Category Archives: Political Reform

Natalie Bennett’s Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

UK’s first Green MP welcomes Labour to Brighton with digital billboard ad

Labour ConferenceLabour Party members attending their conference in Brighton this weekend, in the constituency of the UK’s first Green MP, will be welcomed by a billboard making the case that it is Caroline Lucas who is offering the real opposition in parliament.

The digital advert will be on display prominently on Queen’s Road – one of Brighton’s main thoroughfares.  The street is the main route down which Labour delegates and lobbyists who arrive by train will travel to reach the conference at the sea-front Metropole Hotel.

The ad starts with a check list, against a red backdrop, reading: “Saving the NHS, Fighting Austerity, Railways in Public Hands, Scrapping Trident.”  As the screen turns green, the billboard says “Brought to you by the Green Party.”

The final screen displays a photo of Caroline Lucas MP and reads: “Welcome to Brighton – Home of the True Opposition in Parliament. p.s. Labour is down the hill on the right.”

Rob Shepherd, Chair of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said, “We know a lot of Labour members want their party leadership to stand up to austerity and NHS privatisation, and to support progressive policies such as public ownership of the railways.

“We wanted to remind them that there’s an MP already fighting for these causes in Parliament. It would be great to see Labour members using their conference to encourage Ed Miliband to follow Caroline’s lead on standing up for these causes, and bring together a powerful coalition of voices to reverse the consensus that austerity and privatisation are the only game in town.”

The Green Party’s own autumn conference took place last weekend, also in Brighton.  In her conference speech Caroline Lucas criticised cuts to welfare and local services, and argued that it is the Green Party, rather than Labour, that is offering the real opposition to the Government’s agenda of austerity and privatisation.

She is speaking at two events at Labour’s conference – a Compass panel discussion called ‘Labour – an open tribe?’ and an Institute for Public Policy Research event titled ‘The Condition of Britain’.

Her Private Member’s Bill to bring the railways back into public hands is due its second reading next month.

View the ad on line at: http://bit.ly/16qbrBJ

European Election SoundBite

2014 Election SoundBiteskat-gp-1East Midlands Green Party have a very strong lead candidate, Katharine Boettge, and a real chance of getting her elected.  

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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]

Let’s Get Greens on the TV

One of the Young Greens, Lisa Camps, has created an e-petition aiming to get the Greens on the TV General Election debates.

A government e-petition was chosen as it’s a really effective way to highlight the issue.

She’s asking people to share the petition which is at: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/46764

Thunderclap

In addition, most excitingly, she’s asking people to be part of a so-called ‘Thunderclap’. Please read here and take the action. It could go viral!

THUNDERCLAP! If you haven’t heard of it, you sign up to a cause you support and then when 100 people have done so, a message is sent from all those people’s Twitter/Facebook accounts at once; creating a trend and getting your message viral. Don’t worry, you can see the message that will be sent from your account before you sign up, and it will only ever be that one message.

If you’d like to be part of the Thunderclap team that get the government epetition demanding that the Green Party of England and Wales be on the general election TV debates trending- sign up now!

https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/1567-green-party-on-the-tv-debates

Thanks all

Matthew

Matthew Butcher, Media Officer
Office of Keith Taylor, Green MEP for South East England

European Union

Defence of Human rights

The demand for a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union does not come from the majority of the British people. We have had our say and we said yes. Nevertheless, some argue, that since the last referendum was in 1975, people might have changed their mind, and there is a new generation of voters who must have their say. But the logic of this is that the matter of membership of the Union can never be settled, we must have a referendum on the EU every generation. Until, that is, the people give the answer that the Euro-sceptics want – the answer that will suit their vested interests, that will give them the freedom to do as they please in our country.

Since 1975, we have been subject to an endless propaganda campaign by the billionaire owned right wing press that has used distortions and half truths to paint Europe black on every occasion. Now they sense that their propaganda is beginning to turn the tide in their favour, that this time, we will give the answer that they want.

But what is this anti-European sentiment all about? Can it really be the backwash of the endless conflicts we have had with our near neighbours throughout our history? Surely not. The British love going to Europe, many go to live there, they love the Mediterranean life style, guzzle gallons of European wine, eat more pizzas than Yorkshire puddings. Growing numbers of us count ‘Europeans’ as our friends, romance flourishes across the leaky borders of the EU. So why the hostility?

Most European countries have a strong sense of civil society, most strongly seen in the Scandinavian countries, but not at all exclusive to them. There is a greater acceptance of the role of the state in peoples’ lives. Continental people are more community minded, there is greater material equality coupled with equality of opportunity. Local authorities provide and maintain high quality public spaces and facilities, and people use them, and in so doing interact with each other more, developing that sense of community. Of course, all this provision comes at a cost, on average, taxes tend to be higher. And there lies the crux of the argument.

The right wing of this country are heavily influenced by America and from there, they acquire a visceral hatred of taxation and of public ownership They are obsessed with private ownership and provision. They have no interest in democracy or of the general well being of majority of us. They want to accumulate vast personal wealth and use it to control the political process to ensure that government governs on their behalf. They see the European Union as an obstacle to achieving this dictatorship by wealth.

In the face of this threat and the reality that in the UK as in the USA, private wealth can and does buy political favours and electoral results, we need some political presence that can act on behalf of the general interest. Since Parliament has abandoned this role with MP’s meekly following the diktats of the Party managers, we increasingly must look to the European Union to secure our human, social and environmental rights.

The EU is far from perfect or democratic and the Green Party is calling for a serious reform of its institutions to increase democratic accountability, and to reduce bureaucratic waste. We do not want to see further centralisation of economic powers, rather we want to see a devolution the other way, not only from Europe but also from Westminster. We want to see self reliant regions, neither dictated to by the EU or by the national government. We are not wanting isolationism, we want to foster cooperation across national boundaries. We want to see all levels of government focusing on securing a sustainable future for us all, recognising and fostering good practice where ever it might be in order to enable us all to live full creative lives.

This is not the vision of the Euro-sceptics. They want to withdraw from the Human Rights Act, to scrap the Working Time Directives and the minimum wage, they want their businesses to have the right to hire and fire us at will and on their terms. They want to pay us lower and lower wages so that they can pocket bigger profits to build their economic and therefore political power. They want to scrap environmental legislation because they think they can insulate themselves from environmental degradation with their wealth. It matter not to them under what conditions we live, we are nothing more than economic units of production and consumption.

The European Union was born out of a vision of far seeing people. They were shocked by the waste and destruction of two European wars that spread out to engulf the world. They wanted a better future for their descendants, a future in which people could live without fear. The Constitution of the European Union, much hated by Euro-sceptics, commits the Union and its member states to the promotion of peace and the well-being of its people. Its core values include non-discrimination, equality between women and men, tolerance and justice, the eradication of poverty, the protection of human rights, in the particular the rights of the child, sustainable development and the development of international law that respects the principles of the United Nations. Further, any member state that violates these principles shall be suspended or expelled. It is little wonder that the Euro-sceptics want to withdraw the UK from the European Union. And if we allow them to have their way, will we, the ordinary people, be better off?

© Mike Shipley

The Experts Agree: Bolsover’s Councillors Have Been Too Greedy

PRESS RELEASE FROM CLLR DUNCAN KERR, BOLSOVER DC

Councillor Duncan Kerr

16th July 2011 not embargoed

In a late report just released by Bolsover Council the expert members on the Council’s remuneration panel have unanimously backed Cllr Kerr’s claim that the Bolsover’s members have granted themselves excessive allowances and have called for these payments to be slashed by 46% saying “their work cannot be substantially different from members of other authorities”, precisely the point that Cllr Kerr has been campaigning about. Commenting on the development Cllr Kerr said:

“I am grateful that the experts on this panel have been brave enough to stand up and speak the truth that Bolsover Councillors, led by its Labour administration, have been helping themselves to far too much of the tax-payers money. By my reckoning during the four year term of the last council members took in total over £1M more in allowances when compared to some other authorities. This is money that could, and should, have been spent on delivering services. We will wait and see whether the Council accepts this report and apologises to the people of Bolsover.”

Whilst Cllr Kerr is supportive of the Panel’s view on basic remuneration he is concerned to see that they propose substantial increases in the “Special Allowances” paid to some Councillors such as the Leader, Cabinet and Committee Chairs by 31% in some cases and 94% in others. Commenting on this Duncan said:

“Whilst the panel have collected data from six other similar authorities near-by to make their recommendations they do not appear to have taken any account of the fact that all these authorities have significantly higher populations (on average over a third higher) than Bolsover. If this had been taken into account several of these special allowances would not go down not up, so I will be asking them to reconsider their recommendations”.

Ends.
———————————————————————————-
Cllr Duncan Kerr is a Green Party Councillor representing the Whitwell ward on Bolsover District Council. He was elected in May 2011

Email: DuncanKerr@Bolsover.gov.uk  or Kerr.duncan@hotmail.co.uk
Tel: 07522116609 or 01909 726349

The Bolsover Council meeting is at 10am on Wednesday 20th July, in Sherwood Lodge, Bolsover. Agenda item 14 refers and it was issued on the 14th July, three days after Cllr Kerr’s question was submitted.

Further information on other activities and a copy of the question Cllr Kerr has placed on the Council agenda for the 20th July is on his blog www.greeninbolsover.blogspot.com

Bolsover: The Rotten Borough

PRESS RELEASE FROM CLLR DUNCAN KERR, BOLSOVER DC

Councillor Duncan Kerr

13th July 2011 not embargoed

Duncan was elected for the Green Party to represent Whitwell on Bolsover Council two months ago but has been appalled by the selfish practices of the controlling Labour group. He will be calling Cllr Eion Watts the Leader of the Council to account by posing a question at the Council meeting in Sherwood Lodge, Bolsover on Wednesday the 20th July.

Duncan said “I am determined to expose the scandalous practices that have turned Bolsover into a rotten borough to the embarrassment of  residents, the MP Dennis Skinner and the leadership of the national Labour party who will be as shocked as I was to learn that:

  • The basic allowance that Bolsover Councillors have voted themselves is over £10,000 pa, higher than all the other 300+ District Councils. Similar Councillors in Derbyshire take less than half this although their house prices and cost of living are higher.
  • Not satisfied with double pay, up to half the Labour members get even more money for chairing Scrutiny Committees because they have ignored recommendations from their own government to hand these roles to opposition Councillors.
  • Although Bolsover is one of the smallest, and poorest Councils in Derbyshire the greed of its Labour Councillors makes the total cost of Democratic representation and management over £1.1M that’s nearly £1 in every £5 collected in Council tax for the District.
  • Public confidence in the Council is so weak that in the last 10 years no-one has ever attended a Council meeting to ask a question. Unlike local Parish Councils the over-paid Labour Councillors refuse to help hard working people by meeting in the evenings.
  • Cllr Watts talks endlessly about the need for cuts and redundancies but his own financial plans show that in the next two years the Council will increase its balances by at least £4M to over £10M as it pockets the £4.2M transition grant from the government. This should be invested not in another Icelandic bank but in insulating homes, generating renewable energy and creating new green jobs.
  • Whilst Council staff have been told to budge-up so their offices can be rented out, the Labour group have abused their position by turning the members areas into a private, under-used social club for their members only leaving new non-Labour councillors without a dedicated desk or PC let alone an office.

Duncan says “I may be a single green voice in a sea of red but I believe that the best disinfectant is the glare of public opinion and I intend to carry on exposing hypocrisy until every Councillor in Bolsover understands that the public will not tolerate excesses here anymore than they have in Westminster. The Labour Councillors need to start putting the needs of communities first before their own pockets. Their actions are crippling residents with high tax bills, creating unnecessary redundancies and dragging down the good name of Bolsover.

If any member of the public or press shares my indignation at this scandalous situation I would urge them to come and show their support at the Council meeting at 10.00 on Wednesday the 20th July in Sherwood Lodge, Bolsover. I’m sure we will all be fascinated to hear what Cllr Eion Watts Leader of the Council has to say”.

Ends.

———————————————————————————-
Email: DuncanKerr@Bolsover.gov.uk  or Kerr.duncan@hotmail.co.uk
Tel: 07522116609 or 01909 726349

There will be a photo-call at 9.15am on Wednesday the 20th July at Sherwood Lodge, Bolsover when Duncan will attempt to present a bill for £1 million to the Bolsover Labour party representing the cost to residents of the over-payment of member expenses from 2006 to 2011.

A copy of the full question that is being put to Cllr Watts is available from www.greeninbolsover.blogspot.com

Warning, when Choosing a Government, Read the Small Print.

A little noticed Bill has been introduced to the House of Lords, it’s called the Public Bodies [Reform] Bill. The Government claims that its purpose is to achieve greater efficiency and transparency in the operation of Statutory Bodies, achieving a saving of £1 billion. Achieving efficiency and value for public money is a laudable aim, and a periodic review of Public Bodies no bad thing to counter little empire building. However, it is difficult to see why abolishing an agency and privatising its functions will lead to greater transparency. The true purpose of the Bill is to merge, abolish them, or outsource their functions.

Forty-four bodies are scheduled for abolition. They include the Advisory Committees on Hazardous Substances and on Pesticides, the Commission for Rural Communities, all the Regional Development Agencies, and the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission. A further seventeen are to have their statutory duties altered, including the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the National Parks Authorities. It is to be presumed that they will have to become more business friendly. [For the full list see: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201011/ldbills/025/11025.15-18.html#j102s]

It is Ministers, their advisors, and lobbyists who will have the power to decide the fate of the Statutory Bodies named in the Bill. There will be no Parliamentary debate on their value or how best to discharge their functions. Ministers will be able to transfer functions and assets to the private sector. This may be an existing business, a mutual company, a charity, or voluntary organisation.

If the popular media notice this measure at all, it will be to cheer over the axing of ‘wasteful’ public bodies. But others with more political insight are raising serious concern, not simply on the substance of the Bill, but also its wider implications. Among those voicing concern is the House of Lords own Constitutional Committee, who recognise it as a calculated attack on our constitutional process.

Parliament, through primary legislation, established the Public Bodies due for ‘reform’. The ‘Reform’ Bill will remove from Parliament its right to amend its own legislation. Instead, Ministers will amend Parliamentary legislation, putting them on an equal footing with the democratically elected Parliament, and not subordinate to it. However, Ministers are appointed, not elected, they do not even have to be members of the elected chamber. For our democracy, this sets a dangerous president. If allowed, it will be done again, because that is how our unwritten constitution works, by precedent. An emboldened Government will see that it has a way of changing or abolishing primary legislation – in other words, the Law – without Parliamentary debate or approval. That is the path to dictatorship.

We are now getting the true flavour of the Conservative Party’s purpose. It’s not Big Society at all – remember, they once declared that society does not exist. It is Big Business. This Bill is part of the privatisation project, to pass the greater proportion of government functions and assets to the private sector, for them to discharge in any profitable way they see fit, which will be at our expense.

Where business sees no profit, or attractive assets, functions will be offered to the voluntary and charity sector. While this sector will do all it can with limited resources, it will have a limited reach and may choose to be selective, will, for example, a faith-based organisation accept obligations towards non-believers? How is the voluntary sector going to bridge the resource gap between rich and poor areas?

There is also the question of the regulation and enforcement duties that often makes Statutory Bodies a thorn in the side of Business. We can expect more self-regulation, for all the good that does. If an enforcement agency is being effective, business simply bleats to a sympathetic Minister, who can introduce and amendment naming the agency, to the Public Bodies [Reform] Act, for reasons of efficiency and transparency. After all something that isn’t there is fully transparent.

[Mike Shipley 23/11/10]

Caroline Lucas' Maiden Speech To Parliament

Mr Speaker,

I am most grateful to you for calling me during today’s debate.

The environment is a subject dear to my heart, as I’m sure you know, and I’ll return to it in a moment.

I think anyone would find their first speech in this chamber daunting, given its history and traditions, and the many momentous events it has witnessed.

But I have an additional responsibility, which is to speak not only as the new Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but also as the first representative of the Green Party to be elected to Westminster.

You have to go back several decades, to the election of the first Nationalist MPs in Scotland and Wales, to find the last maiden speech from a new national political party.

And perhaps a better comparison would be those first Socialist and Independent Labour MPs, over a century ago, whose arrival was seen as a sign of coming revolution.

When Keir Hardie made his maiden speech to this House, after winning the seat of West Ham South in 1892, there was an outcry.

Because instead of frock coat and top hat, he wore a tweed suit and deerstalker.  It’s hard to decide which of these choices would seem more inappropriate today.

But what Keir Hardie stood for now seems much more mainstream.

Progressive taxation, votes for women, free schooling, pensions and abolition of the House of Lords.

Though the last of these is an urgent task still before us, the rest are now seen as essential to our society.

What was once radical, even revolutionary, becomes understood, accepted and even cherished.

In speaking today, I am helped by an admirable tradition – that in your first speech to this House, you should refer to your constituency and to your predecessor.

David Lepper, who stood down at this election after thirteen years service as Member for Brighton Pavilion, was an enormously hard-working and highly-respected Member whose qualities transcend any differences of Party.  I am delighted to have this chance to thank him for his work on behalf of the people of Brighton.

It is also a great pleasure to speak about Brighton itself. It is, I am sure, well-known to many Members, if only from Party conferences.

My own Party has not yet grown to a size to justify the use of the Brighton Centre, although I hope that will change before long.

But I can say to honourable members who are not familiar with it,  that it is one of the UK’s premier conference venues; and there are proposals to invest in it further to help ensure that Brighton retains its status as the UK’s leading conference and tourism resort.

There are also the attractions of the shops and cafes of the Lanes and North Laine, the Pier and of course the Royal Pavilion itself, which gives its name to the constituency.

And beyond the immediate boundaries of the constituency and the city, there is the quietly beautiful countryside of the South Downs and the Sussex Weald.

Brighton has always had a tradition of independence – of doing things differently.   It has an entrepreneurial spirit, making the best of things whatever the circumstances, and enjoying being ahead of the curve.

We see this in the numbers of small businesses and freelancers within the constituency, and in the way in which diversity is not just tolerated, or respected, but positively welcomed and valued.

You have to work quite hard to be a “local character” in Brighton.

We do not have a single dominant employer in Brighton. As well as tourism and hospitality, we have two universities, whose students make an important cultural, as well as financial, contribution to the city.

There are also a large number of charities, campaigning groups and institutes based there, some local, others with a national or international reach, such as the Institute of Development Studies, all of which I will work to support in my time in this place.

I would like also to pay tribute to those wonderful Brighton organisations that work with women. In particular I’d like to mention Rise, who do amazing work with women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Many of my constituents are employed in the public and voluntary sectors. They include doctors and teachers, nurses and police officers, and others from professions that do not always have the same level of attention or support from the media, or indeed from politicians.

But whatever the role – social workers, planning officers, highway engineers or border agency staff – we depend upon them.

I’m sure that members on all sides would agree that all those who work for the State should be respected and their contribution valued. In a time of cuts, with offhand comments about bureaucrats and pencil-pushers, that becomes yet more important.

There is also a Brighton that is perhaps less familiar to honourable members. The very popularity of the City puts pressure on transport and housing and on the quality of life.

Though there is prosperity, it is not shared equally. People are proud of Brighton, but they believe that it can be a better and fairer place to live and work.

I pledge to everything I can in this place to help achieve that, with a particular focus on creating more affordable, more sustainable housing.

Brighton was once the seat of the economist Henry Fawcett who, despite his blindness, was elected there in 1865. Shortly afterwards he married Millicent Garrett, later the leader of the suffragists, a movement he himself had supported and encouraged.

So he lent his name to the Fawcett Society, which is still campaigning for greater women’s representation in politics.

The task of ensuring that Parliament better reflects the people that it represents remains work in progress – and as the first woman elected in Brighton Pavilion, this is work that I will do all that I can do advance.

I said when I began that I found this occasion daunting.

Perhaps the most difficult task is to say a few words about the latest radical move that the people of Brighton have made – that is, to elect the first Green MP to Parliament.

It has been a long journey.

The Green Party traces its origins back to 1973, and the issues highlighted in its first Manifesto for a Sustainable Society – including security of energy supply, tackling pollution, raising standards of welfare and striving for steady state economics – are even more urgent today.

If our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, I like to think we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need,  than we currently are today.

We fielded fifty candidates in the 1979 general election as the Ecology Party, and began to win seats on local councils. Representation in the European Parliament and the London Assembly followed.

Now, after nearly four decades of the kind of work on doorsteps and in council chambers which I am sure honourable members are all too familiar, we have more candidates and more members, and now our first MP.

A long journey.

Too long, I would say.

Politics needs to renew itself, and allow new ideas and visions to emerge.

Otherwise debate is the poorer, and more and more people will feel that they are not represented.

So I hope that if, and when, other new political movements arise, they will not be excluded by the system of voting. Reform here, as in other areas, is long-overdue.

The chance must not be squandered.   Most crucially, the people themselves must be given a choice about the way their representatives are elected.

And in my view, that means more than a referendum on the Alternative Vote – it means the choice of a genuinely proportional electoral system.

Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question: what can a single MP hope to achieve? I may not be alone in facing that question.

And since arriving in this place, and thinking about the contribution other members have made over the years, I am sure that the answer is clear, that a single MP can achieve a great deal.

A single MP can contribute to debates, to legislation, to scrutiny. Work that is valuable, if not always appreciated on the outside.

A single MP can speak up for their constituents.

A single MP can challenge the executive.  I am pleased that the government is to bring forward legislation to revoke a number of restrictions on people’s freedoms and liberties, such as identity cards.

But many restrictions remain. For example, control orders are to stay in force. Who is to speak for those affected and for the principle that people should not be held without charge, even if it is their own homes?

House arrest is something we deplore in other countries. I hope through debate we can conclude that it has no place here either.

A single MP can raise issues that cannot be aired elsewhere.

Last year Honourable Members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly.

This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts, and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here.

Finally, I would like to touch on the subject of today’s debate.

I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life, first with Oxfam – for the effects of climate change are already affecting millions of people in poorer countries around the world – and then for ten years in the European Parliament.

But if we are to overcome this threat, then it is we in this chamber who must take the lead.

We must act so that the United Kingdom can meet its own responsibilities to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are changing our climate, and encourage and support other countries to do the same.

This House has signed up to the 10:10 Campaign – 10% emissions reductions in 2010.  That’s very good news.  But the truth is that we need 10% emission cuts every year, year on year, until we reach a zero carbon economy.

And time is running short.  If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, then it is this Parliament that must meet this historic task.

That gives us an extraordinary responsibility – and an extraordinary opportunity.

Because the good news is that the action that we need to tackle the climate crisis is action which can improve the quality of life for all of us – better, more affordable public transport, better insulated homes, the end of fuel poverty, stronger local communities and economies, and many more jobs.

I look forward to working with Members from all sides of the House on advancing these issues.

Caroline Lucas’ Maiden Speech To Parliament

Mr Speaker,

I am most grateful to you for calling me during today’s debate.

The environment is a subject dear to my heart, as I’m sure you know, and I’ll return to it in a moment.

I think anyone would find their first speech in this chamber daunting, given its history and traditions, and the many momentous events it has witnessed.

But I have an additional responsibility, which is to speak not only as the new Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but also as the first representative of the Green Party to be elected to Westminster.

You have to go back several decades, to the election of the first Nationalist MPs in Scotland and Wales, to find the last maiden speech from a new national political party.

And perhaps a better comparison would be those first Socialist and Independent Labour MPs, over a century ago, whose arrival was seen as a sign of coming revolution.

When Keir Hardie made his maiden speech to this House, after winning the seat of West Ham South in 1892, there was an outcry.

Because instead of frock coat and top hat, he wore a tweed suit and deerstalker.  It’s hard to decide which of these choices would seem more inappropriate today.

But what Keir Hardie stood for now seems much more mainstream.

Progressive taxation, votes for women, free schooling, pensions and abolition of the House of Lords.

Though the last of these is an urgent task still before us, the rest are now seen as essential to our society.

What was once radical, even revolutionary, becomes understood, accepted and even cherished.

In speaking today, I am helped by an admirable tradition – that in your first speech to this House, you should refer to your constituency and to your predecessor.

David Lepper, who stood down at this election after thirteen years service as Member for Brighton Pavilion, was an enormously hard-working and highly-respected Member whose qualities transcend any differences of Party.  I am delighted to have this chance to thank him for his work on behalf of the people of Brighton.

It is also a great pleasure to speak about Brighton itself. It is, I am sure, well-known to many Members, if only from Party conferences.

My own Party has not yet grown to a size to justify the use of the Brighton Centre, although I hope that will change before long.

But I can say to honourable members who are not familiar with it,  that it is one of the UK’s premier conference venues; and there are proposals to invest in it further to help ensure that Brighton retains its status as the UK’s leading conference and tourism resort.

There are also the attractions of the shops and cafes of the Lanes and North Laine, the Pier and of course the Royal Pavilion itself, which gives its name to the constituency.

And beyond the immediate boundaries of the constituency and the city, there is the quietly beautiful countryside of the South Downs and the Sussex Weald.

Brighton has always had a tradition of independence – of doing things differently.   It has an entrepreneurial spirit, making the best of things whatever the circumstances, and enjoying being ahead of the curve.

We see this in the numbers of small businesses and freelancers within the constituency, and in the way in which diversity is not just tolerated, or respected, but positively welcomed and valued.

You have to work quite hard to be a “local character” in Brighton.

We do not have a single dominant employer in Brighton. As well as tourism and hospitality, we have two universities, whose students make an important cultural, as well as financial, contribution to the city.

There are also a large number of charities, campaigning groups and institutes based there, some local, others with a national or international reach, such as the Institute of Development Studies, all of which I will work to support in my time in this place.

I would like also to pay tribute to those wonderful Brighton organisations that work with women. In particular I’d like to mention Rise, who do amazing work with women who have been victims of domestic abuse.

Many of my constituents are employed in the public and voluntary sectors. They include doctors and teachers, nurses and police officers, and others from professions that do not always have the same level of attention or support from the media, or indeed from politicians.

But whatever the role – social workers, planning officers, highway engineers or border agency staff – we depend upon them.

I’m sure that members on all sides would agree that all those who work for the State should be respected and their contribution valued. In a time of cuts, with offhand comments about bureaucrats and pencil-pushers, that becomes yet more important.

There is also a Brighton that is perhaps less familiar to honourable members. The very popularity of the City puts pressure on transport and housing and on the quality of life.

Though there is prosperity, it is not shared equally. People are proud of Brighton, but they believe that it can be a better and fairer place to live and work.

I pledge to everything I can in this place to help achieve that, with a particular focus on creating more affordable, more sustainable housing.

Brighton was once the seat of the economist Henry Fawcett who, despite his blindness, was elected there in 1865. Shortly afterwards he married Millicent Garrett, later the leader of the suffragists, a movement he himself had supported and encouraged.

So he lent his name to the Fawcett Society, which is still campaigning for greater women’s representation in politics.

The task of ensuring that Parliament better reflects the people that it represents remains work in progress – and as the first woman elected in Brighton Pavilion, this is work that I will do all that I can do advance.

I said when I began that I found this occasion daunting.

Perhaps the most difficult task is to say a few words about the latest radical move that the people of Brighton have made – that is, to elect the first Green MP to Parliament.

It has been a long journey.

The Green Party traces its origins back to 1973, and the issues highlighted in its first Manifesto for a Sustainable Society – including security of energy supply, tackling pollution, raising standards of welfare and striving for steady state economics – are even more urgent today.

If our message had been heeded nearly 40 years ago, I like to think we would be much closer to the genuinely sustainable economy that we so urgently need,  than we currently are today.

We fielded fifty candidates in the 1979 general election as the Ecology Party, and began to win seats on local councils. Representation in the European Parliament and the London Assembly followed.

Now, after nearly four decades of the kind of work on doorsteps and in council chambers which I am sure honourable members are all too familiar, we have more candidates and more members, and now our first MP.

A long journey.

Too long, I would say.

Politics needs to renew itself, and allow new ideas and visions to emerge.

Otherwise debate is the poorer, and more and more people will feel that they are not represented.

So I hope that if, and when, other new political movements arise, they will not be excluded by the system of voting. Reform here, as in other areas, is long-overdue.

The chance must not be squandered.   Most crucially, the people themselves must be given a choice about the way their representatives are elected.

And in my view, that means more than a referendum on the Alternative Vote – it means the choice of a genuinely proportional electoral system.

Both before the election and afterwards, I have been asked the question: what can a single MP hope to achieve? I may not be alone in facing that question.

And since arriving in this place, and thinking about the contribution other members have made over the years, I am sure that the answer is clear, that a single MP can achieve a great deal.

A single MP can contribute to debates, to legislation, to scrutiny. Work that is valuable, if not always appreciated on the outside.

A single MP can speak up for their constituents.

A single MP can challenge the executive.  I am pleased that the government is to bring forward legislation to revoke a number of restrictions on people’s freedoms and liberties, such as identity cards.

But many restrictions remain. For example, control orders are to stay in force. Who is to speak for those affected and for the principle that people should not be held without charge, even if it is their own homes?

House arrest is something we deplore in other countries. I hope through debate we can conclude that it has no place here either.

A single MP can raise issues that cannot be aired elsewhere.

Last year Honourable Members from all sides of the House helped to shine a light on the actions of the international commodities trading group Trafigura, and the shipping of hazardous waste to the Ivory Coast.

There was particular concern that the media in this country were being prevented from reporting the issues fully and fairly.

This remains the case, for new legal actions concerning Trafigura have been launched in the Dutch courts, and are being reported widely in other countries, but not here.

Finally, I would like to touch on the subject of today’s debate.

I have worked on the causes and consequences of climate change for most of my working life, first with Oxfam – for the effects of climate change are already affecting millions of people in poorer countries around the world – and then for ten years in the European Parliament.

But if we are to overcome this threat, then it is we in this chamber who must take the lead.

We must act so that the United Kingdom can meet its own responsibilities to cut the emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that are changing our climate, and encourage and support other countries to do the same.

This House has signed up to the 10:10 Campaign – 10% emissions reductions in 2010.  That’s very good news.  But the truth is that we need 10% emission cuts every year, year on year, until we reach a zero carbon economy.

And time is running short.  If we are to avoid irreversible climate change, then it is this Parliament that must meet this historic task.

That gives us an extraordinary responsibility – and an extraordinary opportunity.

Because the good news is that the action that we need to tackle the climate crisis is action which can improve the quality of life for all of us – better, more affordable public transport, better insulated homes, the end of fuel poverty, stronger local communities and economies, and many more jobs.

I look forward to working with Members from all sides of the House on advancing these issues.

The Need To Reform The House Of Lords

In their 1997 manifesto, Labour pledged to reform the House of Lords. Although they abolished hereditary peers, continuing reform has been botched in typical Blairite fashion, basically because both Labour and the Tories want an all-appointed chamber to stuff with their cronies. The House of Lords as it currently stands does some good work in terms of revising the badly-drafted and hurried legislation presented to it by the Commons, but we don’t believe that it is beyond corruption or independent. It is secretive: we know little of who the Lords work for and what interests they represent. We cannot question them, they are not accountable to us in any meaningful sense, and they are unlikely to be friendly towards any genuinely Green political programme. In short, the House of Lords as currently constituted is a highly conservative influence on the politics of this country, hard-wired into the established sources of power instead of the populus (you and me). In  the interests of democracy and transparency, we need to know who really makes decisions on our behalf, we need to be able to question them and, if need be, remove them. The corrupt behaviour of Parliament needs to be addressed, and an important step is to reform the Lords,  establishing it anew with all the checks and balances that befit a modern democracy in the 21st century.

For the full Green Party policy on the House of Lords visit http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/mfsspa.html