Sunday, 26 March 2017

Unite for Europe with mum

So I had arranged to meet mum in London yesterday for an early mother's day treat. We were off to the National Portrait Gallery and a meal. She lives in Bristol so London is an easy place to meet. I met Greens on the train up who were going to the Unite for Europe march and having mentioned this to mum, plans were changed to take in the march.

Leaving Park Lane we marched with around a dozen Greens from Kent and there were at least 6 of us from Maidstone. I got interviewed by a couple of UCL students (I must stop jumping in front of a camera at every opportunity). Jon Bartley was there plus load of London Green friends including Caroline Russell.

While I dislike the free market aspect of the EU, the environmental and workplace protection is far better that the UK would have ever managed (this is the 'red tape' that those Brexiteers was removed, i.e. they want to screw people and planet). I'm also a fan of free movement around Europe whether it is allowing UK citizens to work and live in the EU or whether it is allowing other EU citizens to live and work here. We all benefit from these freedoms.

I am proud to be both British and a European and I don't think that just because of 52% of the country voting to leave after a bunch of lies being told in the run up to the referendum should be a mandate to end decades of close ties with Europe. Most countries want a far higher proportion before a constitutional change is made.

We now should have a further referendum on the terms of Brexit once they have been negotiated. People need to go into this with eyes open and the mandate should be clear before we leave - I think a 66% should be required for Brexit.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Electoral fraud in Kent

It has been an interesting week so far in Kent with the jailing of Steven Uncles at the weekend following his conviction of electoral fraud (he stood some fake candidates in the last county council elections). I am pleased that he got his come comeuppance - his treatment of elections was woeful (and fraudulent) and my previous complaint about him was dismissed by the police.

Also breaking news today that Craig McKinley MP for Thanet South has been interviewed by police into excess spending in the 2015 General Election is very welcome. While I hope and pray that Farage never makes it into Parliament, if the Tories are found to have undermined the democratic process in enough seats we may have an illegitimate government (what is happening with the other 28 cases?)

This would call into question the legitimacy of brexit and all of the awful thing that have happened since 2015. That will be something to exercise the lawyers for quite a while!



Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Maidstone council meeting - a question on air pollution

I pressed Maidstone Borough Council at this week’s Council meeting, highlighting that air pollution is currently responsible for around 130 deaths in the borough.  I asked what steps were being taken to address the pollution and how many additional deaths are likely with the planned housing increases around the periphery of Maidstone.

Shockingly, the council stated that they had not estimated the impact on deaths through air pollution as a result of the housing developments.

I have put out this statement: “I was pleased to learn that the council are at least talking about air pollution but really shocked to hear that they have not considered how much worse the air pollution will get with 20,000 new houses on the outskirts of the town.

“The majority of houses being built are larger properties at the edge of town and with Maidstone’s appalling public transport provision, most of these will have at least one car that will pollute the air that we breathe.

“While we completely recognise the housing crisis, we have repeated called for high density homes close to public transport links to be prioritised yet this has been ignored by the council and it is now clear that the death toll will continue to rise.”

Notes:

Initial question: “As air pollution is the second largest cause of preventable deaths and as it is responsible for around 130 deaths in this borough each year, can the council tell me what steps you are taking or are proposing to take to reduce the pollution”

Supplementary question:  “Can you tell me how much worse the air pollution will get with the 20,000 or so houses being built on the periphery of Maidstone, and therefore requiring cars, i.e. what will the annual death toll increase to?”

Calculations and evidence on 130 deaths is available here:  http://www.stuartjeffery.net/2015/12/air-pollution-kills-130-people-each.html

Monday, 20 February 2017

Air pollution secrecy at Maidstone Borough Council

Maidstone Greens have claimed that Maidstone Borough Council is hiding something after their refusal to provide documents relating to air pollution under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Greens requested the material after claims by the Lib Dems that they were meeting with council officers to tackle Maidstone air pollution.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: “Air pollution is responsible for around 130 people deaths each year in Maidstone and air pollution here is as bad as in central London so why are the council trying to cover up work that they promised to do to tackle it?

“They seem content to increase the number of cars driving through the town from the large housing developments on the periphery yet when it comes to tackling the appalling air pollution they are clearly not interested.

“And this is a Lib Dem led council and they are supposed to value freedom and transparency. I have to really question what they have to hide.”

Ends.


Notes:
  • FOI response below
  • FOI was requested in response to claims that Lib Dems were arrange a meeting to discuss the issue.
  • The exemption they are claiming is only to prevent draft documents being release whereas I have requested completed papers that are known to exist.
  • An appeal has been lodged.

From MBC:
Some of the information is enclosed in the format you requested. The remaining information is exempt under Regulation 12(4)(d) of the Environmental Information Regulations.

Regulation 12(4)(d) has been applied as the request relates to material that is still in the course of completion, unfinished documents or incomplete data.  The materials held by the working group are incomplete as they have yet to report findings and outcomes to committee, at which point the information will become publically available.  Regulation 12 (4)(d)  acknowledges that public authorities should have the necessary space to think in private. To this end, public authorities are entitled to refuse access if the request concerns material in the course of completion or internal communications. Having considered the public interest, the Department’s decision is therefore to withhold the information.


Friday, 27 January 2017

Homeless in Maidstone is rising. The council is doing very little.

This week's figures show that Maidstone has the 19th highest rate of rough sleepers in the country out of 326 local authorities. I find this shocking and it should be a sobering wake up call for the council who must take immediate action but won't. Maidstone Homeless Care have issued a warning that things are getting worse too. The article points out that "Homeless applications in Maidstone soared by 84 to 630 in the five years to April 2016, but the number of affordable homes built in 2015-16 was at its lowest level for 24 years." Well done to the KM for their campaigning.

There is a real lack of local and national government funding for short term shelters in the town. Organisations such as Porchlight, the Maidstone Day Centre and the Maidstone Churches Winter Shelter do excellent work but this is work that the council should be doing rather than relying on charities. Clearly the Lib Dem council is failing along with the austerity politics of the Tories and Lib Dems - they should be ashamed of themselves.

The council’s focus on building executive homes on the periphery of the town must be reversed too. The need is for affordable homes near to where the jobs, shops and public transport links are.

With my local Green colleagues I will continue to campaign tirelessly to reduce homelessness but it is time that the council took some real action too. Sadly it is not the marginalised, oppressed people in society that get to elect our politicians, rather it tends to be older wealthy middle classes who turn out to vote.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Bigotry towards the working classes, plusTrump, Brexit and climate change

I'm a huge fan of John Michael Greer's blog, even though his politics are way to the right of mine economically. His latest post focused on the bigotry of the liberal middle classes towards the working classes, a bigotry felt keenly by them and that helped to put trump in the White House yesterday and is also responsible for taking the UK out of the EU.

While the liberal middle classes rightly talk of liberation groups, they often ignore or worse still deliberately exclude the poorer people in society, those who simply want a decent job that pays enough to live on or alternatively need enough support from the state as they are unable to work. I'm sure other's remember Emily Thornberry's tweet of a picture of a house in Strood a couple of years ago: a Labour MP seemingly belittling a working class household for flying the St George Cross.

The bigotry is perhaps best demonstrated by Clinton's attempt to 'break through the glass ceiling' rather than focusing on the problems that the working class women were facing. While the glass ceiling is a common theme in feminism, it plays to the 1% rather than the 99%. Quite a few years ago I remember a discussion with Natalie Bennett when she talked of poverty being a feminist issue and it struck me then that this was a more urgent and widespread problem than the glass ceiling. Had Clinton focused her campaign on the working classes rather than being a representative of the elite, the result may have been quite different.

Instead we have a hyper nationalist leader of the formerly free world talking of America First and removing all reference to climate change from the White House website as one of his first acts of hatred against the planet. Of course I very much doubt that he will help the working classes either despite his election rhetoric.

But there is a chance that Trump may have a very positive effect on reducing CO2 emissions... Should his rhetoric against free trade introduce barriers that stifle the global economy or even crash it, then this will reduce emissions far faster than a UN COP agreement could blink. Of course if the crash was managed in a way that meant the 1% took the economic hit and if there was a fundamental redistribution of wealth, then this could be a truly good thing. Can't see those latter points happening though!

Which brings me neatly to my problem with the anti-brexit discussions, they often talk about the need for free trade as if somehow that was the most necessary part of the EU, (which is clearly is for many economists and corporate people). But 2016 was the hottest year on record and climate change is the biggest global threat to humans and the planet generally. There is only a tiny sliver of hope to prevent runaway climate change which will make the problems in the Middle East look like a rainy day compared to the approaching storm. Runaway climate change will devastate people and planet and there are clear signs that the feedback loops are starting such as the very low arctic ice and the methane from the tundra.

So campaigning to keep free trade when a massive shift in the way we consume is the only thing that will stop climate change seems a real failure to seize a final chance. Leaving the EU will be the wrong thing to do but continuing to grow the global economy will be far worse.


Sunday, 8 January 2017

Fracking in Sherwood Forest

Just a quick call to people. The latest threat to our land from the frackers is in Sherwood Forest of all places. I can't think of anywhere more English or a legend that encapsulates the English spirit better. The concept of standing up for the oppressed goes to the heart of Green values and now it is time to stand up and protect the forest and the Earth.

Start by signing the Friends of the Earth petition here https://act.foe.co.uk/act/save-sherwood-forest-fracking but make sure that you follow event on the various anti-fracking websites too - my favourite is The Warrior's Call a Pagan activist campaign against fracking but there are plenty of others including the ridiculously useful Drill or Drop from Ruth Hayhurst.