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Change Needed at Northamptonshire County Council

Northamptonshire County Council will not be in a position to deliver a balanced budget by the end of this financial year and has imposed immediate spending controls, meaning no new expenditure is permitted, with the exception of safeguarding vulnerable people and statutory services. The current situation at Angel Square is that the council has run out of money; whilst it may seem without precedent, it also feels somehow inevitable.

During last year’s County Council elections, the Green Party in Northamptonshire highlighted the ongoing budgetary issues with the County Council and said that the current administration was just papering over the cracks. The Green Party is not surprised that our county council has failed; their budgetary forecasting simply isn’t fit for purpose, so why should we trust their budget proposals this time?  Green Party candidate, Simon Turner, who is standing in Higham Ferrers for the County Council, said:

Northamptonshire Conservatives“Although the current deficit is largely being caused by cuts in funding on a national level, the current situation has been made worse by disastrous decisions made by the Conservative administration.  Years of council tax freezes have delivered no benefits to the citizens of Northamptonshire, and the drastic cuts over the last seven years represent a clueless council that can’t balance its books.”

Political parties of all persuasion have had their say over the past few days, and whilst the Northamptonshire Green Party agrees that the current situation is untenable, we don’t think that handing control over to the national government would be a desirable solution. Whilst the County Council may have mishandled the budget, they were dealing with cuts voted for by all of Northamptonshire’s MPs in Parliament. It’s a problem of Conservative governance, whether that be local or national.  Simon Turner continued:

“It is critical that services are protected, and we urge Conservatives of the County Council to work with the opposition parties to ensure this happens in the short term. In the longer term, it is clear that local government in Northamptonshire needs reorganisation, and that the County Council’s position on this has been the major hold-up over the past few years. The County Council should recognise the position of the Borough and District Councils regarding this issue, and work with them towards a reorganisation based on three Unitary Councils across the County, recognising that this is critical to ensuring the future sustainability of government in Northamptonshire.“

Northants Green Party ManifestoLocal government as we know it is almost certain to change drastically in the next few years. There has been serious talk of disbanding the current two-tier council system here in Northamptonshire and discussions about setting up unitary authorities have been ongoing since late 2015. Whilst most political parties support the idea, Labour has consistently blocked any changes.  The Green Party believe the best option for Northamptonshire is to split into three unitary councils, one for Northampton, one for the north/east of the county, and one for the south/west.  

Unitary councils would benefit local people, for example, as one council would be in control of environmental services, public transport and highways.  Currently borough/district councils, for example, are drawing up clean air strategies, but the county council is the authority with the power to change public transport or build more roads to alleviate the concentration of nitrogen dioxide in specific areas.

There is a temporary reprieve for library services, with a revised proposal which would see volunteers running libraries next year.  The county council would continue to fund the library service until April 1st 2019, with the authority paying a further year of rent in 2019/20 and community groups responsible for utility costs.  There are also revised proposals relating to Trading Standards and the County Connect and Call Connect on-demand bus services. Cabinet will meet to discuss the final budget proposals next Tuesday, February 13th.

The shitty new communist futurism

ENTITLE blog - a collaborative writing project on Political Ecology

By Aaron Vansintjan

Let us dream big. But without considering the limits to the shit we consume and generate, our heads will stay in the clouds.  

Editors’ note: This is the first in a series of ENTITLE blog articles that critically engage with the ongoing discussions about “eco-modernist socialism” and “communist futurism”, projected in Jacobin magazine’s climate change issue ‘Earth, Wind, and Fire.’  Our series continues the debate with critical insights that question the foundations of these proposals. In particular, whether they imply a substantive transformation of current capitalist socio-ecological regimes, or their continuation and even expansion. The series will also feature contributions by Stefania Barca and Emanuele Leonardi.

Why languish in despair? After decades of neoliberal cutbacks and in the face of climate disaster, something new is appearing on the horizon: the willingness to think big. With the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders, the Left has caught…

View original post 1,619 more words

Progressive Events in Wellingborough and Northampton

Progressive events diary over the next month or so in Wellingborough and Northampton:

Holocaust Memorial (Wellingborough)
This week (Thursday to Saturday): Exhibition in the Swansgate Centre.
Saturday (27th) at 10.30 – 11.30 in the Wellingborough Museum: Youth theatre group production and a speaker from the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust
Sunday (28th) at 2.00 pm til 2.30: Memorial Service at the Anne Frank Tree, Swanspool Gardens near the Council offices, Doddington Road

Protests at Northamptonshire County Council
P1100099Saturday, February 17th at 12.00: Protest Rally against County Council cuts. All Saints Church, George Row, Northampton
Thursday, February 22nd at 9.30 am: Protest outside County Council prior to full council meeting at 10.00. You can attend the full council meeting. You have to register if you wish to speak.

Palestine Solidarity
Monday, February 26th at 6.30: Fundraising event at the Kohinoor Restaurant, Finedon. Guest speaker Zara Bailey, who has recently returned from a visit to Palestine sponsored by the National Education Union (previously NUT). Tickets £15 for three course meal. Telephone 07872836463 for information.

Wellingborough Diggers Weekend
Friday/Saturday, March 23rd/24th: Further details to be circulated

May Day and International Workers Day
Friday, May 4th at 7.00 pm at WACA, Rock Street: Political rally and social (including live music, comedy, real ale and food)

Green Party to Stand in Higham Ferrers By-Elections

Simon TurnerI am proud to announce that Simon Turner, a local party activist and community volunteer, will stand for the Green Party in the upcoming by-elections in Higham Ferrers.  Vacancies have arisen at Northamptonshire County and East Northamptonshire District Councils due to the unfortunate death of local councilor, Glenn Harwood.  Our candidate, Simon Turner, said:

“I thank Mr Harwood for the service he has provided and wish his family well.”

Both by-elections are due to take place on Thursday, 15th February and this is the first time the Green Party has contested local elections in Higham Ferrers.  Simon said:

“I decided to stand to give people the opportunity to vote for a party that has different ideas on how to run our county, and after seeing a lack of change in how things are being done.  During the General Election campaign last year, we received a lot of positive feedback locally because the Green Party believes in doing what is best for people, rather than finding ways of running things in the same old way that benefits no one.”

Simon Turner joined the Green Party four years ago to oppose cuts to local services by Northamptonshire County Council.  He has stood in local elections in Wellingborough and has supported Green Party candidates in the 2015 and 2017 General Elections.  Simon works for a local engineering company and spends a lot of his spare time working for community organisations.  Simon said:

Simon Turner at Wellingborough and District Talking Newspaper with Jonathan Hornett“I volunteer for the Wellingborough and District Talking Newspaper which covers East Northamptonshire.  I carry out technical support each week to make sure all recordings are in place, mentor new volunteers, deliver and demonstrate new players to new listeners, or deal with technical problems with players for listeners. I am also a member of Rotaract; we raise funds for local charities that do not normally get much support as they are often obscured by larger national charities.”

Northamptonshire County Council have recently been in the news again for failing to manage themselves properly and for threatening to cut even more local services.  Simon commented:

“I am deeply concerned about all of our local services and the management of how those are delivered. We are now hitting crunch point with the few services that are still run directly by the county council.  The library is our community hub in Higham Ferrers; this is why it is far too important a local resource to be without, I will not let Northamptonshire County Council close it if I am elected.”

“The Conservatives have spent years telling us to vote for them locally, as they have never increased council tax. This has been a travesty; they relied on the contributions from central government, and are now blaming central government for their problems.  Having failed to keep up with the rising cost of delivering quality services, they have dramatically slashed services and put most of what is left over into the private sector, once again claiming it would be cheaper and better. The reality is that due to bad management, the county council is out of funds and they will not change how they are managed.”

Northamptonshire Failed County CouncilThe Green Party would scrap the county council because it is broken, and create local unitary authorities.  We believe that these would deliver better value for money and be more accountable to local people.  We would also seek to take back local services from the private sector because we think that if you pay the council to provide a service then they should do this and be responsible for providing that service too.  Simon Turner concluded:

“Vote Green Party on Thursday 15th February, because we will put the people we serve, and public services we are charged with delivering, first.  We will stand up for Higham Ferrers by fighting against cuts to local services, will change how the county council is managed, and will keep our library open.”

Vote for Simon Turner to represent you, Vote Green Party on Thursday 15th February.

We Need to Keep, Extend and Enforce the Hunting Ban in Parliament

JH Keep The BanPublic support for fox hunting is at an all-time low, a new poll reported by The Independent today shows that 85 per cent of the public support maintaining the current ban on hunting with hounds.  So Theresa May was right to abandon a free vote on the issue, but don’t be fooled, she is not proposing to strengthen the ban, Conservatives still support hunting.

The Green Party’s policy is crystal clear; we oppose all forms of hunting.  During the General Election campaign, Keith Taylor MEP, the Green Party’s Animals Spokesperson, condemned Theresa May’s plan to bring back fox hunting.  The vocal animal welfare campaigner and South East MEP said:

“That Theresa May has been forced into this admission is extremely telling. The bloodthirsty plot to repeal the foxhunting ban had, until now, only been discussed behind closed doors because the Tories know 84% of the public oppose this barbaric pursuit, which is enjoyed by only a tiny privileged minority.”

“Let’s be clear, the Conservatives did not want to be open with the public about this plan. The Party has a history of subverting our democracy when it comes to foxhunting: a vote to repeal the ban was quietly abandoned in 2015 when it became clear the Government didn’t have the numbers to push it through.”

And this is the simple truth behind Theresa May’s sudden broken promise of a free vote; she knows she would not win it!  The Green Party have and always will fight against hunting and have actively campaigned not to just to keep the ban, but to upgrade the Hunting Act 2004 to include all blood sports and to make it enforceable.

This needs to be addressed in parliament to strengthen the ban, but are the Conservatives, Labour or the Lib Democrats likely to?  85% of the population have shown support for keeping the hunting ban in place and most political parties will fight any attempt of a repeal.  But if you want to keep, extend and enforce the hunting ban, vote Green.

A huge victory on animal sentience.

Dog-Photography-2We just made the Government pull a screeching U-turn.

When I tabled an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill to transfer the full effect of EU law on animal sentience into UK law, the Tories voted me down. But with your support, I forced them to announce a new draft Bill yesterday.

Thanks to you, the obligation on the Government to ‘pay regard to animal sentience when making new laws’ will now be transferred into UK law.

If you have a cat or a dog, you don’t need me to tell you that animals have an emotional life.

For most of us, it’s not some philosophical question. It’s obvious that your pet can be happy and sad. They have moods. They can feel pain. And they can suffer.

It’s common sense to this nation of animal lovers, but our Government had to be forced to make sure that ministers will always take animal sentience into account when making future laws.

Yesterday, we made a real difference to ensuring high standards of animal protection in the UK for years to come.

Thank you for your help in making it happen. And thank you for supporting the only party which will always stand up for animals.

Yours,


Caroline Lucas MP

Climate Alliance – Strength in Numbers

‘Think Global – Act Local’  E.F Schumacher

logo_Climate_AllianceLocal and regional Governments find themselves increasingly at the forefront in the battle against the impacts of climate change.  While national governments continue to prevaricate and placate the big money interests, City and Regional Authorities are left to clean up the mess of storms, floods and fires and manage the impacts of drought and heat waves.  No amount of denial can enable a City Mayor or Council to avoid the reality of flooded streets, damaged property and rising mortality rates. After a disaster, people want action to rebuild their lives quickly, and assurance that the authorities are ready in the event of further disruptive events.

Faced with the reality of the impacts of climate change, local authorities have formed a range of mutual support  alliances often as a response to the lack of support from their national governments.   It is they who have to find the finance needed to repair damage and to make the necessary adaptations to infrastructure.  In addition to the impacts of climate change, Cities and Regions face a range of related issues that include the impacts of growing urbanisation, increasing social provision and manage growing populations and pollution.

To get recognition of the role that Local and Regional governments are playing in delivering the Paris and Sustainable Development goals, a coalition of organisations representing the sub-national level of government met at COP23 to show national governments and the world that local and regional governments, together with their partners in the business sector, academia and civil society, are #united4climate with a strong message to share for joint climate action. In essence this message is that by acting cooperatively at the local level it will be possible to deliver the ambition goals set in Paris and keep the rise in global temperatures below 2C.

One organisation within this coalition is European Climate Alliance, that includes 1,715 cities, municipalities and districts together with NGO’s and  local community Groups.  It is unfortunate that Oxford is the only UK representative in t his Alliance, a situation that Greens should work to rectify by pressurising local authorities in their areas to join.  Membership is not restricted to urban areas, and it is important that the rural areas are properly represented on this and other global forums.  The impacts of climate change will be no less in the countryside that will feel the impacts of floods, fires, drought and changes to the local ecology.

The aims of the Climate Alliance is to enable action at the local level that is fair, based on sound ecological principles, resource lean, locally focused inclusive and diverse. Ambitious goals, but it is recognised that for climate action to be effective it needs to be locally relevant and organised in such a way that the members of the local communities are engaged.  Projects also need to be practical and sustainable, focused on real needs on the ground and not meekly delivering remote targets or business plans.

Climate Alliance members are committed to the continuous reduction of their greenhouse gas emissions, pledging to cut emissions by 10 percent every 5 years, equivalent
to a halving of per capita emissions by 2030 from 1990 levels. Each member has also signed
up to the long term goal of levelling off at 2.5 tonnes CO2 per person and year, down from the current level of 9 tonnes. [European Average]

Climate Alliance cities undertake a wide array of measures to close this emissions gap, mostly focusing on a mix of energy conservation, energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies. Actions undertaken across Europe include:

  1. implement urban planning and transport policy that promote climate-friendly mobility.
  2. give incentives and shape building codes to encourage energy efficiency in the building sector
  3. serve as role models with their own public buildings stock.
  4. shape their emissions through targeted, climate-conscious public procurement, water use and waste disposal strategies
  5. influence agriculture, forestry and tourism strategies
  6. engage with residents, enabling them to contribute to the fight against climate change in their own everyday lives, be it in terms of consumption patterns, lifestyle choices or ways of doing business.

By taking such actions locally with the clear objective of contributing to the internationally set ambition to keep global temperatures below 2C, local communities give a lead to central government and international forums to pressure them to create a supportive framework to enable this local delivery.  Over the last 25 years since the Rio Declaration, central governments have been weak in the face of the vested interest lobbying from fossil and financial sectors.  They have not shown the leadership required to steer us away from the dangers we now face with changing weather patterns on top of a range of other environmental and social problems.

In the UK local government has been deliberately weakened by a succession of central governments intent on gathering all power to itself, then failing to use that power in the interests of the general public.  Globally, local government is taking action and therefore effective power in response to the neglect of the central authorities.  UK local authorities need to follow this example.  By engagement with their local communities, action groups, academics and their local business community, they can form partnerships within the mold of the Climate Alliance to find ways of taking needed action.  By engaging with members of the community, they will gain their support and increase their reputation, giving strength to local governments in their negotiations with central government for adequate funding and support.

Mike Shipley

Written by Mike Shipley on behalf of East Midlands Green Party

COP21 – Bonn 2017

 

UN Conference on Climate Change 23rd Session

Cop21 Bonn25 years ago, a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro agreed the Framework Convention on Climate Change  “ as a framework for international cooperation to combat climate change by limiting average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and coping with impacts that were, by then, inevitable.”  The ambition was to achieve, through a negotiated process, the stabilisation of greenhouse gases at a level that would prevent a dangerous anthropogenic rise in global temperature. [1]

Since 1995 those countries that have ratified the Convention – 197 to date, have met annually to monitor progress and to map a course of action to achieve the stated ambition.  The 23rd session of these ‘Conference of the Parties’ [COP 23] is now in session in Bonn; those delegates who are able to look beyond the comfortable confines of the conference venue and consider both the last 25 years and the future prospects, might have cause to ask what really has been achieved.

Since the mid 1990’s global concentrations of Carbon Dioxide – the main but certainly not the only greenhouse gas, have steadily risen and are now more than 60% higher at 403 parts per million compared with a reference figure of 285ppm for the pre-industrial world. [2] Global temperatures have continued to climb and are now 1C above the pre-industrial average.  Sea levels are 83mm higher than in 1993 and 200mm higher since 1870. [3]

In Paris 2015, the COP 21 unanimously adopted the ambition to limit average total global warming to ‘well under 2C, aiming for a limit of 1.5C’ [4].  2C has been accepted by all governments as the level beyond which any changes to the global climate will have ‘dangerous consequences’. These include: prolonged drought, more violent storms, longer heat waves, accelerated ocean acidification and ice-melt, leading to food and water shortages, fire risk, property damage, rising sea levels and greater tidal surges, and increased threats to human health and welfare. As an understanding of the consequences of current climate trends has deepened, so it has become apparent that even a 2C average rise will have severe consequences in many parts of the world, hence the ambition for 1.5C maximum.

The Paris Conference was supposed to signal a new determination to get to grips with carbon emissions and to take the risks of climate change seriously.  Yet CO2 levels continue to rise and rates of emissions hit a record high in 2016.  What chance therefore of keeping below the agreed ‘dangerous’ threshold of 2C?

A UN report in 2014 [5] calculated that to keep within the 2C limit, total human generated emission of CO2 would need to be limited to 29,000 Gigatonnes.  This is the carbon budget that the human population of the planet has to ‘spend’ before entering the territory of ‘dangerous climate change’.  We have to date spent about 74% of this budget and still emissions are rising.  If we are to keep below 2C we have about 19 years of emissions left – at current average rates, before we enter the relm of dangerous climate change.  That is the amount of time we have to stabilise emissions to be balanced by the rate of absorption of CO2 by seas and forests. We are a long way from achieving that balance

In 2012 Fatih Birol, the IEA’s chief economist, concludes ominously that current emission trends are “perfectly in line with a temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, which would have devastating consequences for the planet”.  Devastating puts it mildly.  Such a rise would make most land areas uninhabitable, not only for humans but also for most other species including those we rely on  to feed us.  Commenting on the record temperatures of 2012, Christine Lagarde head of the IMF said: “Make no mistake: without concerted action, the very future of our planet is in peril.” Since 2012 matters have not improved.

All this begs the question whether the UN COP process is a complete waste of time.  In terms of what is happening in to global climate, weather systems, the oceans and ecosystems, its achievements seem limited.  High on rhetoric, low on delivery. But is is the only global forum that is addressing this as a global problem, a problem that can not be solved at any local or national level.  Only through cooperative international effort will adequate measures be put in place.

COP is a ‘Conference of the Parties’ that is a government level forum for negotiation.  We have now come to a position where it is clear that Governments on their own can not and will not deliver the action needed to avoid an existential threat to civilisation.  As the COP  has matured, more non-governmental organisations and ad-hoc groups have become associated with it.  Their original purpose was to apply pressure to the assembled governments through lobbying and sheer presence, witnessing and reporting on a sorry catalogue of compromise and failure.  The so called ‘civil society’ presence at the COP has now grown to significant proportions, bringing opportunities for networking and initiating actions at ground level to combat the realities of a changing climate that some are experiencing now and in time we will all have to face.  It is this global forum of people that is perhaps the real success of the COP and  the real hope for the future of our planet.

Mike Shipley

 

Written by Mike Shipley November 2017

 

                                                                        ***

  1. http://unfccc.int/essential_background/convention/items/6036.php
  2. http://www.climatechangenews.com/2013/12/31/carbon-dioxide-levels-now-61-higher-than-1990/
  3. https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/
  4. http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php
  5. https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf

 

References used:-

http://kevinanderson.info/blog/category/chapters-books/#_edn2

https://www.cigionline.org/articles/bonn-climate-conference-what-issues-are-key-cop23-1

http://www.climatechangenews.com/2013/12/31/carbon-dioxide-levels-now-61-higher-than-1990/

https://climate.nasa.gov/vital-signs/sea-level/

https://www.co2.earth/global-warming-update

http://unfccc.int/paris_agreement/items/9485.php

https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar5/syr/SYR_AR5_FINAL_full.pdf

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/datablog/2017/jan/19/carbon-countdown-clock-how-much-of-the-worlds-carbon-budget-have-we-spent

 

Save Our Trains – The campaign continues

trais petitionWe were able to hand in a petition of over 8,500 signatures before the Consultation deadline. But that doesn’t mean things have stopped, or are stopping.

Please fill in a couple of details about you at https://goo.gl/forms/rBuAqwBI0g5LOiFE3, so we stand a chance of sending you our occasional messages that are more relevant to you.

Also, if you are in/near/passing through Bedford next Monday (6th), please do come along to the AGM of the Bedford Commuters Assoication which will be held at 7.30 pm on Mon at The RAFA Club, 93 Ashburnham Road. See http://bedfordcommuters.org.uk/
This could be really important for the SaveOurTrains campaign. It is vitally important for us that we get Bedford Commuters Assoication to work more cooperatively/enthusiastically to ensure the train service we need is provided by the new franchise. Lots of voices making that clear at the meeting would be VERY welcome.

To get there Next Monday, when you leave Bedford Station turn Left. The RAFA Club is located 100 Yards up Ashburnham Road on the right. Their website is clear – Everyone welcome. Free Entry

The photo is an example of the sort of ongoing campaigning that we are promoting/encouraging over the next part of the campaign. A cross-party delegation of five MPs from constituencies served by four different stations went to talk to the Rail Minister to make sure he heard what their constituents (us) have been telling them. We need to work now to make sure more MPs, as well as employers/businesses/councils are passing the right messages on to the Rail Minister, while he has time to work out what a better franchise specification would be!

Ben Foley Bedford, United Kingdom