Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Councillor Andrew Cooper speech to 2017 Budget Council on the Motion

We had an all Party delegation to see the Government as represented by Junior Minister Marcus Jones MP on the 10th of January.  As well as 4 Kirklees Party Leaders we also had Jason McCartney Tory MP and Tracy Brabin Labour MP there to support our case.
It was a strange meeting. We put our case, the Junior Minister and his civil servants silently heard it. They didn’t contradict us or say we were wrong. They just said sorry there’s no money.  All the meeting amounted to was just Tea and sympathy only they didn’t offer us any tea.

So what was our case.  Simply put because we had taken Government advice on taking their Council Tax Freeze Grant the Council is over £14 million worse off than we would have been.  All parties represented here supported taking the freeze grant and no one expected the Government to penalise us for taking that  grant leaving us high and dry. But they did.

So is it just bad luck that we took the grant. Well not so for all councils. Does anyone remember last years so called ‘Transitional funding’ for councils - £300 million was made available. This is what some Councils got.

Surrey - £24.1m/ Hampshire - £18.7m/ Hertfordshire - £15.6m/ Essex - £13.9m/             West Sussex - £12.4m/ Kent - £11.4m/ Buckinghamshire - £9.2m /Oxfordshire - £8.9m/ Leicestershire - £6.6m/ Cambridgeshire - £6.4m/ Wiltshire - £6m/ Warwickshire - £6m/ North Yorkshire - £6m/ Cheshire East - £5.9m/ Dorset - £5.9m/ Richmond upon Thames - £5.8m/ Devon - £5.6m/ Staffordshire - £5.6m/ East Sussex - £5.4/ Worcestershire - £5m

So how much did Kirklees get?

Zilch, Nada, Zero , nothing!

The need of the leafy Tory Shires was obviously somehow greater than ours.

So this year Tory Surrey comes with the begging bowl again and comes up Trumps again. The threat of a referendum on a 15% Council Tax rise receded quicker that £350million/week pledge to the NHS post Referendum

I’m sure they didn’t get a meeting with a nodding hand wringing functionary like we did.

So for all those reasons I believe that we should send an invoice to UK Government for £14million for taking their advice which has cost the people of Kirklees dear.

It stinks doesn’t it? No amount of smoke and mirrors from the Conservative Group can hide the fact that the people of Kirklees have been stuffed by their Government. There will be sound, from them there may even be fury, but we all know that sound and fury signifies nothing. Which is why they can offer nothing - no ideas, no rabbits out of hats. Nothing.

Still not putting a Budget Amendment in which would inevitably expose the lack of options Kirklees has and the real necessity to raise the Council Tax means the Tory’s don’t have to have anyone go off on Budget Sick Leave. Offering Nothing and doing Nothing except talk.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Green Party Amendment to the 2017/18 Kirklees Council Budget


This Council agrees to develop a Local Housing Development Company as a special purpose vehicle to deliver new housing on land identified for development in the Council’s Local Plan. This would be as a minimum cover Kirklees but could be developed at scale with our neighbours. This will ensure this will ensure that we can work with the Homes and Communities Agency and Registered Social Landlords, developers and institutional investors who can lever in additional resources as well as keeping the income generated from new development within Kirklees to help to support local services.

 

The company would deliver new housing on council land that has been identified for development in their Local Plans.

 

There are a number of reasons why this may be attractive to Kirklees. 
  • At a time of diminishing balances Central Government is encouraging Councils to develop new housing to fund local services through the New Homes Bonus and new Council Tax revenue income. If the Council is in partnership with third parties developer profit from new development would be shared amongst the partners involved and could be used to help fund Council Services.
  • There are occasions when the Council has granted Planning Permission on land but frustratingly developers with which the Council has no relationship have dragged their feet, sometimes for years, leaving areas blighted. The Council would have more control over development if it was itself part of the development vehicle.
  • There is the opportunity to use the newly merged KNH and Building Services as  a vehicle for  Housing Development utilising existing skills in electrical and gas services
  • The standard of new build housing in the private sector is variable and some Councillors have had cause to tackle substandard housing with developers. If the Council can put pressure on the market – control of building will be more effective. Cutting corners and reducing the quality of build to reduce costs will be avoided.
  • The opportunity to promote higher energy efficiency standards, such as Passivhaus development could be pursued by such a company. The embedded Quality Assurance in Passivhaus developments will ensure a quality build as well as very high energy efficiency standards. Householders benefiting from very low energy bills will have more money in their pockets to spend locally helping them to pay rents and mortgages more easily.
  • With a substantial portfolio of work over a number of years partnerships with educational institutions could provide a rich source of local employment for apprentices working in a range of building jobs.

 No income has been put against this budget amendment as it is too early to say how substantial the potential income could be to the Council. However, any revenue income generated above that required for the core purposes of the Housing Development Company would be utilised to support valued services in town and village centres that provide contact and services to people in our communities. This amendment does however show that there are alternatives to simply managing decline at a time when central government is starving the Council of funds.

 

If this amendment is passed the expectation would be that the Council establishes a Project Team to quickly establish the Local Housing Development Company before the 2018/19 Budget so projected incomes can be factored in to the Councils hard pressed finances.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

EU Committee of the Regions takes on Trump on Climate Change


Today the EU Committee of the Regions ENVE Commission agreed the following statement that I proposed on President Donald Trump's intention to abolish the US Climate Action Plan. This Plan is a key part of the USA's responsibilities as a signatory to the COP21 Paris Climate Treaty.
The ENVE Commission notes with concern the cancellation of the Climate Action Plan by the incoming Trump Administration and recognises that a lack of action on climate change by a large Country like the United States could negate the positive impact of much of the climate change mitigation work that EU Local and Regional Authorities are engaged in.

The CoR has a Memorandum of Understanding with the US Conference of Mayors.

The CoR ENVE Commission requests that the CoR contacts the US Conference of Mayors to determine their reaction to the Trump administration’s attitude and actions on Climate Change policy with the intention of making a strong statement in support of positive local and regional action on climate change in the United States.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

M Card - not quite an Oyster

A couple of things recently have been driving me towards getting an M-Card for travel between Brockholes and Huddersfield. The M Card is the West Yorkshire version of London's Oyster Card and I thought it would be ideal to solve some travel problems I have.



The train journey from Brockholes to Huddersfield on our' heritage' Northern Rail trains is great but sometimes the ticket machines are either not working or the collector doesn't get round to you. This means queuing at Huddersfield station to get a ticket which sometimes takes longer than the journey itself. Then when you get the tickets they are just stupidly long and unwieldy. The ticket collectors hate them so do the passengers. Progress apparently.


Daft new long tickets next to old usual ones
So for all these reasons I thought the M Card was the solution to my problems because 'it's like a London Oyster Card' . So I've just been over to Huddersfield Bus Station to get one. The woman was very helpful and asked me if I wanted a weekly or monthly M Card. I told her I didn't travel by public transport everyday as sometimes I walk in to Huddersfield or use the car when I need it and occasionally need a ticket to be able to claim back work expenses. So the M Card unfortunately is not geared up for that like an Oyster Card is. In an average week I might use the train for two return journeys and 2 single journeys and use the car one day. If I had a weekly or monthly M Card I would end up more out of pocket than in. If I travelled by bus I would be able to one the pay as you go M Card but train travel (when it works) is cheaper and more convenient.


I'm definitely glad M Card exists and this is a real positive but I hope it can be the equivalent of the Oyster in the not too distant future. 

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Locally Determined Contributions - filling the emissions reduction gap & going global

Regular readers of this blog will remember that back in December I introduced the concept of Locally Determined Contributions (and Regionally Determined Contributions) as a way of filling the emissions reduction gap that needs to be bridged if we are to achieve the targets set in Paris at COP21. These LDCs and RDCs would form the basis of targets and delivery plans for Local and Regional Governments to lead on the reduction of emissions in their own areas. The good news is that the EU Committee of the Regions voted to include the development of this proposal in the work plan they are putting to the European Commission. Hopefully the EU Commission will adopt the idea. Local, Regional and devolved governments have many opportunities to reduce emissions through transport and planning policies and even by specifying higher energy efficiency standard on buildings that they procure and land that they own. The scope for action at the local level is immense. Never have the words 'Think Global Act Local' been more relevant.

The local level in the UK was simply not involved or consulted in any way on the Nationally Determined Contributions that were presented by the UK as part of our COP21 emissions reduction figure. Anecdotally this is the case right the way across the EU and is an issue I've raised many times in Brussels in my role on the ENVE Commission of EU Committee of the Regions. I have also raised the matter directly with the EU Commissioner responsible for EU Climate Change policy Miguel Canete.

I await to see whether the EU Commission decide to adopt the development of Locally Determined Contributions in their work plan but in the meantime a number of issues are making me wonder how the concept could be adopted beyond the EU. If it is regarded as a good thing then it makes sense to empower the local level to take positive action from everywhere from Kathmandu to Kirklees. It could form the structure for a positive community based movement across the globe making tackling climate change more relevant to peoples everyday lives. Another issue that has made me want to see the idea adopted beyond Europe is of course Brexit. It would be ironic indeed if I developed an idea that was adopted by the EU and then we ended up leaving, and the policy was not adopted in the UK. The third reason is of course Trump. Among many other things he is a Climate Change Denier and policies that he may adopt in his Presidency to promote fossil fuels are a threat to us all. When Bush refused to ratify the Kyoto Treaty back in 2001 politicians at the State level defied him and took action to limit emissions at their level of Government. Locally Determined Contributions to reduce emissions below that of National Governments would give structure to that defiance and pull the USA back into action at the International level, Trump or no Trump.

I've made ICLEI the organisation also known as Local Governments for Sustainability aware of the proposal. They promote local action on climate change and other environmental initiatives. They also coordinate the Global Covenant of Mayors a network of Local Governments championing action on Climate Change. They could be the initial adopters of Locally Determined Contributions testing out the concept and developing the organisational architecture needed to deliver the cumulative emissions savings we need to achieve. The EU's key partner in promoting the Global Covenant of Mayors is the EU Committee of the Regions. Serendipitous indeed!

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Photo Review of 2016


Its been a tumultuous rollercoaster of a year full of drama and real highs and some very real lows. Here are some pictures of my year which may give some idea how eventful it has been.
At Yorkshire Wildlife Trust Stirley Farm where we'd managed to get solar panels on the building before the Govt cut funding support through the Feed In Tariff.

Out delivering information to residents affected by the development allocations in the Kirklees Local Plan



With Green Party Health Campaigner Jenny Shepherd at a chaotic meeting of the Clinical Commissioning Group proposing to close Huddersfield A&E among a range of proposals

At Suma Wholefoods in Elland with Karen Allison. A Workers Cooperative selling organic produce. Does it get any better?

Speaking at the first Hands off HRI Rally in St Georges Square


Cllr Karen Allison helping get out info about Growing Newsome's Potato Day in the snow. Yes we work all the year round!


A Spring Clean of Newsome Skateboard Park with Debby Plummer and Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner


 A spring clean of some particularly dirty village signs in Newsome and Berry Brow


Election campaigning was a bit tough this time!


The Local Election went well. I had an overall majority with 51% of the vote.


During the EU Referendum I delivered both Green Party and Muslim Engagement and Development (MEND) Leaflets


I stood for Green Party Deputy Leader this year and was the runner up behind Amelia Womack. I was heaertened by the support I got from across the Green Party.


I attended the protests in Northallerton when the Fracking Planning Applications were being decided for Kirby Misperton. I tried to get the Police to grapple with me for the photo but they were having none of it.
The abandoned Hunters Waste site catches fire. The smoke and stench were awful

I proposed a successful Green Party motion opposing Fracking at our Conference in Birmingham

Our consultation drop in about traffic calming proposals on Jackroyd Lane and High Lane got a good response. It was held at Newsome Village Hall.


I came across Sam Hunter of Hunters Waste Group when I spoke to him about a fence damaged by his company. He wasn't very pleasant then and not during hs court appearance either!


The Kirklees Local Plan was a big focus for us this year with some tough lobbying to get the best deal for the Newsome Ward. We had some success.

The fun stuff! Great to be able to help out and support Monrealm Tenants on their 5th Annual Halloween Childrens Party. Complete mayhem at times but great fun.


Getting the good news out to the people of Taylor Hill Road. Their back gardens will not be allocated for development in the Kirklees Local Plan.


With Karen Allison at the Huddersfield Food and Drink Festival

I attended the COP22 Climate Summit in Marrakech, Morocco. Possibly my one and only trip to Africa. I loved the fact that I was registered for the wrong country. I'm Irish! No Brexit for me!


November brought the tragic news that Newsome Mill had been subject to a suspected arson attack. A busy morning liaising between the emergency services and displaced local residents. How the community came together in that crisis was truly uplifting.

The clean up of Hunters Waste Site begins as the mountain of waste left by the Rogue Company starts to get shifted.

Speaking to Look North about Newsome Mills. It was Diane Sims words "We are heartbroken but not broken" that I will remember.



The vandalism of Newsome Community Bowling Club by the new 'owner' is yet another example of a community that seems to have been under attack by malign individuals this year.


Collecting our latest batch of 7000 Green Party newspapers from Oldham. The same place where the Huddersfield Examiner is printed.


Meeting Barry Sheerman MP with Diane Sims to push action on Newsome Mills


In years to come I hope this turns out to be the beginning of one of the most successful things. I got the EU Committee of the Regions to propose developing the concept of Locally Determined Contributions and Regionally Determined Contributions to address Climate Change. Let's see where this takes us! 

In the Committee of the Regions in Brussels looking at the art and thoughts of children from Mount Pleasant School in Lockwood, Huddersfield with a focus on language and culture.



















Wednesday, 7 December 2016

EU Committee of the Regions - EU Commission Work Programme - Locally Determined Contributions to deliver COP21 targets

At COP21 in Paris the nations of the world came together to commit to keeping global temperatures below a 2 degree increase and work towards achieving a 1.5 degree increase. At the same time they agreed targets for carbon emissions reduction at the national level these were called the  Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). The problem is that the NDCs agreed fall short of what is required  to deliver the carbon savings we need to deliver a 2 degree of less rise in temperature. So we need more action to ensure we achieve the reductions in emissions necessary.

Establishing Locally Determined Contributions (LDCs) and/or Regionally Determined Contributions (RDCs) could be an important step in bridging the emissions gap. Actions at the local and regional level can make an important contribution towards reducing emissions through policies to promote public transport and electric vehicles. Planning policies to ensure higher energy performance standards in buildings or even reforestation projects. All these areas and more fall under the competencies of many Local and Regional Authorities in the EU. Working with the EU Commission through their work programme to develop the concept of LDCs and RDCs could provide the stimulus and structure needed across the EU for emission reduction plans that start from the bottom up. This would give substance to the 'Think Global and Act Local' approach needed to deliver COP21's higher aspirations.

The EU Committee of the Regions could play a key role in developing and promoting LDCs and RDCs further raising their relevance and profile among Local and Regional Decision makers. Once LDCs and RDCs are established as a reality we can use our global links through the Covenant of Mayors to spread the concept and the action needed to deliver these targets. We have the exciting prospect here of enabling the mobilisation of climate reduction action on the ground. Ambitious targets on their own are not enough LDCs and RDCs will give tangible goals for us all to work together to achieve. Please support this proposal.