|BRIDGEND GREEN PARTY – Local elections May 2012Bridgend Green Party are pleased to announce that many of the electorate of the Bridgend area now have a fresh, new, radical alternative at the Local Elections in May.
Only 18 months after re-launching the Bridgend Green Party, we are pleased to say that we will be contesting 8 wards (7 in Bridgend county + one in the Vale) in the County Borough Elections (BETTWS/ BRYNTIRION, LALESTON & MERTHYRMAWR/ COITY/ HENDRE/ MAESTEG EAST/ MORFA/ YNYSAWDRE / St BRIDES MAJOR) and 6 seats on Community/Town Councils (Brackla, Bridgend Town, Garw Valley and Laleston) . I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement we have received from members of other parties, including some councillors, who recognise that we can offer a much needed injection of new ideas, enthusiasm and passion. We will help push an agenda of sustainable development, a fairer society and of providing a legacy we can be proud to leave future generations instead of the current embarrassing and soul destroying mess.
Let us be clear. The Green Party is a left of centre party. The three mainstream parties have long offered just slightly different brands of right wing politics. As much as we respect many of our councillors, especially Labour and Lib Dem ones, many of them (and many of their supporters) cling to the forlorn hope of being able drag their parties back to the political ground that they know their traditional support, including most of the people of Bridgend and the Valleys, still need. But now we offer them, not a way back, but a way forward to a new brand of ‘Eco-socialism’. Eco-socialists are united in the belief that if we are to have a worthwhile future, the whole world needs to come together to drive capitalism from centre stage and create an alternative society based on principles of social and environmental justice as well as popular participation.
We know we have a long way to go before we can emulate the success of the Green Party in other parts of the country in gaining control of councils. We are realistic about what we can achieve this time around in Bridgend, but whatever the outcome, we will campaign and lobby for the things that will make a difference to people’s lives and provide a future fit to bequeath to our children and future generations. Among other things, we will be promoting the following initiatives:
- Promotion of quality apprenticeships. The Council needs to lead by example by instigating a programme of apprenticeships in as broad a range of areas as possible, to help counteract the tragic waste of potential and source of many of society’s ills, that is youth unemployment. Particular encouragement needs to put into developing the skill sets needed for the industries of the future, such as those needed in energy efficiency and the renewable energy industries. With over 7500 employees, there should be scope for hundreds of apprenticeships within the organisation, and it could become a criterion for the awarding of sub-contracts. There is no greater blight on our collective futures than youth unemployment and it must be a top priority.
- Improvements to transport. We would like to see: a feasibility study into extending the Maesteg train line up into Caerau; free buses for under 16s (parent ‘taxi’ services often double the road miles needed for the journey, taking young people there and back); and parking charges used to subsidise bus fares and services to ensure that it is always cheaper and viable to use public transport instead of cars. Parking charges should be imposed at out of town shopping centres to create a level playing field for town centre shops. We would push for the completion of the much delayed Brackla Park & Ride rail station and would also facilitate and incentivise car sharing by commuters heading to Cardiff and Swansea every day (such as by providing dedicated car parking facilities adjacent to the main M4 junctions). New housing estates, such as Parc Derwen, Coity, need linking in to bus services straight away once residents start to move in. Much more needs to be done, in collaboration with experts like SUSTRANS, to help people make smarter, healthier and safer travel choices.
- Ensuring disabled access is improved across the county. It is all well and good to improve access in town centres, public buildings, bus stops and in people’s homes, but there is a lack of joined up thinking. In many of the neighbourhoods where people live, such as Bettws, the challenge is getting from the front door to the disabled parking bay, or bus stop, or local shop or chemist. We would ensure all registered disabled people have neighbourhood accessibility surveys and remedial work done to alleviate this situation. Where this proves difficult, see would seek rehousing to more accessible locations.
- The eradication of fuel poverty across the County by ensuring every home takes up the opportunities to have their homes properly insulated and efficiently heated. PV for Free schemes, such as the one promoted by Sustainable Wales until Westminster pulled the rug on the FITS, will be investigated and promoted. All business premises need to have insulation standards imposed on them too.
- Making Bridgend a Frack-Free Zone. This will ensure that the pursuit of ever more extreme forms of fossil fuel exploitation (shale gas fracking, underground coal gasification etc) are not allowed to blight the the health of our people and the quality and value of our land and environment. Such reckless pursuit of the last vestiges of fossil fuels also contribute to and exacerbate our lemming-like rush to the precipice of catastrophic climate change.
- Presumption in favour of all renewable energy related developments, that do not directly impinge on the quality of life of nearby inhabitants, allied to a presumption against all fossil fuel related new developments. We share the vision of the Danes in planning out a future (within a 30 year time frame) based exclusively on our abundant renewable energy potential. It can become a focal point for the boom industries of the near future. We have to be weaned off of fossil fuel dependence sooner or later and those with foresight and courage will lead the way in the transition to a future powered by renewable energy. We can lure the innovators and pioneers here to Bridgend with our natural advantages and the right package of incentives (business rate exemptions etc).
- Quality secular schools. We will promote equality of opportunity for all, alongside quality education for all, following the most successful models of comprehensive education. When implemented properly, this produces higher standards across the board – with especially big benefits at the lower end of the spectrum. This has got to be in the interests of everybody.
- Improving our recycling and re-use performance. We would acknowledge the huge strides made to transform Bridgend from one of the worst performers in Wales to one of the best performers in Wales, in terms of recycling rates achieved, but this is damning with faint praise. We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many improvements still desperately needed. We need, for example, garden waste recycling; soft plastic recycling; and better containers to prevent collection day becoming neighbourhood littering day. We can also learn a lot from neighbouring Neath Port Talbot about re-use initiatives – such as unused paint being collected and used for school and community projects; tool re-use projects; outgrown school uniform and sports kit re-distribution schemes; promotion of freecycling schemes; furniture and bicycle restoration and repair workshops etc.
- Local food initiatives. These will be many and varied, but including the promotion of community managed farms, gardens and allotments; school allotments/farms ; local produce accreditation schemes; garden buddying schemes (that can pair up those with knowledge to share with those with energy and muscle power to spare); the development of Bridgend Farmers’ Market to make it more accessible to as many people as possible, as often as possible – through permanent premises in town and shopping centres. Some of these things have been given lip service in the past, but we would ensure they are all properly resourced and promoted.
- Low impact living initiatives. Permaculture and other low-impact lifestyles and building techniques will be encouraged and facilitated. These can provide the inspiration and develop the knowledge base and skills required to help build sustainability into all of our lives, while also providing very low cost housing options and encouraging the self-sufficiency which truly frees people from the ‘benefits trap’.
- Accountability of Councillors. All councillors currently receive the same basic allowance/salary of £13,868 for being your elected representative, irrespective of how much effort they put in on your behalf (admittedly a handful chose to forego the tiny increase in last years allowance). Attendance at formal meetings is an one valid indicator. One councillor only attended 17 such meetings in the whole year, whereas another managed 103. In terms of registering referrals (matters brought up by constituents in surgeries and through letters etc), two registered 232 in a year, whereas five did not register any whatsoever!! And yet they all received the same basic allowance. This is clearly not acceptable and we will work to change the system to ensure greater accountability and consistent value for money from all our councillors.
Another system that desperately needs changing is the Council Tax system. This is not something that Bridgend CBC can do much about on its own, but we will campaign to at least restructure Council Tax bands to make them a progressive tax rather than the regressive tax we have at the moment. Looking through the Property News this week, you can find a property in Pontycymmer for sale for £27,000. Whoever buys this will face a Council tax bill of £861; which is 3.2% of the property value. There is a property for sale in Porthcawl for £1,750,000. Whoever buys this will face a Council tax bill of £3022; which is 0.2% of the property value! This is patently inequitable and unfair. Green Party policy is to ultimately replace Council Tax and Business Rates with a much fairer, simpler and environmentally beneficial Land Value Tax.
Nothing we propose is especially original. All these ideas have been tried and tested and can be seen to work in other parts of the world (Scandinavia, Australia and Germany among them). They are associated with progressive values, innovative thinking and a willingness to grapple with the challenges of the future while we still have a little scope to experiment with and refine the ideas and technologies that we will need to cope. The big challenges we face include the consequences of climate change, an aging population and the need to restructure our supply and demand for energy. In all these cases it is the poor and the vulnerable that are likely to suffer the adverse consequences the most. This is why environmental issues are social issues too; and why Eco-socialism is the way forward.
We are here to ensure that our environment is not sacrificed in the pursuit of the short-sighted capitalist growth agenda, and to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable do not suffer from the cuts and austerity measures demanded by the staggering mismanagement of the economy by successive Conservative and Labour administrations – led by millionaire public school boys. We all instinctively know what is fair and it is not for nothing that we in the Green Party use the following rallying call: Fair is Worth Fighting For. Wherever you can, vote Green on May 3rd.