Saturday, 3 October 2015

Community News - Community Orchard Action in Lowerhouses

From Left to Right – Cllr Karen Allison, Geoff Durrans, Ruth Elliott, Jon Blacktop, John Avison, Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner, Geof Hughes, Pip Avison, Sean Kirkbright

Local Green Party Councillors joined residents for a clear back of brambles at Hey Green above Lowerhouses. The team spent a good 2 hours clearing  back masses of brambles from around the trees to keep the orchard clear and allow the trees to grow. The activity was promoted by Newsome Ward Community Forum which is chaired by Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner.

Councillor Karen Allison who helped with the cutting back of the brambles said, “ It was hard but enjoyable work. You get a real sense of satisfaction from the huge amount of area that we all managed to shift in just a few hours. It was great being part of a team of people just trying to improve our local environment. More people should get involved . It’s fun!”

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Andrew Cooper speech on Emergency Motion on Proposed Solar Feed InTariff cuts

Proposed Government cuts of 87% for the Feed In Tariff for solar photovoltaics threaten over 20000 UK jobs, make even our modest EU targets for renewable energy even more unattainable than they are at present.

In Kirklees where I am a Councillor the Green Party initiative that is already underway to install solar panels on 2000 council homes is now looking financially difficult to achieve. This scheme will reduce the energy bill of many low income households by the equivalent of 2 weeks rent each year. That money saved will go back into the local economy and not go towards bolster the profits of hard pressed companies.

Nationally the Solar Trade Association have published a Solar Independence Plan that will make the installation of Solar PV subsidy free by 2020. Compare that to nuclear power that will NEVER be subsidy free.

Write to your MP, sign on line petitions, get your Council to oppose these cuts and pass this motion. I move.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Green Party Conference - Emergency Motions on Solar PV cuts and Zero Carbon Homes Standards

Emergency Motion on Solar Photovoltaic Feed In Tariff cuts

Green Party Conference notes the Conservative Government proposals to cut the Feed In Tariff for Solar Photovoltaics by 87%. These cuts will mean a catastrophic reduction in the amount of solar panels being installed, leading to significant job losses and putting our modest 2020 EU Renewable Energy targets at risk.

Green Party Conference calls on the UK Government to enter talks with the Solar Industry to agree a plan that delivers a sustainable future for the solar industry (e.g. Solar Trade Association's Solar Independence Plan) and also puts us on a path towards 100% Renewable Energy in the UK

Emergency Motion on Zero Carbon Homes and Passivhaus Standards

Green Party Conference notes:

• The government cancelling the introduction of Zero Carbon Home Standards in 2016
• The negative impact this will have on householders at risk of fuel poverty in new housing
• The missed opportunity to reduce carbon emissions in new developments
• The loss of income to the local economy as a result of these lower energy efficiency standards, as householders’ income is spent paying energy bills rather than in local shops and on local services

Green Party Conference  believes:

• That under the principle of ‘localism’ councils can determine their own standards on land that they own if those standards comply with UK Building Regulations
• That the internationally recognised ‘Passivhaus Standard’ offers an alternative to the UK’s diminished energy efficiency ambitions for new-build housing
• That the Passivhaus standard complies with UK Building Regulations and can deliver heating bills of less than £100/year for the average three bedroom terrace

Green Party Conference agrees:

• To call on all Local Parties to campaign to specify Passivhaus Standards on all buildings on Council-owned land and as a condition of sale on any council land

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Refugee crisis -Kirklees at the blunt end!

The old Huddersfield Sports Centre- not a Refugee Reception Centre
We had a meeting of Party leaders in Kirklees last week to discuss our response to the refugee crisis. When we heard there was to be a shift in government policy to a more sympathetic approach to refugees rather than the 'beware the swarm' approach of our beloved Prime Minister I figured we may actually have to do some serious work in Kirklees to play our part. The change in public mood was very real following the desperately sad picture of a child on a beach. He could have been anybody's child. There was an outpouring of humanity and certain politicians decided to keep their mouths shut, as expressing their humanity wasn't their strong point and at least they knew that much.

 My better half came up with the great idea of getting Huddersfield Sports Centre out of mothballs to make it into a reception centre for arriving refugees. Large halls, showers, secure, it seemed a good idea. Next let's look at what accommodation we could bring into use to address medium term needs. I was thinking of conversions of empty buildings such as Crown Court Buildings, Huddersfield Technical College, St George's Warehouse to provide personal space as an interim measure before people became embedded in the community. These refurbished units could also fulfil a role to address longer term  local housing need and support. It became clear as the meeting unfolded that these ideas were far too radical and sadly unnecessary. The UK Government had not been in touch with  Councils like Kirklees to ask for our assistance. Our views and support were not sought. No Minister wrote to us calling for plans on how we could best help at this time of desperate need. It is almost as if hey didn't care.

The UK Govt plan is to help 20,000 refugees over the next 4 years. That is equivalent to 96/week for the whole UK. Hungary were seeing 2000/3000 pass through their borders daily just a few weeks ago so we clearly are playing a very small Part. Given our role in destabilising the Middle East  it could be argued we bear more responsibility than most European countries for the refugee crisis, but the UK Govt approach is paying money to support camps abroad so we don't have to have actual people coming to our country. I don't know whether you could call his conscience money but it sure does look like an excuse.

Ultimately I think the UK could be the losers here. The interviews with refugees showed people in crisis but also many resilient people who will make a success of their lives and bring real benefits to any community they become a part of. On that basis it looks like the new tranche of refugees could be Germany's gain and our loss. Of course people will raise the issue of population and the impact that this has on local services but if we duck our humanitarian responsibilities we abandon our humanity. Of course we have to work for a more just world and one free of conflict but if that can't be achieved then we have an obligation as fortunate people of the same species, on the same world, to help 'our own'.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Right to buy? Wrong to sell.

 A BBC report yesterday highlighted that Councils were failing to replace council houses lost from public ownership under the Right to Buy. As is becoming typical of certain sections of the BBC News, it was a report that lacked explanation or analysis. It seemed to lay the blame squarely with Local Authorities with no recognition that lack of resources from central Government or even the lead in times required to build new housing to replace it with were very significant factors. The big concern at present is the Government manifesto commitment to extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association properties will further diminish the stock of affordable rented accommodation. I am aware of a number of sensible Conservatives who think this policy is nonsense as well.

One of the principal problems is the Government commitment that houses lost through the Right to Buy will be replaced with an 'affordable' home. So for a start an 'affordable' home is not a council house. It could be a house provided by a Housing Association where the rents are usually higher  than Council properties or it could be a starter home or a house which is just a little cheaper to buy than the average price in that area. So it may be an 'affordable' home for a few but certainly not for everyone and definitely not for people on the lowest of incomes. What we need if housing is to be replaced is at the very least a'like for like' replacement. A council house for a council house. 

My view would be that the huge discounts given to householders to purchase what was a public asset is a loss to us all. Council housing is a common good. It offers an alternative to ownership. It provides a wider choice of tenure and as such, if properly supported and expanded, could offer a restraining force on ever rising house prices. One of the real problems of Right to Buy is the sale of properties ending up as private rented properties at extortionate rents. On Elm Manor Estate in Newsome there are ex Council houses that are now student rented accommodation. Students need homes like everyone else but for private landlords to make a killing largely at the public expense is just plain wrong.

Ultimately government need to recognise that having a mixed tenure of housing, with a strong and growing social rented sector is a good thing and that ownership of property is not always positive or desirable. I guess that makes me a dangerous communist and a threat to national security. I'll go and hand myself into the nearest police station immediately.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Response to Conservative Cllr Bill Armer's misleading letter in the Huddersfield Examiner

It is rather perplexing to read Cllr Bill Armer complaining about the supposed financial legacy left by the Green Party on Kirkburton Parish Council. In reality Cllr Armer and his Conservative colleague voted in favour of the last Parish Council budget. He says that the last Parish Council gave pledges which he describes as ‘coming from a left leaning, quasi – socialist Party’ . I do find it rather bizarre then that he voted for these policies as did the Liberal Democrats and the Independents. In fact the only person who didn’t vote for the last Parish Council budget was the sole Labour Party Councillor who abstained and I guess he regards himself as a ‘Socialist’.

Cllr Armer says he wants to move ‘Kirkburton Parish Council away from Party Political Ideology’ . My very clear recollection was that there was a lot of goodwill right across the Parties on the Parish Council. The only people I ever remember as bringing ‘party politics’ into the Parish Council were in fact the Conservatives. We generally worked well together across political parties and independents. We worked with the Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign to protect local schools. We engaged with many community groups and schools on worthwhile projects including the thousand fruit tree project. We supported the Kirkburton walks projects promoting walking in our beautiful countryside. There was nothing that I can recollect or I suspect many other Parish Cllrs of any Party that could be described as ‘Party Political Ideology’.

Anyone who has followed politics in the Kirkburton Ward should recognise that this is not about invented issues with the Parish Council Budget or some mythical ‘quasi socialist’ Parish Council. This is all about next Year’s May Local Elections and a cynical attempt by the Conservatives to smear the Green Party for political gain.

Councillor Andrew Cooper

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Response to Conservative Cllr John Taylor's misleading statement on Kirkburton Parish Council finances

Councillor John Taylor has made a number of factually incorrect statements regarding Kirkburton Parish Council’s finances.

He states that the Council reserves should be 25% of the Annual precept (the amount the Parish raises from the Council Tax payer each year) . In fact it should be 25% of the planned expenditure. This is an important difference as it is up to the Parish each year to decide how much it will or will not spend. Councillor Taylor correctly notes that Parish Council reserves were reduced but fails to acknowledge that these reserves were approved by an Independent Auditor of the Parish Council finances. £4k of that reduction was to cover the costs of improvements to Kirkburton Library as part of the previous administrations plans to save the service for local people and as such is a proper use of reserves. Currently Parish reserves are expected to be £31,384 well within the tolerance of expected expenditure. Before Councillor Taylor says that  this is down to the cuts he has introduced these only account for £2k of savings to date.  Cllr Taylor also states that the reduction in the Environment Budget was  about a supposed financial crisis. The reality is that this money was re- allocated to a project to install defibrillators across the Parish. It wasn’t used to fill some mythical hole in the Parish Council’s budget.

Cllr Taylor keeps referring to the  budgets being agreed by the previous Green Party Administration. The fact is that no Parish Councillors voted against it including the 2 Conservative Parish Councillors present who actually voted in favour. In reality Cllr Taylor in my opinion does not really have concern for the Community or the Parish Council in mind here. This is all about the Conservatives desire to discredit the Green Party in advance of next May’s Local Elections.