Friday, 22 June 2018

Humanity 'on the slab'

In Brussels today I saw a 10 foot tall slab of multi coloured concrete erected in a Park between the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions. There is a small plaque nearby explaining that it is cut from the Berlin Wall and was sent to Brussels in 2014 to commemorate the wall's  demise following the end of the Cold War.

As I stood there and looked it up and down I pondered its significance. My immediate thought was how reminiscent it was of the black slab in the film '2001 - A Space Odyssey'  That rectangular slab (or Monolith) was created by a benevolent alien intelligence that had been subtly but significantly influencing the progress of humanity towards the advanced technological species that we are today.

This slab however was not created by anything benevolent at all. It was part of a wall designed to divide people, to provide a physical barrier between 2 different political ideologies. The significance of this particular part of the walls relocation to Brussels was to show by its very presence that the wall did not exist any more in its previous location. Its purpose had been lost, that people divided were now united. So why relocate it to Brussels? As Europe's Capital, Brussels represents the blurring of national boundaries and a recognition that people beyond nation states can have common purpose, that walls and boundaries had less relevance than they once had.

Of course that positive vision has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. We have seen the subject of walls and barriers between nations rise as people seek to move from areas of war and poverty to countries where they see the opportunity for safety, opportunity and a living. Their actions are completely understandable. Politics has failed them, often in the most dramatic of fashions, and they are on the move. The reactions from the countries that they are moving towards has been mixed. Some have acted with humanity showing the best of what we can be. They have welcomed people often from cultures different to their own and  have understood that many have skills, abilities and knowledge that can add to their own and give some positive benefits to society. Then there are those who have been less welcoming. Donald Trump's recent actions on the Mexican border have shown him to be a 'borderline Fascist' in more than one sense and I am not one of those politicians who call someone a 'Fascist' at the drop of the hat. He has  truly 'earned' that title. In Hungary the barbaric move to make helping migrants illegal has also shown that some Governments are quite prepared to make common humanity a crime. Being a Good Samaritan has become a risky business in Hungary.

So what are we to make of the multicoloured slab in a Park in Brussels? First of all it is important to note that it remains. It may be silent, it may be inert, its purpose may not be immediately apparent but whatever turmoils happen in the political world it will stay there in the park.  As walls rise it will remain as a reminder of a more hopeful time when barriers between people were removed. The influence it has will not be of a super advanced technological basis such as the black slab in 2001 but more of a more subtle nature. It will  make people ask questions, it will demonstrate that there was widespread hope for the future once and that common humanity and a sense of a bond across national boundaries was a view held by many millions. Any piece of concrete that can make people ask questions is a one important piece of concrete.

For those of you who are desperate to understand what '2001 - A Space Odyssey' is all about but can't be bothered to read the original Arthur C Clark's short story 'The Sentinel' here is an explanation of what went on in in the film. Some folks found it a bit cryptic understandably

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Councillor Andrew Cooper's Speech to European Parliament's ENVI Committee 21st June 2018

Thank you Chair ,  
Members of the ENVI committee, Let me first thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the Committee of the Regions opinion.
We welcome the ENVI draft motion for resolution on COP 24 as well as the adopted report on the role of EU regions and cities in implementing the Paris Agreement as they highlight the key role of local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change

·        Local and regional authorities are responsible for the implementation of 70% of climate change reduction measures and up to 90% of climate change adaptation measures. When national governments struggle to deliver, cities and regions take the lead.

·   Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, we have seen a rising status for local and regional governments. This was evident last year in Bonn with the launch of the Talanoa Dialogue and the Bonn Fiji commitment of Local and Regional leaders' from around the world.  It's now time this form of multilevel governance is acknowledged and the role of LRAs formalised in global climate governance.

·  Nationally Determined Contributions fall short in reaching Paris Agreement goals, of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees, let alone 1,5 degrees.  In order to bridge the emissions gap, we need a system of locally and regionally determined contributions (LDCs) that would complement "Nationally Determined Contributions.

·        A wealth of action to mitigate climate change happens at the local level and we know that action that is not measured is not acknowledged nor encouraged or valued. Yet, these local actions can be the most important actions of all. Making the difference between success and failure. That's why we call for the transparency framework to include, in national inventory reports a dedicated section on mitigation actions undertaken at subnational levels of government as a way to help track the progress towards achieving NDCs.

·   The Talanoa dialogue is of great importance for local and regional authorities as it allows them to make their ambitions, positions and intentions heard. It is also of vital importance to the UNFCCC and national Governments as the feedback we provide from the coalface of action on climate change will help them shape future policy initiatives. A dialogue is not a monologue. We need genuine 2 way communications. Yes we need to be heard but we also need to be responded to as well. We need to integrate the outcomes of the Talanoa Dialogue into the COP negotiating text. And it must also continue beyond COP24.

Cooperation and inclusivity are part of the solution to address climate challenges. It is essential that the EU and its Member States engage directly with democratically elected regions and other non-party stakeholders, civil society and the private sector. And it is crucial that we speak with a strong single voice at COP24.  As elected members at the closest level to the citizens we are ready to partner with you and contribute to make the world a better place.

 As a UK member of the Committee of the Regions I am clear that Brexit or (I still hope) no Brexit we should continue to work together to achieve the carbon reductions we need and to be frank this may help the UK Government to not slip further behind in our actions. If the UK is in a League of its own it will have no meaningful way of comparing its progress. Together with you we have a much better chance.

Thank you for your attention  

Friday, 18 May 2018

More reflections on the 2018 Kirklees Elections

The headline news was that Labour has taken control of Kirklees Council as well as Plymouth. In reality Labour has pretty much had control anyway in any meaningful sense due to a politically divided opposition. Some times we have used our votes to influence Labour but generally the Cabinet System gives them a disproportional amount of power over the day to day running of the Council. This is of course compounded by the electoral system which means that Labour with 43% of the votes gets 100% of the power.

So what about the notable individual contests. We know Labour had higher ambitions than their achievements which of course is not a bad thing. Certain currently high ranking Labour Councillors had said they were going to win Newsome but of course that didn't happen. More surprising to me was Almondbury. You really got the impression from social media that Labour had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Almondbury. Shadow Ministerial visits, lots of activists flooding the place, a personable candidate. I mean with a slogan like 'Peace for Almondbury' how can you not win? They didn't and I guess all credit to the Lib Dems for holding on. I remember bumping into a now former Lib Dem Councillor who expressed what I thought was undue confidence about Almondbury, clearly he was right. So my former Kirkburton Parish Council colleague Alison Munro is the new Councillor for Almondbury. She must have worked and walked her socks off, so much respect to her in what must have been a fairly tough contest.

We heard rumours about Crosland Moor and Netherton Ward and the challenge from Mike Forster of TUSC and 'Hands off HRI' but the challenge from him fell short and he came 3rd. A consistent, dedicated campaign from a Party willing to put 2 to 3 years of quality work into the ward could take it off Labour I would have thought, as things stand given their level of visibility in the ward. But a short term campaign is not the way these sort of things happen.

A word or two about Kirkburton and Denby Dale. The Conservatives got re-elected to both with less than 50% of the vote. In Kirkburton Greens are the main challengers and in Denby Dale it is Labour. We had at one time sought an arrangement with Labour on this but culturally &/constitutionally this does not seem possible for Labour so no 'Progressive Alliance' here. Not entirely sure I like the idea anyway. Commiserations to our Kirkburton  Candidate,  Derek Hardcastle who was unsuccessful on this occasion.

Holme Valley North Ward, where I live, proved to be an interesting contest. The Labour Candidate was definitely putting the effort in and was door knocking earlier in the year than is common among many. I was disappointed to get a letter from her with an endorsement from the Independent Councillor Edgar Holroyd Doveton who said he was supporting the 'person' not the 'label'. The only problem was that he didn't reveal that the person was his partner. When I pointed this out on Facebook. I got a bit of abuse from Labour folks who equated what I was saying with 'anti Corbyn smears'  and the other bizarre comment was about a person 'not having to be defined by who their partner was'. Sure but not revealing the relationship and trying to appear objective when you simply couldn't be was obviously a mistake.

Labour won, and the Lib Dems lost both Colne Valley and Golcar Wards, which is where Labour got their Council majority. It was very close in both and the Lib Dems will be kicking themselves over what they could have done. I guess these will continue to be hotly contested Wards.

From a wider Green Party perspective I was pleased to see us achieve 8% of the vote in Greenhead and Holme Valley South Wards with no campaigning. This does make you wonder what would happen if we actually were able to put in a decent effort there. Worth thinking about.

Of course in many of the wards in Kirklees the toughest part is getting selected usually by the Labour Party and there are unfortunately no real contests in those wards. Labour had a leaflet go out in  North Kirklees wards which had an unfortunate reference to the 'Tories shitting on us' due to a bit of cut and paste from a website so I understand. Happy to agree generally with the sentiment but it just shows how unprofessional Labour can be and still get away with it. 'No one person should be blamed' for this error apparently according to the Labour Agent who was responsible for producing the leaflets. Now who was that?

Green Mayors Aplenty!

Cllr Magid Magid Lord Mayor of Sheffield

With the new Municipal Year starting it's a time for ringing the changes in our local Councils. New Leaders perhaps, new people on Cabinets and or Committees and also the role of the Civic (as opposed to elected) Mayors. Now most Greens I know never went into politics thinking of wearing the chains of office, the bling, the robes, the ceremony, the function after function hectic schedule for a whole year but most people regard it as a valuable and unique experience giving an insight into the vast amount of work carried out by volunteers in the community. Then of course there is the fundraising for the Mayors Charity.

Our very own Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner was an enthusiastic and memorable first Green Mayor of Kirklees. Where Julie and others trail blazed we now have a clutch of Green Party people taking up the Civic role this year. This reflects the growing presence and longevity of Greens in Local Government. Headlining most, and virally on social media, is Sheffield's Cllr Magid Magid, a young muslim from Somalia who came here as a refugee and most importantly is a really nice guy. It's been a turbulent and punishing few years for Sheffield Greens but this month they have notched up 1 hold with Alison Teal and 2 new  Green Councillors making a new high of 6 Greens on Sheffield City Council. I've already had a request
Magid with Sheffield Green Cllrs
from a Huddersfield School wanting Magid to speak which would probably upset a whole load of protocols about Mayors being on each others patch. So I'm guessing its not on really.

Also in Yorkshire we have our own long standing Councillor Dilys Cluer who is Deputy Mayor of Scarborough who I've worked closely with recently in Scarborough election campaigns. I doubt she thought much about civic office in her years of campaigning but next year she will no doubt step up to the top job.

In the rest of the country, outside 'Gods Own' , there are quite a number of others. Cllr Cleo Lake will be the Lord Mayor of Bristol. Cllr Susan Murray will be the Mayor of Lewes. Cllr Alex Phillips Deputy Mayor of Brighton City Council. Cllr Martin Schmeirer in Norwich. Elfreide Brambly-Crawshaw, Mayor of Beccles, In Oxford Cllr Craig Simmons is taking on the role of High Sheriff. Ron Gaffney will be Mayor of Knowsley and Cllr Linda Baxter of Stowmarket.

One light hearted theory I heard today for why we have this conjunction of Green Mayors was that the other parties are trying to tie up all our Councillors in ceremonial duties to keep us off the streets. That's not going to happen. If anything they'll be out and about seeing even more people. Good luck to them all. Enjoy your years and enjoy the adventure.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Green Councillor calls for prosecution over Newsome plastics fire

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper has called for a prosecution over a toxic fire on the former Newsome Bowling Green

"I received several phone and text messages from residents around 9.30 on Saturday 14th April morning regarding a fire and acrid black smoke from the site of the Bowling Green at the rear of the former Newsome Working Mens Club where building works are being carried out. When I arrived I saw a huge bonfire with white plastic material and an awful smell. I and a local resident took close up pictures and video from a number of locations around the site. One of the workmen approached us and asked us to stop filming as there was a 3 year old child on the site. He then pointed towards the Bowling Club where Stuart Smith was standing holding a young child. This appeared to be a bizarre attempt to stop us gathering evidence of the fire. I pointed out that this was no place for a young child or anybody with all these toxic fumes. I have approached Kirklees Environmental Services and asked them to pursue a prosecution. It is straightforwardly against the law to burn this toxic material in this way and I have had a number of people living nearby tell me they have felt ill following the fire. Mr Smith needs at some point to be accoutable for his actions. He should not be above the law."

Monday, 7 May 2018

Kirklees Elections 2018 - Newsome Campaign reflections

I enjoyed the Newsome Campaign. There was lots of exercise delivering leaflets, we spoke to thousands of people and we had a great Candidate in our sitting Councillor Karen Allison who was defending her seat for the first time after a packed 4 year term. From an Agents point of view Karen was a dream candidate. Very active in the local community, well known and a definite 'mucker in' with lots of community activity. We had a great team of people helping us. There was the 'formal' canvassing and delivery teams but a much wider team of people from right across the communities in Newsome Ward who help us informally. There were lots of opportunities to visit cafe's and pubs following canvassing/leafleting which was pleasant and helped offset any potential benefits of hours of exercise.  So my thanks to Newsome Nosh, Scar Cafe, Cafe 8, Global Diversity, The Star at Lockwood, The Grove at Springwood and Bar Maroc (Huddersfield's Premier Moroccan Theme Pub) in the Town Centre. If you've not been to any of these places please do. We liked them.They are all generally locally owned and managed and so all the better for that.

Polling Day Fitbit report
Elections are pretty much a 'full on' experience. Lots of leaflets to write, produce and deliver, thousands of doors to knock on and people to speak to, posters and stake boards to get to your supporters, poster boards for lamp posts to put up and handling all the additional casework your activity generates. Of course none of this activity happens in isolation, there are other people in other Parties doing pretty much the same things to a greater and lesser degree. Some of those people are going about their activities in a positive fashion and some others are prepared to use any means to try to beat you and have malevolent intent. We've had a bit of the latter in this election in the Newsome Ward The wilful misrepresentation of our budget amendment in the Labour leaflet was particularly disappointing but had little impact. One person contacted us about it. We explained in detail why it was woefully inaccurate and he said he would vote accordingly.

Another tactic Labour used was to put out a last minute 'attack' leaflet the day before the election entitled 'Greens waste your money'. This leaflet referred to a project to carry out wildflower planting on Whitehead Lane and said the money would be better spent on services for vulnerable/poor children. It also commented on the fact that children in poverty in the Newsome Ward were having to be supported by voluntary organisations to pay for meals outside school term times. Our Candidate Karen was very aware of this having spent many hours helping out with the Worth Unlimited project in Lowerhouses which we guess they were referring to. This valuable work has been succesfully supported by a range of sponsors such as the Town Foundation and philanthropic local companies. You could argue that it shouldn't have to be, but it is. The wildflower project itself was much more than Labour described in their leaflet. There are links to a project helping people with mental health difficulties. The money itself could not be spent on services as it was 'one off' funding. There was also an ongoing benefit as the land itself, on a roadside verge would no longer have to be on a grass cutting programme and so would reduce ongoing revenue costs for the Council. The point of putting out an inaccurate knocking leaflet the day before the election is that it cannot easily be responded to. They knew what they were doing.
Some of the Newsome Green Campaign Team

A particular annoyance this time was the
'trolling' of myself and Karen by a particularly obnoxious Labour Canvasser on Twitter. His general theme was that we were rubbish Councillors because there was lots of flytipping in the Newsome Ward and yes there is and yes we report it and we get involved with and organise large scale community clean ups to try to deal with it. He could equally have gone across the ward boundary into Crosland Moor and taken pictures of flytipping there and come to the conclusion that the Councillors there were rubbish as well. The only problem would be that they would be Labour Councillors and that wouldn't fit his rather twisted narrative. We were also supposedly 'in it for ourselves' and they were 'doing the Greens job for them' (I have screen grabs) I've got to say that if I was motivated by money I wouldn't have joined the Green Party and I wouldn't be involved in local politics. This guy doesn't know me, has never spoken to me and all he has his own beliefs and prejudices to 'inform' him.

We got reports from several people about their encounters with Labour Canvassers on the doorstep who were 'bad mouthing' us on a regular basis. All the potholes were the Greens fault as we were spending money on wild flowers not the roads (see earlier point) they also seemed pretty nonplussed on local issues on the doorstep themselves when asked about them. The problem they had was that many people had quite a positive experience with us and yes there are always going to be some people who are not our 'fans' as in any Ward in Kirklees but people across the communities of Newsome Ward generally thought we are doing a good job. Hence the result I guess.

We weren't short of social media opportunities to comment on the Labour Campaign in Newsome but generally resisted the temptation. A Labour Councillor's tweet about their Candidate litter picking in Rawthorpe - no comment from us. Even when the ink fell from Labour Candidate's posters in the rain did we say 'Labour Campaign fades' or 'Running for office'  no we didn't.

There was quite a roll call of Labour Councillors (at least 7) who got involved to a greater or lesser degree in the Labour Campaign in Newsome including Councillor Mus Khan (Dalton) who seems to have been the 'brains' behind their operation, and of course Barry Sheerman MP and his team. Now they are perfectly at liberty to do so in a democracy like ours and yes we were flattered by the attention but if I was in the Labour Party I would have thought twice about putting my name to a campaign like this.

Of course some of the characters involved in the Labour Newsome Campaign are big fans/disciples of Jeremy Corbyn and given some of his predecessors you can understand why. With any Messiah though you can't pick and choose which 'Commandments' you do and don't follow. One of his earliest lessons to the faithful was to "treat people with respect" and to "Cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on with bringing real values back into politics". I've been around in the political world for some time and I am more than happy to take on these sort of people but I don't see why my colleagues like Councillor Karen Allison should have to. So some of our team were not particularly looking forward to encountering these Labour activists at the count. I decided not to engage with them at all which seemed the most sensible thing to do (and not like me at all!) 

Now I'm not daft enough to think that the actions of these particular Labour members represent the Labour Party as a whole. There are Councillors and activists in the Labour Party who I respect and who would not behave as poorly as these people did. I like to think that the Labour Candidate has just been poorly advised about what is an acceptable way to behave by certain individuals and that perhaps she might have learned from the experience. The decisions made in  Labour's Newsome campaign were made by individuals and the campaign they ran reflects their own 'values'.  Principally that 'If you're not with us you're against us' or more specifically if you're not in the Labour Party you must be wrong or have suspect motivations.

Despite all this I did enjoy the campaign. We did a lot of things differently and better than we have done before, we built on our already strong links in the community and we were better organised and we involved more people. So onward, and finally here's the sense of satisfaction you get when you decide to block a social media troll.

Friday, 27 April 2018

A Local Election Message from Karen Allison

A Local Election Message from Karen Allison

Newsome Ward - Thursday May 3rd

Dear Neighbour,

Thank you to everyone I have met during this election campaign for the warm reception I & the Green Party Team have received. It is great to know we have so much local support.

Whether it is standing up against sky high rises in burial fees or standing up to those people who seek to profit from the destruction of community assets such as Newsome Bowling Green, it is Green Party Councillors who stand up for and by local people.

I have lived in Newsome for over 20 years & I work with a wide range of groups in the Community such as Worth Unlimited in Lowerhouses, Newsome Ward Community Forum, Newsome Scouts & I am also a School Governor at Hillside Primary School. In my role as a local Councillor I have taken up hundreds of individual concerns on behalf of local people.

Kirklees is a hung Council with no Party having an overall majority. This means Green Councillors can use our influence on Kirklees more effectively on behalf of local people. If Labour get a majority on the Council then local people will have less leverage over decision makers on issues such as development on our local green field sites.

Other parties may claim to ‘work all the year round’ but only the Green Party Team locally really does, with our regular newsletters, advice surgeries & New Year’s Day Bus Services.

Please use your vote to re-elect me to Kirklees Council on Thursday May 3rd.

Yours sincerely

Karen Allison

P.S. – It is the votes of local people that ensure we can work effectively on your behalf. Please use your vital vote to help us keep working as a strong team for our area.

promoted by Andrew Cooper on behalf of Karen Allison of 76 Brockholes Lane, Holmfirth HD9 7EB

Thursday, 12 April 2018

We’re backing Karen Allison! - Kirklees Elections 2018 - Newsome Ward

A message from Caroline Lucas Green Party Leader

I urge the people of Newsome Ward to vote again for Karen Allison as one of your local Councillors. Karen is a strong advocate for the local community. Her hard work and dedication as a local Councillor for the past 4 years and as a community activist for over 20 years mean she’s invaluable as a champion for local people, and her voice on the council really makes a difference.
Caroline Lucas MP – Green Party Leader

I’ve known Karen for over 20 years & was so pleased when she was elected in my place 4 years ago. The last 4 years have shown Karen take to the role ‘like a duck to water’. She has got stuck in with local activities and taken up 100s of local concerns. She really deserves your vote on May 3rd.
Graham Simpson of Taylor Hill

Karen is not the sort of Councillor who just sits around in meetings. She has put a pinny on & got stuck in helping with our lunch clubs in Lowerhouseses regularly. We need active people like Karen who do positive things for the community representing us on the Council.  
Wendy Marsden of Lowerhouses

The Green Party are the only people who really get involved in local issues. We know we can rely on them and they don’t just appear at election times 

Karen Hobson of Primrose Hill

Karen has adapted to the role of Councillor extremely well, and
taken her responsibilities very seriously over the past 4 years.  Karen has a deep affection for the Newsome Ward, having lived here for over 20 years. She has a great passion for all the communities she represents.  Karen has a good balance of intelligence and creativity, which means she gets good results for people who ask her for help.  She is a pleasure to work with, and I hope the people of Newsome Ward will support her to continue her great work.  - Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner

Karen is really active in the Newsome Ward and has helped lots of
people in the local community with all sorts of problems. She is really approachable and committed as a local Councillor. She is involved in loads of local groups and we can always rely on her to support and get involved in local events. We need to see her re-elected on May 3rd
Danni Jones of Newsome

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Statement by Cllr Andrew Cooper on misinformation in the Labour Election leaflet in the Newsome Ward

There is a disappointing and misleading attack on the Green Party in the Labour Party Election leaflet in the Newsome Ward.

There is a statement in the leaflet which says,

“I would rather the elderly and disabled were cared for than £4.5 million spent on electric vehicles as was proposed by Newsome Green Councillors budget amendment”

The £4.5 million we identified in the Council Budget was not being used by the Labour run council to fund services for the elderly and disabled nor could this particular source of funding be used in this way.

The Labour Cabinet said that this funding was to be spent on Regeneration projects mostly in this financial year. Officers informed us that there was no way that that Labour could spend the money they had allocated in the time they had identified.

The Green Party proposed to use the funding to replace Kirklees vehicles which were reaching the end of their useful life and would have to be replaced anyway.

The £4.5 million was Capital (non recurring) funding which could only be used once and so could not be used to fund council services for the elderly and disabled anyway.

As Electric vehicles require less maintenance and have lower running costs the Green Party amendment would actually save the Council money against the ongoing costs of continuing to use petrol and diesel vehicles.

With Air Quality being such a hot topic in the Huddersfield area this was a way of Kirklees showing leadership on reducing air polluton. So this was very much a public health issue as much as it was an environmental one.

The Labour Deputy Leader who was leading on the Kirklees Budget had indicated that the electric vehicles part of the Green Party amendment would be acceptable should Labour not get their budget passed in the Council’s Budget meeting and should they need Green Councillors support to get their budget through.

We are aware that the Labour Councillor for Dalton and Cabinet Member Mus Khan is involved in the Newsome Labour Candidate's campaign and we believe she has been poorly advised. Labour Cabinet members should be well informed about the realities of the Council finances and so we can only assume that this attack is a deliberate attempt to mislead electors.

It is disappointing when these sort of tactics are used. It doesn't help people's faith in politics and politicians as a whole when some parties have to resort to misinformation in pursuit of votes.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Newsome Greens win new seats!

Cllr Karen Allison on the new bench up High Lane - more to come!
The dilapidated public benches at Newsome Crossroads and halfway up Lockwood Scar are to be replaced with new ones.

These will be made by a local firm and will be paid for out of the small ward budget that Newsome’s Green councillors have for local projects.

Councillor Andrew Cooper said, 

“ The two new benches will add to the one on High Lane that was installed last year in memory of Stuart Roebuck of Hall Bower Chapel.

Councillor Karen Allison added,

“These benches will be useful stopping points for those people who need a breather while trekking up towards Castle Hill.”

Friday, 30 March 2018

Plastic not so fantastic

Jug or bottle? A simple choice.
At a Kirklees Council Event I attended last week tincluded in the refreshments were bottled water, single use plastic glasses, disposable paper coffee cups, single use plastic tea spoons and little single serving plastic milk cartons. Nobody was setting fire to tyres in the meeting so it wasn't a complete environmental disaster! The Council really do need to be getting the basics right on single use plastic but sadly we are not.

When I asked the Kirklees Cabinet Member Councillor Naheed Mather a question about how Kirklees might address the issue of single use plastic at a recent Council meeting she talked vaguely about the possibility of influencing the use of single use plastics by Take Aways using licensing conditions. If this is possible it would be welcome but when Kirklees hasn't got its own house in order it is very difficult to ask anyone else to.improve their green credentials. The Council needs to 'walk the walk' on cutting back on plastic waste and needs to start providing tap water for events. So far all we have had is talk and no action at all.

So what would an alternative to the refreshment arrangements at Kirklees meetings look like? We could have polycarbonate plastic cups which are reusable and aren't a danger if dropped like glass. Reusable mugs and metal teaspoons could be used. Using milk from milk bottles which are still being used would be a positive move. Tap water could be provided in jugs or in reusable bottles like many organisations already do. Doing the right thing is not rocket science it just requires the right choice to be made and a decision to be taken.

And here from 1980 (the dawn of time) is Buggles and The Plastic Age

Thursday, 29 March 2018

An Interview with Councillor Karen Allison - Newsome Green Party Candidate

What have the last 4 years been like as a Kirklees Councillor?

Busy, non stop, varied and lots and lots of issues and problems to deal with on a daily basis. It’s everything from reporting potholes, planning issues, trying to ensure the Council has robust child protection policies and lots more besides. It’s all about dealing with day to day local community matters. It's great being part of a great team. Myself and the other Green Councillors Andrew Cooper and Julie Stewart-Turner are all different characters but we work together really well and each have our projects and issues that we lead on.
Cllrs Andrew Cooper & Karen Allison with the New Years Day Bus
What’s frustrating about being a local Councillor?

We’re not able to solve everything and some things take longer than you would like to solve. Top of the list has to be Newsome Mill. It is privately owned with an overseas owner. We’re in touch with the agent acting on his behalf and we are trying to work with a variety of agencies seeking to get some movement but it is painfully slow.

What are the most common issues people bring to you?

Potholes and dumped rubbish. My mobile phone isn’t full of family snaps it is all broken roads and
old fridges/sofas etc. Checking to make sure you direct the Council to the right place is essential. We also gather evidence and try to get flytippers prosecuted.

What is different about being a Green Councillor?

We don’t have party bosses or ‘Whips’ telling us how to vote. Most of the time the Green Councillors vote the same way but we are free to vote differently if we wish.  Ultimately people are voting for an individual to represent them and I’d like to think people know my views won’t be overruled by someone higher up in a Party machine.

The other thing that is different about us is that we get ‘stuck in’ with community activities. We aren’t all about sitting in meetings. Our New Year’s Day bus service, our clean ups, cleaning Village signs are all examples of us not just talking about local problems but actually doing something about them.  Our support for community activity is very practical and you’re likely to see one of us washing up or putting tables and chairs away. When it comes to working in the community Green Councillors walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

What do you do when you’re not ‘on duty’ as a Councillor?

I’m married with two ‘grown up’ children which keeps me grounded. I’m also involved with local theatre companies helping with costumes as a volunteer. I’m not a total ‘Councillorbot’  7 days a week.

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Green Councillors defend Taylor Hill green space from development.

A proposal was due to be submitted to the Kirklees Labour Cabinet for their meeting on the 20th of March to put forward a number of sites for potential housing development across Kirklees.

These sites included the land between Mansion Gardens and Blue Bell Hill in Taylor Hill and the former Stile Common School site at Primrose Hill. They have referred to this as ‘soft market testing’.

Following representations by Green Councillors the item has been withdrawn and will be deferred to a future Cabinet meeting. probably after the Local Elections in May.

Councillor Karen Allison said “The land off Mansion Gardens is a valued amenity space and we opposed its inclusion in the Local Plan and so we opposed it being put forward for potential development now.”

Councillor Andrew Cooper has previously liaised with residents at Malvern Rise and Plane Street over the future of the Stile Common School site. He said, “ I am quite clear that we had an agreement with Kirklees that no further action would occur before there had been consultation with residents over any proposals.

“I would include this ‘soft market testing exercise’ in that agreement. We will continue to keep a close eye on this issue”.

Green Councillors have submitted their objections to the proposals and will keep local people informed of developments.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Two tribes

How we handled differences of opinion before elections
We don't have Civil Wars in the UK anymore and neither do we have Robber Barons exerting their will over the populace through terror. Instead of all that we will be having Local Elections in May. So though we have a 'sort of' democratic alternative to war and bloodshed that isn't to say that feelings still don't run high during these local contests. It can all get pretty tribal and sometimes just a bit petty. The dodgy graphs, the dubious 'polls', the gamesmanship on the doorstep all plays its part in raising the tensions. In the last Local Elections my principal opponent was telling people on the doorstep that I had 'given up' in the election which certainly raised my hackles. When I confronted this with him he said to me " You have given up I can see the defeat in your eyes". I gave him what I felt was an appropriate response but I have to confess it wasn't really but it did feel right at the time. I behaved better towards him at the Count and didn't say the things I could have said.

So we are now entering 'Election Fever' time when  perspectives can become distorted and wnen some regard winning as the objective and how they get there of secondary importance. Political parties I guess are like human beings  as a whole. From our viewpoint we are the heroes of our own tales. Our mistakes are understandable and are excusable to us but our opponents errors are heinous crimes. This is the way it is in the world of Political Tribalism.

So far for me its been pretty tame stuff. An overenthusiastic opposition Tweeter who thinks that sending me pictures of dumped fridges and assorted rubbish is some sort of reflection of how good or not I and my colleagues are at doing our jobs. A Councillor who thinks me missing my train to the HRI trip to Westminister due to snowy weather is some sort of failing by me as opposed to just bad luck and implies as such on social media. Annoying? Yes. Petty? Certainly but all pretty minor stuff really so far.

So any conclusions? I guess keeping a cool head over the next few weeks. Do the work that is necessary, enjoy the contest and try to exhibit wisdom and dignity at all times. Unlike last time!

Here's Two Tribes by Frankie Goes to Hollywood

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Green Councillors produce 'Reported' stickers for flytipped items

Green Party Cllr Karen Allison with a fridge reported for collection on Edale Avenue, Newsome

Green Councillor Karen Allison has come up with a simple initiative to place 'Reported' stickers on large dumped items such as fridges, sofas and mattresses to let people know it has been reported for collection.

Councillor Karen Allison said

"We report a good number of bulky items of waste left by the kerbside, in verges and in the undergrowth to Kirklees. These are reported to us by residents or we see them ourselves as we are going around the area. Due to cuts the Council can take a long time to respond quickly to the many requests we make to have these items removed so people can naturally report the same item a number of times which can cause duplication and confusion. If people see these stickers they will know that it has been reported for collection even if it takes a bit longer than we would all like. If this inititaive in the Newsome Ward is successful we will try to get it adopted more widely across Kirklees hopefully saving time and money."

The stickers have been produced by the Green Party at no public expense.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Brace yourself!

There's a picture of me that I quite like taken by my friend Gideon Richards from a couple of years ago. I am speaking at an early Hands Off HRI Rally in Huddersfield Town Centre. Yours truly is addressing the crowd, microphones in hand with the Harold Wilson statue in the background. I have to confess however that the photo has been doctored /photoshopped. Like so many photos of me in the original a shirt flap is hanging out. Somehow or other for years and years belts haven't really worked for me. Too tight, too loose. Either shirt hanging out or the unintentional, and I'm sure unappealing, half moony that occurs from time to time. This was just an occupational hazard of being me.

A few months ago I went to a friends 50th birthday party and the dress code was 'Northern Soul'. A bit of research revealed that one way you could achieve 'the look' was by wearing braces which I duly did.  Since then I have started wearing them as standard which has been a bit of a revelation in terms of keeping my trousers up and obviously so much so that I have thought it worthy of a blogpost (my blog description does include the words 'and anything else I fancy talking about'.).

Leo Sayer - braces wearer
Its been suggested to me that braces are 'a bitTory'. I guess the thinking behind that is all those City traders in their red braces who busily mucked up the economy for us all. For me I always think of my Grandad, who was a South Yorkshire miner who on occasions wore braces.  So maybe braces are classless, maybe we can all wear them and have our own take.

Here's Madness with 'Our House' where some people are wearing braces

Friday, 9 February 2018

Breaking the law

Dodging Police with Gaby Naptali at Kirby Misperton
I'm not going to Green Party Spring Conference in Bournemouth this year. The truth is I'm too busy really and I need to be concentrating on local things.  I could say however that I'm not going because I'm too embarassed at not having been arrested yet as there are so many Greens who have. Most famously our own Caroline Lucas MP was arrested at Balcombe on a Fracking protest or more recently Green Cllr Alison Teal was arrested and later acquitted for one of her tree protests in Sheffield or what about Green Baroness Jenny Jones who was identified as a 'domestic extremist' by the Metropolitan Police. All women as it happens.

The front line of  Non Violent Direct Action at the moment are the Fracking sites around the country. And today's Suffragettes are the Anti Fracking Nannas like Tina Rothery and some of us blokes who turn up as well. At Kirby Misperton Fracking Site I've been jostled and kettled by North Yorkshire Police but not actually arrested yet. Of course there are risks in getting arrested you could be found guilty and fined or even imprisoned but then that's all part of what you sign up for as a 'Protector'.  Protectors is a much more positive term  than 'Protestor'.  Protectors are seeking to protect our environment they are acting for a better world as well as protesting against the threat to it.

The last time I went to Kirby Misperton I was doing a speech to the assembled masses (about 20 folks to be honest) and we were surrounded by around 25 Police. In a homage to 'The Blues Brothers' I opened with the words  "I'd like to thank members of the North Yorkshire Law Enforcement Community for choosing to be with us here today" some of the Police got the reference and had a chuckle.

I continued talking over the megaphone as we were pushed away by the Police from the entrance to the Fracking Site to allow the HGVs carrying equipment to gain access. We slowed things up a bit, the Police and ourselves were engaged in the usual game of cat and mouse at the entrance. Chatting with the Police you can tell they don't really want to be there. They have had some Public Relations disasters at Kirby Misperton most famously in harrassing a the 'Tea lady' pensioner in a video that went viral  right round the world. Now we hear that some Fracking equipment is being removed from the site as costs for Policing continue to mount and the future of Fracking at the site is beginning to be in doubt. Victory may be in sight.

It is in this context that this week as a nation we have been noting the Centenary of the moment some women first got the vote in our country. We are celebrating the actions of law breakers, women who were persecuted, demonised by the press, imprisoned and force fed by the state. It is in that context that todays anti fracking protestors should be viewed.

So where is the new front line of Non Violent Direct Action? It could be back to the voting system. For years majority Governments have been elected by a minority of voters in the UK. Millions of peoples votes are effectively disregarded by the electoral system. It suits the larger parties but is archaic and most European countries have abandoned this bizarre unfair voting system in favour of some form of Proportional Representation. Arguments against it are often bogus and self serving and make our claim to be the mother of democracies very hollow indeed. It was in that context that 410 people around the country had a 24 hour fast this week (including yours truly) for fair votes to 'Make votes matter'. Some participants called it a 'hunger strike' which I felt was inappropriate given the real hunger strikes that suffragettes held at considerable risk. Given the way the campaign for fair votes has been ridiculed by the powerful people and parties who benefit from the status quo then I can't see the electoral system being changed anytime soon.

The 24 hour fast was a first step. We need to up the anti if we are to ensure that democracy means anything to the millions of voters it ignores. Anyone fancy handcuffing themselves to First Past the Post Fan Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn or  our own Barry Sheerman MP?

Here's 'Breaking the Law' by Judas Priest

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Green Group Budget Proposals to Kirklees Council – 14th February 2018

Kirklees Green Cllrs Julie Stewart-Turner, Karen Allison & Andrew Cooper
The Green Party are submitting a Budget amendment to Kirklees Council that will result in a 5% Council tax rise which is 1% lower than that being proposed by the Labour Administration.

The aim of our budget
amendment is to address just some of the social, environmental & financial issues that affect the Council. What this amendment cannot do is solve all the problems faced by the Council and the people who live within its boundaries. It takes the Council forward & provides it with some of the vision & direction that it needs.

Restoring Play Areas removed for Health and Safety reasons

Play areas have recently been removed from Manor Estate in the Newsome Ward and Rufford Road in the Golcar Ward.These were removed for Health and Safety reasons but no provision was made by the Labour Administration for their replacement. This amendment addresses that deficiency.

Huddersfield Town Centre is not a family friendly area and our proposal to provide a play area on Macauley Street outside the Bus Station would go some way towards addressing this.

Mount Pleasant Primary School - Roof to Multi Use Games Area

Mount Pleasant Primary School in the Crosland Moor Ward has just had a new school building built to Government specifications. As a result it has lost the large covered Sports Hall that enabled children and local people outside school hours to play sport in all weathers. Installing a roof on the soon to be installed Multi Use Games Area would restore the flexibility the school had previously with all the benefits for health, school effectiveness and wider community engagement.

Traffic Calming measures

The provision of resources for traffic calming are insufficient. This amendment will not resolve that but will provide more flexibility to address the many calls on the Highways Service for traffic calming across Kirklees.

Provision of Electric Vehicle fleet

The first Kirklees Council Electric Vehicle was provided over 10 years ago as a result of a Green Party Budget amendment. Electric vehicles since then have come on leaps and bounds and have low servicing costs, lower costs per mile and the range of electric vehicles is well within the Councils operational requirements. The benefit to the Council is not just lower running costs but also demonstrates that we are playing our part in reducing vehicle emissions at a time when we have growing concerns about air quality in Kirklees. As the carbon intensity of UK electricity begins to fall electric vehicles will play an important role in storing renewable energy generated overnight. This will help us play our part in reducing carbon emissions in line with the COP21 Paris Climate Goals.

Public Rapid Charging of Electric Vehicles

With a growing number of people buying and using electric vehicles the Council needs to play its part in providing the infrastructure we need to allow this cleaner more efficient form of transport to grow.  Match funding is being provided for charging points so this proposal can be used as leverage.

Addressing the growing number of rough sleepers in Kirklees

There are a growing number of rough sleepers in Kirklees as the result of benefit changes, mental health issues and the lack of sufficient social rented housing. This proposal seeks to provide more support and assistance to rough sleepers to help them get back control of their lives.

Support for Community Engagement Facilities

There are a range of buildings across Kirklees from which the Council engages with the Community these include Community Hubs/Former Childrens Centres and Libraries. This proposal seeks to provide greater flexibility for the Council to work with Schools and Parish Councils to help preserve vital community facilities.