Monthly Archives: April 2012

Reprise of our Local Election Mini-Manifesto

BRIDGEND GREEN PARTY Local elections May 2012
Bridgend 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 peoples 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 societys 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 peoples 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.

Caroline Lucas on the stump for us on Radio 4 this morning

Caroline appeared on BBC Radio 4 Today this morning to talk about the local elections and the benefits of a greener economy you can read about the interview and listen again here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9716000/9716078.stm. Some of the facts and figures she mentions about green industries are useful.

From the BBC website:

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has acknowledged that it is can be hard to get the the environmental message across in times of austerity.

But she told the Today programme’s Justin Webb that overlooking green issues at a time like this was a “tragedy”.

“There is no contradiction in promoting a green economy and dealing with jobs and the environment,” she said.

“It is through investing in green technologies that we can get the economy stabilised”.

Listen to the full 4 minute interview here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9716000/9716078.stm

Holy Redundant – removal of Bishops from Parliament

The following campaign is completely consistent with Green Party policy on Public administration and government ( http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/pa )

http://holyredundant.org.uk/?utm_source=e-bulletin+subscribers&utm_campaign=9599e2a136-holy_redundant&utm_medium=email

The Governments proposals to reform the House of Lords will preserve and entrench the influence of unaccountable representatives of the Church of England in our Parliament.

At present, the Church of England is granted privileged access to our Parliament. Anglican Bishops sit alongside Peers in the House of Lords, they have the right to vote and debate, they influence our national way of life. They acquired this right solely by virtue of their religion, their gender and their position in the hierarchy of one particular denomination of one particular Church. They are unaccountable to the public.

We want fair reform of the House of Lords which does not afford privilege to any special interest group.

We urge the Government to remove the automatic right of Bishops to sit there.

None of the arguments for keeping Bishops makes sense, and keeping them is unpopular with the public. At a time of general reform, we possess a once in a generation opportunity to remove this archaic and unjust aspect of our political system.

Visit the link above for information about the campaign and how you can assist.

The key messages of the campaign (that the current situation is unfair, unjustified and unpopular) can be seen in more detail here:

http://holyredundant.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Key-messages.pdf

Negligible support for Fracking – plenty of support for more Renewables

Just 2% backed more gas power in the latest UK opinion poll to show overwhelming support for clean energy

Almost nine in 10 people want to see the government ramp up the UK’s use of clean domestic energy and reduce the country’s reliance on imported gas, a new YouGov poll reveals.
Just under two-thirds of the 2,884 people questioned on behalf of campaign group Friends of the Earth listed wind, wave, solar or tidal as power sources they wanted to see playing a greater role in the UK’s electricity mix over the next decade, while just 2% backed an increase in gas capacity.

The survey is the latest to signal strong public backing for renewable energy, following Sunday’s YouGov poll for Scottish Renewables that found 71% of Scots supported wind power, and a separate Ipsos MORI survey last week that reported 67% of respondents were in favour of using more wind power.

Currently, only 9.5% of UK electricity comes from renewable energy sources. Friends of the Earth is concerned the government is encouraging a new “dash for gas” by exempting gas-fired power plants from emissions restrictions that will effectively ban new coal power stations.

The wind energy sector is also facing an increasingly vocal campaign against new wind farms, while concerns are mounting that renewable energy investments are being put on hold as a result of investor concerns over the degree of political backing for clean energy.

Today Friends of the Earth is using St George’s Day to launch a new Clean British Energy campaign that calls on the prime minister to use his speech at the Clean Energy Ministerial on Thursday to demonstrate his backing for low-carbon energy.

The group claims that increasing the UK’s reliance on domestic renewable sources would not only help decarbonise the energy sector, but would also enhance energy security and create new green jobs. Government figures show just under £4bn of investment in renewables over the last year yielded nearly 14,000 new jobs.

“The public has given a clear vote of confidence to clean British energy from our wind, sun and sea it makes no sense for the government to pursue an unwanted, costly dash for gas that’s causing our fuel bills to rocket,” said Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth’s director of policy and campaigns. “Ministers have a once-in-a-generation chance to transform our electricity market to help smaller businesses, schools and communities plug into clean and affordable power.

Source: Guardian 23/04/12

Electioneering update

Apologies to regular followers for the lack of postings in the last week or so.

We are in full electioneering mode and busy canvassing and leafleting in target wards.

We are getting a generally warm reception – although the prevailing mood among the electorate seems to be that of apathy and utter disenchantment with the whole political process. I predict very low turnouts – and this could actually prove beneficial to us as the disaffection is primarily with the parties in power. It could be very close indeed in one or two seats for us – so all to play for!

Our mini manifesto seems to be striking chords in many places – which is encouraging.

https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/press-release-bridgend-green-party-to-make-an-impact-in-the-local-elections-in-may/

The recent flurry of national publicity on fracking has led to a few enquiries on what we know and have been doing about the issue. Our prominence in the national campaigning on this particular issue gives us added credibility.

So in these times of increasing despair and exasperation, the message has got be:

Bridgend Green Party Meeting – 19th April

Bridgend Green Party Meeting
Thursday 19th April 2012 at the COITY CASTLE INN Lounge.
Bottom of Tremains Road, (by big railway bridge) Bridgend, CF31 1HA . 7.00pm

AGENDA

  1. Welcome and Introductions
  2. Apologies for Absence
  3. Minutes and matters arising
  4. Officers’ reports
  5. Campaigns update
  6. Elections – BCBC 2012 – Campaign update
  7. Arrangements for attending Election Count
  8. DoNM

NOTE – Venue is 2 minutes walk from both the Bus and Train stations in Bridgend.
See map: https://bridgendgreens.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/next-meeting

PLEASE NOTE EARLIER TIME THAN USUAL –
IF THIS IS A PROBLEM, PLEASE LET ME KNOW ASAP

Thanks,

Andy

Our own Mark Gabb’s Fracking Video – produced by the Co-operative

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=0F1sRDx8FM0

It has taken a while for this to surface, as it was shot last summer in the run up to the Co-operative event we helped organise at Bridgend College.

I think the credits should mention the wonderful Sarah Woods rather than Saul Woods (or at least as well as).

Mark does an excellent job, I hope you all agree. A career change beckons methinks.

Andy Chyba