Sunday, 7 January 2018

The signs are good!

Green Party Councillors Karen Allison and Andrew Cooper spent their Sunday morning cleaning the boundary signs for Newsome and Berry Brow in the area they represent on Kirklees Council.

Councillor Karen Allison said 

"Every couple of years the grime and sap builds up on our local Village signs so we spent a couple of hours going round and giving them a really good clean.  It is an easy way of helping give a good impression of our area. There's nothing worse than entering an area with a mucky sign. It makes the place look uncared for. We could have sent an email to someone in the Council to go and do it but it was easier to fill a bucket with soapy water and just go and do it. Its such an easy thing to do and shows that Councillors can be about more than just sitting around in meetings all day."

Councillor Cooper said,

" The sign cleaning is something we have done for a few years now but volunteering is part of our ethos which is why we do a Christmas Bus Service and organise local community clean ups. I think its important that people see  their elected representatives not just talking the talk but walking the walk"

Thursday, 28 December 2017

"I could do your job!" - The death of deference

'Deference' being sought in Planet of the Apes
One thing I've always been uncomfortable with is deference. I don't like the heirarchical nature of our country. It is what makes me an instinctive Republican. I've never been a big fan of authority in any form. Living in a country where we defer to people who have privilege and position by accident of birth makes me feel like I am living in some sort of bizarre Ruritanian fantasy kingdom as opposed to the modern European democracy that I wish we were but just aren't.

I've never believed that people in managerial or political positions are inherently in any way superior and I have, what I regard, as a healthy disrespect for authority. It's one of the things that got me involved in politics in the first place. The need to take on the pompous, the bullies and those who believe they have a right to the positions they hold or those who believe that no one has a legitimate democratic right to challenge them.  When I was first elected and many years afterwards I inwardly winced when Council officers referred to me as 'Councillor' and I tried to steer them in the 'Call me Andrew' direction. Now I recognise that Council Officers referring to me as 'Councillor' is a way of them emphasising their professional detachment and being clear about our respective roles which is not the same as the deference I so despise. I live with the title, I guess I've earn't it.

The general populace has caught up and deference to politicians is not what it was in years gone by. This has got to be a good thing. It comes as a bit of a shock after 18 or so years on the Council to find that some people regard you as part of 'the establishment'. So one Saturday night a few weeks ago  I'm wandering through Huddersfield Bus Station and this drunken guy shouts across at me  "Hey! you're Andrew Cooper, my MP. I could do your job but I bet you couldn't do mine!", It was on the tip of my tongue to come out with some witty remark referencing what I thought his job might be but I decided instead to just give him a cheery wave and say 'Bye!'. Of course, and unfortunately, I wasn't his MP and a Councillor gets about a seventh of the salary of an MP. I also guess that he only hadn't the faintest idea of what I actually did as a Councillor (orwhat an MP did come to that) and that to him it would be something along the lines of just saying whatever came into my head in a meeting and who can't do that for goodness sake? Just as a drink or two can make people bold so can social media and I often read whimsically the inaccurate comments made about me or my role on the Huddersfield Examiner Facebook page by some people. The latest was someone who asserted that I could claim back my energy bills in expenses from the Council ' I'm afraid not matey!' I didn't bother trying to correct him. Maybe I should have done.

 So has the lack of deference to politicians gone too far? I don't think so and politicians can worry too much about what some guy posts (it usually is a guy) on social media about them. We've just got to a certain extent 'suck it up'. Every now and again someone will cross a line but generally we've got to live with it or take them on as you see fit. A bit of a thick skin can be helpful to people in the public eye.

Deference and the love of positions for their own sake is, however, not dead. For some politicians the title as opposed the role, and the deference/respect that comes with those positions, remains a prime motivator. It concerns me greatly because a desire for a position is not generally a good measure of someone's suitability for that position. If that position is achieved by patronage to secure the deference of colleagues then that concerns me even more. So though some regard me as part of 'the establishment' these days I will continue to challenge those in power and those who seek it for the wrong reasons. I've never sought deference and I won't be providing it to anyone else any day soon.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Fire without smoke - Green Councillor proposes banning a 'banned substance'

From 'Huddersfield - The Handbook' 1960!
The whole of Kirklees is a Smoke Control Area This means that if you burn fuel that gives off smoke you could be fined up to £1000. The original Clean Air Act was introduced in 1956 as a way of dealing with the epidemic in respiratory conditions arising from people living  in an environment with thousands of chimneys belching out smoke. Most homes were heated primarily by housecoal, which is not smoke free. The introduction of smokeless coal and more homes getting connected to gas meant that air quality was vastly improved. The whole of Kirklees is a Smoke Control Area which means that it is effectively illegal to burn housecoal anywhere in the district.So if it is illegal to burn it why can you still buy it? You go to petrol stations, hardware stores and solid fuel merchants and they stock it and they presumably sell it. The people who buy it I'm guessing don't just stockpile it to look nice for display purposes only. I can't really imagine someone proudly showing their visitors their huge bile of the black stuff saying "Come and have a look at my heritage coal which I can't burn. Looks great doesn't it! Really black and dirty." So tonnes and tonnes of this stuff flies off the forecourts and coal yards each year and adds to the atmospheric soup of pollution we all breathe in. So one idea I'm exploring with Kirklees Legal officers is whether we can establish a local byelaw to ban the stuff. It should be uncontroversial. Why are people allowed to buy a fuel they can't burn anyway?  I remember when smokeless fuel was a bit rubbish and difficult to light compared with housecoal. Now smokeless fuel is a better product and some even boasts it contains 50% renewable components like Ecocoal. Smokeless or not,  coal is bad for our global environment in terms of carbon emissions but dealing with the immediate health impacts of housecoal by restricting it's sale should be something we had done years ago so lets see if we can do it.

What happens next having advocated a ban on the sale of housecoal is a chorus of "What about you greenie types and your woodburners? That may be renewable but it gives off smoke?" This can be true if you have a  poor wood burner and fuel with a high moisture content but it doesn't have to be like that. Kiln dried fuel and DEFRA approved wood burners/boilers can ensure smoke is kept to a miminum. The other benefit is that you can help support local employment by buying a DEFRA approved Dunsley Yorkshire Boiler like mine, manufactured in Holmfirth .No I'm not on commission!

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

PRESS RELEASE - 25 years of Green Party Christmas Buses

Huddersfield Greens are marking 25 years of the volunteer buses they have been running over the Christmas Holidays since 1992. Councillor Andrew Cooper who is a volunteer driver said,

“I remember the first one we ran in 1992 which we ran as a protest against the removal of services over the holiday period. Since then some services have been resumed in some areas in recent years on Boxing Day”

Newsome Green Party Councillor Karen Allison who has also been a volunteer on the bus service said

“I really enjoy doing the bus service each year and it is now very much part of my Christmas holiday
routine. At this time of year when there are limited public transport services taxi journeys can be expensive particularly from rural villages so people who use the minibus we operate really do value it. We put timetables on bus stops and in local shops so people are aware of our schedule. The service is free to use but donations towards fuel costs are always welcome. A copy of our timetable is below.”

The minibus is now provided by Kirklees Council through Commodle which provides a wide range of Council equipment for community activities.

The 2 services provided are on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. On Boxing Day a service connects Grange, Moor and Flockton with Huddersfield Town Centre and on New Years Day the service runs from Berry Brow,Newsome into Town and on the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.”

Boxing Day - Flockton/Grange Moor/Lepton/Huddersfield

Monday, 27 November 2017

Driving climate action in Kirklees - Andrew Cooper - European Committee ...

It took pretty much a full day to film this and it was cold! Nice to meet Sue Lee-Richards and Louise Galvin at Castle Hill with other volunteers cleaning up after Bonfire Night and who became impromptu extras. Then down to Gideon and Sue's house to look at all their renewable energy gizmos and the electric car. Well done to the film crew from Brussels who did such a good job putting it together.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Labour back Stewart Smith’s plans to build on the Newsome Bowling Green site

Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner speaking against Stewart Smith's
planning application
The Newsome Bowling Green that was dug up by Stewart Smith a few months ago, after he denied local bowlers access and demolished their club house, has been granted Planning Permission following a proposal by a Labour Councillor on the Planning Committee. Mr Smith claims he will make a million pounds from the sale of the site.

Green Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner who represented residents at the Planning Committee said,

 "Just because Mr Smith has destroyed the current Bowling Green it does not mean a new one cannot be developed on the same site. It would be a sad reflection on the Council if someone was allowed to abuse some land and then we gave in to them doing what they like on it”

A legal Covenant held by Kirklees Council remains on the land that says it can only be used as a Bowling Green

“The Covenant on the land still stands and we as local Councillors will not be bullied by anyone into removing it” said Julie who called on the Committee to support the residents and refuse the Application.
Labour Councillor James Holmewood supporting Stewart Amith's application

Labour Councillor James Holmewood then moved the recommendation to approve Mr Smith’s application to build on the site

“I am happy to move the recommendation” Labour Councillor James Holmewood who was seconded by the Conservatives

The Covenant is the last line of defence against building on the site and local Green Councillors will have to be overruled by the Labour Cabinet if it the Covenant is to be lifted to allow Mr Smith to develop on the land.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Bonn breakthrough as Climate Summit agrees Local and Regional Targets

At COP23 in Bonn today at the Climate Summit of Local and Regional Leaders agreement was acheived to establish Local and Regional targets to help keep global temperatures below 1.5 - 2 degrees C.

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper who conceived the idea of Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions towards acheiving the climate goals of the COP21 Paris Climate Agreement said,

"I am really pleased by the decision today from delegates from around the world. It has been a 2 year journey from first having the idea to getting the EU Committee of the Regions to adopt it, to todays vote on the Summit Declaration of Local and Regional Leaders. The real work starts now in implementing Local and Regional Contributions towards reducing emissions in line with the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement"

The Summit Declaration which was adopted unanimously stated,

" We will establish our own Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions to help national Governments  achieve and exceed existing Nationally Determined Contributions"

Councillor Cooper said

"At COP21 in Paris 2 years ago National Governments expressed their efforts to achieve carbon emission reduction targets as ‘Nationally Determined Contributions’ - NDCs. In the case of the UK our NDC made no reference to the work being undertaken by Local Authorities to reduce emissions. Efforts at the local level such as improved building standards beyond building regulation, installing LED street lights, planting trees to capture carbon emissions etc were simply not measured or taken into account in those national contributions and therefore not valued. A system of Locally Determined Contributions would change all that and allow Local and Regional Authorities to determine their own targets with robust plans to acheive them.

There is of course a strong relevance here to those in the United States who are opposing the Trump Administration's abandonment of the Climate Agreement. Many States are already forging ahead with carbon saving plans despite Trump but an agreed system of Local and Regionally determined Contributions gives structure and legitimacy to their action based on an international agreement."