Just to confirm a few things regarding next week’s festive season get together and meal next Monday, 17th December,
John has spoken to the Natraj and they have no other bookings that night, at present at least, so we can be a bit loose on numbers, but he has told them to expect us at 7.30pm.
As you can see from the menu ( http://www.natrajtandoori.com/menu.html ) you can get a full meal, such as a Biryani which comes complete with rice or chicken & chips, from about £7 to £8, and the Executive members have agreed that Neil gets a round of drinks in from party funds for all members in attendance in recognition of everybody’s fantastic support an hard work this year. We hope this makes it affordable for everybody.
It would be appreciated if you could let me or John know if you intend to come along, even if it is last minute. Partners are, of course, welcome too, as without their support of our involvement, we would not achieve anything.
The Natraj is less than two minutes walk from the Railway, where we usually meet; just a couple of doors away from the town centre Library.
If you fancy a pre-dinner drink, John and I will be in the Railway from about 6.30pm.
See you next Monday, I hope,
|As part of the 2010 Spending Review the Government announced an intention to localise support for Council Tax from 2013-14 and to reduce expenditure on this benefit by 10%. The Welfare Reform Act 2012 provides for the abolition of Council Tax Benefit (CTB). Provisions for the localisation of Council Tax support are included the Local Government Finance Bill which is currently before Parliament. It is expected that a one-off transition to the new localised schemes of support will take place in April 2013. The move to localised assistance, coupled with the 10% reduction in expenditure, is expected to deliver savings of £410m in England (£470m nationally).
The Welsh Assembly has been recalled on 19 December to decide on a Council tax levy to cover the shortfall in funding Council Tax support. Labour proposes a ‘home levy’ amounting to £9.22 per month (about £110 a year), on each Council Tax Benefit claim.
The Scottish Parliament has decided to cover the Westminster Government’s reduced funding (to 90% of previous year). The Green Party is asking for a fair sharing of this burden; Natalie Bennett (Green Party Leader) and the Association of Green Councillors have critisised the unfair ‘postcode lottery’ that is emerging.
The Welsh Government’s Labour administration, however, want a universal amount levied and won’t consult. This would include Pensioners (exempted in England), and levy single person households on low income (e.g.. Job-seekers allowance £71 per wk) with small income/rents/benefits, just as much as multi-person households.
Such an equal levy (like the infamous Poll tax) is never ‘fair’; the collection costs will be high and it’s doubly unfair to make the poorest in our communities bear this burden. It would certainly be better, fairer and simpler to have a small levy on all Council tax bills, rather than further squeeze the poorest and most vulnerable members of our communities.
The failure to meet the Coalition Government’s hope that councils will design schemes which protect vulnerable groups beyond just pensioners, and which maintain strong work incentives, will have to be laid firmly at Welsh Labour’s door if their proposals are carried.
The Welsh Government should delay any decision to allow for wide consultation on the many alternatives that could protect vulnerable groups and allow for a fairer fair sharing of the burdens being forced upon us my the ConDem government. Only fools rush in, and the WG and WLGA insistence on a quick decision so they can send out bills in January is crass at best. It is their fault for not consulting earlier as these changes were announced way back in 2010 as part of the Spending Review. In the immediate short term, they can and should cover the cost this year (£30 million for 330 000 households), like they have chosen to do in Scotland, and get a fairer system, after rightful consultation, ready for next year.
Welsh Labour will therefore define themselves with this decision. We will either be able to condemn them as essentially the same as the ConDems in Westminster, or be able to compare them favourably with the distinctly different administration of our Celtic cousins in Scotland. Indications at the moment suggest that will take the former route and (yet again) betray their faithful core voters, who deserve so much better.
|The Green Party is calling for positive economic policies instead of the Coalitions dogmatic, self-perpetuating and failed cut at all costs approach.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: We reject this governments self-defeating and contradictory approach of trying to cut its way to growth while providing tax giveaways to large corporations, including environmentally and socially destructive fossil fuel companies.
And we reject its inhuman and inhumane pressure on the poorest in society – households with members in work and those without – with non-pensioner benefits restricted to real-term decreases (below inflation, 1% increases) for the next three years. Thats £3.7bn being squeezed from people whose lives are often already insecure and desperate.
One certainty George Osborne has ensured is that the foodbank industry is going to become a permanent feature in Coalition Britain, the worlds seventh-wealthiest economy.
Britain needs to invest in environmentally-positive, jobs-creating policies, rather than using the UKs historically unremarkable debt to GDP ratio to justify slashing state expenditure and further tax cuts for the wealthiest, Ms Bennett said.
A Green government would immediately invest the £4bn windfall from the 4G phone spectrum auction and the £35 billion quantitative easing surplus to create jobs in low-carbon infrastructure and in sectors such as renewable energy, energy-efficiency, low-carbon finance and manufacturing and in our contracting construction sector. The Green New Deal group has called for green quantitative easing to fund solar PV, insulation and other efficiency schemes that could create 140,000 jobs.
Despite Osbornes best efforts to hold them back, green industries are already providing essential goods and services that we need – from insulation to clean power from wind turbines – having contributed over 9% of UK GDP in 2011 – yet they retain enormous job creation potential.
The Green Party would reboot the tax system to ensure that wealthy individuals and multinational companies pay their fair share, levelling the playing field for small businesses that are currently paying their taxes and struggling to compete against the tax-avoiding business giants.
Ms Bennett said: Our reformed tax system would replace council tax and business rates with a land value tax, a wealth tax[I] to recover some of the gains from those who benefited from the boom years and have surfed unscathed through the bust. Furthermore, we would end tax relief on private pensions, putting the savings into a Citizens Pension that would immediately lift all pensioners out of poverty.
There’d be a financial transaction tax to discourage casino-style financial trading, moves to force transparency in the books of multinational corporations and a genuine, effective crackdown on tax avoidance.
And it is difficult to have faith in the Chancellors announcement of new infrastructure projects, as his government announced a similar scheme in 2010, which has actually delivered a decrease in spending on construction. The government has also delivered just £750m of a £5bn expenditure it promised for public works at last years Autumn Statement.
Ms Bennett added: In recreating the failed PFI schemes of the last Labour government, this government is repeating its predecessors mistakes and announcing headline projects that are unlikely to be delivered. According to the Office for National Statistics, we already have future PFI liabilities of £144bn. Renegotiations that have saved £2.5bn are small beer in comparison.
A Green government would provide genuine government investment in the new schools and transport infrastructure that we need. What we dont need is spending on new roads, an action shown to simply move congestion from one place to another.
|‘SCREEN RANT’ REVIEW:At first, the premise of Gus Van Sants upcoming feature The Promise Land seemed like it would tell the humbling story of a man who experiences great change when he returns to his hometown. Co-star and co-writer John Krasinski plays a rival executive in a story described as Capraesque, with Rosemarie DeWitt playing the female lead.
But new details are emerging on the film, revealing that the story isnt as simple as it may seem. The plot of the movie centers on the dangers of fracking, a controversial method of blasting rocks with sand, water, and chemicals to extract natural gas.
Now, the movie has been completely turned on its head as it wont be just a simple story about two men at conflict, but something much greater. Damon himself has been known to be quite vocal about his political views, and has penned the rewrites on the draft originally written by Dave Eggers and is co-writing the script with Krasinski.
If Away We Go and Where the Wild Things are an indication of how wonderful Eggers writing ability is, then I cant wait to see what The Promise Land has in store for us. Throw in Krasinski, Damon, and Sants writing styles, and The Promise Land is sure to be one powerful political drama.
The reality of fracking some recent attention thanks the 2011 Academy Award nomination and Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival for GasLand, a documentary film written and direct by Josh Fox, featuring archived footage of political leaders. Although The Promised Land is not a documentary, it and the key players involved will help drive the anti-fracking message.
UK Release: 19th April 2013 http://www.filmdates.co.uk/films/4813-promised-land/
Watch this space for details of South Wales screenings
|Keith Taylor, one of our Green MEPs, is calling on people across the country to add their support to a new Europe-wide petition (1) which calls for 20mph speed limits in urban areas. (http://en.30kmh.eu/ ) His call came during the UKs Road Safety Week (2), held each year to draw attention to the number of people who die on our roads.
According to the road safety charity Brake, three in four children in England say drivers need to slow down around their home and school, and that they would walk and cycle more if roads in their neighbourhood were safer.
The European petition, 30kmh making streets liveable, calls for 20mph/30kmh limits to become the norm for urban and residential streets across Europe. Local authorities would be able to make exceptions where other measures have already been taken to provide for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
UK campaign group 20s Plenty for Us has worked with other organisations throughout Europe to use the new, democratic, European Citizens Initiative process (3) to create the petition. If more than a million people from at least seven EU countries about 55,000 from the UK sign up then MEPs must debate this proposal to introduce 20mph/30kmh speed limits for urban and residential roads. The European Commission must also seriously consider how it could be introduced.
Keith Taylor has long championed 20mph speed limits and has visited communities across the UK to support their calls for lower limits on their streets. Last year he successfully gained the support of the European Parliament for 20mph residential speed limits to be recommended as road safety best practice across the EU. 8.3m people in some of the UKs most iconic cities already live in communities adopting the 20mph limit.
Keith Taylor, a member of the European Parliaments Transport Committee, said: Speed limits should be reduced wherever people live, to reduce injuries and fatalities, traffic noise, air pollution and CO2 emissions.
He continued: The number of people dying on British roads is on the increase. More than 1,900 people were killed in 2011, three per cent more than in 2010 and the biggest increases were among children and those aged over 60. Many of these lives would have been saved if the vehicles involved had been travelling more slowly. Thats why I keep campaigning for slower speeds across the South East.
He concluded: Portsmouth, Oxford and Chichester are three cities that have already introduced 20mph speed limits on residential roads. This European Citizens Initiative is an excellent use of this new EU process. I would urge everyone to sign the petition and help make towns and cities across Europe safer and more pleasant places to live and travel.
1. To find out more and sign the petition, go to: http://en.30kmh.eu/
2. Information on Road Safety Week can be found here: http://www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk/
3. The European Citizens Initiative is a new policy instrument through which EU citizens can launch their own proposals in any area of EU law which is within the EUs competence.
And just to lighten the mood a little, here’s a wee video from someone not keen on one aspect of the campaign!
|An excellent news bulletin on the threat to Balcombe (Sussex) – one of the areas I have been working alongside in the national campaign.|
The Chancellor has today outlined plans to allow a new fleet of gas-fired power stations to be built across the UK, a consultation on tax breaks for shale gas operators, and to establish a new office for fracking as a part of his Gas Generation Strategy.
Responding to the announcement, the UKs Green MP Caroline Lucas said:
“At this critical moment for the UKs energy policy, Osbornes gas strategy looks like nothing short of a disaster for the economy, the environment and for peoples energy bills.
“This reckless move, driven by ideology not evidence, risks locking the UK into an expensive polluting fossil fuel future increasing our exposure to volatile gas prices and forcing controversial fracking developments onto communities before the full impact is understood.
“While we know that gas can play a small part as a bridging fuel as to move to greener sources, the governments decision to sign off upwards of 30GW of new gas simply flies in the face of warnings about the consequences of a dash for gas on both consumer bills and legally binding climate targets.
“According to the chair of the Committee on Climate Change, even the previous plans for 20GW of gas could be illegal, while CCC chief executive David Kennedys view that a high-gas scenario “would not be economically sensible” surely leaves little doubt as to why No 10 recently vetoed his appointment to run the Department for Energy and Climate Change department.
“A renewables revolution to stabilise prices, create jobs and improve security”
The Brighton Pavilion MP continued:
“If the Chancellor was really serious about keeping peoples energy bills down and improving energy security, hed put his money on renewables where the costs are entirely predictable and falling  all the time efficiency, and reducing energy demand, rather than deepening our dependence on polluting gas, where prices are set to keep rising .
“A new report by Cambridge Econometrics shows that the UK would be £20bn better off by choosing more offshore wind over a gas-intensive path, creating 70,000 more equivalent jobs and saving £8bn a year on gas imports by 2030 – around £91 per household.
“Rather than throwing money at new gas infrastructure to be built after the 2020s at exactly the time we need to be decarbonising the Chancellor could be creating jobs now, tackling fuel poverty and bringing down energy bills by funding a nationwide retrofit of our homes and buildings.”
Governments irrational obsession with shale gas
“The Chancellors new Office for Unconventional Gas and his proposed tax breaks for shale gas reveals the extent of this governments irrational obsession with hard-to-reach shale and with keeping the UK addicted to fossil fuels.
“This is a costly gamble, as former energy minister Charles Hendry has warned: betting the farm on shale brings serious risks of future price rises.
“Residents close to drilling sites in Lancashire and Sussex have rightly expressed fears about fracking and the risk of pollution to drinking water, as well as the impact of such a water-intensive process on areas affected by drought.
“While these concerns and those about the impact of shale exploitation on the climate remain unanswered, the decision to give a green light to fracking is deeply irresponsible.
“And gifting tax breaks to companies like Cuadrilla to leach every last bit of fossil fuel from the ground when the IEA is warning that we need to keep this stuff in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change makes a mockery of our claim to be taking a lead in international climate negotiations.
Right now, the tar sands, a toxic oil reserve almost the size of Saudi Arabia’s but over 3 times as dangerous for climate change, sits landlocked in Northern Canada. People power has twice blocked new pipelines into this poison, but now we have a bigger challenge.
A new trade deal, negotiated in secret with China, could allow China’s companies to take over the tar sands and sue the Canadian government if it hampers their exploitation with environmental or health laws. Canada’s right-wing Prime Minister is an oil-man with a history of climate-denial, and he’s using this tactic to bypass democracy, with potentially devastating consequences for the planet.
Our big chance to stop this is that the deal may not be legal. It’s likely to be signed in the coming days or weeks and we need to be ready to hit back when that happens. If 20,000 of us pledge now to help hire outstanding lawyers and fund research and public campaigning, we can be sure to hit the ground running when the government acts — Avaaz will only process the pledge if we get enough to make this important case happen. Our climate is already under grave threat, and tar sands could push it over the edge. Pledge now to defend the planet:
Tar sands oil would harm all of us: The emissions from this dirty oil are up to 35% greater than regular crude oil, the process for getting it out of the ground alone emits three times the pollution, and the production of one gallon of oil poisons up to 35 gallons of fresh water. Not to mention that the exposure of another huge oil reserve would skyrocket the destruction of our planet.
That’s why experts and campaigners all over joined the fight to stop pipelines from being built in the US and Canada that would unlock this toxic sludge from the ground. Now those hard-fought victories could be wiped out.
We have already reached out to one of the top constitutional law firms in Canada and they are standing by to help us fight this dirty deal. But it’s going to take a powerful legal fund to stand up to the government’s deep pockets, campaign to win in the court of public opinion and make sure we keep dirty oil in the ground. Let’s all pledge our support now. Then, if the deal goes through, we’ll be able to get started right away defending our planet in Canada’s courts. Chip in to join the fight for our planet:
We’ve taken on the Canadian government before, and won — striking a blow against a Fox News-style television network and beating back attempts to stop Canadian Avaaz members from campaigning during federal elections. This is our chance to win a battle for the entire world’s survival against a trade deal that threatens our water, air and land.
With hope and determination
Dalia, Ricken, Emma, Morgan, Rewan, Ari, Grant and the rest of the Avaaz team
Chinese FIPA now a lose-lose proposition (Vancouver Sun)
What if the Canada-China investment treaty is unconstitutional? (The Globe and Mail)
Even Canada doesn’t believe its own spin on tar sands (Guardian)
Canadian Government: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Tar Sands May Double by 2020 (Think Progress)
Background: Environmental Impacts of Tar Sands Development (Sierra Club)
| A FILM EVERYONE CONCERNED ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE SHOULD SEE – AND THAT CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS SHOULD BE MADE TO SEE.
In the spring of 2005, photographer James Balog headed to the Arctic on a tricky assignment – to capture images to help tell the story of the Earths changing climate deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras designed to capture a multi-year record of the worlds glaciers. That first trip north opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history and sparked a challenge within him that would put his career and his very well-being at risk. Balogs hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. This is the story of one mans mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet.
Friday, 4 January 2013 20:30 Cinema 2 Saturday, 5 January 2013 20:30 Cinema 2 Sunday, 6 January 2013 17:30 Cinema 2 Monday, 7 January 2013 20:15 Cinema 2 Tuesday, 8 January 2013 17:45 Cinema 2 Wednesday, 9 January 2013 17:45 Cinema 2 Wednesday, 9 January 2013 20:15 Cinema 1 Thursday, 10 January 2013 20:30 Cinema 2