Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year??

So, its not going to be a 'happy new year' then! The Coalition Govt say they believe in measuring the progress of society via wellbeing and happiness but have no policies likley to improve either of these. I have to say that I agree with the general view of the TUCs Brendan Barber here - he's also probably right to say, "It's hard to pick out the unkindest cut of all, but a top contender must be the 10% cut in housing benefit that kicks in after someone has been unemployed for more than a year."

BBC News - Union leader says 2011 will be 'horrible' year

The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, has said 2011 would be a "horrible" year of cuts. In his New Year message the union boss claimed there would be cuts in jobs and real cuts in living standards.

He added the year could also be a tough one for the government, which may face further angry protests.

Meanwhile, another union leader, Mark Serwotka of the Public and Commercial Services Union said strikes next year were "inevitable".


"The more of us that stand together against the cuts, the more problems we can create. Unless you look like you want a fight, they won't negotiate," he told the Times newspaper, predicting that the disruption would begin in the spring. "The Government has to see we are serious."

The TUC's Mr Barber said a demonstration in London in March against spending cuts looked like being one of the biggest events his union had ever organised.

In his New Year message, he said: "It's hard to pick out the unkindest cut of all, but a top contender must be the 10% cut in housing benefit that kicks in after someone has been unemployed for more than a year."

The Times reported senior union figures would meet at a TUC meeting early in the New Year to discuss their response to the cuts.

Also see this comment from Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/31/dilemma-of-labours-opposition

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Forensic Science Service cuts are criminal - mirror.co.uk

Here's yet another example of a serious lack of respect for science from Government:

Forensic Science Service cuts are criminal - mirror.co.uk

I've posted on this issue before, including saying, 'It strikes me that this Government is doing well in continuing the trend of successive Governments in not following the best available scientific advice and taking action of the type, scale and speed that the evidence suggests. Just off the top of my head in addition to the badger culling issue there is also: drugs and their classification; climate change; over-fishing...The grasp of science, scientific issues and their interrelationship with socio-economic and environmental factors in Parliament, in political circles generally and in the media is, with few exceptions, pretty poor.'

More on this issue:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11989225

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Illogical and incoherent Cllr Rogers...

Cllr Dr Jon Rogers [pictured] says, ‘We are determined to see the quality, quantity and accessibility of our parks and open spaces improve all across the city in the next 20 years’ (‘Land sell-off is right’, Post, Letters Dec 27). But hang on this man has, along with all Lib Dem and other councillors except the Greens, said it’s the right thing to do to plan to sell many acres of Bristol’s parks and green spaces over the next 20 years! That’s a decrease not the ‘quantity...improved’ that he claims he wants to see. As for improving accessibility to green spaces, well it’s self-evident that you make it more difficult to achieve this if you plan to sell some of them off and allow building over them. It’s worrying in the extreme to see such a lack of logic and coherence from Cllr Rogers. It was always illogical, inconsistent and incoherent to plan to sell-off chunks of our parks and green spaces whilst saying you are committed to health, wildlife, climate change and economic policies that require protecting and increasing green spaces.

Cllr Rogers contact details on the Bristol City Council website are:
email - jon.rogers@bristol.gov.uk , or telephone (0117) 914 2558, if you want to get in touch to set him straight.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

BBC News - 'Big four' supermarkets get 577 stores agreed, BBC finds

BBC research has found at least 577 UK supermarkets were approved in the past two years, with campaigners concerned at the growth of the 'big four' stores.
Planning authorities gave Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons permission for at least 480 stores in England in the two years to 1 November.
Campaigners say the stores are putting independent traders out of business...


BBC News - 'Big four' supermarkets get 577 stores agreed, BBC finds

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Cain on Culture - The King’s Speech: does it live up to expectations?

Apparently the answer to Cain's querstion is yes this film does - great perfomances, gripping and emotionally engaging. Saw Ed Balls commenting on this film and saw him in a new and refreshing light.

Cain on Culture - The King’s Speech: does it live up to expectations?

...The film begins and ends with a key public speech given by the King (in the first the Duke of York), both of them utterly compelling but for quite different reasons. The first is jaw-droppingly humiliating for Bertie. The second is nothing short of a triumph and hugely moving. You realise just how much you’ve invested in his journey when you’ve been crying tears of pride for its entire length.

So try and put aside the weight of expectation and see this film as soon as you can. Not only is it terrific but you’ll leave the cinema feeling something quite rare – that your capacity for compassion has greatly benefitted.

http://www.stammering.org/

Mabinogogiblog: A quick review of the state of our home planet

This a great way to paint a vivid picture of what's going on - well worth a look (click on the image on Dr Lawsons site to see the image in full) and a think...and more.

Mabinogogiblog: A quick review of the state of our home planet

BBC News - Poorest pupils '55 times less likely to go to Oxbridge'

No surprise at all that there is huge inequality and unfairness in our education system (and beyond) but this study puts figures on it. Shows the abject failure of the Blair and Brown Labour Governments, despite claims that their aim was a more equal society. Coalition Govt policies are likely to be inadequate and ineffective at tackling this issue despite claims of being 'radical' - they may even make the problem worse! Do you trust former members of the socially exclusive Oxford University student dining club* like PM David Cameron, London Mayor Boris Johnson and Chancellor George Osbourne to cut inequality? See the Bullingdon Club* photos - inequality goes right through to the Cabinet!
Pupils on free school meals are 55 times less likely to go to Cambridge or Oxford than those from private schools, the Sutton Trust has said.
The charity said it feared rising fees and the axing of a support programme would make it harder for poor students to get into England's top universities.
It also raised concerns about proposed measures to widen participation...


BBC News - Poorest pupils '55 times less likely to go to Oxbridge'

Monday, 20 December 2010

Why you wouldn’t want to be Mark Harper MP (Jonathon Porritt)

On flogging the forest and the right of recall.

Mark Harper is a Tory MP for the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. He’s also a Junior Minister – for Constitutional Reform. He’s also in the process of engineering his own political extinction at the next General Election...

...And here’s a wonderful irony. The Government has mooted the idea of introducing a ‘right of recall’ for constituents who have lost all faith in their MP. As Junior Minister for Constitutional Reform, Mark Harper will be responsible for bringing forward this proposal – and would almost certainly be the first MP to be evicted from the House of Commons as a consequence of it...

Why you wouldn’t want to be Mark Harper MP (Jonathon Porritt)

BBC News - How Helsinki airport deals with snow and ice

Interesting perspective on one aspect of dealing with snowy weather from Helsinki - basically they expect a lot of snow and very low temperatures; they are more prepared, with more staff and equipment types and numbers; our snow is wetter and ice problems are more likely; Helsinki airport does not have to handle as many flights as Heathrow...If this kind of weather is likely to occur in the UK more frequently then we have to be more prepared and perhaps change our attitude to travel intensive lifestyles.

...It looks as though there will be another snowy winter, like last year's, says Anika Kala, a spokesperson for the airport. But she says she's relaxed because the airport is "well prepared".

The preparation consists of good equipment, extra winter staff, and a choice of three runways.

While one runway is being cleared of snow or ice, the other two are open for business.


Snow storage
In exceptional circumstances, two runways may be closed. It takes a rare combination of heavy snow and high wind to close all three - as happened, briefly, seven years ago.


What about the equipment?

"We have 250 vehicles of different kinds," says Ms Kala.

"We have sweepers, snow ploughs, vehicles that blow snow from the runways, and friction testers that check the surface is fit for use."

The snow is removed to a special storage area within the airport perimeter. When that fills up, it is taken to other facilities outside.

Last winter 7,000 truckloads were carted off the runways, apron and taxi-ing areas.

Temperatures in Helsinki can drop to -25C - but Ms Kala explains that a good hard frost is much easier to deal with than a temperature of zero or -1C.

"When it's zero degrees, it's moist and there will be ice," she says....

She acknowledges that there is a big difference between Helsinki, which has a total of 600 landings and take-offs per day on its three runways, and Heathrow which has twice as many - on two runways - and five times as many passengers to deal with.

Running a big airport like Heathrow - which is privately owned by BAA - would be a bigger operation than running state-owned Helsinki airport.

But the principles for dealing with snow and ice, Ms Kala suggests, are probably the same.

BBC News - How Helsinki airport deals with snow and ice

Friday, 17 December 2010

Talks between town green and new stadium sides

Its a good thing for both sides to talk issues through. Polarisation and vilification that has occurred during the debate has hindered rational consideration. I watch with interest to see what is proposed, by whom, and what the final outcome is.

A DOOR has finally opened which could break the deadlock over Bristol City building a new stadium at Ashton Vale.

Poll: 56% support the alternative vote

The campaign to reform Britain’s voting system has been boosted by a new opinion poll showing that a majority of the public supports change.
An ICM Research survey for the Electoral Reform Society found that 56 per cent of people favour the alternative vote (AV), in which voters rank candidates in order of preference, while only 44 per cent want to retain the existing first-past-the-post system...


Clegg to be sidelined from his pet project - UK Politics, UK - The Independent

Spending cuts 'will see rise in absolute child poverty' | Politics | The Guardian

If we were genuinely all 'in this together' our government would not be enacting policies that will push more and more children into both absolute and relative poverty. Those who 'have the broadest shoulders' as the Coalition Govt have put it are supposed to be 'taking the biggest load' - clearly they aren't! See this Guardian report on an authoritative study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies,



The government's radical programme to slash spending will see the first rise in absolute child poverty for 15 years, with almost 200,000 children pushed into penury, according to an analysis by the Institute of Fiscal Studies.



Tax changes introduced by the coalition government will, the leading independent fiscal thinktank finds, increase absolute poverty by 200,000 children and 200,000 working-age adults in 2012-13.



Cuts to housing benefit alone will force a further 100,000 children into poverty.

In the next three years the IFS says average incomes are forecast to stagnate and this, coupled with deep cuts in welfare, will see a rise in relative poverty for children and working-age adults of 800,000 and a rise in absolute poverty for the same group of 900,000.



The institute directly challenges the government's claim that the impact of the budget would have no effect on child poverty...




Spending cuts 'will see rise in absolute child poverty' Politics The Guardian

Thursday, 16 December 2010

FIFA vs International Olympic Committee rules

Was going to write a piece about FIFA vs IOC rules, following the corruption allegations against FIFA and the farce of taking the Wold Cup to Russia in 2018 and in particular Qatar in 2022. However, I see that the BBCs James Pearce has already done a good job on this issue.

BBC - James Pearce: Fifa should learn from IOC

...Wide-ranging reform at Fifa is unlikely to happen in the short term. But even if Blatter wants to nudge his organisation gently on to a path of greater transparency, then he could do a lot worse than follow the IOC's example. Look at how the IOC reformed its voting system after the Salt Lake City scandal. In particular, there was one major change that dramatically lessened the opportunities for corruption.

If you are an IOC member, you are no longer allowed to visit any candidate cities without permission. Instead, the IOC members are told to form their opinions from the official technical report. Yes, in Olympic circles technical reports are actually read, unlike the Fifa ones that appear to have been ignored. A city that had been branded "high risk" in the way that Qatar was by Fifa would be very unlikely to win an IOC vote.

In contrast, the 24 members of Fifa's executive committee were able to travel the world for free during the contests for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. If one of them fancied a weekend in London with his wife, then all he needed to do was pick up a phone or click his fingers and it was all laid on. A five-star hotel, limousine, hospitality at the Premier League game of his choice... The bid teams had no choice but to pander to the voters' every need. These lucky men were wined and dined in destinations stretching from Moscow to Sydney, via New York, Tokyo, Seoul and many other of the world's great cities.

The IOC put a stop to all this. The rules for Olympic voters are now far tighter.
If Fifa voters are banned from travelling to the bidding countries, it would not be enough to make the process appear clean but it would at least be an important first step....

Bristol City Council due to decide on sell off plan despite unresolved questions

TODAY the city council's cabinet is due to decide on a plan to sell off up to 64 parks and green spaces, despite a string of unresolved questions on the controversial scheme.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Despite cuts, Bristol City Council offers deputy job for £120k a year

The council should scrap this idea, not employ anyone in this role - and save £240,000 over two years. We are all supposed to be 'in it together'. You can afford to employ six people on £20,000 on two year contracts with this money - or keep a library open for the same period...Very bad choice Bristol City Council.

BRISTOL City Council is advertising for a new deputy chief executive on a salary of more than £120,000-a-year – at a time when the council is in the grip of the biggest cuts in its history. [salary alone for the two yr contract is £240,000 - there may be other costs involved]

The council is shedding hundreds of jobs and has had a freeze on vacancies to try to balance the civic books.

The advert says: "We have recently reviewed our senior management team and are looking for a new deputy chief executive to join us initially for the next two years...

Opposition to green space sell-off plans overwhelming

MORE than 15,000 people have signed petitions against Bristol City Council's plan to sell of green spaces – but not a single person appears to have signed any petition in support.

BBC News - Lollipop patrols axed by council

What! Lollipop patrols protect our kids and in any case cost only a very small amount of money. Lollipop men and women aren't exactly overpaid - get rid of the Chief Executives on extortion salaries and stop using all those consultants that cost a fortune instead! I hope this suggestion is not made in Bristol or elsewhere.

BBC News - Lollipop patrols axed by council

With councils in England facing big cuts to their funding from central government, some jobs and services are likely to be axed.
The need to save money has led to Suffolk County Council to propose getting rid of its lollipop men and women to save £174,000, a move that's upset some parents.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Localism

I'm all for spreading out and sharing power much more. There is far too much power in central government and in other large organisations - including councils - and not nearly enough in the hands of local people, local communities and those served by large organisations. But does the government's Localism Bill give real power to the people and in all respects? An Elected Mayor puts an awful lot of power in to hands of one person for instance. Government claim to be giving more power to local councils - but at the same time they are disempowering them by cutting the money they get by 27% over four years! I welcome any genuine shift of power but money has to go with it.

BBC News - Councils to see grants cuts by average 4.4% - Pickles

The Localism Bill's measures are expected to include:

*Giving local people and organisations the right to buy community assets like shops, pubs and libraries. If a council decides to sell a property community organisations will get extra time to develop their bid.
*Communities can question how services - such as children's centres, care homes and transport - are being run and potentially take them over.
*More power for local people to overrule planning decisions, decide where new homes should go and protect green spaces.
*Powers to create directly elected mayors in 12 cities
*Powers for people to approve or veto "excessive" council tax rises

Saturday, 11 December 2010

No Need for Nuclear

Been looking over this campaign website: No Need for Nuclear

Extract
This is a campaign to stop the building of new nuclear power stations.
All but one UK nuclear power stations are due to close by 2023. We think this generation of nuclear power should be the last.


Nuclear power is
not necessary to meet the UK's electricity demand, it is more expensive than renewable alternatives, and is not carbon-neutral.

Action
This is a big campaign ask, since the new coalition Government has already decided that the UK nuclear industry should be allowed to grow. This means we're going to need all the help we can get in order to convince them otherwise. Please visit
our activism pages to find out how you can help.

Green Party | Greens offer free membership to students and young people

Join the Green Party here.

In an unprecedented move, the Green Party today offered free membership to people under 30 or in full-time education.

Any student or young person who applies to join the Green Party before 1 January 2011 will pay no subscription for the coming year...

Green Party Greens offer free membership to students and young people

Friday, 10 December 2010

Climate Change Denial » QATAR WORLD CUP 2022: A COLOSSAL WRECK- BOUNDLESS AND BARE.

Guest blogger, Terence Blacker decries the ‘Ozymandian’ stupidity of holding the 2022 World Cup in air conditioned stadiums in Qatar, one of the world’s hottest countries and FIFA’s feeble greenwashing of its stupendously destructive choice of host country.

Climate Change Denial » QATAR WORLD CUP 2022: A COLOSSAL WRECK- BOUNDLESS AND BARE.

AV is much fairer: letter

Great letter on a fairer voting system by Chris Millman in todays Post: AV is much fairer

IN his letter to the Post on December 4, Oliver Tunnah shows little faith in the intelligence of the British electorate, who he thinks will be "befuddled" by the alternative vote (AV) system. But it is he who is confused. He claims "with AV you must vote for a party you don't believe in."

What?

The AV is quite simple. It allows the opportunity to list candidates in order of preference. If only one candidate is acceptable to you, you only list one.

The beauty of the system is that it allows you to vote for the candidate you want, rather then backing the one you think most likely to beat the candidate you don't want. This is the precise opposite of what Mr Tunnah is suggesting.

In May we have an historic chance to scrap outdated first-past-the-post and bring in AV, which is fairer.

Chris Millman, Coombe Dingle.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Green Party | Government must halt its “savage attacks” on UK higher education, say Greens

Good quality Higher Education is one of the key factors to manitain and develop if we are to achieve a sustainable society - but its struggling to survive in places! Education is not a commodity to be bought and sold.

Green Party Government must halt its “savage attacks” on UK higher education, say Greens

Green Party | Greens now the only political party fighting for free education

Green Party Greens now the only political party fighting for free education

Need for urgent action on climate change - but its not forthcoming

I agree whoelheartedly with this excellent letter in todays Post about the need for urgent action on climate change from Oxfam's Roger James - but sadly both he and I are going to be very disappointed with what results from the meeting at Cancun.

T HE weather is very much in our minds at the moment and while it may seem odd to be concerned about man-made global warming while we struggle with the cold, the latest Royal Society research indicates that on present policies we have little chance of avoiding a 2C global temperature rise.

These projections send a powerful reminder why progress at the current international climate change conference in Cancun is more urgent than ever.

A new Oxfam report shows that 21,000 people suffered weather-related deaths during the first nine months of 2010, more than twice the number for the whole of 2009.

This year is on course to experience more extreme-weather events than the ten-year average of 770.

It is also one of the hottest years ever recorded with Pakistan logging 53.7°C – the highest ever in Asia.

Climate change affects us all: The Association of British Insurers tripling by 2050. In the South West such events seem to have become more common.

Building a greener economy is an even more necessary solution in a time of recession.

The poorest communities around the world who are the most vulnerable urgently need funds to adapt to climate change and to build a low carbon economy.

Oxfam South West campaigners are among many thousands of people in this region who have raised these concerns.

The Cancun conference is a real opportunity for the world to decide on an effective response to climate change.

This challenge is also an opportunity for those countries that move fast to prosper in a greener, fairer future.

Roger James, Oxfam South West, Brunswick Square, Bristol

Bristol wins £260k green grant as biofuel decision delayed | Bristol24-7

If sustainability - full and proper - is going to be used By Eric Pickles to judge this biofuel plan then I'm confident it wont go ahead.

Bristol wins £260k green grant as biofuel decision delayed Bristol24-7

...The news comes as it emerged that a decision on the controversial biofuel power plant planned for Avonmouth would be delayed by the Government.
Communities and Local Govt Secretary of State Eric Pickles was due to decide this month whether planning permission should be granted for the power station. He has announced a delay to allow all sides to submit more evidence on the central question – is it sustainable to burn biofuels to produce electricity?...

BBC - Richard Black's Earth Watch: Unlikely marriage powers ahead

No-one here really wants to be doom-laden about it, but it's a reality that more and more are having to face: the UN climate process could be grinding to a halt.

BBC - Richard Black's Earth Watch: Unlikely marriage powers ahead

Bristol will merge with Bath by 2050????

I thought it was 9 Dec today not the 1 April! What ridiculous rubbish this prediction is - and its also ridiculous that its taken John Savage, his 'expert' team of town planners and £250,000 to come up with this idea and say that its a good thing!

WITHIN 40 years, Bristol and Bath will have merged into a single sprawling conurbation – to become one of the major economic powerhouses of Europe.

What will this mighty new supercity be known as? "BristolBath", is the name on the lips of John Savage, executive president of GWE Business West. Some might even shorten this to Brath.

The chamber of commerce has spent £250,000 on creating a new "blueprint" for the way Bristol will evolve over the next two generations.


Mr Savage, and his team of expert town planners, are predicting that Bristol will be a very different place by 2050...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Views on the Bristol City new stadium in the green belt issue

Several excellent letters in this series in today's Post (link below). Have a look at the one that describes how staging major sporting events does not boost the economy - and also the one about how Bristol City Council gambled away hundreds of thousands of pounds on trying to get a bit of world cup football here for a few weeks.

I T is argued that Bristol City cannot go forward without a new stadium. Well, lots of Premier League and Championship teams have not gone to new stadiums and are still doing okay.

Monday, 6 December 2010

   Stockwood Pete: Whipping Yarns

"We're not being whipped" Cabot's LibDem councillor Alex Woodman told the council debate on abandoning the sell-off of the city's green spaces....

Stockwood Pete: Whipping Yarns

BBC News - Child poverty 'rises' among working households

Child poverty within working households is rising and now accounts for 58% of all UK cases, a report has found.
A Joseph Rowntree Foundation report says there are 2.1 million impoverished youngsters in homes where parents are in work - up slightly on last year.
Co-author Tom MacInnes said it showed work alone was not the answer to lifting people above the bread line...


BBC News - Child poverty 'rises' among working households

BBC News - Judges to consider equality challenge to Budget

The government will be forced to defend its Budget in the High Court later, against claims it broke equalities law.
The Fawcett Society is seeking a judicial review, arguing that ministers failed to consider the impact of tax and welfare changes on women.
The women's rights group says £5.8bn of the £8bn savings outlined in June's Budget would come from women...


BBC News - Judges to consider equality challenge to Budget

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Vote Yes to changing our unfair voting system

Good that an office has been opened in Bristol to campaign to change the voting system in next May's referendum. AV is a step in the right direction and has the advantage of demonstrating that electoral system change is wanted, if voted through. AV undermines tactical voting because every vote - not just votes for the eventual winner - will count given that voters can express first, second, third - and further - choices as appropriate.

A CAMPAIGN office to promote a Yes vote to change the voting system in a referendum next May is being opened in Bristol today.

More on why the alternative vote (AV) is an improvement on the current first past the post voting system here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Climate Change Denial » ONE REPORT- TWO HEADLINES

Great example on George Marshall's blog: How does one scientific report generate two entirely contradictory stories and headlines? This is a perfect example of how information on climate change is filtered by the newsmedia and distorted to fit the politics and worldview of their readers.

Climate Change Denial » ONE REPORT- TWO HEADLINES

BBC - BBC Two Programmes - American Dream, Plenty and Paranoia

This is a great series and for me is very compelling viewing. Its not endearing me to a lot of what America stands for...

BBC - BBC Two Programmes - American Dream, Plenty and Paranoia

"The American dream" - a phrase coined in 1931 that has become a national motto. It represents a unique brand of optimism that goes to the heart of what it is to be American. It is a simple phrase but a complex notion whose meaning is sustained and challenged by each generation.

After World War Two ended, Americans faced a future that seemed not only full of promise but also replete with danger. The United States emerged as the richest and most powerful nation in the world yet its safety and even its existence were widely perceived to be threatened as never before.

This series features those who helped foster and sell the dream, those who feel they have lived it, as well as those who challenge or reject the very notion. Through rare archive and eyewitness testimony, this series explores the realities behind America's most powerful myth - from the eve of the Second World War to the end of the Vietnam War.

More information and links here.