Tag Archives: privatisation

Candidates join in April Fool’s Day Railway Actions

Return the Railways to the Public

Alice David and KimThree of our members, Alice Mason-Power, David Foster and Kim Collis joined others from Derby People’s Assembly and Derby Climate Coalition leafleting at Derby Railway Station to make links with the issue of cuts, privatizations and our railways.

There were nearly 100 such actions up and down the country on March the 31st and April the 1st, loosely organised under the Action for Rail umbrella.

Alice Mason Power with imprintAlice Mason-Power is standing in Derby North Constituency and is also standing in the Local Election in Darley Ward.

David Foster is standing in Derby South Constituency and is also standing in the Local Election in Boulton Ward.

David with imprint

The Green Party would aim to re-nationalise the railways and work to produce an integrated, affordable and sustainable public transport system.

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Charlotte Farrell – High Peak Constituency

Candidate Statement for the General Election 2015

?????????????????????????????I am standing as a parliamentary candidate for High Peak constituency because I believe it is important to give people the opportunity to vote for the Green party wherever possible.

I became interested in environmental issues back in the 1980’s, concerned about the effects our current way of life was having, and the impact of climate change on the world generally.

I believe that capitalism is incompatible with a sustainable society and that while we continue to follow the present economic trajectory we will inevitably cause untold harm to mankind and to the planet. I believe that the alternative is to build policies which put people and the planet first before profit.

I originally trained as a nurse and worked as such for 15 years before re-qualifying as a solicitor. Last year, after 10 years in the law, I left to work with my partner making orthopaedic footwear; so that I could devote more time to politics.

I live and work in the High Peak and am involved in various community activities there. In particular I was involved in the purchase of Derbyshire’s first community owned and run village pub which now provides a focus for the local community.

If I was elected I would stand for:
•  meaningful action to combat climate change and pollution
• providing decent jobs with a living wage and truly affordable housing
•  fighting cuts to public sector jobs and services
• increased investment in health and education, in particular ending the pernicious privatisation of services
• integrated, affordable and sustainable public transport
•  zero tolerance inequality and discrimination
• immediate unilateral nuclear disarmament and an end to UK involvement in overseas conflict and war.

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.

Green Party candidate contact details

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.

Private money in the health service is repellent … literally

Ian Wood, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Derbyshire Dales writes …

Ian WoodI am writing on a morning when the prime minister is reported to have appealed to employers to pay their workers more. As the election approaches, neo-liberal commentators who normally laud the free market are saying what a ‘shame’ it is (Allister Heath in the Daily Telegraph) that employees are not yet getting the benefit of our famously delayed economic recovery.

It’s remarkable that the free market still places such a high premium on neo-liberal notions – they have failed more than they have succeeded, most clearly in the public realm, from directory inquiries (what exactly was wrong with the old 192?) to the water and energy industries (in my freezing flat in Newcastle in 1981 I had the heating on all the time and I was paying £90 over three winter months). Nowhere is this failure more glaring than in the National Health Service.

It is a failure that has been known about for decades. Our own health service has been so good that we have been protected for years from the tragically hilarious efforts in healthcare contracting that have been afflicting other parts of the world. From ambulance chasing in America to incompetent private caterers in Bombay hospitals to contractors sucking in the resources of an entire province to keep one hospital running in Zimbabwe, privatisation in public health provision has failed the patient.

But privatisation in the NHS was largely resisted by Mrs Thatcher and afflicted mainly opticians and dentists. However organisational changes made in the 1980’s paved the way for the later reforms that arrived under John Major. On it went under Tony Blair, a nip here and a tuck there, his frankly right-wing ministers (Alan Milburn, John Hutton, and others who pocketed their rewards later from bodies serving the private health industry) doing their best to bring in private capital in the interests of ‘efficiency’ and ‘value for money’. Their efforts were huge and the results persistently disastrous.

CarolineLucasandGreensatSaveNHSdemo2.11.2013webThis was entirely predictable, in my view, because discrete pools of private capital looking for profit, conflict with a public health service focused on need. They can succeed only by causingdamage. This ‘private-public partnership’ reminds me of those hybrid animals you used to see in world zoos – the liger, for example, a sadly doomed mixture of a lion and a tiger, unable to live alongside any other naturally occurring animal, yet dangerous to them all.

And of course, despite his denials, it was a Labour health secretary, Andy Burnham, who left office in 2010 with a competition of three private providers (one in partnership with a trust) competing to run Hinchingbrooke Hospital. The franchise was won by Circle. The hospital then had 310 acute beds, and now has only 223. The hospital, went bust in 2007 when it had to borrow £27m to keep going. It is ‘buster’ than ever now. Private contracting has failed Hinchingbrooke Hospital. Circle has renounced its ten-year contract because the trust was about to go into special measures after it was rated ‘inadequate’, and because it was losing too much money. Fiona Allinson, head of the hospital inspection team, said after seeing the state of the hospital that she ‘wanted to drive back again with my nurse’s uniform on to sort it out.’

Private companies build hospitals, supply drugs, and supply nurses and doctors. General practitioners have been small private businesses for decades. It is when private money operates as a market in the core business of a public entity, that exists to serve need rather than the shareholder, that risks emerge. And many people think the risks are too great and too real.

Circle’s reaction to financial difficulty was illuminating in that it demonstrated how a private company will never try to correct the mistakes it may have made; it will abandon the NHS and save itself. Private companies acting through insurance will ask their customers to pay a contribution towards the private treatment they need. These co-payments are in opposition to a health service free at the point of delivery. They will cause public money to leak from the system into insurance.

Private companies are secretive when it suits them, and achieving transparency is difficult. But the overwhelming objection to private capital in the health service is that it is a giant leech. It trains none of the professionals it uses, and pays nothing towards the equipment it needs, bought with the proceeds of fun runs, charity days, sponsored skydives and the generosity of spirit found in the wider community. Victorian doctors took ages to realise leeches did not help their patients. Neo-liberal parties, like the Conservative and Labour Parties, can’t see that the leech of private capital does not help the health service.

The coalition government passed the Health and Social Care Act 2012, which allowed NHS hospitals to raise up to half their income from private patients, created widespread conflict of interest, and raised fears for the integrity of the commissioning process for some important contracts.

Astonishingly, family doctors can now award lucrative contracts to companies providing out-of-hours services in which they themselves have a shareholding.
In East Anglia an NHS mental health trust that is cutting services and staff has spent £1.2m in a single year on a private hospital where one of its senior consultants is a director.
Around 600 stoma nurses work in the health service – 450 are sponsored by companies that provide the products they ask to use.
Islington’s £300m budget has been queried after twenty doctors on the clinical commissioning group were shown to be involved with companies that the borough could be dealing with.
Patients in York have been told NHS doctors would no longer carry out certain procedures, which however would still be available on payment of a fee.

The Conservatives will carry all this to a more malignant and advanced stage in the next parliament. Labour says it will repeal the 2012 Act but will carry on with austerity. Both parties will stick to the failed neo-liberal economics of a late capitalist society. Their overwhelming priority is to keep bond yields low and affordable, and so state spending must remain low. They both know that tax revenues will not be going up for a long time because wages are staying low. When David Cameron encourages employers to pay higher wages, it is difficult not to laugh.

CarolineLucasandGreensatSaveNHSdemo2.11.2013webThe Green Party will bring the NHS back into full public ownership. We would make the NHS truly free at the point of need. This would cost money, but would save more money than a lot of people would expect. We would sweep aside private capital, which is proven to be repellent on many levels. In particular it is repellent of social solidarity, fairness, affordability, and the nobility that comes with public service.

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

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

Government taking powers to close hospitals

kat-gp-1Kat Boettge writes Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is planning to give himself the power to close A&E Departments without full consultation.  Earlier this year his attempt to close the A&E Department at Lewisham Hospital was ruled to be illegal.  In response, he has added a clause to the Care Bill that is already before Parliament to give him the power to close hospital departments or to order the withdrawal of services. 

Hunt has lost twice over Lewisham.  After his initial attempt to close the A&E Department was ruled to be illegal he appealed, and again he lost.  So now he is resorting to changing the law to suit himself.  Not, it should be noted, in an open way, but by sneaking in a clause at the last minute to the Care Bill, that has nothing to do with the reorganisation or privatisation of the NHS but is, strangely enough, about the provision of Care.  It would seem that Hunt thinks a good way to deliver Care to vulnerable people is to take powers to close hospitals.

If this clause is passed by Parliament then the Government will have the power to close any NHS service or even a hospital without proper consultation.  The Government is claiming that they need these powers to streamline the NHS.  I do not believe this.  I say that the real motive is to accelerate privatisation by withdrawing essential services so as to force people to turn to the private sector.

Following the Government’s defeat over the Lewisham hospital, Caroline Lucas tabled an Early Day Motion in the Commons to draw attention to the Hunt amendment to the Care Bill that aims to give a Government appointed administrator the powers to close NHS services.  If the Coalition Government gets these powers, then they will be able to close hospitals simply to save costs and so hit their financial targets.  No consideration will be given to local needs or to the advice of Doctors.

So much for the ConDem’s claims to be listening to the local community.  Their much trumpeted support of localism is as much a sham as their claims to be the ‘Greenest Government ever’.    But also it is shocking that only 37 MP’s have signed Caroline Lucas’s EDM.  It seems that they, like most of the public, are unaware of Jeremy Hunt’s hospital closure plan. 

The counCarolineLucasandGreensatSaveNHSdemo2.11.2013webtry desperately needs more Green MP’s and MEP’s to work for the common good of all, and not for the vested interests that influence most of our current MP’s.  We, the people, must act now to stop this reckless amendment or wake up to find our local NHS services being closed down.

 What can you do?

  • Write a letter to your local paper using the information above. 

From Kat Boettge                                                                                                Green Spokesperson for Social Care

Greens Support Derby People’s Assembly

DPA 26102013 Natalie 1A strong Green Party presence was felt at Derby People’s Assembly on the 26th October, 2013 with leader Natalie Bennett making an appearance at the workshop on “Climate Change Threat and 1 Million Climate Jobs”  and making a speech at the end of the day.  Accompanying this was both the DGP stand and a number of members showing their faces for most of the day. Overall it is thought that over one hundred people attended throughout the day. 

The format was much like many other discussion group based events.  The day kicked off with three speakers talking about the People’s Assembly itself, Education Reform, and Cuts to the Fire and Rescue Service.  After these speeches, attendees split up and went to the discussion groups they had chosen.  There were two groups before lunch, speeches after lunch, two more discussion groups and more speeches to round off the day.

Sue Arguile from the NUT gave a very passionate speech about the recent strikes by teachers and Gove’s education reform.  She spoke about a radio phone-in interview with a woman whose attitude had shocked her.  The caller, as well as her general ‘teacher bashing’, had said that teachers should be looking to their ‘product’.  This “marketised” view of teaching also shocked the attendees.

Following this was a local secretary of the Fire Brigades Union who spoke both about what the despicable cuts to the fire service will mean in terms of the service to the public and also about the treatment of workers in that sector over pensions.

Discussion groups were then held on:  the Politics of the Crisis, the Demonization of Immigrants, Tactics for the Anti-austerity Movement and Debt and Loan Sharks.  The immigration discussion seemed to centre on Unite Against Fascism and the benefits of setting up local anti-fascist groups to counter the British National Party, English Defence League and other far-right groups when they organise in areas.

The second set of discussion groups were on:  Protecting the NHS, Defending Education, Re-unionising the Country and Busting Economic Myths.  Although poorly attended, the re-unionising group sparked some enlightened discussion about the state of trade unions and their attachment to the Labour Party.  One graph showed that the more direct action unions took, the more their membership increased.  Also encouraging was the statistic that showed that union membership was up again.

There was an hour after lunch for some more speakers including Christian Wolmar who spoke much about re-nationalising the railways, mentioning that this idea was being debated in the Labour Party.  He failed, however, to mention that us Greens have been campaigning on it for a while now.

After this, the third round of discussion groups were held on the topics of:  Welfare, Public Transport, the Bedroom Tax, Using Art Against Austerity and a repeat of the Protecting the NHS group. Another member of the Green Party found the workshop on Bedroom tax to be a complete eye opener as they heard that many tenants are put in severe difficulties when they are served with orders and have no idea about their rights or what free legal help is available to them.

Natalie Workshop DPA 26102013 6The final groups were held on:  Building Community Campaigns, the Peoples Charter and (with a strong Green presence) Climate Change and 1 Million Climate Jobs.  Natalie Bennett spoke at the climate change group about the need for investment in insulation of all houses in the UK to both reduce carbon emissions and create jobs.  Natalie also spoke reassuringly of the party’s opposition to incineration both on the grounds of pollution and the harmful effects due to air quality reduction.

Finally speeches were given about:  Green jobs and ditching neoliberalism by Natalie, the railways by Alex Gordon of the RMT union and the future of Derby People’s Assembly by Peter Robinson.

Natalie’s speech can be seen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUqTBFSpWPQ

Chris Smith                                                                                    Member of Derbyshire Green Party and Young Greens

 

 

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.’

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

Network Connections

Derby People's Assembly 8 July

The next meeting of Derby People’s Assembly preparatory meeting is being held at 7pm, Monday the 8th of July at Sound Bites, which is on the Morledge opposite the Magistrates court. Here is the map: http://www.soundbitesderby.org.uk/map.html  All Welcome

 

Business as Usual at Davos

In a statement released ahead of the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos in January, the leaders of the world’s major financial institutions made a remarkable ‘admission of sorts’. They recognised that the policies of austerity that they have been forcing on governments across the world carry serious risks and on their own, are not likely to work. In stead, they are calling for governments to adopt policies that will boost jobs, tackle inequality, and green the global economy.

Note who made this call, Christine Lagarde of the International Monetary Fund, Robert Zoellick of the World Bank and Pascal Lamy of the World Trade Organisation. They were joined by the heads of eight other multinational and regional organisations including the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation, and the UN World Food Programme.

The people who have forced governments to adopt austerity cuts with the claim that they were necessary to ‘solve the global economic crisis’ have woken up to the fact that such cuts, unequally applied across society as they are, risk damaging social cohesion, and as they say, lead to ‘negative economic and social consequences.’ They are now calling on governments to reappraise their aggressive deficit reduction programmes appealing to them to apply what they call ‘fiscal consolidation’ in a ‘socially responsible manner.’

Of course this is not an open admission of guilt or a full recognition that the austerity packages were misguided. To do that would risk destabilising those governments that have, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, adopted such policies. Rather than execute the necessary U-turn and encourage Governments to start investing in the green economy, they want to see public-private financial partnerships to generate the investment they see as necessary to secure economic growth. In other words, they want to see private companies given access to what remains of the public coffers. Their focus remains on public sector finances and they fail to acknowledge that it was corporate and private sector debt driven by the needs of the consumer economy that precipitated the crisis. They fail to see that the private investor needs a strong ‘steer’ from Governments’ own investment programmes. They think that pious calls to all to play fair by the rules of globalisation to secure ‘growth’ will avert the bigger crisis that most new recognise is yet to come.

It would appear from reports that the World Economic Forum was itself dominated by concerns for the Euro-zone and public finances, and who was throwing the best parties. Here the real business of Davos was conducted, deals made that would make the rich richer, and projects floated that would further deplete the world stock of natural capital, and that would continue to leave millions of people desperate for the basic means of survival.

The Davos jamboree is a sham, it will not find solutions because it is a product of the problem with its exclusivity and shameful conspicuous consumerism. It has nothing new to offer and its only idea is ‘growth’ demonstrating how still economists fail to grasp the fact that the Earth is round not flat. If Christine and her colleagues are serious about equality and greening the global economy, they are wasting their time and damaging their digestive systems at Davos.

But in truth, Davos isn’t about finding solutions, despite the pious ‘statement’. It’s about power. About ensuring that the economic power that underpins political power is held firmly in private hands. It is about ensuring that by the time policy comes to the floor of democratically elected parliaments, it is already decided – like the austerity packages. Better solutions are available, and if they were implemented the economy would respond – because the economy isn’t the problem, it is the means to deliver the agreed programme. At the present, the agreed programme is private wealth and the control of global power. Davos Man may be starting to recognise that climate change, mass unemployment, water, food and energy shortages are a threat to his world, but he is not prepared to do anything effective to counter them, he prefers to fiddle with the economy while the world heats up.

Once again, it is down to us, the affected majority, to take things forward, each of us taking small steps, a myriad of small steps globally creating an unstoppable forward momentum. Once again world leadership, this time in the guise of the World Economic Forum, has failed us.

[Mike Shipley, February 2012]

Greens in the High Peak Borough Council Election 2011

This Government is leading a concerted attack on local democracy. Their aim is to see Local Authorities contract out all services to the private sector, a move being pioneered in Bury. They want Councils to do nothing more than simply award contracts to private companies. Yet the private sector’s principle interest is profit, not delivery of service. It answers to shareholders not users of services. It is not democratically accountable. Green Councillors across the county are resisting this policy that will hit the poorest hardest and benefit the richest most. Greens know that the Government’s cuts are both unfair and unnecessary. We have produced an alternative programme for reducing the deficit, boosting investment in green jobs and avoiding savage cuts.

Investment into reducing the energy demand of the country needs to be happening now if we have any chance of minimising the damage of climate change. Almost 60% of our carbon emissions come from manufacturing and consumption, more effort must be made to reduce this figure along with major improvements to public transport and changing attitudes towards how we use our cars.   The Borough Council should aim to become carbon neutral, it should take advantage of the Feed In Tariff to turn its building stock in to energy generators, cutting its energy costs and raising revenue.  Green Councillors in Norfolk are setting up a Council owned Energy Supply Company, using the Feed In Tariff to finance fitting solar panels on Council buildings, selling surplus electricity back to the grid, so cutting costs and raising revenue. Green Councillors in Kirklees set up a free insulation scheme for council tenants that has enabled households save on average £150 on their annual energy bills. Greens deliver new ideas, not cuts.

Too many Councils are failing to protect the interests of small business and the local economy, always favouring the interests of big business.  Throughout the country, Green councillors with the support of local landlords, traders and residents have managed to stop many attempts by supermarkets to build unnecessary stores that would cause the closure of local independently owned shops. Local stores provide a wider social and economic role and one that is central to a sustainable neighbourhood. Over 50% of the turnover of independent retailers goes back into the local community whereas the supermarkets effectively take money out of the local economy. They also meet the needs of the disadvantaged, socially excluded and elderly, particularly those with a lack of mobility who cannot access more distant shops.

Green Councillors have also fought to save local markets and helped establish farmers markets to encourage the sale of locally produced food.  The Borough Council should review its land holding aiming to make land available for food production for local supply, again raising revenue for local services. Greens bring cooperation with local business not sell out to big business.

Untold billions was found to bail out the banks and replace Trident yet when it comes to safeguarding our children’s future and the lives of many people around the world both Labour and the Lib-Con Coalition do not see it as a priority. Greens are planning for a safe and sustainable future for all.

Our Forests are Not for Sale

With an irony that will be lost on the ideologues of the ConDem Government, 2011 is the International Year of Forests. The UK’s response to this UN led drive to raise awareness among people of the importance of woodland will be to sell off England’s publicly owned woodland. [The sell-off proposals only apply to England, thankfully for the other British Nations this is a devolved function]

England is no longer a well-wooded country, with only 9% of its land area designated as forest. A long history of clearances and the depredations of the industrial revolution denuded the once lush natural woodland cover that would, if left to nature, cover much of the land area. By the end of the first Word War, cover was down to less than 5% and our strategic reserves of timber reaching crisis point. Blockaded, the UK had come close to defeat through a lack of pit props, which threatened our ability to mine the coal desperately needed for the war effort.   In 1919, the Liberal-Tory coalition of Lloyd-George responded to this by establishing the Forestry Commission, giving it the task of replanting and managing our Forests as a strategic reserve. It is with further irony that the present alliance of these Parties is set to emasculate the Commission.

How Lloyd George, Liberal father of the welfare state, must be turning in his grave!

The English Public Forest Estate [PFE] is made up of over 1000 woods covering 258,000 hectares, 18% of English woodland. Of this area, 24% is ancient woodland and 10% classified as priority conservation areas. 45% of the woodland is in the National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and 26% are Sites of Special Scientific Interest. These figures demonstrate the heritage and ecological value of publicly owned woodland. To add to its public value, 90% of the Forestry Commissions free holding is open to public access. In Derbyshire, there are 3154 ha of Commission woodland, from the Heritage woods of Ladybower to part of the new National Forest in South Derbyshire.

In simple monetary terms, the PFE is currently valued at around £700 million, a mere drop in the ocean of the National Debt of £950 billion. In 2007-8, the net cost of managing the estate was £15 million, after accounting for profits of about £60 million. This is about 30p per person in England. Put this in perspective. The official cost of the Bank bailout, agreed by the Treasury, was £850 billion of public money. This is £13,755 per UK resident. At least Caroline Spelman, Minister charged with the job of overseeing the sale, admitted that this was not a revenue generating exercise by a cash-strapped Government. What she would not admit was this is ideologically driven – that the Tory landowners want this land under their control.

One of the first acts of the Thatcher administration in the 1980’s was to enable the sale of public woodland through the 1981 Forest Act, resulting in the sale of thousands of acres of public land. The Labour Government reined in this policy after 1997, with about 10,000 ha of ‘surplus’ land being sold over the next decade. This was land considered marginal to the Forestry Commission’s core business. On coming to power, the Tories once again lined up this publicly owned land for sale, immediately planning to sell 40,000 ha, and planning to change the law to allow the disposal of most of the rest.

What is their motivation? Spelman says it is not primarily economic. When fully worked out – that is when all values are based on the restrictive covenants that the Tories are promising – it is likely that there will be no net gain to the Treasury from their policy. She claims that one of the main motives for a sale was the need to ‘enhance biodiversity.’ Other’s claim that sale to the private sector will enhance ‘public enjoyment of woodland’. These claims do not stand up to analysis and are frankly laughable. Certainly, there are well-managed private woodlands with excellent public facilities. Most of these facilities are charged for, and, reading the small print you will find that access is concessionary and not a public right ‘in perpetuity’ as with present Forestry Commission owned land.

Since the Norman invasion, land ownership has underpinned the power structure of this country. The Conqueror awarded his loyal lieutenants rich country estates and there after, crowned heads continued to buy loyalty with gifts of land. All this built on the presumption that the land area of the British Islands belonged to the monarch. The ordinary British people did not quite see it this way and fought to keep traditional common rights of use and passage. But the greed of their Lordships knew no bounds; they excluded the people, denied common rights, hung them, flogged them, and transported them if they had the effrontery to try to exercise these rights by taking small animals for the stew pot or wood with which to heat it. Land ownership was the clear line in the sand that divided the ruled from the rulers – and that is the way the descendents of the Norman Barons want to keep it.

History aside, there is another reason for the sell-off that fits in with the right wing agenda of this Government, tax avoidance. Investors who buy woodland can benefit from a range of grants and tax incentives and tax avoidance loopholes designed to encourage private ownership of woodlands in the UK. The income and profits from timber sales in woodlands managed commercially are free from both Income and Corporation Tax and after two years of ownership, woodland is not subject to inheritance tax. With a shortage of such investment woodland on the market, the Tories, with the help of the Liberal Democrats, are offering public land as tax-free investments to their loyal and rich supporters. So once the land is sold, it will provide zero return for the taxpayer.

No matter what Spelman says, incorporating this private landholding in to a strategic plan for biodiversity, for watershed management, for erosion control, as a reserve of a vital resource, as a managed carbon sink and as a national recreational asset will be all the more difficult for being split up and managed according to different criteria.  Forging agreements that will last hundreds of years, across a wide range of different interests, many with a commercial imperative as the bottom line will be expensive. The private players will want and expect public subsidy if they are to act in the public interest. This policy therefore has a price tag that we will have to pay. The Tories are selling an asset that could at the very least is revenue neutral, and are creating a liability, the scale of which they have no clue.

What can you do? Look at the Defra consultation, which is open until 21st April 2011.http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/forests/index.htm.

Support the Woodland Trust that has a petition and a response to the consultation.http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/Pages/default.aspx

Sign the petition by 38 Degrees opposing the sale, and join in their campaign. http://38degrees.org.uk/

Write to your MP stating clearly your views and seeking his or her position. Publicise both through letters to the papers. Make your voice loud and clear, ‘Our Forests are Not for Sale.’

[Mike Shipley, 30 January2011]

Greens now the only political party fighting for free education

Green Party education policy states: “education is a right and an entitlement and should be free at the point of delivery to people of all ages”. Education does not just benefit the student; by developing skills and knowledge, it benefits society. It is reasonable that society should enable all its members to receive a good education. It is not reasonable to limit good education to those who can afford it. Education is an investment in the future. If that investment is limited, the future will be poorer. Making higher education once again a privilege for the affluent is socially divisive; it will also exclude many people from careers that require graduate training. Inequalities within society will increase which will affect everyone’s quality of life. This will be the outcome of the ConDem Governments policy on financing higher education.

Speaking after the House of Commons vote on tuition fees, Caroline Lucas said: “This is a dark day for the future of higher education in this country. The huge hikes in tuition fees, together with the scrapping of Educational Maintenance Allowance and proposed cuts in college funding, amount to nothing less than a Government assault on our young people – and an attack on the principles of universal education. Many people may be priced out of going to university as a result of today’s vote – and those who do go are likely to be saddled with massive debt. This is unacceptable for a society which values social mobility and inclusiveness.”

There are alternative ways to fund education, including a more progressive taxation system.  For example, raising UK corporation tax to the G7 average would generate the funds needed to abolish tuition fees and still leave our main corporation tax below that of the USA.  A business education tax levied on the top 4% of UK companies, as proposed by the University and Colleges Union, would require business to pay its fair share for the substantial benefits it receives from higher education and would allow us to raise investment in our Universities to the average for a developed country.

The Conservative Party is aggressively pursuing a policy of privatization, aiming to disconnect Government at all levels, from the supply of services to the public. They have both health and education clearly in their sights and the Liberal Democrats are not opposing them. The withdrawal of funding to arts and social science courses, and the hike in fees is part of this policy. Our Universities are to be run as businesses, selling their product – education, at a profit. Courses offered will be those that run at a profit as required by their corporate sponsors and investors. Their customers will buy their product with the principle intention of getting a well-paid job.  Education will no longer be about developing the mind, or about intellectual challenge. Students will no longer experience the excitement of discovery, the joy of learning, the profound satisfaction of understanding new and challenging concepts. In the sterile learning factories of the ConDem world, they probably will not even be much interested in their fellow students beyond simple sensual gratification.

Greens believe that Higher Education is essential in developing a civilized society. Education is a process, not a product. It should be available to anyone who wants to study for a degree regardless of his or her age or background. Its purpose is to challenge ignorance and prejudice, to raise and answer questions and indeed if necessary, to challenge orthodoxy and authority. This will prevent the fossilization of society and the emergence of a new dark age.

Mike Shipley 14 December 2010

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]

Greens To Campaign For A Publicly-Owned Royal Mail

Green Party autumn conference has passed an emergency motion today, stating the party’s opposition to the proposed privatisation of Royal Mail by Business Secretary Vince Cable. (1)

Adrian Ramsay, the party’s newly re-elected Deputy Leader, said the Greens were opposed to the privatisation of such an essential public service. He stressed “the fundamental importance of a strong, modern, publicly owned Royal Mail, which is available to all.” Ramsay highlighted that although many people today prefer to use alternative forms of communication, the postal service remains of vital importance to small businesses and rural communities.

During a panel at autumn conference yesterday, Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union, also emphasised the opposition of both communication workers and the public to the privatisation of Royal Mail.

Notes

1) http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/sep/10/cable-total-privatisation-royal-mail

2) The emergency motion passed today instructs GPEx (the executive of the Green Party) to join a broad campaign for a publicly owned Royal Mail as a positive alternative to the cuts and privatisation of our vital public services.

Conference notes:

The commitment this week to privatising the Royal Mail by the coalition government’s Business Secretary Vincent Cable.

The Green Party reasserts:

The fundamental importance of a strong, modern and publically owned Royal Mail. The opposition to the privatisation of the postal service by the Communication Workers Union and the public.

Conference instructs:

GPEx to campaign for a modern, publically owned Royal Mail as a positive alternative to coalition cuts and privatisation of our public services.

Proposed by: Kieran Anderson
Seconded by: Nicola Watson and 45 others

Greens Condemn Academies Policy

Derbyshire Green Party is encouraging parents to find out if their children’s school faces the switch to academy status. Peter Allen, the candidate for High Peak in the last election, said,

“We know that 13 schools in Derbyshire have so far expressed an interest, we fear that many more will be pushed to do so for fear of losing funding.”

Caroline Lucas, Party leader and Brighton MP, described the Bill as an attack on both local democracy and comprehensive education.

“Today, with this bill’s passage, is a bad day for democracy and for education. This was legislation that was rushed through Parliament, without proper consultation. We should be improving the quality of every local school for all children, rather than accelerating Labour’s programme of academies to deepen divisions between schools.”

She tried unsuccessfully to amend the Bill in Parliament to ensure that parents and the local community retained a strong voice on governing bodies.

The Act will come in to force next week, with both schools and Parliament in their summer recess. By the time they return, all schools will have the right to opt out of Local Authority control and accept funding from private sponsors. These sponsors, who need have no experience in education, will dominate the governing body of the school, establish staff and pupil recruitment policy, and be able to influence the school curriculum. Peter Allen said that this Act heralded the effective privatization of education.

“The ConDem Government is slavishly following an American model that does not deliver higher standards than the present UK system.  I urge parents to find out if their children’s schools are affected and to question the school Governors carefully about this policy. I fear that it is a smokescreen for deep cuts in educational funding.”

The following schools in Derbyshire have expressed an interest in
becoming Academies:

Arboretum Primary, Derby
Markeaton Primary School, Derby
West Park School, Derby
Woodlands School, Derby
Alfreton Park Community Special School
Chapel-en-le-Frith High School
Duffield Meadows Primary School
Harpur Hill Primary, Buxton
John Port School
Mill Hill School
Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School
St Mary’s Catholic High School
The Park Schools Federation Infant and Nursery School

The following schools in Derbyshire are classed by OFSTED as outstanding and are entitled to become Academies, though we don’t know if they have
expressed an interest:

Chellaston Foundation School, Derby
Wren Park Primary School, Derby
Bradley C of E Primary School
The Long Eaton School
Kirk Hallam Community Technology & Sports College
The Ecclesbourne School
Croft Infant School

Opposing Academies

The ConDem Government is inviting all schools in England to apply for Academy status. At the same time it has announced a 25% cut in the education budget. This places Head Teachers and their Governing bodies in an invidious position: either to accept swinging cuts in the annual budget, which will inevitably lead to loss of staff and threaten overall performance, or accept private sponsorship with a subsequent reduction in control over their schools.

Building upon the last Conservative government’s Grant Maintained schools, Academies are an ideologically-driven policy initiated by New Labour, once again slavishly copying what happens in America.  Academies are designed to take education provision out of the hands of democratically-elected local councils and hand it to private corporate bodies that need have no experience of running schools. Local Education Authority (LEA) budgets will be cut, to the detriment of those schools which remain within the LEA.

The smokescreen for this privatisation exercise is that Academies will raise standards. That is simply not true. If it were, standards of attainment in the USA would be above those of the UK and other European countries. They are not. Data collected by the Programme for International Student Assessment show consistently that standards of English and Maths are higher in the UK than in the US. Studies by the University of York And by the LSE have shown that, when Academies are compared with state schools, there is no difference in attainment. Where Academies do improve locally it is because of creaming-off the more able students; in other words, where they act like Grammar schools. Using Labour’s ill-considered academy policy, the ConDems are going to turn back the clock forty years and recreate a divisive two-tier educational system: Academies, [Grammar/Independent] schools for the top 10% and children of the affluent and a rump of poorly funded state schools for the rest.

The outcome? A more divided, less equal society.

The Green Party opposes the establishment of Academies. We want schools to have more independence over their budgets and curriculum and to be free of the political meddling of central government. We want teachers to have more power to evaluate the needs of their students, to be able to concentrate on delivering their curriculum rather than chasing paper and hitting externally set targets. We want schools to be able to work within their local community in cooperation with parents and representatives of that community so that they can provide for the educational needs of all within the community, including adults. We do not want to see external sponsors peddling their own commercial or faith-driven agenda, using their economic power to ride over the educational interests of the school and wider community.

To date, thirteen schools in Derbyshire have expressed an interest in applying for Academy status. They are already successful schools. They will gain little by way of educational attainment. Their motivation is fear of budget cuts. This regressive policy must be opposed.

Summary of the Bill

The Bill would enable more schools in England to become Academies. The Government expects a significant number of academies to open in September 2010, and for the number to grow each year. Academies would be funded at a comparable level to maintained schools but would also get their share of central funding that local authorities used to spend on their behalf. Schools that apply to become academies would be allowed to keep any surplus balances that they hold. There would be no expansion of selection but grammar schools and other schools which select or partially select pupils would be able to continue to do so.

Key areas

  • enables all maintained schools to apply to become academies, with schools rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted being pre-approved
  • allows maintained primary and special schools to apply to become academies in their own right
  • gives the Secretary of State the power to issue an academy order requiring the local authority to cease to maintain the school
  • removes the requirement to consult the local authority before opening an academy
  • requires the consent of any existing foundation (mainly churches) before a school applies to become an academy (and prohibits the religious character changing during the conversion to academy)
  • deems academy trusts to be exempt charities.