No history of Kirklees Green Party would be complete without a chapter on the Green Express. It was in 1989 that Huddersfield Green Party ran their first charter train up the Settle Carlisle Line which was under threat of closure at the time. Our train (a DMU for train fans) was all part of a campaign to keep the line open. Since then there have been countless charter trains going all over the country, Edinburgh, Brighton, Dundee, Carlisle, Bath.
Of course the driving force for this was our first Green Party Councillor Nick Harvey now the proprietor of Green Express Railtours though the link with the Green Party is still strong with Clive Lord OLG (Oldest Living Green) organising the Green Party fundraising trips. Beer and Sandwiches are also important, not for negotiations with Trade Unions but as a source of revenue from our train trips.
There's a lot of olde world charm in taking a trip on old diesel locos while drinking hand pulled real ale. There's a whole team of people who make Green Express happen. Those who make the sandwiches, sell tea and coffee off the trolley or transport all the paraphenalia at the beginning and end of trips. I've done a bit of stewarding on the trains over the years and enjoy it once or twice a year (I did a lot in the early years). So why not go on one? The next is to Eton and Windsor on Thursday 10th June. You can go to Eton to see where our Prime Minister went to school! (or go down the road to the state run primary school and see where my better half went to school!)
Full details of Green Express Charter Trains here
(Pictured Nicky and Adrian Cruden on the Green Express with Mark Mullany in the background.)
The Leeds Green Party Councillors Anne and David Blackburn (pictured) have done good in their agreement with the Labour Party (with a bit of input from Kirklees Green Party and Labour Councillors).
Labour needed 2 Green Councillors to run the Council and the condition of a £30 million free insulation scheme was the price. 90'000+ homes to be insulated, anywhere between £8 and £13.5 million to be saved each year in saved fuel bills. It will be the UKs biggest domestic carbon saving scheme.
Over to you Con Dem Coalition Government - top that. Actually they cut the Low Carbon Buildings Programme this week throwing the solar thermal, biomass and heat pump industries into turmoil. Not a very good start!
Was Kirklees proposing to build a nuclear power plant in Fixby? Wind Turbines on top of Castle Hill? No it was none of these things it was in fact Kirklees Councils first live webcast of a Kirklees Council meeting so the ‘attendance’ was virtual but they attended nonetheless. This was the fulfilment of the successful Green Party motion to have meetings webcast that was passed well over a year ago. With actual attendance usually around the less than 20 mark this was a real step forward in engagement with its citizens.
So what did the citizens of Kirklees make of all this? Well one friend texted me to say,
“All u do is bicker! It’s ace. If you were kids you’d have got your arses slapped”
So there is entertainment value at least! But what the public got was the authentic council experience. The test will be if the public view this and recoil in horror at how they are governed or regard it as robust political debate. It will be worth checking out the Huddersfield Examiner Website Forum pages for comment. That is usually a good (if not necessarily representative) source for vented spleens. Ultimately if we see a backlash we might see a change in approach in the Council and a bit less nonsense (from the Tories usually)
For my part I did some, but not much commentary, via twitter. I wasn’t really in the mood to be honest. I pointed out a wee bit of hypocrisy where blindingly obvious but very soon lost the will to carry on.
Imagine a time not very far from now. You're sitting at home minding your own business and someone knocks on your door.
"Hello sorry to bother you I'm calling on behalf of Kirklees Council about providing free solar panels for your house."
"This is a privately owned house the council estates round the corner"
"No this offer is for private householders"
"So how much do I have to pay?"
"Nothing they're free"
"And exactly how much has our Council Tax got to go up to pay for this so called 'free' scheme by the Council?"
"Your Council Tax is unaffected the costs of the panels will be paid for via the new Feed in tariff. All you have to do is sign this form to assign the tarrif to us and you get the panels on your roof"
" Well if I'm going to get no financial benefit why should I do it? I'm not one of these lentil eating, treehugging green types who fit solar panels for the good of the planet you know."
"Actually on average usage you should be able to reduce your electricity bill by about 25-30% per year using the electricity generated by your solar panels so you could save anywhere between £100 and £200 each year for as long as the panels are installed."
"Ok you can fit them but don't make a mess and can I choose the colour?"
So could this happen? We might not be that far off at all. The finances certainly stack up and this week the Green Party on Kirklees got agreement from the incoming Labour Administration to draw up plans to make this a reality. There are issues to be addressed to make this a reality but they are not unsurmountable. Hopefully within the year we will have another revolutionary nation leading scheme to tackle carbon emissions, reduce fuel costs and create jobs.
The Con-Dem Coalition Government has a large section on the environment. Leaving aside for a second the fact that the targets they have adopted for reducing carbon emissions are inadequate it is certainly more ambitious than the Labour Govt's programme. As always implementation is the test. It will be interesting to see how the Cons try and get round the financing of nuclear without using public money. No doubt there will be some dodge somewhere that they have in mind. We'll see.
There was specific mention in the Con-Dem agreement for support for a "full establishment for a feed-in tariff for electricity". What this means we will see but if the Tories are true to their word this will mean that solar photovoltaic installations installed prior to the 15/7/10 will qualify for the feed in tariff. There are lots of ways that this could be interpreted to be more or less generous so the devil is as always in the detail.
The Environment section on Energy covers most of the main high level policy areas but oddly there is no mention of the proposed Renewable Heat Incentive due to come into being next April under Labour's timetable. In what has been a fairly lacklustre performance on the renewable energy agenda by Labour this was a real innovation a genuinely ground breaking proposal. It promised a huge growth in the biomass, heat pump and solar thermal industries with users of renewable heat being rewarded with a dedicated tariff.Of course it's omission does not mean they won't pursue this policy but it certainly worth a Parliamentary Question at the very least.
The other Labour Government target (which they had no plan to acheive) was to insulate every loft and cavity wall in domestic properties by 2015. It would be interesting to see if this policy is retained and how it will be implemented. The Kirklees programme is due to finish in about 6 weeks with over 50'000 properties insulated in the last three years. So we have acheived the Government target 5 years ahead of target! So another Parliamentary Question worth asking Mr Chris Huhne.
There were lots of things that were Freaky about last Friday. The most numerically obvious one was that in both Newsome and Kirkburton Wards the Green Party got exactly the same vote - 2447. In Newsome this was enough to win it in Kirkburton unfortunately it wasn't.
Apart from the numerical freakiness the actual results didn't bear a lot of relationship to natural justice or effort expended. In the Parliamentary elections the Conservative who didn't turn up to hustings and didn't appear to have done anything much during the campaign came second. I managed 4% just ahead of the BNP thank goodness. In the rest of Kirklees the BNP beat the Greens If anything was evident from the results it was that local factors just went out of the window with national TV coverage focussing on Leaders debates and tactical voting.
The bright spot for Greens was the election of Caroline Lucas as the UKs first Green Party MP. A real acheivement and hopefully with far reaching consequences.
In the local elections our truly excellent Candidate Michelle Atkinson polled a record number of votes for us in the Kirkburton Ward but the increased General Election turnout worked in the Tories favour and we missed out by over a thousand votes.
We all await for the outcome of the negotiations and Nick Clegg chooses whether he wants the death of thousand cuts (Conservatives) or the death of 500 cuts (Labour). Whichever way round it is the double dip recession is already in the pipeline and whatever his choice it won't do his Party or the rest of us much good either.
One thing that has not seen much attention during the election campaign is 'the community' and what makes the places we live and work safe, secure, enjoyable and happy places to be in.
Ultimately the community is everyones immediate environment, it is what is most important to them. When the community is working well it gives people certainty, continuity and security. The Conservative and Lib Dems have bashed Labour over bankers, the economic crisis and selling british gold cheap but what the government have done to our communities has gone largely unmentioned. Think back ten years ago to the community that perhaps you live in. How many Post Offices, shops and pubs have closed. What has happened to the bus services that have served those communities? Are they as regular or frequent as they were? Do they still exist? Was there a local Housing Office or Library? Is it still there or under threat with public spending cuts?
Of course the economy is important but it is the impact of government policy on the places we live that matters to people in the most immediate way, because it affects all of us in our everyday lives.
We have to turn this around and government and Kirklees policy should be directed more at supporting and protecting locally owned shops and businesses and public services in our comunities not big deals with big supermarkets that threaten those local businesses survival.
Ultimately the 'big idea' is not the big deal with a supermarket chain, such as the Kirklees deal with Tescos, but one which places the importance of locally owned and managed shops and services at the forefront. Thinking at the smallest level gives us the biggest gains as a society and as such the strength of our communities should be at the centre of government policy not an afterthought.
Rumour has it that there is a Conservative Candidate standing for Parliament in Huddersfield. For 5 out of the 6 Hustings I and the other candidates attended she was conspicuous by our her absence. She only appeared at the Churches Together hustings following her non attendance was made an issue by the Huddersfield Examiner. She said she attended that one because it was a Church invite but that contradicts the email she sent to the NUT which said she wasn't going to attend any hustings.
When Roy Hattersley didn't attend 'Have I got news for you' they substituted him for a tub of lard. But what would be most appropriate for a non present Conservative? Answers on a postcard please!
My blog postings have been limited of late due to election work but I intend to give a reflections on elections post shortly sometime next week.
I am a Green Party Councillor on Kirklees Council and have been since May 1999. I was the Green Party Candidate for the General Election in the Huddersfield Parliamentary Constituency. I work in the energy efficiency/microgeneration sector and have done for the last 20 years or so.