The Green Party will be running a free volunteer Bus Service on New Year’s Day for the 18th consecutive year. The first service was run in the early 90s when Bus Services were drastically reduced over the festive period.
Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper said,
“This is now one of the longest regular volunteer bus service in the country. We have seen some progress in recent years with Metro and First reintroducing services on Boxing Day on many routes, but unfortunately not all. There is a lot of talk these days about a ‘big society’ and about volunteers running services. This is an example of where we have been doing exactly that long before the words ‘Big Society’ were ever used. Our aim has never been to replace existing bus services but to encourage bus companies to reintroduce regular services during holiday periods”
The Newsome Bus Service starts at 11.00a.m and runs for 8 hours allowing people to go to Town do their shopping, visit friends and loved ones in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary or just to simply to go for a festive pint in the Town Centre.
The Greens ran a Bus Service on Boxing Day this year linking Flockton and Grange Moor with Huddersfield. Kirkburton Green Party Councillor Derek Hardcastle who drove the bus said,
“It was a huge success and we had over 70 people use the service to visit relatives. People were really enthusiastic about it and it allowed people who don’t have access to a car and can’t afford Taxis to get out of the house. These are villages that are often poorly provided for in many ways so it was good to be able to provide this service.”
I don't say much if anything about Kirkburton Parish Council on my blog and really I should because it's a real positive story. We have 12 Greens out of 25 Parish Councillors which though not quite a majority due to the non attendance of Conservatives we do tend to hold sway. I first got elected to the Farnley and Thurstonland Ward of Kirkburton Parish in 2007 along with Robert Barraclough. It is a complete contrast to Kirklees Council. Kirklees has budgets running into the hundreds of millions with responsibility for social care, housing, environmental services, highways etc etc. Kirkburton Parish Council has a budget of just over £100k with ownership of a Village Hall, responsibility for allotments, a graveyard and a grant pot for numerous groups within the Parish. So does this mean that at a small scale politics doesn't feature? Well it didn't start out that way. There were certain individuals in the Tory group who went out of their way to give the Greens a hard time and were unnecessarily unpleasant and for at least the first year and it was hard going but we seemed to work our way through that particular pain barrier to get on with the job. To be fair some of the Conservatives were quite reasonable and eventually seemed to become sick of the antics of their colleagues and worked cooperatively with Councillors of all parties.
Past Chairman Robert Barraclough and current Chairman John Hirst
So what's been acheived? A Parish Walks project drawing in external funding, a training course giving teenagers a City and Guilds in Energy Advice, the repair of Kirkheaton Cemetery Wall (a long standing bugbear), solar panels on Burton Village Hall, winning the 2008 British Renewable Energy Awards with the judges comment, "this small Parish Council appears to be doing more than our national government". These are just some highlights there's plenty more but as with all things it comes down to a good team of people, Michelle Atkinson, Chairing the Environment Committee and introducing the popular Environment Fayre and Sunflower Competition, Geoff Hickey and Robert Barraclough ably chairing the Parish Council during some difficult times. The current Conservative Chairman elected with all Party support plays with a straight bat and across party divides. A special mention for Lin Holroyd, Independent who chaired the Parish in the 2007/8 year which was not an easy year at all which she handled with a determination to ensure no one got to far out of hand. I guess even myself on occasions!
Today the Government revealed the impact of it's cuts on Local Government across the Country. As you can imagine I've been concerned about how leafy Tory Surrey might fare under a leafy Tory Government. I needn't have worried just a 0.3% decrease. Naturally I also was wondering what might happen to Dorset fortunately the Government saw sense and actually raised their funding by 0.25%. The good news just kept coming with Hampshire, West Sussex, Buckingham and Richmond Upon Thames all escaping the worst of the cuts.
You can imagine what would have happened if these Councils had received the same level of funding cut as Kirklees or Leeds or Bradford with all the job losses, cuts in services and closed libraries and facilities that these Councils are likely to face. Fortunately for us Northern types there is an answer for the jobless provided by David Shakespeare Conservative Leader of the Local Government Association. David suggests we could all come down south and pick fruit on their farms. This would have the added benefit of taking jobs away from Romanians. Smart eh! David is also the Leader of Buckinghamshire County Council with a very reasonable 0.6% cut so naturally he's fairly pleased and feeling generous enough to let us help out on their farms.
So are the Conservatives and their Lib Dem 'pets' out of touch? Well we are 'all in it together' but in the North we are up to our necks in it while in the south it barely reaches beyond the soles of their green wellies.
Yesterdays Full Council was I think the first 'full on' Tweet Council with myself, Kath Pinnock from the Lib Dems and Leader of the council Mehboob Khan all participating on Twitter (plus 'LibDemKitty' I think I've worked out who that is!). Was there a value in it? Yes I think so. You could certainly get an insight into our meetings you wouldn't have had otherwise. Take for instance the Lib Dem amendment on opposing the cuts to provision for Schools Sports Partnerships. The Greens supported their amendment. When I tweeted to this effect the twitterfeed from Kath Pinnock rather churlishly said 'Shame that 50% Green Group absent from Council'. For those of you who don't know there are only 4 us. One of our 4, Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner had to leave the meeting as she was a Governor for Newsome High School, a Specialist Sports College and had an interest in the motion, and Cllr Graham Simpson was late because he was attending a Tenants Association meeting. So a rather unpleasant attack on the Greens who were actually supporting a Lib Dem Amendment. I thought they could do with all the support they could get at present.
Another Lib Dem Amendment we supported was one on Planning Protocols. The amendment insisted that Cllrs on the Planning Committee attend training on Planning (what else). The Conservaties were opposed to this as many of them hadn't gone to training and were quite happy to spout away in an uninformed fashion at Planning meetings potentially leaving the Council open to challenge during an appeal process. My contribution to the debate was to point out that decisions backed up by knowledge should be more important than simple opinion on planning matters. This provoked a rather unpleasant verbal barrage on me by Conservative Councillor Mrs Christine Smith which I found fairly amusing to be honest. I'm not on her Christmas Card list!
During questions I asked the Labour Cabinet Member Councillor Mr Ken Smith what his opinion was of the impact of the rise in Tuition fees on young people in Kirklees. He gave his view that it was potentially disastrous and agreed to my request to write to the Government to express this view. This provoked much comment from Lib Dem Cllrs who defended the tuition fees policy. This directly contradicted the expressed opinions of Lib Dem Candidates during the General Election which I pointed out (and they ignored). I also asked Cllr Peter O Neill what his views were on 'The Big Society'. He gave me a very full response. So much so that I was unable to get my supplementary question in before time was up unfortunately.
Over 600 people watched the Council meeting on the Web but according to Kath Pinnock webcasting of Council meetings 'doesn't work'. Yes there have been some technical issues that some people have encountered but generally it has gone pretty well. I think the problem for Kath is that it was a Green Party proposal and that gives her a rather jaundiced view on the subject. Cest la vie.
After the meeting I collected a large sealed envelope with the papers for the 'Star Chamber' meeting on Friday and Monday to discuss the Kirklees Budget for the next year. In the envelope are the officers views of how we will acheive the Lib Dem/Con Governments spending cuts. This will not make pleasant reading.
Snow has had a not unexpected impact on my solar panels. A thick covering of snow does not make for a good flow of solar electricity. At lower temperatures photovoltaic panels generally operate more efficiently but as there is less available light during the winter months the benefit of the increased efficiency is negligible.
Among the usual letter writers in the Examiner last week was one Bernard McGuin ex Tory Candidate for Newsome. He focussed on my support for renewable energy and the financial subsidies for it. Amongst the ramblings and many inaccuracies (photovoltaics do not heat houses Bernard they create electricity) was the assertion that solar photovoltaic panels need a lot of maintenance. As there are no moving parts and it is a solid state product that's clearly not the case. Some of the first panels installed in Japan 40 years ago, on lighthouses, are still working. Panels do slowly lose efficiency (as all things do) over time but are warrantied for up to 25 years.
Clearly Mr McGuin is no expert but he does have opinions and that's important. So above is my demonstration of some of the maintenace requirements of solar panels
Thermal imaging cameras can cost thousands of pounds but everytime it snows we have the opportunity to do a check of how effective our loft insulation is. I went down the street in Newsome today knocked on a couple of doors with clear roofs and referred them to the Kirklees free insulation scheme. Wish I'd tucked my shirt in!
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.