Why I’m joining the fight against austerity on 20th June

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Economy, Environment, Green Party, Politics | Posted on 17-06-2015

On Saturday 20th June I will be joining the many other people, including fellow Green Party members from Worcester and across the country, to demonstrate against the continuing austerity proposed by the Conservative government. The fact that the three main parties all support a version of austerity means that this is a protest against the austerity agenda itself, not just the current government.

A majority of economists would tell you that in a time of recession the government should be investing in the economy to boost growth and pay off the debt through higher tax receipts. From a Green perspective, this investment should be directed at the Green economy through a “Green New Deal”.

Protection of the most vulnerable in society is the other top priority and yet these are the people who are feeling the brunt of all the cuts to services. With the Conservatives expected to make £12-£15 billion cuts to welfare in the next few years, it is up to all of us who disagree with this to stand up and reject these cuts.

See http://www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk/end_austerity_now_national_demonstration_saturday_20th_june for more information about the demonstration.

Benches installed by the canal in the Arboretum

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Posted by Matt | Posted in News | Posted on 07-06-2015

It took slightly longer than expected, but benches are back along the canal in the Arboretum by Wolverton Road. There used to be benches here but over the years they got damaged and fell into disrepair.

bench

broken benches

When the Worcester Canal Group was formed two years ago it was one of our top priorities to get some benches back. It was also one of the pledges I made when I was standing for election two years ago (as the picture from my election leaflet shows).

The divisional fund of £10,000 per year that all County Councillors have to spend locally came in very handy in allowing the canal group to purchase the two benches. This is exactly the kind of project that the divisional fund is so useful in supporting. It is a tiny proportion of the County Council’s budget, but it goes a long way to improving the area.

A lot of work was done by various members of the canal group and the Canal & River Trust, who are really the ones that should be thanked. Special thanks go to Dan Daye for welding the benches to the ground, Jane Moorhouse for pushing the project along when it got rather bogged down, volunteers from St. Paul’s and CRT who came to help move the (very heavy) benches from Wickes where they were kindly stored until we were ready to install them.

The benches that we chose are very solid and so should withstand any attempt at vandalism. Plus, with stories in the local newspaper referring to people being assaulted along the canal, it is part of the aim of both the canal group and the Arboretum Residents Association to make the canal a nice place where people want to spend their time. This is the best way to counter any possible anti-social behaviour.

 

 

Election Results – My Initial Thoughts

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Green Party, Politics, Worcester Politics | Posted on 09-05-2015

Firstly, it was a good result for the Green Party, especially with Caroline Lucas’s excellent result in Brighton. We increased our share of the vote nationally from 1% to almost 4% and gained a number of Council seats across the country. In Worcester we got over 4% in the general election and we narrowly missed out on winning our second City Council seat. We are in a strong position in the coming years.

Secondly, the post-mortem has begun as to why so many of the undecided voters ended up voting for the Tories. There are, I believe, a number of factors that together meant that the Labour Party could not win.

  1. The global recession was the fault of the Labour Party. Of course this is nonsense, but the narrative stuck. The Conservatives and Lib Dems, backed up by the right-wing press, repeated the idea that Labour got us into this mess and Labour failed to respond adequately to counter it. Therefore, it was very difficult to regain many voters’ trust that the economy was safe in their hands.
  2. For Labour to stand a chance to be the next government it was clear from the polls that they needed the support of the SNP. The Tories used this to their advantage, again backed by the right-wing press. Within England, across the political divide, there are many people who believe that Scotland already gets more than its fair share. The thought that under a Labour government the SNP would have huge influence worried them. Labour were clearly aware of this danger, which was why Ed Miliband ruled out doing any deal with the SNP. However, the damage was done.
  3. It was never clear to me what the Labour Party stood for. As a Green Party member I am very clear as to what our party stands for. The same can also be said for the SNP and UKIP, and to a lesser extent the Conservatives. The only party with less of a clear vision are the Lib Dems and see what happened to them! Some of Ed Miliband’s policies were OK, if not inspiring. Often they appeared to be watered down Green Party policies. More importantly, there wasn’t a coherent vision of how they wanted society to be. Austerity-lite does not inspire.

Add to the above the relative unpopularity of Ed Miliband, the ferocious attacks from most of the print media, a seemingly improving economy and it was  all perhaps inevitable. The fact that the SNP could convince Scottish voters that anti-austerity was the way forward shows that it was not a matter of the Labour Party being too left-wing. They were just not in a position, due to point 1 above, to present a coherent case as to why an alternative to the cuts was possible; so they went along with the austerity agenda.

One hope I have from this result is that the Labour Party start to seriously consider voting reform, in particular the introduction of some form of proportional representation. Once they realise that they will struggle to form a majority government for many, many years, they may start to see the benefits. I know many people in Worcester who voted Green locally but Labour nationally to “keep the Tories out”. It probably cost us another 1000 votes and our £500 deposit! Perhaps from now on less and less people will do this and vote according to their principles and beliefs, and vote for the Green Party. Lets hope so.

20mph motion at next Council Meeting

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Health, Transport, Worcester Politics | Posted on 05-05-2015

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I am proposing a motion at the next full meeting of Worcestershire County Council on Thursday 14th May. It is calling for the council to rethink its current stance of limiting 20mph to a few areas, such as by schools. In light of the increasing evidence in favour of wide area 20mph speed limits on residential and urban roads, particularly in relation to public health improvements, I’m hopeful that the council will look again at this idea.

The motion is signed by members of the Green Party, Liberal Democrats and a Liberal, and I’m sure it could receive cross-party support. The full notice of motion is as follows:

Many councils across the country, of various party political control, have or are in the process of implementing wide area 20mph speed limits on residential and urban roads without traffic calming. Over 14 million people now live in these areas.

Public health and other bodies such as NICE, Public Health England, the LGA and the WHO all support such a policy. It is described as the most cost-effective way to improve health equality by tackling inactivity, obesity and isolation, whilst also being child, disability, elderly and dementia friendly.

Wide area 20mph limits rarely need any traffic calming measures and in other areas have been shown to be affordable, costing around £3 per person.

Implementing wide area 20mph limits should be a core part of our public health strategy. We therefore ask the County Council to rethink its current policy on 20mph, which restricts where they can be implemented, and call for a Cabinet report into introducing wide area 20mph speed limits on residential and urban roads.

Football Stadium queried by transport officers

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Posted by Matt | Posted in News | Posted on 27-04-2015

The Worcestershire County Council Transport planning unit has recommended that permission for Worcester City FC’s new ground be deferred.

They state that the Transport Assessment and Travel Plan is unacceptable. It needs to show that the proposed activities at the football ground can be accommodated alongside the existing leisure centre and proposed swimming pool.

The Strategic Planning and Environmental Policy Manager raises a number of issues with the proposal. For instance, it highlights the absence of any reference to what will happen to the excavated soil. It goes on to state that this soil should not be used on site in bunds or embankments, and that any attempt to do this as a way to reduce the anticipated noise impact would be inappropriate. They also have concerns over where waste storage and collection facilities will be located.

Clearly there is still much work for the Supporters Trust to do even to pass planning.

Residents’ voice not heard in swimming pool replacement

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Posted by Matt | Posted in Worcester Politics | Posted on 24-04-2015

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Sansome Walk Swimming PoolMany Arboretum residents have raised concerns about the uncertainty surrounding the City Council’s future plans for the pool site on Sansome Walk.

With rumours of the site being considered for a Pay & Display car park whilst the SWDP has the area earmarked for housing, it is important that the City Council is completely transparent about the options it is considering. This is especially important for those people living in the vicinity, since they would clearly want to have a say in any decision made.

A City Council spokesman was quoted in the Worcester News as saying that they would “keep all options open”. So, what are these options? There are serious existing concerns in the Arboretum area in relation to parking and so the nature of the replacement will be particularly important in as to how it effects such issues.

There was a consultation held at Sansome Walk Swimming Pool over a year ago, with four possible designs of housing. Many people engaged in that consultation, expressing their views about what should go there. I believe there was a widely held view that housing for the elderly would be appropriate. However, there has been no feedback to the Arboretum Residents Association or the local councillors about this consultation. This needs to be published.

I contacted Duncan Sharkey, the Managing Director of Worcester City Council, explaining the above concerns. I asked him to explain what is happening with this site and to make the whole process as transparent as possible. He has assisted with the former, as follows:

The Council has consulted around what type of housing scheme would be appropriate if we disposed for that purpose.

We are also internally considering the practical possibilities of using the site for car parking and will be costing that and considering how such a scheme might be funded. Once we understand the detail we’ll decide whether there is a viable option for car parking and, if there is, do we want to consider it going forwards.

If the answer is yes then we’d be engaging with local people much as we did with the housing option last year.

If not then we’d likely proceed with the housing proposals.

Although it was helpful to understand what is going on, I feel that this response is inadequate. My main concern is around the decision to even consider a car park in this area and the lack of transparency of this decision. Why are the City Council looking at building another car park and in this area? From a transport strategy perspective, Worcester is considered to have too many disparate car parks and would be better served by reducing and consolidating the existing ones. Congestion (and the resulting pollution) is one of the biggest problems that Worcester faces, yet building a car park in this location would obviously make matters worse.

Hence, following the election I feel that it is imperative that whoever runs the City Council opens up the question of what will replace the Sansome Walk pool. True consultation is giving people the options and letting them have a say. However, the current approach is that if a car park is viable and the City Council want to go ahead with it, then at that point local residents will be engaged. This is too late. Residents should be engaged now in having a say as to whether there should be housing, a car park, or something else.

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