How to get people out of their cars

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Transport | Posted on 09-12-2014

Bus at Perdiswell Park and RideI pushed for a number of topics to be discussed at future meetings of the Environment, Economy and Communities Panel, of which I am a member. At the end of November one of these topics, sustainable transport, was addressed with expert evidence coming from Professor Parkhurst, from the University of the West of England.

Professor Parkhurst said that councils should invest in better bus routes further away from cities to reduce the need for car trips into places like Worcester. He criticised some Park and Ride schemes, saying that although they did ease congestion in city centres, they actually created more traffic further out. His preferred alternative is for a ‘Link & Ride’ scheme, which consists of small Park and Ride sites along a route.

The focus for any council should be on far better cycling, walking and bus provision. This is the most cost effective way of getting people to drive less and so reduce pollution and congestion, whilst also improving public health. Any new developments, such as in the South Worcestershire Development Plan, should be designed to make it far easier to travel by alternative means of transport, such as on foot, by bike or by public transport. Professor Parkhurst’s evidence will be fed into the next County transport plan and I will continue to ensure that sustainable transport remains a high priority.

 

Pride and Shame of immigration

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Immigration | Posted on 30-10-2014

Nicholas Winton

Nicholas Winton

On the same day that the Conservative-led coalition announced that it would not support search-and-rescue missions aimed at preventing migrants from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, Sir Nicholas Winton was honoured at a ceremony in Prague. As a young man, Sir Nicholas had arranged for hundreds of Jewish children from Czechoslovakia to escape Nazi terror and find safety with foster families in the UK.

It is both shameful and a depressing reflection on the level of debate surrounding immigration that Government Ministers can claim that it is wrong to save the lives of people fleeing from war-torn countries in North Africa because doing so would “simply encourage more people to attempt the dangerous sea crossing”. These people are desperate and will continue to risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean. How can deliberately letting people drown be considered the morally right thing to do?

Whilst the story of Sir Nicholas is inspiring and fills me with pride, I am ashamed that the British Government have taken such an immoral and inhumane decision.

Greens are the only real alternative

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Green Party, Politics | Posted on 18-10-2014

In England there are five main political parties, but only the Greens are offering a radical alternative to “business as usual”.

There is a loss of trust in the political system in this country and many people are looking elsewhere. The Worcester News prints many letters from UKIP members who frequently claim that they are offering something different. UKIP’s simplistic answers appeal to many disgruntled voters and former voters. However, when you look at the policies and vision (if they have one) of UKIP, Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats you find that they broadly want the same thing: To continue with our failed economic system, which is both increasing inequalities in society and damaging the environment.

The other parties regularly fail to address the long term issues, both locally and globally. We cannot continue an economic model based on perpetual growth, whilst living on a planet with limited resources, especially when the use of those resources is so unequal.

The threats of climate change, population growth, peak oil and global inequality point toward a very dangerous future if we cannot tackle them now. The Green Party is the only one looking long term, not 5 to 10 years ahead, but 50 to 100 years ahead. By having a vision of where we need to be, e.g., cleaner energy, less inequality, etc., we can start now to address how to get there. Maybe that is why the Green Party has such strong support amongst younger voters. Many of them know that by tackling these issues now, they will have a better chance of a decent future, both for them and their own children.

Setting the Committee Agenda

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Energy, Environment, Transport | Posted on 01-10-2014

As a member of the Economy, Environment and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel I was able to put forward some suggestions for topics that the panel could look at. I’m pleased to discover that three topics that I proposed have been accepted. They are:

  • Sustainable Transport System
  • Renewable Energy
  • Local Economic Multiplier

Hopefully I will be able to have some influence in how the County Council operates and what it focuses on through such activity. Here’s hoping…

Constitutional Change following Scottish Referendum

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Politics | Posted on 19-09-2014

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Following the defeat of the “Yes” campaign in the Scottish referendum on independence, questions about the support for our current constitutional settlement need to be addressed.

The debate triggered by the referendum has shown how people across the country have been left feeling unrepresented and neglected by Westminster policies and politics. It is clear that the “business as usual” approach to politics favoured by the three main parties is no longer resonating with the majority of voters.

There is a real chance to mount a serious reassessment of our political system – including a debate over the introduction of a written Constitutional Convention and Bill of Rights. There has to be political change in all parts of the UK, not only Scotland, in particular at the Westminster parliament.

We need greater devolution, giving more power to the regions, counties and cities. We need a better and fairer way to raise taxes locally via a land value tax rather than council tax. We need a change to the voting system to the fairer proportional representation. We also need to ensure a long-term approach to politics that considers the impact of decisions now on the world we leave for future generations.

This is a great opportunity, but there will be many in the “establishment” that will resist the significant changes that this country needs.

Climate Change – Our biggest challenge, that is easily ignored

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Climate change, Environment | Posted on 09-09-2014

CloudsCO2 concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere are increasing at their fastest rate for 30 years, the World Meteorologist Organisation have warned. So, despite all the warnings that we are heading for serious climate related problems in the near future and need to cut emissions, we are getting further away from our goal of drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Why is it so difficult to get our heads together and sort this out?

The main thing stopping sufficient steps being taken appears to be the long term nature of  climate change and the fact that it is global. The news in this country, as in others, moves from one short term story to another, such as Scottish independence, a royal baby, war in Ukraine, etc. These news stories come and go, some lasting longer than others, but none remaining indefinitely. The issues and solutions to tackling climate change have been around for some time and to some extent not much has changed. Hence, not very newsworthy. Further, since the most drastic impacts of climate change will be on people in the future, living elsewhere in the world, it means that in terms of self interest it is pretty low down in the scheme of things.

The biggest challenge for those of us who can see the dangers of “business as usual” is to persuade those who don’t appreciate why they should care about what happens in the future to people throughout the world.

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