Sunday, 9 November 2014

Full Council - Debate on a Shared All Party Administration - 'Winter is coming!'



Kirklees Council is facing its biggest ever challenge. Huge cuts in budgets, totalling £152million, redundancies of over a thousand already made and at least the same again to come. The governance of the Council remains with a minority administration in this instance the Labour Party.  It was against this backdrop that I proposed at the last Full Council meeting an All Party Shared Adminstration with a Cabinet composed of leading members from all political groups to work together to tackle the problems facing the Council. It is fair to say that it didn’t go down well.
If you want to watch the debate starts at 2.44.50 here 

Cllr Nicola Turner, the new Lib Dem Leader’s line is that she doesn’t have to be on the Cabinet to influence the Council. This is of course true and is true of every Councillor of every Party but it is a bogus argument. The Council’s power lies in the Cabinet as that is where decisions are made.  To be part of the Cabinet gives real power and real responsibility just as the Lib Dems claim they have in Government. Maybe they are not so keen on power as they used to be.

The real vitriol came from the Conservatives. The Conservatives usually deploy Cllr Andrew Palfreeman during the budget debates to attack the Greens and they rolled him out to address our motion. He often uses humour to good effect but not on this occasion. Andrew accused me of being ‘na├»ve’ and claimed we had, ‘kept Labour in power’.  In reality no other group put themselves forward to run the Council following the last local elections and Andrew was conveniently forgetting that the Conservatives actually put Labour in charge of the Council in 2012 in return for a disproportionate number of Committee places. He’s also forgetting that the Greens have supported both Conservative and Lib Dem minority administrations over the past 15 years when we have felt there was a benefit to Kirklees in doing so. He referred to the ‘incompetence’ of the Labour administration which rather begged the question as to why they didn’t want to be part of the administration to deal with it if he really felt their 'imcompetence' was such a problem. He went on to say that the Greens should, ‘get to the back of the queue where they belong’ and that we needed to be ‘put in our place’. Well I guess that was exactly what I was proposing. As the smallest group on the Council we would have a proportionately smaller voice in a Cabinet formed from members of all political groups. If anything I was asking the Conservatives to actually ‘get in the queue’ and take some responsibility but alas to no avail. Cllr Palfreeman used a quote by George R R Martin the writer of Game of Thrones in his speech saying I was denying a 'hard truth' that the Greens had put Labour in power. Of course the most famous, and oft repeated quote from his book/hit TV series 'Game of Thrones' is ' Winter is coming' meaning there are hard times ahead. Hard times are coming for Kirklees and the Tories want no part in managing the depleted finances that their Government have given us.

The meeting ended in shambles. The Mayor didn’t allow me to sum up at the end of the meeting and no vote was taken on the motion which probably suited a lot of people in the room who weren’t over keen on being counted on this issue. Cock up? Conspiracy? Who can say? What the debate did manage to do was to shine a spotlight on the fact that running Kirklees Council is not a particularly attractive prospect. In hard times the sidelines is a very comfortable place for some parties to be. There are Parties who say a Green vote is a wasted vote. Voting for Parties who won’t take responsibility sounds like a wasted vote to me.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Full Council - Lib Dems Tipping Point Motion – “They don’t like it up em!”




All credit to the Lib Dems. They beat us to it in proposing the Kirklees Campaign Against Climate Change inspired motion on the ‘Tipping Point’ – the point at which we go past the point of no return on Climate Change and the urgent need to act now.  I couldn’t let the moment pass without mentioning the Lib Dems actual record in Government as the Party actually in charge of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. When Chris Huhne was in the driving seat of DECC (and definitely no one else!) they declared they were going to be the ‘Greenest Government Ever’. The truth has been somewhat less than that. Massive cuts to the Energy Company Obligation Budget to placate the readers of ‘The Sun’,  severe reductions in the Feed In tariffs for solar energy, the UK heading for total failure in our obligations under the EU 2020 Renewable Energy Directive and a disgraceful role in removing binding targets at the EU level on energy efficiency and renewable energy for the 2030 targets. It would not be responsible of anyone who really knew the issues to leave the Lib Dems to ‘get the onion out’ and talk about how deeply they felt about Climate Change without comment.  So I did comment and a fair bit of personal animosity came my way thereafter.  I played the ball, the Lib Dems decided to play the man. No problem for me.

Lib Dem Cllr David Ridgeway said that all I could do was ‘snipe, mither, moan and bicker’ talk ‘tripe’  and make ‘crass comments’and claimed that I was saying that only the Green Party knew about these issues. In fact the concerns I raised were those raised by the energy efficiency and renewable energy industries. These are people who employ skilled workers across a range of technologies who are laying off staff, scaling back work and sometimes going out of business altogether.the people who often suffer are those on low incomes who don't get a new boiler or the insulation they might have expected. My comments were legitimate but a bit tough for a loyal Lib Dem to take I guess.

Some of the real venom came from Lib Dem Cllr Andrew Marchington. A bit of a shame really I used to know him in the distant past in the 80s in my old Young Liberal days. It is pretty obvious he has an issue with me in particular but then I am critical of the Party he represents. He definitely went off on one about the Greens in general and even got onto talking about the Swiss Green Party which he obviously knows more about than me.  He accused me of saying,  “The Greens are the only ones who understand it”  actually my information is based on the science and the oft expressed views of the sustainable energy industries. He even accused us of being more left wing than Labour - not a difficult task really.  He did confess to being a bit wound up during the debate. Ah well!

If you want to see it all its true horror I start speakingat 2.23.30. and the Lib Dems start losing it shortly after that. http://connect.kirklees.public-i.tv/site/player/pl_v7.php?a=152944&t=&m=flash&l=en_GB

The other thing worth noting is that the Conservatives abstained on the motion with no explanation why. This should have been acutely embarrasing to Conservative Leader Robert Light who understands  the issues and has been the Deputy Lead at the Environment Agency. I guess the climate change denying /anti wind turbine wing in his Party held sway on this one. Poor Robert!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Councillors Fix Road! Can they fix it? Yes they can!

 Cllrs Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough -  Road Builders!

Local Green Party Councillors Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough have rolled up their sleeves to fix a road in Kirkburton.

Church Green is a cul-de-sac in Kirkburton which the road surface was damaged by flooding a few years ago. Unfortunately as it is an unadopted road, serving just a few houses, Kirklees has had no responsibility to repair the road and with funding being constrained anyway it was unlikely that it would be improved in the near future.

Kirkburton Green Councillors Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough secured a supply of road planings from the Council which they could use to put a new surface on the road but were told that due to funding constraints it would be down to local people to lay the road.

Councillor Derek Hardcastle said, “The planings tipped in a large pile, needed spreading over the whole road surface. We realise that residents have work commitments and could be phased by taking on a new task like putting down a road surface and wouldn’t know where to start with hiring appropriate equipment so we thought we’d have a go ourselves. We were also fortunate to be helped by two of the residents”

Councillor Robert Barraclough said “As I’ve worked in farming for over 40 years I’m used to using machinery such as mini diggers and it is a fairly straightforward job. It is not the same as an adoptable road but it will be a much better road surface than these householders have had for quite some time”

We are happy to say, thanks to all this help, the resurfacing was completed in a single day.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Response to misleading article on Green Party efforts to save Shepley Library by Kirkburton Tory Councillor

Green Cllrs Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough at Shepley Library
Recently, writing on the Shepley Village Website, Councillor Armer asks why have the Green Party not discussed the matter of our proposal to help save Shepley Library with him. Well we have specifically asked that he be a member of the Parish Councils Library Committee so he has a say on all proposals that come forward and all our proposals that affect the Parish Council go before the Council for debate and agreement. If Green Councillors have an initiative or a proposal we shouldn’t have to check with Cllr Armer before we go public with them. I’m sure that isn’t the way the other Parties operate and Cllr Armer could have approached his fellow ward Cllrs for information and offered support for their proposal. I think he is more concerned about the fact that we have come up with a proposal and he hasn’t.

We wholeheartedly agree that the campaign to save Shepley Library should be community lead. All we have done is remove an obstacle for them by proposing the Parish Council covers the gap in funding for the Libraries running costs for gas, electricity , cleaning etc. for a to be agreed set period of time. This is a vital first step in enabling them to establish their own Business Plan which will be needed if the building is to be successfully transferred from Kirklees Council to the community of Shepley.

Cllr Armer asks where these funds will come from and really he already knows the answer . It will be an integral part of the Parish Councils budget and that is the proposal we will be making at our November Council meeting. Shepley people pay their Parish precept along with their Council Tax and the Library is a top concern for people in the village so it makes sense for the Parish Council to support it and give some benefit back. The Village Association that is working to save the Library is aware and has been fully informed of our proposals throughout.

Cllr Armer says that I said the Parish Council should fund current staffing levels at the public meeting in Shepley of £50,000 increasing the Parish Precept by £45, in fact there were lots of suggestions at the meeting, but Green Party Cllrs have never proposed that as an option. At the meeting we were all informed by the library management that the current annual running costs of the building, less current income, are in the region of £5000. Our above proposal would amount to an annual cost of £5000/year or less to the Parish Council which we believe is good value to keep the library building open. Cllr Armer knows this as he was also at the meeting, but yet is determined to play his political hand again.

We are very disappointed by the criticism of the Green Party efforts to help save Shepley Library by Councillor Armer and sadly note where there is an absence of any initiative from him and his Party then he resorts again to criticise and knowingly mislead local people. We trust that when our proposals come before the Parish Council he will do the right thing and support them in the interests of Shepley Village and the future of its Library.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Owen Paterson MP - Not nice but definitely dim

He's a millionaire, ex public schoolboy, climate change denying and a former Tory Environment Minister so I wasn't expecting much from him when he was interviewed on BBC Radio 4s Today Programme last week. Out of the stream of illogical drivel he came out with one statement he made stood out. It was the claim that renewable energy technologies "don't work". It was a bizarre claim that could only be based on ignorance or prejudice but most likely both. If he was right and renewables didn't work then they wouldn't just not work in the UK they wouldn't work anywhere. Of course climate, topography and latitude will all play a part so the UKs wind, tidal, solar and hydro resource give us a huge advantage over many other EU countries. We are however doing very poorly compared with our European neighbours. The EU overall target for 2020 is to have 20% of total energy produced from renewable sources. The UK was given a lower target of 15% to recognise our poor starting point. To date with around 5 years to go we are hovering around the 5% mark. So we're going to fail and fail spectacularly. It is not our climate or latitude or topography that are the principal reasons for this failure it is politics. The faith in market approaches to deliver has simply not worked. A lack of investment in energy conservation and constantly changing policy on renewables coupled with outright hostility from Tory Ministers supported by compliant Lib Dems has meant the 'Greenest Government Ever' has turned out to be even worse than the previous ineffective Labour Government. So using the medium of Twitter I asked if the laws of physics were somehow different in other countries that meant their renewables worked and ours didn't. It struck a chord with some folk and managed 706+ retweets which is a record for your truly.

The big unanswered question for me is why did the 'hug a husky' Prime Minister Cameron make this idiot a Cabinet Minister for anything and for the Environment in particular. While at DECC he refused to meet with David Mackay the principal government advisor on energy matters. Paterson is clearly a man who wasn't interested in facts that conflicted with his own beliefs. He seems to have been introduced to appease the Tory right and George Osbourne who for all their hostility and inaction either are, or may as well be, climate change deniers.

Paterson now is marketing himself as a posterboy for climate change denial by speaking at events run by Nigel Lawson's discredited Global Warming Policy Foundation and venting his disdain for green lobby groups by referring to them/us as Green Blobs. His status as an ex minister will mean the fruitcake will still get media coverage but it is a shame that he probably won't get very challenging questions and his views will be given undue credence.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

PRESS RELEASE - Green Councillors carry out Pothole tour of the Newsome Ward



Green Party Councillors Julie Stewart-Turner, Andrew Cooper and Karen Allison have carried out a survey of every street in the area they represent.
  
“We have looked at over 250 streets in the Newsome Ward to assess the road condition” said Councillor Julie Stewart Turner
  
“Around £800’000 has been allocated for pothole repairs so we wanted tomake sure that Kirklees were presented with as complete a list as possible. We know there simply aren’t the numbers of Kirklees staff needed to go round every street. We’ve been everywhere from Hall Bower to Highfields and from Lockwood to Lowerhouses and it is clear that we have a seriously deteriorating road network. In tough times Councillors need to be even more active to ensure issues like poor road conditions are not ignored. ”
  
Councillor Andrew Cooper said,
  
“Central Government have taken over £152 million out of Kirklees funds and have given back about £800’000 for pothole repairs. Dealing with potholes can only ever be a sticking plaster solution and doesn’t solve the long term issue of lack of funding. People are paying the same amount of council tax and getting less for it while government subsidises  multi billion pound projects like HS2 and the Trident missile programme. Government priorities should be about investing in projects which help peoples everyday lives and the pothole strewn road network is a clear example of the mixed up priorities of the Coalition Government.”

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

PRESS RELEASE - Greens propose support for Shepley Library costs

Councillors Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough outside Shepley Library
 
Kirkburton Green Party Councillors Derek Hardcastle and Robert Barraclough have proposed that Kirkburton Parish Council offer to contribute to the running costs for Shepley Library.

A community lead group in Shepley is being established to work with Kirklees to seek a Community Asset Transfer to ensure Library service remain in the village. Councillor Derek Hardcastle said,

 “For Shepley to put forward a convincing case to Kirklees to transfer the building to the community it will need to demonstrate that it has secure funding to maintain the buildings plus costs for water, gas, electricity, cleaning, waste removal costs etc. We will propose that at the Parish Council’s annual budget meeting the Council agrees an amount to be set aside for that purpose. This would help to provide a sustainable long term future for the Library.”

 Councillor Robert Barraclough said,

 “I would like us to put aside this money over a full four year term of Kirkburton Parish Council and seek to ensure that this becomes a ring fenced element of the Parish Councils budget for future years"

Contact:- Robert Barraclough – 07778 315577 Derek Hardcastle – 07779 628147