Friday, 29 May 2009

Should council tax payers help fund the proposed Bristol City stadium development??

Tesco's desire to turn Bristol City's Ashton Gate stadium into a superstore are again in the news. This time the concerns of local businesses and people are reported and lively online debate included:

'Mr Landsdown says...he needs Tesco's money. What will he need next, a subsidy from the Council?' (Rob, Crews Hole).

Indeed he will Rob. In yesterday's Post Steve Lansdown is quoted as saying this,

"There's a feeling that Steve Lansdown is going to pay for the lot but the city of Bristol has to pay for some of it because this is going to be around for a lot longer than I am. I'll pay for some of it but there are others who can chip in as well."

Mr Lansdown it seem wants: to build over green space; wants Tesco and council tax payers money to help him do so; wants to push the whole process along by exerting his not inconsiderable influence, along with that of the media, Tesco, the FA...on the leaders of the big three parties on the council (who in turn will influence all councillors - including those on the relevant planning committee). I doubt that he is concerned at all about the impacts on the diverse range of businesses already operating in the area.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Greens are the most trusted party: the evidence

Recent polling evidence shows that the Green Party is by far the most trusted. Voters were asked by You Gov which party's politicians they thought were most likely to put their own financial interests before the interests of their country. The results:



*Labour - least trusted, named by 45% as likely to put self-interest first.
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*Conservatives - almost as bad, named by 40%
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*BNP - 20%
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*Liberal Democrats - 16%
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*UKIP - 15%
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*Green Party - most trusted, named by just 5% as likely to put self-interest first.

This is of course in the same week that campaign group Open Europe rated the Green Party's leader Caroline Lucas as the joint best British MEP on accountability, transparency and reform (details here) and Joanna Lumley urged people to vote Green.

Remembering all who fought for us

Excellent post on the BNP over at James Barlow's blog. Well worth a visit.

Proposed Bristol City Stadium: unbalanced, biased reporting

Further reporting of the proposed new Bristol City stadium in the local paper today, with a very biased, lengthy report mainly consisting of the views of multi-millionaire Steve Lansdown. Its a big concern that Bristol's politicians are already saying an enthusiasctic yes to the proposed Bristol City stadium. We need leaders with a bit of spine, objectivity and good judgement - unfortuneately recent events show us that the Lab, Lib Dem and Conservative Parties dont give us this.

There is a formal planning process to go through. This is the law and its not too much to ask that its done properly is it?? Both the principle and the designs have yet to be approved. Many issues, such as loss of green spaces, are controversial and much that has been used to support the stadium proposal eg world cup football and/or rugby in Bristol, is highly speculative. We need politicians to properly think through the kinds of development that are truly beneficial both in the short, medium and long term. Unfortuneately these days it seems that the big political parties are more interested in where the 'big money' is and in the kudos they can get by being associated with 'glamorous' projects.

The rich and powerful behind Bristol City, Tesco and developers should not be allowed disproportionate influence. Its notable that the Bristol Evening Post's reporting of this issue has been very far from balanced. Why were the views of the residents of Ashton Vale not sought by reporters and included?? Why were the views of concerned greens not sought and included??

"Vote Green" says Joanna Lumley - an Ab Fab endorsement!!

The Daily Mirror, Independent, Evening Standard and Daily Mail all report Joanna Lumley's support for the Green Party. She said "I urge you to cast a positive vote for a better future by voting Green in the European elections."

Joanna praised Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, saying that she is "a tireless campaigner... staunchly defending human rights and strongly promoting greater protection for animals".


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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Objective planning decision likely on Bristol City's proposed new stadium??

Its been reported that Bristol City FC's Ashton Gate ground may be flogged to Tesco so that they can build a superstore there. This prospect is seen by some as very important for funding City's proposed new stadium. The Labour, Lib Dem and Tory Party leaders on the council all say how much they strongly support the idea of a new Bristol City stadium. Then they say that the planning process must be stuck to!! Are they seriously expecting Bristol's people to believe that all the time, effort and support they are giving to the new stadium proposal has no impact whatsoever on whether planning permission is granted?? Come on.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Supporting and improving our public services

I recently received a letter from the Public and Commercial Services Union asking for my views on public services, I presume because I'm a local election candidate for the Greens in Eastville. Here’s how I replied to the questions they posed:

1.Do you support PCS’s campaign for fair and equal pay?

Yes, fair and equal pay is very important. We must narrow the income gap and build a secure, stable and sustainable society for people, based on strong local economies working together. The lowest paid should pay no income tax at all in my view.

2.Where do you stand on cutting civil and public service jobs?

Cuts in services must be opposed and its very unlikely that cutting large numbers of jobs would have no impact on services at all. ‘Efficiency savings’ as they have been called aren’t ‘efficient’ at all if services are cut.

3.Do you think in the current climate that [Dept for Work and Pensions] office closures should be halted?

With unemployment rising steeply its surely vital that we mobilise available resources to help people find work and training – office closures are very hard to justify therefore.

4.Where do you stand on privatising public services?

I’m very strongly opposed to the privatisation of public services. The Green Party’s ‘Green New Deal’ for spearheading the economic recovery includes significant investment in public services, including social care, housing and transport. The Green Party strongly believes that local provision and access to high quality public services such as schools, libraries, hospitals, nurseries, post offices and public transport are essential to maintain thriving communities and a good quality of life for all.

5.Do you think more tax staff should be employed to collect [lost or non-pursued] taxes, closing the tax gap [and removing tax loopholes]?

Its well worth devoting the staffing needed to pursuing taxes and closing loopholes. This pays for itself and raises money for spending on public services.

6.Do you support an extension of the ban [on the employment of racist, fascist, far-right group members] to other civil and public services [the police and the prison service have a ban already]?

Yes, we must take all effective steps to combat racism, fascism and nazism. Membership of far-right groups is clearly incompatible with non-discriminatory working practices which all civil and public service providers have signed up to.

Recall system for MPs: sign the petition

I've indicated in previous posts the Green Party's longstanding policy of legislating to put in place a recall system for MPs and Councillors (see here and here). Its natural territory for me to urge you to sign this petition calling for a recall system to be set up asap (read over the message below from petition organisers, the new campaigning group 38 Degrees).

In the wake of the MP expenses scandal, trust in politics and politicians in the UK is collapsing. Political parties may suddenly be falling over themselves to “get tough” with the worst MP expenses offenders, but can we rely on politicians to clean up this mess on their own? At the moment we're stuck with disgraced MPs until the next election, no matter what they have done. We need MPs to answer to us, and that means a new “recall law” to give local people the power to call a fresh vote and sack disgraced MPs. Right now party leaders are debating how far they need to go to regain our trust, and if we act quickly together we can influence this debate and get this new law passed.

Click here to demand a new recall law: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/recall/

We have two weeks before we present our petition for a new recall law to the leaders of all the parties. Please help us to make sure it’s a loud enough call for change. If enough of us take action together, we'll show parliament and the media that real change is needed. The idea for a recall law in the UK has been gaining momentum, with major newspapers and even some MPs weighing in over the last few weeks. The next step is to prove how strongly voters feel - exactly what a large petition will do.

How many other jobs do you know where once you’ve been hired the people who hired you can’t sack you for five years, no matter what you’ve done? In other countries including the USA and Canada, “recall laws” allow voters to call a fresh vote when an elected official has lost their trust. Now we need the same in the UK. Politicians are feeling the heat and know they have to take major steps to regain our trust. Let's seize this opportunity to make MPs more accountable to us, for good.

Click here to make sure MPs really answer to us: http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/recall/

Thanks for getting involved
David, Hannah, Warren, Nina and the 38 Degrees team

Local, environmental, online jobs: 4 website community facilitators wanted

Passing on details of this local, environmental, online job opportunity:

An exciting opportunity to be a website community facilitator.

Do you have an interest in the environment and things that affect your local area?
Would you like to learn more about having your say on online forums?
Do you like to talk with friends about things that are happening in Bristol that affect you?

We are looking for four community facilitators, who will keep an eye on what people are saying on an online discussion forum and promote discussion.

www.askbristol.com is a council website which promotes discussion about issues that affect people living in Bristol, so these views can be passed on to people making the decisions.

Past discussions have included cycling, excessive drinking, the council’s budget, and recycling to name a few. Go to
http://www.youtube.com/bristolcitycouncil to see videos of some of the things we have talked about in the past.

The website currently has a focus on traffic noise pollution, as part of a project to raise awareness, highlight problems and solutions, and encourage people to tell us about quiet areas where they enjoy spending time. Find out more here
www.askbristol.com/noise

What is involved?
You will be employed for two hours per week for six months and paid £8.23 per hour through the City Jobshop. If you are claiming benefits you will need to declare this work so find out in advance if this will affect your benefits payments.

You will need to have access to a computer and internet connection at home, or be able to access the free computers at the library (which can be booked for up to two hours a day on week days) or anywhere else you know of where you can use a computer with internet.

As well as work on the Internet, you will spread the word about the website by chatting to people you know and any groups you are part of, and by distributing leaflets.

You will need some experience of using computers and the Internet to find out information from websites and have experience of using email.

You might also have some experience of social networking sites like myspace, facebook or youtube, and blogs but this is not essential.

You should have an interest in the environment and your local community and a willingness to learn new skills.

You will be asked to keep a log of how you have spent your time and what you have achieved.

You will need to attend one and a half days of training, where you will find out more about what needs to be done and how to do it.
You will need to commit two consecutive hours on one day of the week (Monday to Friday). These hours can be flexible (i.e. not necessarily during the normal 9-5 working day, and not necessarily the same hours every week). Hours will be arranged so that the four facilitators are working on different days. We would also occasionally require a degree of flexibility from you, for example, in being able to attend training sessions.

How will you benefit from being involved?

§ You will receive training about how to be a community facilitator.
§ You will learn new skills and gain experience relating to the Internet and building links in your community. These skills will be useful both personally and in a work environment.
§ You will have the opportunity to earn an extra income from home whilst working around other commitments.
§ If you are currently not in employment and will be seeking work in the future it will be an opportunity to gain confidence and add to your C.V.

Tasks will include:
Promoting discussion on the Viewfinder site (
www.askbristol.com/viewfinder) site.
Moderate comments on viewfinder according to the code of conduct and acceptable use policy. You will be able to refer to a council officer if you are unsure about any content.
Promoting the traffic noise website with existing contacts, and in local area e.g. speaking to friends, community or other groups.
Distributing Ask Bristol publicity cards in their local area and other places you visit.
Going on to other websites/forums to promote the traffic noise website.
Looking out for relevant comments on other sites to say how this relates to noise pollution and directing people back to out site.
Moderation of comments on the quiet map.
Adding your own photos to the quiet map (if you have a digital camera – not essential).
Keeping a log of what you’ve done.
Logging usability issues with the website via the feedback email.
Involvement in evaluation at the end of the project.

If you are interested in being involved, but would like to talk to someone first to find out more, please contact Makala Cheung at Knowle West Media Centre on 0117 3532895

If you would like to apply, please write a letter or email to Makala by Friday 29th May 2009 entitled ‘Community Facilitators’ saying a bit about why you would like to be involved and why you think you would be good at it. Let us know if you are a member of any groups or clubs you are involved in, and of any websites you use regularly. Please include your contact details.

After this we will contact you to let you know if we would like to meet you to talk further about how you are suitable for the role.
Email
makala@kwmc.org.uk
Makala Cheung
Knowle West Media Centre
Leinster Avenue
Knowle West, Bristol, BS4 1NL

Monday, 25 May 2009

Spot the real clown

No need to comment much on the video clip below featuring Anthony Steen MP (top left in the picture!) - it speaks for itself. No need to compare Steen's words with the MPs expenses guidebook which states that,

'Claims must only be made for expenditure that was necessary for a member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties'.

Suffice to say that he will be one of hundreds of MPs who will be swept away at the next election. The MPs expenses scandal could do our democracy some good as a result, as long as we get some radical democratic changes too!



Green leader blasts 'rotten' parliamentary system

This brief audio clip of Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas calling for the blasting 'open of this 'rotten' parliamentary system' and outlining a whole range of reforms, on Radio 4's Any Questions recently, is very powerful stuff - and was very well received with loud and long applause by the audience

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Sikh Federation urges a Green vote - and another good poll figure is reported

Very encouraging developments for Green campaigners today.

Sikh federation urges Sikhs to vote Green:
Greens at 9% in the polls (Guardian/ICM), very close to UKIP, BNP struggling to feature at all:

The intention to close St Peter's Hospice in Knowle

Two excellent letters appeared in Friday's local paper, making a great case for keeping St Peter's Hospice as an extremely valuable local community service in St Agnes Avenue, Knowle. I fully support the case made by the day hospice volunteers and will be writing, as they suggest in their letters, to express my feelings and will copy in local councillors and MP. I've copied the first of the letters below:

We refer to your recent article regarding the future plans for St Peter's Hospice.
As volunteers at the Day Hospice, we were all amazed to receive individual letters advising of the intended closure of this valuable facility in September.

We were all dismayed at this announcement, withdrawing such a valuable service to the very community which has given its overwhelming support to the hospice over the past 30 years since its founding at the Knowle site.

The people of South Bristol have taken this charity to their hearts during that time. Many local individuals and businesses alike feel this to be their charity.

The withdrawal of this facility is considered by many to be just a first step towards the total withdrawal of the hospice in South Bristol.

We, the volunteers, see at first-hand the huge benefit which the day hospice has provided to the people who have needed it most. Many of these people find even the short journey to the hospice to be quite arduous and to expect them to travel to Brentry will, for many, be a journey too far.
Many of these are also carers and the extra time spent travelling not only affects them but their loved ones at home.

The day hospice works at Knowle because the patients are able to see a specialised doctor without an appointment, talk to nurses about the worries and troubles they have in dealing with their medical condition without time limit.

Many find talking to others in a similar circumstance of benefit. Whilst this service might be undertaken by community nursing, not as many patients would receive this support as at present. Many more would need to be referred to their own GPs.

Whilst we are told to accept change, there is a difference between change and withdrawal. We have no doubt that a properly orchestrated appeal to cover the costs of the necessary repair work to the fabric of the building in Knowle would have been supported by the people of South Bristol.

Yet again, another valuable service in South Bristol will have been lost forever. Not withstanding the suggestion that a new facility will ultimately be built in the Hengrove Park area, the closure of the Knowle site may see the withdrawal of a large number of the hospice's existing supporters on this side of the city.

Day Hospice Volunteers.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Yes to cleaning up politics - but lets get deep reform of the political system too!

Radio 4 – 21 May 2009, 8:40am, transcript of interview about cleaning up politics and deep reform of the political system.

(JN – interviewer James Naughtie)
(CL - Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader, MEP for the South East and Parliamentary Candidate in Brighton)

JN – "You, of course are not in the House of Commons."

CL – "Not yet"

JN – "Let’s not go there at the moment. Looking at it, from the
outside, do you think we going to get deeper reform than simply
cleaning up expenses and allowances?"

CL – "I certainly hope we do. I do believe that there really is a once
in a generation opportunity here … that there is so much anger, not
just about the expenses issue, but about the way that’s symbolic of a
Parliamentary system that is pretty rotten. If you look at how
unrepresentative the people are who supposedly represent us in
Westminster, the very few numbers of women, the very few numbers of
ethnic minorities, if you look at the way that there are so many safe
seats where people just don’t think it’s worth voting anymore. There’s
an interesting correlation between those in those very safe seats, and
those who are most likely to be abusing the system. Basically, they
have felt very complacent. We need to shake that up."

JN – "Then you’re making an argument for electoral reform."

CL – "Absolutely. We need to have a much fairer voting system, some
sort of system of proportional representation, where the people in
Westminster will look more like the people that actually elect them,
not just men in grey suits, doing things behind closed doors, that
people don’t understand, and when they do understand, they feel very
very angry.

JN – "We’ve been here before. The argument about PR has been going on
for, a very long time, let’s say, 25 years in the public context.
There has never been sufficient weight of opinion in the House of
Commons really to get it on the formal agenda. What makes you think it
will happen now?"

CL – "Because we are in completely unprecedented times. You spent the
last 24 hours talking about how amazing it is that the Speaker has
been forced out. Never done before in 300 years. We really do have an
enormous opportunity here. There’s that lovely phrase from the chief
of staff of the White House, "Don’t waste a crisis." This is a very
big crisis, but don’t waste it. We don’t need to just deal with the
expenses system, awful though that is. We really need a root and
branch transformation of our Parliament, so people can feel proud
about it again, so that public life is something honourable again – it
certainly isn’t today - so the whole parliamentary system is alive
again. Parliament shouldn’t just be something that happens behind
closed doors in Westminister. Politics needs to be much more vibrant,
much more alive. This is a real opportunity to do that.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Abandoning the mainstream parties? Vote for the positive, ethical Greens not the hateful BNP.

I’m urging people who intend to abandon the mainstream parties in June’s local and euro elections, and there are understandably many of them, to choose the positive, ethical alternative the Greens offer, not to avoid voting and not to vote for the BNP. I agree strongly with letter writer Liban Obsiye that we need better politicians, but not the BNP.

Plenty of talk about the BNP at the moment. They are getting a lot of frequent, fairly casual mentions in the media as an alternative to the mainstream parties. Their campaign launch received a lot of coverage time on the telly. I’ve seen their party broadcast and on Tues I received their euro election leaflet through my door despite the fact that some Bristol posties have refused to deliver them (and according to reports have forced a change in the attitude of their managers, who have now agreed to allow them to refuse!).

The BNP leaflet got an instant and angry response from my daughter, who has just finished studying IGCSE History including the rise of Fascism and Nazism in the 1920s/30s and the Second World War, who wrote about her feelings here. She is right that the BNP references to images of the Second World War on their leaflet are very odd indeed given that we fought that war to stop the Nazis and Fascists – a description that fits the BNP very well, see here. (Interestingly UKIP also link to the Second World War in their leaflet, using a large picture of Winston Churchill). She is right to draw parallels between BNP tactics and Hitler’s use of scapegoats, economic hard times and failures in the political system to appeal for voter support. Hitler combined violence and bullying with the appearance of moderation as and when it suited him.

Strange that the West Country is simultaneously hosting the Anne Frank exhibition in Bristol Cathedral whilst also giving a platform for the nazi BNP at the Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution in Queen Square this Friday (jointly organised by the BRLSI and, rather ironically given the BNP’s nature, pressure group Unlock Democracy). The Anne Frank exhibition wants to 'help us deal with intolerance and discrimination' – the BNP, a party full of hate, has a constitution that wont even allow black or Asian people to join them! The South West Greens lead Euro election candidate Cllr Ricky Knight has refused to share a platform with the BNP at the Bath meeting. He will be present outside the venue giving out leaflets explaining his Green position and answering any questions in an impromptu ‘people’s hustings’. He has written the following about the meeting:

Unlock Democracy, Bath, criticises the Greens, Labour and Lib-Dems for refusing to debate with the British National Party. On this occasion, it is the Greens and the other parties who should be doing the criticising.

The BNP continue to use tactics and espouse ideas that cannot be construed as being "democratic". A simple example is their use of leaflets identifying a trade unionist, printing his address, phone number and distributing leaflets designed to arouse hostility towards him.

In addition, the BNP constitutionally will not permit Black or Asian British people to become members. They even refuse to accept the fact that they are British.

I am sure that if the BNP membership exclusion extended to Jewish members, homosexuals and people with disabilities, it might become more obvious why the Greens have adopted, in informal agreement with regional Labour and Lib-Dem lead candidates, a policy not to share a platform with a political party whose views on many serious issues we find abhorrent, unethical and indefensible.

We can see from history how a ‘democratic’ party, once elected, was able to perpetrate the Holocaust. I am particularly disappointed that a respected organisation as Unlock Democracy, Bath, with such an honourable record of promoting the reform of our own electoral system, should then choose to ignore these warning signs and attempt to give the oxygen of publicity to a group whose cornerstone policies are the antithesis of the democratic process.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Government incompetence over car emissions forecasts

Not only do we have Government and political system incompetence in running the economy, or in making decisions over what to do about MPs expenses (to put it very kindly), we also have official incompetence in pollution forecasting - a very important part environmental decision making.

This report from FT.com shows that the Government's Highway's Agency, part of the Dept of Transport, thought new roads schemes since 2002 would produce an extra 11,240 tonnes of carbon emissions. The actual increase turned out to be 21,870 tonnes - this is clearly a whapping inaccuracy not just an underestimate, given that its almost twice as much!

Conclusion: their method is rubbish and they dont know how to work out what carbon emissions will be. How can we have decent trust in any official estimates of carbon emissions that will result from major developments, local or national, eg road traffic due to expanding Heathrow or building a South Bristol ring road??

The next Speaker of the House of Commons will/wont be...

They wont be giving Yosser Hughes the job no matter how desperate he is. They wont give me the job. The current Speaker Michael Martin has just announced he is leaving the job, obviously he's out (!!). So who will the next Speaker be? The Liberal Democrat's former leader Sir Menzies Campbell MP perhaps? Sir George Young MP from the Tory benches? My MP Kerry McCarthy has mentioned John Bercow...



Its pretty unlikely to be another Labour MP, especially the likes of Dennis Skinner. It wont be anyone with a radical stance eg Nicholas Winterton and others on the radical right wing - unlike Campbell and Young they wont get too much cross-party consensus. It wont be anyone tainted by the expenses scandal - they should be resigning along with Speaker Martin.






Suggestions as to who it wont be/should be (MPs and non-MPs) and who it might be are welcome...

Monday, 18 May 2009

Bristol Greens local election campaign launch boosted by the polls - 34% considering voting Green and 11% intending to vote Green across whole country


Things are moving - many voters are seeking a positive alternative to the current mainstream parties who have brought economic chaos, environmental decline and greedy MPs.

Bristol Greens held their local election campaign launch at lunchtime today, on Castle Park's threatened green space. They announced the 10 point policy plan (below), a full slate of candidates in every ward and the fact that a YouGov has found that 34% of people either will or are considering voting Green on June 4th, in addition to a poll in the Sunday Express which showed that currently 11% of voters have already decided to vote Green in the Euro elections!!


Get serious about transport: put Bristol’s councillors on the bus!

We want the council to start seriously pursuing the creation of a transport authority for Bristol. Parking privileges for councillors should be revoked to concentrate their minds on finding practical solutions to Bristol’s transport problems, such as better buses, trams and the expansion and improvement of the local rail network.

Think global, act local

Wherever we’re elected, Greens promote local shops, post offices, schools, parks, better high streets, keeping jobs within communities, local food and more allotments. People should be able to walk to their local library or swimming pool.

It’s time for a Green New Deal – starting here in Bristol

Bristol should be leading the way investing in green jobs and green businesses. Investing more in domestic energy efficiency, for example, would fight climate change, keep homes warmer, bring in significant extra funding from government and help everyone save money.

Twenty is plenty

Support for 20mph zones across all the city’s dangerous roads is growing. This is something we’ve fought for, for many years, and we’re finally being listened to. We will also carry on our campaign to make pavements for people not for parked cars.

Green space is not a waste

The council must be made to stick to its green space strategy, and stop selling off so much green space – be it inner city spaces like Castle Park or greenbelt land.

Do the “little” things right

We would take action to make streets cleaner and improve waste and recycling collections, increase the number of street trees, deal with dog mess and poor quality graffiti and all the other things that have such an effect on the quality of life in our city.

No to putting social services into exploiting private sector hands

The LibDems lost in 2007 because they refused to back down over their plans to privatise home care. Labour won but privatised most of it anyway. Both should be ashamed of themselves. We need a policy that values the vital work done by Bristol’s home carers.

Education policy should be for our children, not for accountants

We are appalled by the council’s policy of saving money by closing some schools while making big schools even bigger. The Green Party believes in education on a human scale: all children, including pre-school, should be able to be educated in their local community.

Get climate serious – no more greenwash

Bristol should adopt a target of cutting citywide carbon emissions by at least 40% by 2020. But to be genuinely serious about stopping runaway climate change, action needs to be taken more quickly, with at least 25% cut by 2015. Time is running short.

We need a progressive voice in Bristol politics

In today’s tough economic climate, it is more important than ever to stand up for what we believe in. Every Green vote reminds the LibDem/Lab/Con parties that there is an alternative to their clogged roads, defunct economy, and overcrowded schools. Our councillors will work hard to focus attention on the topics that really matter: a sustainable economy, public services, quality of life, and the future of the planet.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Enable the recall of any MP or Councillor - make them accountable between elections!!

The MPs expenses controversy shows that we need some way of holding our elected representatives to account between elections. I'd like to draw your attention to the longstanding Green Party policy of enabling elected representatives on all bodies to be recalled if enough of their constituents want it. Here's a copy of the policy wording from the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society:

'Government at all levels should be accountable to electors between elections and accordingly necessary legislative steps will be taken to provide for a prescribed percentage of any representative's electors to be able to petition for the recall of any elected person, and rules will be made for the conduct of such recall petitions.'


More Green policies on Public Adminsitration and Government here.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Euro election launch: positive, clean politics; plans for 1 million new jobs in green industries

Every party seems to be launching election campaigns at the moment! Here's a link to the BBC's coverage of todays Green Party Euro election campaign launch.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8050021.stm

It features an excellent statement from leader Caroline Lucas showing how our economic and environmental problems need to be tackled together - after all there is no economy without an environment is there!

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

MPs expenses and Nolan's Seven Principles of Public Life

Its all over the news that MPs are writing cheques to give back money they now think they should not have claimed on expenses etc. They certainly should pay back money. We'll still be left with the many MPs who showed themselves incapable of telling right from wrong when putting in expenses claims though. Yes the pay and expenses system needs to be changed (MPs should not be setting their own pay and expenses) but the lets also get rid of the MPs (and MEPs) devoid of scruples, oblivious to or contemptuous of what is right or honorable.

The 'Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life was set up in 1994 as a result of public concern about the financial probity of holders of public office. It was concerned with standards in public life generally and particularly where public funds were involved.' (details here). Many MPs have very clearly not stood by Nolan's Seven Principles of Public Life:


Selflessness

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.


Integrity

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.


Objectivity

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.


Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.


Openness

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.


Honesty

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.


Leadership

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.


Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Message from Green Party leader Caroline Lucas on expenses row, grabbing MPs, extremism and positive alternatives

From Dr Caroline Lucas MEP, Leader, The Green Party

Harriet Harman (Times, 9.5.09) says the expenses row is creating "an anti-politics mood" amongst the public. But is it politics the public are against, or the behaviour of some self-serving Labour and Conservative politicians?

We shouldn't let her fudge the issue of exactly who it is that the public are angry at. And it's not about the the system, it's about the choices those MPs made to grab as much as they thought they'd get away with on a technicality.

Nor is it an excuse that we're not as bad as some other countries. Nor is there something inherently corrupting about politics - becoming an elected politician, entering a parliamentary expenses system, does not mean you'll automatically be infected with snout-in-trough disease.

But what is almost beyond belief is the way Ms Harman is using the supposed "anti-politics mood" to stir up fear of the BNP, for the sole purpose of frightening disillusioned Labour voters into voting Labour as a lesser evil. (Actually the best tactical vote in a regional list election is more likely to be a Green vote anyway, to ensure the Greens stay ahead of the BNP and deny them the final seat in the region.)

With an election in three weeks it's appalling that most of the talk is about apathy, cynicism and how anger at the government will feed far-right extremism. It really is time to look at the positive choices facing the electorate. Britain needs a new vision, and this week the Green Party will offer one as we launch our European election manifesto.

The elections of 4th June might yet signal a desire for positive change - a fairer economy, proper regulation of the banks, a real Green New Deal to create a million jobs to tackle the recession and the climate crisis. I think you'll find that voters looking for a progressive party in which to place their trust may well look to the Green Party when they cast their votes on June 4th.

Yours sincerely
Dr Caroline Lucas MEP
Leader, The Green Party
1a Waterlow Road N19 5NJ
020 7561 0282

Monday, 11 May 2009

Green Party Euro Election Broadcast

Green Party Euro Election Broadcast had its first showing today. The local election broadcast will be shown during the week commencing 18 May.

Big biomass power station for Bristol...

I'll be keeping an eye on the online debate about the proposed '...£200 million "green" power station at Avonmouth...', adding to initial comments I've already made, as appropriate.


If the figures in this report on the local newspaper website are right then this biomass power station would produce much more electricity than the hopefully now dead proposal for mass incinerating Bristol's domestic waste - and minus the big disadvantages!


Bringing in most of the biomass fuel by ship is pretty efficient too.


The potential contribution to building a sustainable society from biomass is good - if the details are planned properly and the exact technology properly assessed.


They say the fuels used will be sustainably sourced, which is great (though I'd like to see the figures on this to check the claim). Hopefully the fuel would be UK sourced too.


Ideally it would be a combined heat and power station (CHP), twice as efficient because 'waste' heat from electricity production is put to good use, though I doubt that the earmarked location is right for doing this.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Unite Against Fascism - Bristol

Greens will be supporting and taking part in tomorrow's Unite against Fascism Cavalcade:

CAVALCADE

The cavalcade will motor through the Bristol area, assembling at 10 am at Morrisons Car Park, Fishponds joining the March at Castle Park, central Bristol.


MARCH
The March through the City Centre will assemble at Castle Park at 12 noon to the Fountains.


RALLY
The rally will be held at the fountains opposite the Hippodrome at 2pm with speakers and music.
BRING YOUR CARS, BIKES and LORRIES !
BRING YOUR WHISTLES, MUSIC AND VOICES !
BRING YOUR BANNERS ,POSTERS AND PLACARDS !


Event Supported by SW TUC,FBU, PCS, CWU, UNITE, NUJ, UNISON, NUT, Searchlight, Hope Not Hate,Make your Vote Count and several political organisations and communitygroups.


See the Unite Against Fascism - Bristol group on Facebook.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

The life of Pete Taylor

Sad news has reached me of the death of Easton green activist and great bloke Pete Taylor. I got to know Pete through Green Party campaigning many years back and had contact with him again recently through campaigning on protecting the Bristol to Bath Railway Path environment.

There are some fantastic tributes to Pete here:

http://bristolcars.blogspot.com/2009/05/pete-taylor.html

E-petition for 20mph default speed on Bristol's residential roads is now live - please sign!!

From the 20's Plenty For Bristol Campaign:

The E-Petition to Bristol City Council "Reduce the speed limit to 20mph
where people live and work" is now live at the link below. Please
add your names and publicise it widely !


The petitioner asks Bristol City Council to adopt 20mph as the default
speed limit for residential and urban roads.

A 20 MPH BRISTOL: WHY?

Most of us want to live in a quiet, pleasant street. A safe street in
which children can play out alone; a friendly street in which you can
meet your neighbours.

No one wants to live in a hostile street that you cannot walk across
thanks to a fast-moving traffic; a noisy street that is an occasional
race track.

We call for Bristol to bring traffic speeds down to 20 miles per hour
across the city, as part of a wider vision for creating the kind of
streets in which we really want to live.

LIVING STREETS

Communities grow where the streets belong to people, not just to
vehicles. City streets can and should be lively, vibrant places which
everyone can enjoy. Streets should be places in which you can hear
yourself speak above the constant noise from vehicles; in which you can
safely walk or cycle with your children.

Our streets should not be grim thoroughfares serving only fast-moving
vehicles. Our streets should include everyone and allow a range of uses.
Our streets should be a truly shared space in which shoppers and
residents, pedestrians and cyclists, young and old, do not take a second
place to people in cars.

Reducing vehicle speeds is the single most important factor in creating
living streets. There is strong and growing evidence to support a
maximum speed limit of 20 mph in our towns and cities. The government
supports the introduction of 20 mph, and the Conservatives now support
20 mph 'in all urban areas'.

We believe that the benefits of 20 mph should be felt throughout
Bristol, in the streets where we live, shop and stroll.

DRIVER PSYCHOLOGY

At 20 mph, drivers make eye contact with and engage with the people in
the street they are passing through. This contact really matters: people
in the street know they've been seen. It also makes drivers less
inclined to bully their way along 'their' road, and more inclined to
share the space.

At speeds over 30 mph, drivers begin to become disassociated from the
area they are passing through - treating it principally as a traffic
thoroughfare for getting quickly from A to B, rather than a space for
people to enjoy.

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD?

The 2003-04 British Crime Survey asked the public what they perceive to
be the worst 'anti-social behaviour' problems where they live. By far
the biggest problems related to the effects of motor traffic - 43%
reported fast traffic as a 'fairly big' or 'very big' problem, and 31%
felt the same about cars parked inconveniently or illegally.

SOME FACTS ABOUT ROAD TRAFFIC SPEEDS:

Perhaps the most surprising fact about reducing speeds from 30 mph to 20
mph is that vehicles get across cities quicker the slower they go.
According to transport planners, in a city where the limits are 20 mph
not 30 mph, there is less need for traffic signals and the queuing that
traffic lights cause. Slow-moving cars require fewer controls and allow
a more efficient city. There's little sense in speeding from one queue
to the next as we do at the moment. Slower speeds make it easy for motor
vehicles to merge with ease, for cycles to co-exist with motor vehicles,
and for pedestrians to cross roads.

DID YOUR KNOW?

. Hit by a car at 40 mph, a pedestrian has an 85 per cent chance of
being killed while at 20 mph the risk falls to 5 per cent.
(Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety)

. When traffic is slowed down to 20 mph, there is a 70 per cent drop in
accidents to child pedestrians. (Transport Research Laboratory)

. Children from disadvantaged families are five times more likely to be
killed on the roads than the better off. (Department for Transport)

. Children's deaths and injuries could be reduced by 67 per cent if 20
mph were the speed limit on residential roads. (Health Development
Agency)

. The proportion of children walking to primary school in Britain has
fallen from 61 per cent in 1993 to 53 per cent in 2003, with an increase
from 30 per cent to 39 per cent in the numbers driven to school over the
same period. (National Travel Survey)

FIND OUT MORE at the websites for 20's Plenty for Bristol and 20's
Plenty for Us:

http://www.20splentyforbristol.org.uk and
http://www.20splentyforus.org.uk

Steve Kinsella
20's Plenty for Bristol
tel 01934 838624 mobile 07810 285175

Views sought on the use and protection of Green Belt land around Bristol & Bath

Passing this on:

Views sought on the use and protection of Green Belt land around Bristol & Bath

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is seeking views on use of Green Belt land in England. This is your chance to help shape the future of the countryside where you live, work or visit.

Green Belt is rural land around cities that is protected from excessive housing and other development, thus preventing urban sprawl. Around 13% of land in England is estimated to be in one of the fourteen Green Belt areas. The land is protected by planning and development policies.

Some professional groups and developers say that Green Belts are no longer needed, but a MORI poll for CPRE in 2005 found that 84% of people in England believe that Green Belt land should remain open and undeveloped, and that building on it should not be allowed.

CPRE’s Green Belt survey is launched in April 2009. Through this survey we aim to find out how people in Bristol & Bath, London and Merseyside would like to see the Green Belt used in the future, such as for farming, woodland, or recreation. We would particularly welcome the views of (a) people from inner-city areas and (b) landowners or managers based in Green Belt areas.

The information will be analysed and reported back in local media in the autumn. CPRE will use the information nationally to influence a current Government study on the use of land across England, and locally in our work with local authorities on the future planning of how we use the Green Belt.

http://www.cpre.org.uk/campaigns/planning/green-belts/green-belts-green-belts-for-a-greener-future-survey

Local contacts (particularly if you can help to distribute survey information more widely):

• Bristol: Alison Belshaw, Sustain: alison@sustainweb.org, tel: 01225 787919

• London: Suzanne Natelson, Sustain: suzanne@sustainweb.org tel: 020 7837 1228

• Merseyside: Allan Nickson, Myerscough College: anickson@myerscough.ac.uk; tel: 01995 642222

Please circulate the links to as many contacts as possible. If the information is going in to a newsletter or being sent to a large email group please let me know approximately how many people it has been circulated to. If you would like a copy of the survey that could be printed off for completion please contact me.

Many thanks,
Alison Belshaw
Eat Somerset Project Officer

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Going green: rational not religious

Just been reading about the efforts of an author to get his book Green Messiah published (see the online story 'Is being green the new religion?'). A new religion based on environmentalism and giving up democracy both sound highly undesirable to me!! How socially sustainable could it be??

No, the basis of change and progress is questioning not faith. Making democratic choices based on evidence and reason is fundamental to a society that is able to sustain itself long term. Electing representatives to take decisions for our communities/society and participating in decision making between elections is a vital aspect of sustainability.

The best available social, economic and environmental evidence indicates we should go green. The case for building a sustainable society is therefore a rational one.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Anne Frank (and you) exhibition in Bristol: lessons from history about fascism, and more...

http://www.annefrankbristol.org.uk/ for details of this exhibition. Lots of lessons for us to learn from history.

Amongst other things the exhibition wants to 'help us deal with intolerance and discrimination' so I'm sure it will be a big hit with the British National Party!!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Tesco submit revised plans to build car park over Friendship Inn garden

Tesco just dont give up when they want it all their own way. I'm told that they have submitted revised plans for building a car park over the Friendship Inn pub garden. This means that the planning committee will look again at the issue, possibly as early as 3 June. They were stopped from getting their way in January and again in April but here we go again...

There are some uncertainties here at present. We have elections in June which means the make-up of the planning committee handling this may change (will they really be meeting on 3 June, as currently scheduled, with elections on 4 June??). I've not seen the revised plans and have not received a letter from the council yet detailing the planning committee meeting that will consider them.

Not surprised about a revised plan being submitted by Tesco. Its what the planning committee meeting on 1 April ended up deciding they would enable, at literally the last minute. Labour Cllr Sean Beynon, currently the planning committee Chair, was very keen on the original plan, supported by unelected officers (!) even though every other councillor thought it was very poor. My feeling is that he and officers manipulated the committee meeting of 1 Apr into deferring the decision subject to Tesco revising the design rather than refusing permission (nothing to stop Tesco submitting a revsied plan even if they were refused planning permission first time though).

Several councillors trashed the car park design (going against officer opinion, who advised very badly) and expressed the view that this was entirely the wrong place for a car park after their site visit on 1 Apr. I will be reminding the committee of this and outlining all the reasons why: road safety; noise; air pollution and local health; climate change and congestion
issues...