Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Update on my Sustainable Communities Act suggestions - 14 out of 22 deemed eligible for Cabinet consideration!!

I reported here the 21 suggestions I submitted to Bristol City Council's Sustainable Communities Act process. I submitted 1 suggestion jointly with another person also. Had the letter (below) yesterday showing that 14 of my suggestions have made it through for further consideration. I'm
very, very pleased with this of course - and I'm hopeful that the Cabinet will include some of my suggestions on the shortlist it will send to the Local Govt Association.


Dear Mr Vowles

I am writing to thank you for participating in the Sustainable Communities Act process. We had a fantastic response, with 151 suggestions being submitted.

Suggestions made to the Council under the Act have now passed through the first stages of the Council’s evaluation process.

The Council’s Legal Services department has evaluated the suggestion(s) you submitted in order to identify whether they met the requirements of the Sustainable Communities Act, in that:


*It would need a change in legislation to be implemented
*It would contribute towards sustainability as defined in the Act

Your suggestion(s) listed here were deemed eligible under the terms of the act.


*Reduce commercial and industrial waste: give LA's responsibility for commercial waste; introduce NI for waste minimisation [this one submitted jointly with another person]


*20 mph default speed limit
*Carbon budgets and carbon trading for all
*Statutory biodiversity/eco footprint data in planning applications
*Government to assess capabilities of all technologies prior to implementation
*Ecological compensation for greenfield development
*Prioritising cycling and walking via a review of national and local transport policy and practice
*Immigration and emigration zero balance
*Broadening range of statutory planning considerations
*Criteria of fairness, openness and balance for government public consultations
*Transport costs to reflect total costs of travel
*Financial accounts to be accompanied by social and environmental accounting
*Councils to publish total ecological footprint
*Welfare or well-being index

75 suggestions overall were eligible to go forward and these have also been considered by the following:


Officer Panel – senior Council officers with appropriate expertise added factual comment where necessary. This panel did not recommend or exclude suggestions.


Local Panel - Bristol City Council commissioned VOSCUR (an independent organisation set up to support voluntary and community action in Bristol) to convene a panel including representatives from neighbourhood partnerships, equalities groups and councillors. This panel prioritised the suggestions prior to forwarding their views onto Cabinet Member, Councillor Jon Rogers.


Cabinet Member – all suggestions have been sent to Cabinet member, Councillor Jon Rogers. Recent guidance from the LGA has set out what sort of information will be needed to support a suggestion. Councillor Rogers will now use this guidance to review all the suggestions and comments made by the Local Panel and recommend a shortlist of the strongest and most feasible ideas to be worked up for submission to the Local Government Association. This shortlist and all other relevant information will be available on our website www.bristol.gov.uk/sca shortly.


The Council’s Cabinet will decide which suggestions the Council will adopt as its formal proposals. These will be forwarded to the Government via the Local Government Association (LGA).


The final decision will be made by Cabinet on Thursday 30th July at 6pm in the Council House. Cabinet meetings are open to the public, and any members of the public may present a statement or question. Statements must be submitted by 12.00 noon the day before the meeting, and questions by 5 pm 3 clear working days before (Friday 24th July). These should be sent to Ian Hird, ian.hird@bristol.gov.uk, tel. 0117 922 2384. Papers for the Cabinet meeting should be posted on the Council’s website on Thursday 23rd July.


The Council recognises the value of all suggestions received and appreciates the time that has gone into producing them. If your suggestion does not go forward, we will forward your ideas to the relevant council department for further consideration and respond to you in writing.

If you need any further information about this process, please contact Deborah Kinghorn, Policy Officer, on 0117 922 2792 or email
Deborah.kinghorn@bristol.gov.uk or visit our Sustainable Communities Act page on our website www.bristol.gov.uk/sca


Yours sincerely


Deborah Kinghorn
Policy and Scrutiny Team
Deputy Chief Executive’s Office

Monday, 29 June 2009

Bristol 24-7 new online newspaper now live

Bristol24-7 - a new online newspaper for Bristol - has gone live today. Thought it well worth letting people know about this site - variety of information sources is a good thing after all! I'll be watching, and if/where appropriate be participating in, developments with some interest. Why not take up the online paper's suggestion of visiting their website and offering constructive comments/observations/criticism. I encourage and welcome debate on this blog about this new development in the local media (some further information here).

This is what Chris Brown, Editor of Bristol 24-7 told me about his new online newspaper:

Available and updated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Bristol24-7 will publish original news, sport, opinion and comment on all areas of city life - as well as promoting the best coverage of Bristol affairs from every available source on the web.

As the website develops, new sections will be added so that Bristol24-7 becomes the first port of call for residents and visitors looking for information and ideas to make the most of their life in the city.

The business side of the operation will come from a digital marketing service called 'Beyond the Ad', which will offer individuals, businesses and organisations everything from new websites, to email marketing to harnessing social networking to promote themselves and/or their products. Its premise is that, unlike a newspaper, my business will offer real solutions to marketing needs - rather than the hit-and-hope offer of space to advertise in a newspaper.

I am a journalist with 11 years' experience at national and regional newspapers. Originally from Somerset, I started my career at The Independent in London in 1998 spending three years in the news and features departments, before returning to the West Country. I joined the Western Daily Press in 2002, becoming deputy chief sub-editor. I volunteered for redundancy in April this year so that I could make my dream of starting a new online newspaper for Bristol come true.

While I may be running a small company without the resources of a large media organisation, I can assure you that I am very serious in my aim to produce high-quality journalism within a trusted product people will want to access on a daily basis.

I hope you visit my site from June 29 on and give me any constructive criticism you have. You can also follow me on Twitter at @bristol247.

--
Christopher Brown
Editor, Bristol24-7
---------------------------
PO Box 2930, Bristol BS6 9FJ
Tel: 0117 2309 247
Mob: 07766 752422
Skype: bristol247
Email:
chris@bristol247.com

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Councillor Brown made "racial slur" and "breached code of conduct" but no sanction is required!?!

Can you square these two statements in todays local paper report about the council officer investigation of the 'coconut' slur used by Cllr Brown against Cllr Jethwa (pictured)? The council official first says,

"I am of the view that Councillor Brown breached the code of conduct for members in that she failed to treat a fellow councillor with respect by using a racial slur during the full council debate on February 24."

But goes on to say,

"If I am asked to recommend a sanction then I would say that no further action is required given that Councillor Brown apologised for her comments."

Rules for behaviour mean little or nothing if they are not enforced - ask any parent, teacher, lawyer...We need to expect and demand more from people elected to represent us, whether its over expenses, behaviour and language use in debates, behaviour that is reasonably consistent with policies they are advocating for the rest of us, or whatever.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Fairly assessing the proposed new Bristol City stadium

The Bristol Evening Post reports, again how a new stadium for Bristol City is crucial to the success of the bid to have World Cup football in Bristol. I think what we need to keep in mind here is how the city can best come to a fair decision. There are certain factors that, under current planning law and guidance, are not legitimate planning criteria against which the application should be judged. These include: World Cup games in Bristol aspirations; Bristol City FC premiership aspirations; support for the application from the local media for the stadium; support from political party leaders for the stadium; support from a multi-millionaire and major supermarket chain for the stadium proposal. These things therefore, at least in theory, should not affect decision making - I sincerely hope that this is the case.

I agree with a lot of what Andy, Tony and Rob said (below), commenting on the Post story. Tony's blog is well worth a read (http://simplysouthville.blogspot.com/).


It is not the stadium plan that is the most contentious thing here; it is the way in which the local people and the council are being hoodwinked and pressurised into giving it a green light.The constant press releases from the football club, and the incessant white noise in the evening post serve to crank the pressure to approve the scheme. The England world cup bid could easily fail; the Bristol bid (dependent on the stadium) could also easily fail: then the football club will have landed their only real prize, and the rest of Bristol will be left with a vague sense of having been duped.Evening Post - wake up to yourselves, it is not your job to campaign for Bristol City Football Club, or Tesco. How about being impartial for a change?????


Andy, Bristol



The article says: "The council's local plan has Ashton Gate earmarked for housing. But times have changed since the plan was written."The times may have changed but the need for affordable family housing hasn't. One thing does remain and that is we don't need another supermarket in this area of Bristol.Are the powers that be really going to rush through a planning application that could damage the area forever, for the sake of two or three potential World Cup games in nine years time. Let's do it right. A development at Ashton Gate that will benefit the local community and a new stadium for City that it can afford. Tesco a 'white knight'? More like the Grim Reaper for Southville and Ashton.




A large car park, a supermarket in a tin shed and a petrol filling station - is that the best anyone at Bristol City can come up with for their old ground?It would be a complete waste of a great opportunity. OK the World Cup in Bristol would be great, but it will only last for four weeks. We will be stuck with the consequences for a lot longer.


Rob, Crews Hole Report

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Met Office climate change projections: serious consequences for us all

The latest climate science projections from the highly respected Met Office can be found here. Below I've reproduced the key Met Office findings for the South West of England by 2080. The graph shows the regional temperature increase by 2050.

Medium emissions scenario

*Under medium emissions, the central estimate of increase in winter mean temperature is 2.8ºC; it is very unlikely to be less than 1.6ºC and is very unlikely to be more than 4.3ºC.

*Under medium emissions, the central estimate of increase in summer mean temperature is 3.9ºC; it is very unlikely to be less than 2.1ºC and is very unlikely to be more than 6.4ºC.

*Under medium emissions, the central estimate of change in winter mean precipitation is 23%; it is very unlikely to be less than 6% and is very unlikely to be more than 54%.

*Under medium emissions, the central estimate of change in summer mean precipitation is –23%; it is very unlikely to be less than –49% and is very unlikely to be more than 6%.

The consequences for us all and for our society and economy are very serious due to more floods, droughts, heat waves, storms, impacts on health and public services like rail travel, impacts on food production....The costs of inaction on tackling climate change far exceed the costs of taking effective action now.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bristol Airport submits expansion plans

The local paper today reports that plans for the expansion of Bristol International Airport have just been submitted. Included in the report is this statement,

Robert Sinclair, chief executive officer of Bristol International Airport, said:
“The application has been modified to address the key concerns raised.

"It now strikes the right balance between allowing the sustainable development of the airport to meet the long-term demand for air travel to and from this region, while also reducing and mitigating the environmental effects.”
...The airport said it will also commit to maintaining CO2 emissions at or below 2007 levels...
*
This shows a complete (and deliberate??) misunderstanding of what sustainable development means. Maintaining carbon emssions at 2007 levels is the committment - but the new Climate Change Act states that we need to make deep cuts!! Cuts in emissions of 80% by 2050...are completely inconsistent with plans for airport expansion here and in many other parts of the UK.
Mind you, like several of the commenters on the Evening Post website, I do think the plans look 'wonderful/very good/fantastic' - I'd happily sell off the stabilty, security and sustainability of future generations in order to get what I want today - NOT.

Greens are about all issues and how they interconnect

Great article here (and reproduced below) by Jenny Jones, Green Party London Assembly member and longstanding senior figure in the party. She is right to say that Greens address all issues and how they interconnect and interrelate....you would not be able to build a sustainable society, reconciling the economic and social with the environmental, otherwise!!

There are many shades of Green:

It's disappointing to see someone of Leo Hickman's stature reinforcing old stereotypes. His assertion that the Greens are a "one-issue" party is plainly wrong and his reasoning – that "the clue's in the name" – doesn't entirely stack up.

Let's think about this for a moment. Suppose there was a party called... oh, I don't know, let's say Labour. By Leo Hickman's reasoning we would all assume it was a one-issue party that dealt only with employment issues. Its flagship policy would be Jobcentre Plus. It would have no policy on crime, because crime isn't work. It could have no policy on defence, health or public transport, except insofar as wages and contracts were concerned. Is that what we would assume about a party called Labour?

Possibly the Greens are asking for trouble because they have a flower as their logo. But then, so does Labour. And the Lib Dems have a startled chicken, but would anyone say this aptly symbolised the Liberal Democrats? (Ok, I concede that particular point).

It always was strange that people would describe the Greens as "single issue". You only ever had to look at our manifesto to see policies on everything that everyone else had policies on.

It's also a fundamental misrepresentation. The Green party – formerly the Ecology party – formerly People – has an ecological perspective. Ecology is about everything and how it all interconnects. How could anyone ever see everything and how it all interconnects as a single issue?


This is what's distinctive about the Green party: it is the original party of joined-up thinking. The other parties have traditionally seen issues as though they were separate things in separate boxes. So, for example, transport policy was only about moving people and goods from A to B. But ask a Green to invent a transport policy for you, and they wouldn't know how to be so narrow. A Green or ecological perspective will, by its very nature, think of the thing itself and how it interconnects with everything else. Hence transport and climate change; transport and social inclusion; transport and congestion and the resulting costs to businesses; transport and disruption of communities; the impacts of transport's noise and air pollution on health; transport and external costs; and so on. That's how you end up with a Green transport policy, as opposed to endless roadbuilding, airport expansions and the highest rail fares in Europe.

That the party that blazed new trails and pioneered joined-up thinking was caricatured as single issue, against all logic, against all evidence, is one of the big ironies of modern British politics.

Most of the time, most people get most of their information about politics from the mass media. It's a relief to see that the media have recently been giving more attention, for instance, to the Green party's economic policies. Indeed, one highly respected journalist in the Daily Telegraph last week congratulated the Green Party for being ahead of the economic curve with its
Green New Deal. But the reappearance of the "one-issue Greens" myth in the Guardian, of all places, in the last few days shows that the falsehood still lives.

Whoever this falsehood serves, it doesn't serve the British voter. Democracy depends on good information. The media acknowledge their duty to tell the truth. I think there's one major task the UK media could undertake now, while British politics is in such a state of disarray that the British voter is clamouring for sweeping reforms. It's this: tell the British voter about the Green party. Not about its environment policy, but about its million-jobs manifesto. Its commitment to re-regulating the buses and doubling the number of them. Its policy for re-nationalising the railways and slashing rail fares. Its policy of rescuing the NHS from privatisation, restoring free dental care and dramatically improving maternity services.

These are good policies, and they're policies only the Green party is offering. They're popular policies, and the readers and viewers and listeners would like to hear about them. Telling the voters about all of this can only be a good thing for British democracy.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Unelected master of manipulation Mandelson is really running the country

Give him credit (and his full 37 word post-reshuffle title), the Right Honourable Baron Mandelson of Foy in the county of Herefordshire and Hartlepool in the county of Durham, Lord President of the Council, First Secretary of State, and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, has not taken long since Gordon Brown brought him back from his unelected position within the European Union to become the unelected person who is really running the country.

We have been told by our politicians that they will change our discredited democracy to bring it closer to the people. In the new Brown Cabinet 7 members/attendees come from the unelected House of Lords: Mandelson (Business…plus kitchen sink!!), Adonis (Transport), Malloch-Brown (Foreign Office) , Drayson (Business, Innovation, Skills), Scotland (Attorney General), Royall (Lords Leader), Kinnock (Europe). This is a higher proportion than for many, many decades. Not a good start is it!!!

Tesco's revised plans for a car park on The Friendship pub garden


Copy of an email sent by me to Bristol City Council.

For the attention of Ron Moss, case officer now dealing with application 08/04903/F:

I'm writing to express my continued opposition to Tesco plans to build a car park over the pub garden of The Friendship Inn in Knowle. The revised plans recently submitted by Tesco are entirely inappropriate for this part of Knowle as they would make the roads less safe and local quality of life worse.

In April all councillors on the planning committee, with the exception of the chair, expressed big concerns about Tesco's plans, having gone to the site to assess things directly - and several of them expressed fundamental concerns, not just concerns about the design.

Both local councillors oppose the plans. A petition with thousands of names on it opposes the plans. Tens of locals have written to express road safety concerns. Local green campaigners have expressed concerns about further traffic and pollution, loss of trees and green space. Real Ale campaigners have told the council they want to see the a local pub survive on this spot. Bristol Civic Society has applied for the pub to have listed building status. The local shopping centre and small businesses in the area are opposed to the plans. Each distinct group agrees with the concerns expressed by the other groups!

What concerns me about the letter the council sent informing me of revised plans is this sentence,

'We may not contact you again until a decision is made, unless the application is to be considered by the Development Control Committee, or is withdrawn.'

This makes it sound like it is not definite that the planning committee will look at the revised plans and take representations from those concerned (or supportive) of what is proposed. There are major concerns about these plans from a wide spectrum of people and they certainly need to go to before the planning committee.

Monday, 8 June 2009

10 More Green MEPs across EU, Green vote in UK up but no extra MEPs




The five seats shown as Green include 2 Green Party, 2 Scottish Nationalist and 1 Plaid Cymru (these parties all belong to the Green/EFA group in the EU Parliament).
*
Full breakdown of Green/EFA results via this link. Ten additional Green/EFA MEPs, in the main due to significant gains in France (8 more MEPs).

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Vote Green: positive, principled politics

News from the Green Party:

Green Party leader wins ethical politician award - again!

Observer ethical awards honour Caroline Lucas MEP for second time

On the eve of the European elections, with the Greens showing at a record 15% in today's ComRes poll, the Green Party is proud to announce that Dr Caroline Lucas MEP is to be named as the Ethical Politician of the Year in the fourth annual Observer Ethical Awards.

Caroline Lucas beat Liberal Democrat shadow chancellor Vince Cable and Conservative leader David Cameron to the top spot - picking up the prestigious award for a second time.

Caroline, a passionate campaigner on social justice, green economics, the environment and animal welfare – at both the grassroots level and in the European Parliament – also won the title in 2007 against David Cameron and Gordon Brown, and is delighted to have been chosen to receive the award once again by readers of the Observer.

Dr Lucas said: "I am honoured that Observer readers have chosen to recognise my work in this way – it means a great deal. At a time of serious political malaise, economic upheaval and environmental challenges, the Greens’ positive vision for the future has never been more important. The party’s policies to create up to a million new green jobs, tackle climate change, protect public services and safeguard civil liberties are at the forefront of efforts to create a new political landscape in which people and planet are always at the heart of decision making.

"I am proud to be a member of a political organisation with strong principles and clear ideas, which is driven by a determination to bring progressive, engaging and ethical politics into the mainstream."

For more information on the Observer Ethical Awards, please visit
http://www.guardian.co.uk/observer-ethical-awards.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

UKIP: we need genuine euro sceptics not this negative, reactionary, backward-looking mish-mash of mavericks

Searches on the web for information on the political parties before tomorrow's local and Euro elections shows that more people are now looking for information on the Green Party than any other party, except UKIP (graph here). Voters, apalled by the MPs expenses scandal, should beware of voting UKIP as an alternative to the Labour, Conservative or other parties however - not least because their record on personal ethics is a very poor one (see below)!!

UKIP centres mostly on what it does not want and what it is opposed to rather than putting forward a positive and coherent strategy (which they dont have anyway). We need genuine euro-sceptics to challenge the current grossly undemocratic EU. UKIP are a negative, reactionary, backward-looking mish-mash of mavericks who often have more in common with the notorious Republican candidate for Vice President of the USA, Sarah Palin, than British people with good sense who rightly question much about the current EU. Some key members of UKIP dont believe in Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution by Natural Selection and are in denial about climate change despite overwhelming, independent evidence, which has been verified over and again - these are not people who are in the 21st century!! (See here).

Open Europe, an independent think tank which questions 'ever closer union' as a feature of the EU, ranked UKIP's leader tenth from bottom in a league table of our MEPs for transparency, accountability, democracy and waste. Of the bottom thirteen MEPs six are from UKIP. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas came top the British MEPs in Open Europe's league table.

In the 2004 Euro election UKIP had 12 MEP's elected - but now only 8 remain to represent us. Former leader Roger Knapman left, accusing current leader Nigel Farage of being more interested in plush offices than principles (Farage has reportedly boasted about using his £2million worth of EU allowances to finance his campaigning). Robert Kilroy-Silk left after his leadership bid failed. Ashely Mote was convicted of benefit fraud and kicked out. Tom Wise was charged with money laundering and kicked out. That these people were amongst those selected as candidates to begin with shows very poor judgement and standards (more here).
More analysis of UKIP as a party against progress here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Greens overtake Lib Dems and battle UKIP for third place - new poll

The polls are pretty volatile at present but even so this latest one shows excellent and growing support for the Greens (see comment direct from the Green Party below). At this level of support Ricky Knight would become the first Green MEP for the South West and many other Greens would be elected and re-elected across the UK.

Greens on 15% overtake LibDems

Big vote predicted for "a million green jobs to tackle recession and climate crisis at same time"

A poll to be published the day before the European elections suggests the battle for third place will be between the Green Party, the LibDems and UKIP.

In the new poll, conducted by ComRes (1), the Greens have overtaken the LibDems for the first time since 1989. The poll suggests the Greens may be about to match their historic 1989 Euro-election vote of 15%.

The poll shows support for the different parties as follows:

Conservative: 24%
Labour: 22%
UKIP: 17%
Green: 15%
Lib Dems: 14%
BNP 2%

If the poll proves accurate, the Greens will probably win seats in the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, West Midlands, East Midlands, South West and Eastern regions plus Scotland, as well as holding existing seats in London and the South East. The Greens may even scoop up a second seat in the South East, with Brighton councillor Keith Taylor joining party leader Caroline Lucas, who was first elected in 1999.

Last Sunday's Telegraph/ICM poll showed the Greens on 11%, ahead of UKIP nationally for the first time in the campaign. The Sunday Telegraph suggested that "the resurgent Greens" might win eight seats.

And in an earlier Green Party/YouGov poll, 34% of respondents said they would either definitely vote Green or consider voting Green if they knew more about the party.

A party spokesperson said: "It's not all protest vote. I think our manifesto for a million jobs, aimed at tackling the recession and the climate crisis at the same time, has probably struck a chord with a lot of people.

"In the last few days of the campaign we need to work hard to mobilise the Green vote, because in a proportional election every vote counts. A 15% Green vote would mean a half-dozen or more extra Green MEPs to go and fight for those million jobs in the Green New Deal."


Note:


1. Poll commissioned by the Green Party. Fieldwork carried out 29-31 May 2009. Sample size 1,005 GB adults, polled by telephone.