Friday, 31 January 2020

Kirklees Green Group - 2020/21 Kirklees Council Budget proposals

Last year Kirklees declared a climate emergency in response to the clear message from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have a limited time to reduce carbon emissions to levels consistent with a viable environment for human civilisation. This amendment aims to take Kirklees on to the next stage of our journey to become a Net Zero Carbon Local Authority in line with the 2038 target set for us through our membership of the Leeds City Region. We also need to ensure that regional funding is not used to provide tacit support to Leeds Bradford Airport expansion plans that threaten the viability of our emission reduction targets.

Kirklees New Build Passivhaus support fund

 Current informed estimates suggest a 5%  - 7% uplift in the capital cost for buildings built to Passivhaus standards when part of a consistent policy. This fund would ensure that all projects commenced on Kirklees owned land were properly resourced to achieve that higher energy efficiency standard, be they lead by the Council or part of a partnership arrangement using council owned land.

Kirklees Green New Deal Demonstrator

Following the Kirklees Warm Zone programme the next significant energy efficiency goal would be to carry out significant work on hard to treat properties particularly those with cavities that can only be filled using polyurethane foam. There is also a need for a room in the roof insulation project for homes that cannot receive mineral fibre wool insulation due to attic rooms. The aim would be to provide free insulation to 4000 properties as a showcase to other local authorities and national government. Within this project we would also expect 25% of the funding to be allocated to properties in fuel poverty and that they benefit from a whole house approach aimed at achieving the ‘Enerphit’ standard.
This project will demonstrate to national government the benefits and practicalities of applying ‘HS2’ levels of funding to domestic energy efficiency to achieve our Paris Climate goals, address fuel poverty, create skilled jobs and regenerate local economies.

Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing Carbon Reduction Fund

Following years of energy saving initiatives this Fund will be used to carry out pathfinding work to demonstrate how we will drive down emissions still further to levels consistent with a 2030 zero carbon target. The aim will be to achieve as close to the Enerphit standard as is practical. We are also calling on Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing to transfer homes to a low cost green energy provider when they become void.

Community Climate Action projects – Place based working 

We propose that the next round of Place based working funding is to be allocated for community lead climate action projects. This could support a range of community lead projects e.g. tree planting, reducing the carbon impact of community owned buildings, flood alleviation, community transport initiatives.

Purchase Renewable Energy 

We are calling on Kirklees to ensure that the Council’s electricity is sourced from verifiably renewable sources.

Schools Climate Change Education Project

This project will provide grants to schools promoting projects that reduce their carbon emissions linked to an education package. It is anticipated that projects such as the installation of solar panels, energy saving measures and tree planting in school grounds

Join the Global Covenant of Mayors

The Global Covenant of Mayors is where local governments in alliance with partners accelerate ambitious, measurable climate and energy initiatives that lead to a low-emission and climate-resilient future. This will allow us to assess our progress with international partners and collaborate with our peers in Europe and beyond. This does not mean lots of air travel but is about learning from best practice and hopefully demonstrating our best practice on a bigger stage. Kirklees is not a leader in action to reduce carbon emissions yet. We can learn a lot from others.

Conversion to electric vehicles project

There is a large potential for conversion of petrol/diesel vehicles to electric at a fraction of the cost of a new vehicle. This proposal is to establish a pilot project to demonstrate the potential for this in the Kirklees District.

Support the establishment of the Kirklees Climate Commission – through funding the secretariat and supporting analysis and reporting

Sunday, 19 January 2020

The engines of death ride the sky

Memory is a strange thing. Why do some memories stay in your head and others go. I remember as a child reading 'The Trigan Empire' that was a comic strip featuring the history of a civilization on the planet Elektron. It was serialised in the now defunct 'Look and Learn' comics with brilliant illustrations and imaginative stories. These words from the comic popped into my head recently "the engines of death ride the sky". A bit of a search on Interweb and I found the actual quote on the actual page of that mammoth comic series.

So why did those words pop into my head?  I was at the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Zero Emissions Transport Group last week. Consultants had brought us scenarios of how transport in the Leeds City Region could play its part in reaching our 2038 Zero Emissions target. They showed us all about 'modal shift', getting people out of cars and onto public transport, or into low emission vehicles, or bikes, or walking and how that might occur with different levels of policy commitment. They even mentioned our regional Leeds Bradford Airport and talked about the emissions being generated from all those planes BUT they only were obliged to measure domestic not international flights. 

This is a global issue and has been sort of, but not convincingly addressed in the 2016 International Civil Aviation Organization agreement. This is a largely voluntary agreement whereby the carbon emissions for flights are supposedly offset by tree planting. This is a case of the aviation industry regulating itself. The scheme doesn't start till 2021 and it is voluntary till 2027. It doesn't comply with the Paris Climate Agreement targets and even if it works as described it will take till 2050 to reduce emissions by 50%. While all this aviation emissions reduction is not really going on, airports like Leeds Bradford have big expansion plans and West Yorkshire Combined Authority are assisting them.

So yes, truly, the engines of death do ride the skies unimpeded and assisted by public money.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Kirklees Green Motion to Full Council on Proportional Representation in Local Elections

The General Election. Tories lack a majority of votes but get a majority of MPs
Motion submitted in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 14 as to Proportional Representation in Local Elections

To consider the following Motion in the names of Councillors Cooper, Lee-Richards and Allison;

This Council notes that;

The electoral system used for local elections in England and Wales, First Past the Post (FPTP), is not a fair system, because it means that votes do not have equal weight and many votes are wasted. This leads to voter apathy and a feeling of disconnection from local democracy. Certain parties are over-represented, the most extreme example in May 2019 being Havant, where the Conservative Party
took all of the seats up for election on Havant Council with just 43.9% of the vote.

The alternative to FPTP is a system of proportional representation (PR), where votes cast for parties translates more or less directly into seats won. There are many variants of PR. The Single Transferable Vote system (STV) variant of PR is already in use for local elections in Scotland and Northern Ireland. With this system, voters rank candidates and those who receive the most backing
(including second and subsequent choices) are elected to serve in multi-member wards.

Kirklees Council (in common with most other Metropolitan councils) already has multi-member wards and thus the transfer to a similar system would be easier than if the wards were single-member.
The introduction of PR for local elections in Scotland has led to an increase in turnout, which was 47% at the last elections, held in 2017. In contrast turnout in Kirklees in 2019 was 33%.

A move to a system of PR for local elections would necessitate moving to all-out elections every four years, rather than the current one-third system. This would benefit the council and Kirklees residents too, since it would mean more time for decision-making.

This Council believes that a move to the use of proportional representation for local elections would boost turn-out, make the council more representative of the political make-up of its residents,
and improve the quality of its decision-making, thereby benefiting all Kirklees residents.

This Council resolves to;

- write to the Minister responsible for Housing, Communities and Local Government requesting that Kirklees be allowed to pilot a system of Proportional Representation on the Scottish model at the earliest possible election
- signal our interest to be a pilot area for Proportional Representation to the Electoral Commission
- work through the Local Government Association to promote Proportional Representation more widely in English and Welsh Local Authorities.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Andrew Cooper Speech to Kirklees Full Council 15/1/2020 - Corporate Peer Challenge - Kirklees Council

The Corporate Peer Challenge Report on Kirklees Council produced during their visits back in July is a really interesting read conducted by Councillors and Senior Officers from around the country. As you would expect it is a mixture of good and less good and areas for improvement. That is the point of the exercise. There’s praise in the report for the Chief Executive and the Council Leader and recognition for the ambition in the Huddersfield Blueprint. There are also observations and  suggestions for changes.

One of the most perplexing statements in the report for me was this one,

“ The Cabinet and senior leadership team work well together, however sharper delineation of roles between Cabinet Members and senior officers needs to be articulated as there is some confusion between the roles of Members and officers. Members should develop policy and officers should implement and deliver it.”

Talk about stating the rather obvious! What could have prompted such a statement. Perhaps things like when senior officers do the media and TV interviews particularly when there is bad news. It also indicates to some degree that there is a lack of political direction in the cabinet or parts of the cabinet. This is worrying. People go to a lot of trouble to get elected So if and when they are and they don't have an agenda and are simply officer lead it is disappointing and a waste of peoples valuable votes.

The action to address this point that the Council has decided to take makes no reference to the Cabinet at all and instead defaults to addressing the relations between all members and officers. This is wilfully and conveniently misinterpreting the recommendation from the Peer Review Team.

Another part of the report states that

"The business community is keen to work with the Council and its voice needs to be strengthened as currently they feel outside the tent."

I guess this may reflect the poor communication that many indoor market traders feel they have had regarding their future in the Huddersfield Blueprint. Or perhaps the creation of One Huddersfield and the excellent work they do is partly a reflection of the need for business to develop a stronger voice when dealing with the Council. Of course there is a danger that if you have a "We know best" approach you are by your very nature going to exclude all sorts of people, businesses, Councillors from other parties and anyone who disagrees with you. Maybe the statement in the Report that says there is a

"outmoded paternelistic approach which the peer team heard still exists in some parts of the organisation"

is a big part of the problem and if that is reflected in some Senior Politicians then that is a cause for concern and stands in the way of us being a modern forward thinking Council that is open not only for business but for fresh ideas and approaches.

The Peer Report also asked us to review our electoral arrangements

"Consider reviewing the electoral cycle to bring it in line with councils that have adopted a longer, more stable electoral pattern with the strong leadership model".

The UK Government has a 5 year cycle (usually!) North Yorkshire County Council has 4 year electoral cycle, many Principal Councils have a 4 year electoral cycle, our Parish Councils have a 4 year electoral cycle but not us. I appreciate the arguments made about accountability to electors but former leaders and Chief Executives of this Council have identified the continual cycle of annual elections as a barrier to good and sometimes difficult decision making. I also think we will have better quality elections if we have them every 4 years. Parties will be able produce manifestoes that demonstrate a programme of activity that could seek radical and positive change. Timidity and risk averse decision making would be less likely. As the report says

"The peer team identified a lack of risk appetite in the Council, which could constrain the Council’s pace and ambition. A bolder approach to risk and opportunity is required throughout the organisation and existing governance processes should be strengthened to support this.” 

So my suggestion would be that we establish as well as the Corporate Risk Register we already have a Corporate Opportunities Register where we systematically look at the opportunities that this Council could take to put up front to Councillors showing what we could do if we had the capacity and political will to do so.

Sunday, 29 December 2019

PRESS RELEASE - 27 years of Green Party New Year's Day buses

Huddersfield Greens are marking 27 years of the volunteer buses they have been running over the Christmas Holidays since 1992. Newsome Councillors Andrew Cooper, Karen Allison, Sue Lee-Richards and Sue's husband Gideon will all be volunteering on the  long running service on New Years Day 

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, including Newsome in recent years on Boxing Day”

“I really enjoy doing the bus service each year and it is now very much part of my  holiday routine. At this time of year there can be limited public transport services, trains from Berry Brow are often cancelled and taxi journeys can be expensive  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. Our thanks to Kirklees who provide the minibus while we provide drivers, stewards and fuel A copy of our timetable is below.”
The service provided are on New Year’s Day connects  Berry Brow, Newsome into Town and on the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The day before Polling Day - some thoughts with cultural references

Polling Day is tomorrow and why are we here? Essentially it was Jeremy Corbyn's decision. Without the Labour Party's support we would not be having a General Election now.

 As was correctly reported Corbyn had again and again called for a General Election and had been called 'frit' and in particular 'chicken' a number of times and when, in recent months, Boris Johnson offered him one he resisted. Now anyone who has watched the 'Back to the Future' Trilogy will know that Marty McFly's achilles heel was reacting poorly when been called 'chicken'. It usually didn't end well. for Marty. Obviously Corybyn didn't watch it.  So in the run up to Corbyn's decision to back a General Election they had someone following him around in a chicken costume and constant jibing of a 'chicken' nature in Parliament. It was almost as if they wanted him to react and sadly he did. He fell into a very obvious trap

So what should you do if you are Jeremy Corbyn before you agree to a General Election?

"A clear, agreed and easy to understand position on Brexit that appeals to core supporters who were Leave voters?" - Check/Not Check?

"All that Anti Semitism issue addressed?" - Check/Not Check?

"Contact with all other non Tory parties to agree a common strategy for the Election Campaign?" - Check/not check?

It was all pretty much  "Not check" wasn't it? So anyone with any political nous would say a big "No" to a General Election at this time. The problem was that Jezza was calling for a General Election at every opportunity over the last couple of years. Really the  only way of addressing the Brexit Conundrum was by another referendum. It was through the 'magic' of a referendun that we created the Brexit turmoil, so only using the same 'magic' could you defeat it.

Corbyn who had made his hallmark his conviction politics based on strong principles had become equivocal on Brexit. His message was far too nuanced and certainly wasn't the simple, and yes far too simplistic, "Get Brexit Done" message that the Tories have successfully pedaled for the last few weeks.

What has irritated me during this campaign is the pressure Greens have been under by Labour Party activists not to stand in marginal seats. There has been no pretence that there would be any form of reciprocation from them. Not even a token gesture of standing aside in Caroline Lucas's seat of Brighton Pavillion. Their approach has shown contempt for the Green Party, our supporters and the validity of our politics. They have also made a gross assumption that non-Tory votes are their votes and, though they don't support Proportional Representation they believe we should deny people their Green First Preference on the assumption that Labour is their Second Preference. Though I respect a lot of individual Labour members I find this hugely arrogant and indicative of a wrongful sense of entitlement that has been with Labour for a very long time. As such I did all I could not to indulge them and to get as many Green Candidates to stand as possible. Others did indulge them and they had their justifications for their actions. Justifications I do not share.

So here we are, the dawn of battle. I can't help but think of King Theoden in 'The Two Towers' before the battle of Helms Deep when he faced almost certain defeat and he is supported despite his own doubts by his devoted uncritical subjects. Corbyn and Momentum? perhaps? In the end Theoden won but that was with help of others. Elves, a wizard and the occasional dwarf. Corbyn has no others to call upon. The Green Party's role in relation to Labour would only be as unquestioning subjects with no rights or will of our own. Simply the providers of a grudging endorsement to our supporters. Ironic for Corbyn I guess as someone who is undoubtedly opposed to the monarchy to have such an approach.

The best we can hope for is a hung parliament and I hope Greens have a significant influence in that if we are lucky enough for that to occur . If not we are in for 5 years of  a Tory Government lead by someone who has, demonstrably, no respect for the truth.  As far as I'm concerned Boris may as well be a different species as I, and so many others, have so little in common with him. He has surrounded himself with people who have made a huge catalogue of contemptible utterances that I and many others abhor. In many ways they should be easy to take apart for a competent principal opposition party but sadly not this one.

If Labour do lose they will blame a lack of resources, the mainstream media etc but ultimately they need to take a long hard look in the mirror as in reality they will have no one to blame but themselves

How did it come to this?