes law. The meeting was organised by Derby Peoples Assembly and Derby Trades Union Council. The speaker was John Hilary, Director of War on Want. John explained he has worked for the past 20 years in the international development and human rights sector.

John said that although TTIP is being promoted as a way of getting out of recession and recovering from the financial crisis of 2008, the ideas actually started back in 1990 with the Trans-Atlantic Business Diologue when big executives got together to sweep away barriers that stopped their profits. He also said that ‘Austerity’ was not a recent policy but was part of a long term engineering programme.

The intention to launch TTIP negotiations was first announced by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address in February 2013, and the first round of negotiations took place between European Commission and US officials in July of the same year. The aim is to rush through the talks as swiftly as possible with no details entering the public domain, in the hope that they can be concluded before the peoples of Europe and the USA find out the true scale of the TTIP threat. It was hoped to finish plans by this year, 2015, as next year the US Presidential Elections take place so America won’t be able to deal with negotiations in election year.

TTIP is being negotiated ‘on our behalf’ by unelected European officials. Even our MP’s don’t know – and aren’t allowed to know – what’s being negotiated away.

It will cost at least one million jobs. It will pave the way for the introduction of genetically modified food into Europe. It will irreversibly extend the privatisation of key public services such as the NHS and it will give US corporations the power to sue the UK and other states for loss of profits when these governments introduce public policies designed to protect their citizens.

It is based on three pillars:
• De-regulation
• Privatisation
• Power to sue host governments – Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

De-regulation – John explained that TTIP is not a traditional trade agreement designed to reduce tariffs between economic partners. Tariffs between the EU and US are already at minimal levels. The stated aim of TTIP is to remove regulatory barriers which restrict the profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic.

The worry is that these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations such as labour rights, food safety rules (including restrictions of GM food), regulations on the use of toxic chemicals, digital privacy laws and even new banking safeguards introduced to prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

John explained that the EU works on a ‘precautionary principle’ – the onus is on the corporation to prove a chemical is safe or it will be banned. In America it is different. There, the onus is on the government to prove something is unsafe before it can be banned. To highlight this difference, in the cosmetics industry there are 1300 banned substances in the EU. In America only 12 substances are banned.

If TTIP is adopted, then the EU would be forced to lower its standards in food safety to the US level.
• In America you can’t chose what food you eat. 90% of beef in America contains growth hormones and 70% of processed food contains genetically modified ingredients.
• Environmental regulations would be harmonised and reduced to US levels allowing a US-style fracking boom in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

Privatisation – There is grave concern at the recent confirmation that health services, education, postal services and sewerage services are all included in the TTIP negotiations, with only audio-visual services (at the insistence of the French government) excluded. TTIP will open up our public services and government contracts to competition from multinational corporations and would make privatisation of the NHS irreversible in the future. (See below for information about a meeting organised by NHS Campaign Groups in February)

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – TTIP would enable huge multinational corporations to sue governments for loss of profits resulting from public policy decisions. It would allow a secretive panel of corporate lawyers to overrule the will of parliament and destroy our legal protections.

This is already happening in relation to existing treaties. For example:
• Swedish energy company, Vattenfall, is suing the German government for 3.7 billion Euros over the country’s decision to phase out nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
• The French company, Veolia, is suing the Egyptian government for loss of profit as a result of the country’s decision to raise the minimum wage.

Good News – The good news is that there has been huge uproar about these plans. Thanks to massive people-powered campaigns across Europe, the European Commission was forced to suspend negotiations on ISDS at the beginning of 2014 and conduct a public consultation. A record 150,000 people took part in the consultation – including War on Want supporters and Green Party members – and the overwhelming answer was ‘no’, we don’t want companies to be handed these destructive powers. Fifty groups in Britain have signed up to the NoTTIP coalition – including all the largest trade unions, social justice groups, environmental campaigners and of course, the Green Party.

Bad News – Unfortunately, despite this, the European Commission has confirmed its intention to press forward regardless and to use TTIP to introduce the controversial new powers and the British government is hell bent on getting TTIP agreed. David Cameron calls the deal a “once in a generation” opportunity which will create ‘growth and jobs’.

What we can do? – At the heart of it, TTIP will lead to a shift in the values upon which our society is based. The movement against TTIP is growing, but for it to succeed all the groups in society who are threatened by this corporate power grab need to be mobilised. Some suggestions:

Attend a meeting “TTIP and the attack on the NHS” – Tuesday 17 February 7.30pm in St Peter’s Church Hall, St Peter’s Street, Derby. Organised by NHS Campaign groups, supported by People’s Assembly. Will TTIP mean the wholesale privatisation of the NHS? John Hilary, Director of War On Want, will be speaking again along with an NHS Speaker.

Local Councils – A city council in the German town of Erkrath unanimously declared its opposition to TTIP. This follows the initiative by hundreds of French municipalities to declare themselves TTIP-free zones. It was suggested at the meeting that we might press for Derby City Council to declare themselves a TTIP-free zone.

May 7 Election – Push TTIP up the agenda by contacting candidates, sharing our concerns and asking them where they stand.

European Parliament – contact MEPs – John suggested that many MEPs are not fully aware of all the implications.

Small Businesses – contact the Small Business Federation to find out their views and get them involved.

Young People – The effects on the lives of the young and underprivileged could be phenomenal. Mass youth resistance is needed.

We need to keep building the movement against TTIP because we can win.

Jean Macdonald  
Green Party Activist

Links:

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/ttip – sign the European Citizen’s Initiative against TTIP and CETA

http://www.waronwant.org/news/latest-news/18256-ttip-the-fight-is-on-for-2015 video of John speaking short presentation at seminar in Stockholm

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18196-ttip-will-cost-one-million-jobs-official download the TTPI myth buster

http://www.waronwant.org/campaigns/trade-justice/more/inform/18078-what-is-ttip download a booklet written by John Hilary

http://www.nottip.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/TTIP-Newspaper-Issue-02-04.pdf read a copy of The #noTTIP Times, October 2014

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Getting Organised Against TTIP

TTIP

Greens Dispute Need for Derbyshire Cuts

Leafleting in High PeakIn July, Derbyshire County Council told us of their plans to drastically cut services and whilst promising to consult on their proposals, made it clear that, as they saw it, savings of £70 million over the next three years (beginning in April 2015) would have to be made. There was no alternative given the cuts in funding from central government.

As Labour Council Leader Anne Western said at the time:

“We need to be absolutely clear – we do not want to make these unrelenting cuts which will affect services local people rely on. The Government has left us no choice and we are having to think the unthinkable. Its budget reductions mean we have to cut our spending on local services by more than a third”

PrintThe Green Party disputes the need for cuts to vital public services, and challenges the need for austerity which the other main parties promote as a political consensus. Instead it has a commitment to an entirely different set of economic policies, which will promote the common good and the preservation of our planet, rather than the interests of a tiny elite.

See here http://greenparty.org.uk/values/fair-society.html

On the basis of the above, Derbyshire Green Party opposes the budget cuts being proposed, however reluctantly, by our Labour County Council, and urges others to do the same.

The council is consulting on its plans on a service by service basis, inviting responses to its planned cuts.

See here http://www.derbyshire.gov.uk/council/have_your_say/take_part/default.asp

The deadline for responses to its proposed cuts to its Housing Support Service is November 18th.

Peter mug-shot crop 1

Peter Allen

I have sent the following response to telladultcare@derbyshire.gov.uk on behalf of Derbyshire Green Party, which I invite others to make use of in their own responses.

Peter’s Response

“I write in response to your proposals to cut spending on Housing Related Support Services. The County Council may not have a legal duty to provide these services but your own report identifies how vital they are to support some of Derbyshire’s most vulnerable residents.

The proposed reduction in the length of time that residents with a learning disability receive support to enable them to live independently in the community is based on an assumption that such service users can be taught how to manage without support faster. No details are given as to how this is to be achieved and we fear that many of those affected will ‘sink’ rather than ‘swim’ with serious consequences for themselves and a likelihood that they will require support again sooner rather than later, meaning that, in the long term no savings will be made. Alternatively, support will be denied to them, leaving them unable to cope, and therefore likely to end up in far more expensive residential care.

An insensitive, false economy.

The proposed halving of the number of vulnerable young adults supported to access and maintain appropriate housing is likely to increase the numbers of such young people ending up in prison or hospital.

An insensitive, false economy.

The proposed reduction in emergency housing provision for victims of domestic abuse is, as your report says likely to lead to the following:

  • more women and families fleeing abuse being placed in bed and breakfast
  • police and safety issues escalating
  • increased demand for counselling and mental health services.

An insensitive, false economy.

Your report also makes clear what the consequences of the huge cuts to support for vulnerable adults with mental health problems will be:

  • Increased hospital admissions
  • Increased tenancy breakdown and homelessness
  • Stigma and loss of family connection.

An insensitive, false economy.

Similarly, your proposed cut to the Handy Van service, which carries out essential repairs and improvements in the homes of vulnerable residents will, as your report warns, have the effect that more people will remain in hospital for longer due to delayed hospital discharge. Whilst the total removal of your sheltered housing provision might save nearly £1 million per year in the short term, as you yourselves say, it will have as a likely impact a growth in the number of older people losing their independence and having to go into far more expensive, and unwanted residential care.

Insensitive, false economies.

Finally, the proposed ending of the Older Peoples Housing Options Service will increase pressure on the remaining housing advice services and mean that more older people will remain in unsuitable housing and therefore experience a deterioration in their health and well being, which is likely to lead to increased health costs in the future.

Yet another insensitive, false economy.

The cuts you propose are unfair and unwise, and are likely to cost more in the long term, in both human and financial terms. Before proceeding on this course of action Derbyshire County Council should, alongside other equally resource stretched local councils across the country, launch a campaign in defence of essential council services, demanding that any government which is elected next May finds the resources to properly fund public services in general and council services in particular.

There is plenty of money around. It is just in the wrong hands.”

Peter Allen
High Peak Regional Coordinator, Derbyshire Green Party

Post Carbon – where will the smart money go?

Fracking 9Last weekend, Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney made the most important political statement of the year. Speaking at a World Bank seminar in New York, Carney said: the “vast majority of reserves are un-burnable”. He was referring to fossil fuels, he was speaking to financiers and industrialists.

Carney is no liberal Green giant, he is a very conservative minded Canadian who encouraged the exploitation of his country’s tar sands, about the dirtiest fuel in the world. Yet he has had to swallow a dose of reality and accept the warnings of Nicolas Stern about the full impact of climate change on global finance. He has at last accepted the dangers of putting too many of our economic eggs into the oil basket.

In the spring of 2012, I wrote an article called ‘The Carbon Bubble’, published on the DGP website. [ https://derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk/2012/03/17/the-carbon-bubble/ ] That article showed that a huge amount of global wealth is invested in oil and gas reserves. If these reserves are burned, as they have to be to give a return on the investment, then global temperatures will rise to between 3.5 & 5.0 degrees C. If the wealth invested in coal is added in, then the planet becomes uninhabitable.

At that time investors continued to pour their wealth in to fossil reserves. We are still seeing that in the UK over fracking. The rich and powerful individuals and organisations making these investments fully expect a return. For them to stay rich, the world must fry.

This is the problem that financiers and politicians of all shades except Green have allowed to happen. If the carbon reserves are not burned, to keep temperature rise to below 2C, colossal amounts of private and corporate wealth will be lost, markets will crash, the Carbon Bubble bursts, unleashing a financial crisis that would dwarf that of 2008. If the reserves are burned to return the expected profit and wealth, then the cost of the resulting climate chaos will be far greater than the value of the reserves, the economy will be bankrupt.

Carney’s predecessor at the BoE, the ever cautious Mervyn King, recognised that the warnings about over investment in carbon assets by the Stock Exchange needed due consideration. The new Governor has indeed considered the matter and is issuing his quiet warnings to the market. Is it a coincidence that the markets have dipped this week? Is the move to divestment in coal, gas and oil really so altruistic? Are we seeing a steady retreat from carbon assets as the reality of climate change begins to penetrate the minds of corporate investors? If so this will create its own problems.

Where will the wealth go? If it is pulled out of oil and gas, it will be looking for a home. Is this the real reason for the drive for privatisation of public service. Not an ideologically driven policy at all, but a pragmatic response to the need to find a safe haven for private and corporate wealth. What could be a better long term investment than the supply of food, water and health? These are what everyone in the world needs on a daily basis, just like energy but on a far bigger scale. Hand all of this supply to the private sector and the potential market is huge and growing.

Greens oppose this commercialisation of the basic needs of people. For us, the supply of the essentials of life, food, water, energy, health and education, should be under public democratic control so access is not determined by personal wealth, but by need. Hand this supply over to the private sector then it will be driven by profit, not the needs of the consumers. Many will be priced out of the market in these services so that the rich and powerful can maintain their privileged positions.

Mike Shipley

Greens’ Alarm at Huge Wildlife Loss

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Green Party’s candidate in the High Peak, Charlotte Farrell, reacted with shock at the news that over half of global wildlife has been lost since 1970. The information comes from the World Wildlife fund in its latest ‘Living Planet’ report. This shows that there has been a nearly 40% fall in the populations of land and marine animals, with freshwater animals, including fish, falling by three quarters.

Commenting on these figures, Charlotte said, ‘This is truly terrible, wildlife isn’t some luxury, it is part of our life support system. The loss of fresh water life is particularly worrying since this shows how much strain sources of fresh water are under. Without clean water, life for all becomes impossible.’

Since 1970, the global economy has boomed and human population has doubled. The Greens claim that this growth is fuelled by an unsustainable use of natural resources. They say that the rate of use of resources in Europe and America would need three Earths to maintain.

Charlotte went on to say, ‘By any measure, what we are doing now cannot be kept up for much longer. The rate of loss is increasing and at the same time we are seeing serious changes to the chemistry of the oceans and to the behaviour of the climate. Just how much more warning do we need before we make the change to a sustainable economy and live within the limits of the only planet we have?

‘What is most alarming is the fact that our politicians are in total denial about all this. Little appears in the press, nothing is heard from our leaders who go on and on about ‘growth’ as if this was possible for ever. Only the Greens have faced reality and proposed an economic policy that shares the wealth we have to secure a decent living for all, while conserving the planet. Instead of serious action, Governments are driving a last desperate grab for what is left, by the mega-rich and powerful, who have already decided that the majority of us must live in poverty for ever. Greens totally reject this. We know that there is a better way to live within the natural limits of the world. Our policies work for the common good. This will be our message in the coming election campaign.’

For more information on the WWF Living Planet Report:

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/

Greens' Alarm at Huge Wildlife Loss

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Green Party’s candidate in the High Peak, Charlotte Farrell, reacted with shock at the news that over half of global wildlife has been lost since 1970. The information comes from the World Wildlife fund in its latest ‘Living Planet’ report. This shows that there has been a nearly 40% fall in the populations of land and marine animals, with freshwater animals, including fish, falling by three quarters.

Commenting on these figures, Charlotte said, ‘This is truly terrible, wildlife isn’t some luxury, it is part of our life support system. The loss of fresh water life is particularly worrying since this shows how much strain sources of fresh water are under. Without clean water, life for all becomes impossible.’

Since 1970, the global economy has boomed and human population has doubled. The Greens claim that this growth is fuelled by an unsustainable use of natural resources. They say that the rate of use of resources in Europe and America would need three Earths to maintain.

Charlotte went on to say, ‘By any measure, what we are doing now cannot be kept up for much longer. The rate of loss is increasing and at the same time we are seeing serious changes to the chemistry of the oceans and to the behaviour of the climate. Just how much more warning do we need before we make the change to a sustainable economy and live within the limits of the only planet we have?

‘What is most alarming is the fact that our politicians are in total denial about all this. Little appears in the press, nothing is heard from our leaders who go on and on about ‘growth’ as if this was possible for ever. Only the Greens have faced reality and proposed an economic policy that shares the wealth we have to secure a decent living for all, while conserving the planet. Instead of serious action, Governments are driving a last desperate grab for what is left, by the mega-rich and powerful, who have already decided that the majority of us must live in poverty for ever. Greens totally reject this. We know that there is a better way to live within the natural limits of the world. Our policies work for the common good. This will be our message in the coming election campaign.’

For more information on the WWF Living Planet Report:

http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/all_publications/living_planet_report/