Thursday, 27 April 2017

PRESS RELEASE - Andrew Cooper selected as Green Party Candidate for Huddersfield

Andrew Cooper selected as Green Party Candidate for Huddersfield

Saving Huddersfield A+E a key aim of Greens Campaign

Kirklees Green Party Leader Councillor Andrew Cooper has been selected as his Party’s Parliamentary Candidate for the Huddersfield Constituency in the forthcoming General Election.

Andrew was first elected to the Newsome Ward in 1999 and has been re-elected five times beating all the major parties. He is the Green Party National Energy Spokesperson. 

He successfully campaigned for ‘Welcome to Huddersfield’ boundary markers and for free insulation to over 50,000 homes around Huddersfield.

Speaking at his selection Andrew said,

“I don’t have to defend a Conservative Government and I don’t have to defend a Labour Council the only institution I want to defend locally is the NHS and in particular Huddersfield Royal Infirmary and it’s Accident and Emergency Services. Winning the Huddersfield seat would send a powerful message if the new MP was not from one of the establishment parties”

Andrew proposed the initial motion that brought all political parties together on Kirklees to unite against the Clinical Commissioning Group proposals and he has been a consistent supporter of the objectives of the Hands Off HRI Campaign.

“I am full of admiration for everyone who has worked so hard on the campaign to save our Health Services whether they are seeking change and funding from National Government or tackling the local Clinical Commissioning Group on their proposals. We need a new way of sending a powerful message to whichever Party forms the next Government about what is most important to people in Huddersfield”

“Of course I am a member of a Political Party but I have worked with all parties on Kirklees Council on the hung council over the last 17 years. I am used to negotiating hard to achieve tangible outcomes. This is what we need from a new MP fighting in Parliament to get positive movement on our Hospital Services."

Sunday, 23 April 2017

No Fracking Way - the beginning

The No Fracking Way was inspired by Leo Sayer though I'm not sure to this day that he knows it. Eclectic though my musical tastes are I'm not your natural Leo Sayer fan. He doesn't make me 'feel like dancing' but I came across a song of his on Ŷoutube called 'No Fracking Way' a rock anthem in support of the Austalian Anti Fracking Movement. I immediately learnt things such as Leo Sayer had moved to Australia, he didn't like Fracking and he could knock together a tune that I did quite like. Then it occurred to me, "What if there was a real No Fracking Way like the Pennine Way or the Wolds Way?" This would be a Way where you could walk between 2 relevant Fracking points.

At the time we had 2 approved Fracking sites in the North of England. The Planning Application to allow Fracking at Preston New Road, near Blackpool had been rejected by Lancashire County Council but they had been overruled by the Conservative Government in Westminister displaying their customary lack of respect for local democracy. No such minor inconveniences in North Yorkshire as the Conservative County Council did the bidding of their Whitehall masters and passed the plans despite huge local opposition. 

I had attended the first day of the 2 day planning meeting  in Northallerton to decide whether Fracking was to be allowed near the quiet village of Kirby Misperton. The evidence provided by those opposing was considerable and compelling on health, transport, climate change and other grounds. North Yorkshire County Council was aware there was a lot of public interest in the Planning Application and set aside 2 areas for supporters and opposers of the Planning Application. On the left hand side of the path to the Council Offices it was like a festival. About 300 colourful protestors with banners including the 'Nana's from the Lancashire Anti Fracking movement were demonstrating not just their solidarity with us Yorkshire Folk but also showing that women of a certain age can be full of passion, vitality and political awareness. Very inspiring. So what about the right hand side of the path? Well it was fenced off like the left hand side. Sensible precaution to avoid mingling and potential trouble between opposing groups. Likewise there were portaloos provided. How thoughtful. The principle difference was the lack of anybody on that side whatsoever. You'd have thought the Fracking Company would have instructed all their employees to have a picnic there but obviously that didn't occur to them. It was pretty clear where the strength of public opinion lay. The proceedings of the meeting were transmitted to the crowd outside to the sound of cheers and boos as appropriate. In my role as Green Party Energy Spokesperson I gave interviews to the Yorkshire Post and to the BBC. In fact the BBC made me give 2 interviews as I couldn't be there for the 2nd and final day of the Planning Committee meeting. One interview was my reaction if the Planning Application was refused and the other if accepted. I was in turn jubilant and outraged. The following day I was outraged. The Conservatives and an Independent Cllr had accepted the application against the express wishes of their communities. Like many my view was this wasn't the end of the matter and was in fact was a call to arms.

So back to the No Fracking Way. We had our 2 points to walk between, both provided by the Conservative Party. So a check of the distance on Googlemaps indicated around 120 miles. I thought doable in about 5 days but then I am by nature fairly optimistic/foolhardy. I emailed the Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Chair Ann Forsaith with the idea and she immediately liked the concept but not my idea of doing it in January. I was keen to get the whole thing out of the way early in the year before the election season kicked in. I was due to be helping get North Yorkshire Greens in their elections in May so didn't want to be wrapped up walking for days really. I was overruled and quite right too really.

I'd originally thought I'd be doing it on my own or I would walk one way and Green Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding would walk the other and we'd meet in Skipton. I did ask her but she wasn't too keen on that due to lack of availability. Now we had more time to plan and prepare, we could recruit a core team of walkers. Dates of Wednesday 8th March to Sunday 12th March were agreed as when we were to undertake the walk.

This thing was actually going to happen. 

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Global Greens 2017 - Liverpool- showing the way to a Green future



I've just left a Green Party Conference like no other. It coincided with the gathering of 2000ish Greens from all over the world who came together in Liverpool to meet, share ideas, successes, failures, fighting against the odds, celebrating our victories, recognising our common cause. We  realised that we are not alone that we are a connected family that can draw strength from each other.

I chaired a session on Green action against Fracking from around the world. Green MPs from Victoria in Australia and Bulgaria explained how they had successfully achieved Fracking bans in their own countries. Our own Tina Louise Rothery inspired us with her stories of the ongoing struggle against Cuadrilla at Preston New Road near Blackpool, the UK fracking  frontline. The overall feeling from the panel and in the room was one of hope, optimism, positivity with the knowledge that right is on our side. The Government are backing the Corporations and the Greens are backing the community. Tina mused why we in the UK were going the wrong way on Fracking while countries all round the world are banning it. I suggested we need to frame the struggle for a UK audience and that if we were going to 'take back control' from Third Energy, Ineos, Cuadrilla et al we should probably call the campaign 'Fraxit'.

That was just one session there were lots more and stories of our great gains in the Netherlands while the extreme right wingers withered away, the first Green President of Austria and our new role in the Government of Sweden. The real story was that the best way to combat the negativity of right wing populism was to provide a positive, optimistic, radical and compelling vision of the future.

I am both tired, happy and re-energised. In Liverpool I feel like we have come together from around the world with different parts of a map to a better future. We now know the way. We just have to put one foot in front of another. It's an approach I'm familiar with.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Walking the No Fracking Way - Wednesday 8th March to Sunday 12th March







It's a 5 day mission to boldly walk from the Yorkshire Fracking site at Kirby Misperton to the Lancashire Fracking site at Preston New Road in Blackpool.
A core group of Green Party activists will walk the 120 miles between the 2 points starting on Wednesday 8th March and finishing on Sunday 12th March. Along the way we will be highlighting the dangers of Fracking to local communities and the global environment. We will also be talking about the alternatives  to Fracking such as energy efficiency programmes for existing and new homes,  renewable energy for communities and also at scale.


It is a tough walk but we're hoping to meet lots of people along the way raise the profile of community campaigns against Fracking and the importance of electing politicians who will consistently oppose Fracking in Yorkshire, Lancashire and everywhere beyond.


Symbolically we'll be carrying some soil from near the fracking site in Kirby Misperton to Preston New Rd. As soil from Yorkshire is deposited at the fracking site in Lancashire we'll emphasise that the assault on the environment at one site is an assault on us all and that the aims of the protectors in Lancashire are shared by Yorkshire Anti Fracking activists and thousands of campaigners across the world.


There will be daily video diaries of our march (in March) across the North of England and evening meetings at each point along the way. It is undoubtedly a challenge and one I approach with a certain amount of trepidation as a 52 year old man who could do with losing a bit more than a pound or two! I've always felt that if things are hard to achieve they will have more meaning if you actually achieve them and so it is with this particular challenge. Bring it on!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Reflections on the 2017 Kirklees Budget meeting

Last Wednesday's Budget Council meeting was a fairly bad tempered one. There was the usual bearpit stuff that I'm used to. It's a bit of theatre a lot of the time and the absurd and occasionally the insightful are on display. What marked this one out was the rude and sometimes quite offensive comments made by certain members. I like the interplay between Cllrs, the ribbing and people expressing their opinions based on their beliefs. If you've got different views of the world you are going to clash. There were a lot of things at the meeting that didn't bother me. My old sparring partner Cllr Andrew Palfreeman claiming (wrongly as it happened) that the Green Party amendment was unconstitutional. It wasn't but it saw the Council adjourned for 15 minutes while the Mayor, Chief Executive and the Councils Head of Legal Services considered the dubious points made. Cllr Palfreeman had dramatically explained how our amendment was so calamitous that it could see Kirklees in the Supreme Court. Once the amendment was cleared for debate Cllr Palfreeman went to argue how our legally dangerous amendment was now insignificant and unimportant. Did this bother me? Not particularly. I found the whole thing just part of the entertaining absurdity of what happens at Full Council. Pointless you could argue and it could irritate you if you let it, but not offensive.

For me the annoying thing about the meeting was when certain Tory members started asking what 'bungs' the Green Group had taken in the past for voting for Labour's budget. The reason Greens have voted for Labour, Liberal Democrat and yes even Conservative Budgets over the last 17 years is because of the amendments we have put to Council being accepted. This is transparent, in full view and in no way can be described as a 'bung'. One bug bear they have is that the Chair of Overview and Scrutiny is a Green Party Councillor and that they believe that as the largest opposition group they should have that role. This may be what they regard as 'a bung'. The fact is that Scrutiny is supposed to be a non political role and shouldn't be used as a tool of opposition to the administration but instead be a non partisan 'critical friend' to the Adminstration. Sometimes Scrutiny will be challenging to decisions made by the Cabinet and offer alternatives. It isn't however another route for expressing the politics of opposition. The fact that certain Conservatives fundamentally misunderstand the role means that they really shouldn't be in that position. My colleague Julie Stewart-Turner is both hardworking and scrupulous in ensuring the independence of the Scrutiny function from Party politics and I can't think of anyone better for the role. As someone who is not a member of any of the larger political groups, and isn't seen as combative in Council meetings, Julie has a particular advantage in not being perceived as having any axe to grind.

Back to the meeting itself. I proposed the amendment because I wanted to see some real hope injected into a very depressing Council Budget. There was rightfully some discussion over the appalling financial settlement we have received from central government that offers us a real challenge with £14million dropping out of our budget next year on top of the millions we have already lost from central govt. The  Conservatives were in full denial mode which any objective observer would regard as an untenable position. They said that the Council would not be in the financial situation if we had followed their advice in previous budgets but then offered no substantial evidence to back up this claim. It was simply an assertion. The fact that they were part of the All Party delegation to the Communities Minister to ask for our £14 million back rather implies they knew the reality of the situation. The fact they also put no amendment was also very telling. They argued the budget was 'unamendable'. The reality was at it was only unamendable for their more right wing members who illogically would vote against any Council Tax rise while wanting at the same time to not see any services cut. Their Government had made the rules of the game but they didn't want to play. Easier for them not to play! So they voted against our amendment, the budget and everything. It was a denial of reality and denial of their Party's responsibility for the mess Local Government is in.

Conservative Councillor Andrew Palfreeman was 'spot on' in saying that we need more trust between Councillors across Party and the people referring to 'bungs' whichever Party they were from was not going to encourage that trust. Wise words from an old hand but there are other old hands in their group and they appear to hold the sway and some (not all) of the newer members seem to take their lead from them. The Labour group have also not been short of their own problems, the factions, the suspensions and on the positive side some committed Cabinet members and the Leader David Sheard, soldiering on. I don't demean  them by saying they are 'soldiering on' and goodness knows we need that at the moment! We also need more. We need ideas and political direction that shows we are not simply managing decline but reshaping and redefining what Kirklees Councils role is. Our proposal for a Local Housing Development Company is part of that but it is only one idea from one Party on the Council. We need people across Party to demonstrate some goodwill to each other and towards the future of the Council. If we can develop a Party of Goodwill on the Council we would achieve much and give real meaning to the Kirklees motto 'Together we serve'.

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.