Sunday, 20 April 2014

HMRC data sale

After the care.data caused uproar with the threat that information about us could be sold to private companies, I'm surprised and shocked that HMRC are doing the same with tax data even if it is anonymised.

No one has given permission for their data to be sold off and the government has no right to do this. I am personally ok with my income and tax payments to be in the public domain but I certainly don't wan't to be part of a data base of information that insurance companies, credit agencies and so on might find useful.

It is one thing for a company to search for my income and tax online, if it were published on a personal website, but it is a completely different matter to allow companies to have that data in a format that allows them to have significant insight into the finances of the majority of people in the country.

The HMRC says that the data will be anonymous but I don't think that is a reason to allow the sale either. There is a reason that the data has value, that reason is to allow targeting of groups of people with increased costs - but also remember that some data can be used to rebuild profiles and detailed information about individuals. If too much identifiable information is stripped out the data loses its value.

There appears to be little public outcry so far, one petition from Change.org and one from the Open Rights Group. Let me know if there are others!


Space for Cycling: Jon Snow and the CTC

Please see this call from Jon Snow (the presenter, not the Game of Thrones character) and the CTC for space for cycling. As a keen cyclist and local campaigner, this is particularly welcome and I have signed their pledge for support.


Friday, 18 April 2014

Caroline and Co: Not Guilty!

Really great news that Caroline Lucas and the four co-defendants were found not guilty of obstructing a public highway during the fracking protests in Balcolme. Comment here from Caroline.

Peaceful protest is a core part of democracy yet the police sometimes seem to think differently, ignoring the protestors rights to demonstrate and falsely prosecuting them.

One of our North West Euro candidates, Laura Bannister, was arrested last December in protests in Salford as part of the demonstrations against the Barton Moss drilling.

During the trial, the IPCC released their most devastating assessment of climate change so far. Drilling for more fossil fuels is what has put the planet in such peril. It must not be allowed to happen.

My congratulations to Caroline, Laura and everyone involved in protests against fracking. Keep up the good work.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

7000 children at high risk of asthma in Maidstone and 75 people died due to traffic

75 people died in 2010 and almost 7000 pupils are at high risk of lung disease. 12 schools are close to roads that carry over 10,000 vehicles per day based on research by Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East. Research has also shown that living near heavy traffic points can be attributed to 15-30% of new asthma cases in children as well as affecting the development of lung capacity.

School Name Number of pupils
Loose Infant School 271
Loose Junior School 362
Brunswick House Primary School 420
St Michaels CEI School, Maidstone 120
Maplesden Noakes School, The 1060
Maidstone Grammar School 1273
East Borough Primary School 426
St Michaels CEJ School, Maidstone 162
Maidstone Grammar School for Girls 1265
Invicta Grammar School 1220
South Borough Primary School 227
Total: 6806

This link between air quality, traffic and health has been understood for a long time by the Greens yet getting clear data from the government has been difficult. Public health data now show that 25,000 people died as a result of air pollution in 2010 from traffic - approximately 5.6% of all deaths.

Here in Maidstone, in line with the national average, 75 people died as a direct result of poor air quality - 5.6% of all deaths. Almost 10 times more people died as a result of air pollution from traffic as dies by from vehicle collisions.

It is long past the point when air pollution from traffic should have been tackled properly. Urgent action is needed including a significant investment in cycling, walking, public transport and local jobs.

I agree with Jeremy: Pointless

The Liberal Democrats are 'Pointless', says their own MP Jeremy Browne in the Times and reported in the Huffington Post.

I've long wondered what the driving ideology behind the Lib Dems was. There are clues in the names of most parties, even if they don't live up to them. The Conservatives (at least the more traditional ones) purport to be a party to preserve the status quo, Labour name suggest they are interested in workers, Greens clearly have the environment as a key concern (plus lots more issues of course), UKIP are fairly obvious in their rampant nationalism and so on.

But being liberal suggests a notion of freedom to do what you want and democrat suggests majority rule - as one Lib Dem once said to me 'it's a bit like mob rule'. Doesn't sound like much of a unique selling point to me and certainly not very liberal.

Then there is the centrist thing. While Tories and Labour fight for the centre ground traditionally inhabited by the Lib Dems, there is less for yellow team to work with. However, economically they are fairly right wing as any one who has read the Orange Book will tell you.

They are clearly past their best. A lack of USP and lack of core ideology make them pointless. There are some good people in the party and they need to consider whether their party is really right for them any longer.


Monday, 7 April 2014

Beware the Green Menace

That is the message from Labour's newsletter in Fant Ward this weekend. They have devoted almost their entire newsletter to attacking the Green Party, calling us the Green menace and accusing us of lies and myths.

They claim that we are outsiders in Fant and that our vote has collapsed while their bar chart shows our vote increasing. They seem to ignore that we got 23.1% in the last borough election against the winning post of 31.9%! They obviously have started talking to voters and have realised just how badly they are going to do.

A nasty leaflet from a nasty party. They are clearly very rattled and the voters can see that.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

How can you get across the River Medway in Maidstone without a car?

Dear Councillor Brazier,

A few days ago I learned that the 'High Level' bridge from Buckland Hill to Maidstone East was to be closed for two weeks. At the same time I saw the barriers to the subways removed. Imagine my joy that the high level bridge was likely to be made safe again and that the subways had reopened, it would almost be worth the extra three quarters of a mile walk along some of Maidstone's most dangerous roads for a couple of weeks.

However, having attempted to use the three-way subway this afternoon now that the barriers have come down, I got the to bottom of the steps to find the subway remains flooded. I then walked to the subway with the cycle path which had neither barrier or water in it until I reached the High St side where I found the barriers in place. As I had my bicycle with me, I had to climb over the barrier. It is now three and a half months since the floods and still half the subways are closed.

Also, I have complained about the length of time that pedestrians get to cross at the pelican crossings by Maidstone West station. Pedestrians have 6 seconds to cross before the man starts flashing and cars start revving their engines. I am a fit forty something and can only just cross in 6 seconds unless I run. Older users feel intimidated by the lack of time they have to cross there. I have yet to time the pelican crossing on Fairmeadow, but this is in an area with some of the poorest air quality in the town. You are obviously expecting pedestrians to subject themselves to the high levels of pollution, especially particulate matter which is currently responsible for around 1000 early deaths in Kent each year.

So for the next two weeks pedestrians and cyclists will have no easy or safe access to move from one side of the town to another. I suggest that you put the bridge repairs on hold until you have fixed the subways and I suggest that you consider long and hard what can be done to improve the conditions for pedestrians and cyclist in the county town.

Stuart