Sunday, 15 November 2020

Green Councillors call on the Secretary of State to Call in Kirklees decision to put a hotel on Castle Hill

 

We the undersigned councillors request that you call in Application 2018/93591 that was passed by Kirklees MBC on the 28th October 2020 and we wish to support the call in by Huddersfield Civic Society.

Castle Hill is a significant landmark of special merit in Kirklees, the whole monument and its surrounds are a scheduled ancient monument sited in the Green Belt.  The site is visible for miles around and is an iconic landmark of national importance and any development here would have a detrimental visual impact. 

We support Historic England’s recognition that this hilltop fort is a rare and important asset of local, regional and national importance.

The majority of the community, who submitted comments were against the proposal and we as councillors instantly had emails and calls from residents questioning how and why the application was approved given the evidence provided.  However, this was not reflected in the verbal submission by the officer and the report, while acknowledging the responses, somehow chose to focus on the few that met the recommendation’s view.  

The Council and  the Strategic Planning Committee (SPC) needs to be impartial when it comes to such highly sensitive applications that will affect the community for decades to come.  This unfortunately didn’t appear to happen with one of the Councillors on the SPC reading from a prepared script (visible on the Teams virtual meeting and another stating that she was speaking for the silent majority who might want a development on Castle Hill.  Where was the evidence for such a statement and what happened to SPC members being impartial when making decisions? 

We believe the granting of the application fails to fulfil the requirements to allow the application to proceed.

This is an application to build a commercial restaurant/café/bar with six guest bedrooms in the middle of Green Belt within the curtilage of the Scheduled Ancient Monument and adjacent to a grade II listed building (Victoria Tower).

We believe the Kirklees planning process was flawed and the evidence fails the test of Green Belt and Heritage protection.

The document that was presented to the SPC (ref. 2018/93591) demonstrated there was clearly no robust evidence to support the approval and opinions given in support of approval of the application were thin and not evidenced.

The same document also demonstrated there was a) significant opposition to the application and b) could not demonstrate how the evidence supported an approval.  

There are a number of concerns we have about the processes and procedures the planning team and Strategic Planning Committee carried out.  

We aware of the Huddersfield Civic Society’s objections and concur with their evaluations.

Our main concerns are as follows:

NPPF Green Belt 

This site is in Green Belt and the benefits proposed by the applicant have not been quantified or proven and as such, claims by the planning department in the Council that ‘very special circumstances’ (NPPF cl 1..) have been met and properly evidenced to make such claims.

The Council planning department are ignoring the Council Local Plan Policy requirements without clear and robust evidence of why such activities can be ignored.  This particularly comes to the fore with Local Plan LP13 and LP16 which require a sequential test of any town centre uses outside of the defined centre boundaries. There was no evidence that such tests had been carried out and this was admitted in the officer’s verbal summary to the SPC.  In SPC Agenda pack of the 28/10/2020 item 9 page 61 paragraph 10.15 confirms that LP13 and LP16 requirements to carry out sequential tests and an impact assessment were not carried out. Again what is the evidence that these requirements were unnecessary?  Given the town centre and rural communities are already suffering economic harm from COVID-19, we can’t understand how such a test, had it been carried out, would have met such a test as to allow a town centre development at the heart of the site.  There are already amenities in the town centre and rural communities offered in the application under-utilized, so how does this outweigh the harm caused in Green Belt.  

The evidence submitted by the applicant was generic with little detail to make judgements against.  The Council report clearly demonstrates that the NPPF conditions for very special circumstances had not been demonstrated and yet the officers highlighted a few selective clauses and statements to reinforce a predetermined recommendation to approve the application of an inappropriate development in the Green Belt.

Paragraph 145 of the NPPF states that the construction of new buildings is inappropriate in the Green Belt, and paragraph 143 states that inappropriate development is, by definition, harmful to the Green Belt and should not be approved except in ‘very special circumstances’. We do not believe that allowing the public limited access to use the toilets within a commercial venture meets this criteria.

Heritage

Historic England as we understand maintain an objection to allowing construction on Castle Hill which will substantially harm a heritage asset of national importance. The size and nature of the proposed development makes clear that servicing heritage visitors is not its primary function.  

In addition to the above issues raised re the Green Belt we would highlight similar serious concerns with regards to NPPF clauses 193, 194 and 196 which we believe have not shown the benefits outweighing the serious harm.

Kirklees Processes and Procedures

We believe that the written report determines that application should be rejected, however, a few statements made were selected to carry more weight than the evidence provides. The recommendation, in our view, flies in the face of the evidence.

The processes and procedures within the planning system appear to be biased towards accepting a recommendation that is not evidenced adequately. For instance, it was stated that this is a new application and yet it is an existing application, which has not been approved in the past and yet, with little additional information (except a new design, with even more impact on the heritage) has now been approved.

Three of the SPC members recognised and stated that there was insufficient evidence to make a planning decision on and yet the recommendation and subsequent vote was to approve the application, without any consideration of the consequences of failure of such a business on the site. To date there has been no business plan submitted that we are aware of.

The reliance on planning conditions being set after approval for such a significant site demonstrates to our minds that the applicant’s documentation has not covered all the bases prior to approval.  Significant issues such as drainage, transport and security issues, that all could have a detrimental effect on the public benefit are being left until after the approval is given and s106 conditions if not robust and fully fulfilled will leave the site in a significantly poor/damaged state.

It would appear that SPC members were coming to the meeting as if the decision had already been made, particularly evidenced with pre-written statements that were read out.

The information verbally summarising the report were heavily biased to the recommendation to the point that consultees views that were not in favour of approval were effectively ignored and a few that appeared favourable were given more weight. 

In conclusion we believe the recommendation to approve this development flies in the face of the evidence or lack thereof and the strong public interest warrant the close examination and inspection of this application.


                                                                    Yours sincerely


 

Cllr. Karen Allison                           Cllr. Andrew Cooper                      Cllr Susan Lee-Richards                                 


Saturday, 15 August 2020

Standing for the nomination as Green Party Candidate for West Yorkshire Mayor

 Councillor Andrew Cooper - Candidate statement

I am a Kirklees Green Party Councillor and have been for the last 21 years. I have been elected and re-elected 6 times. During that time I have gained a wealth of experience as a Cabinet Member, Scrutiny Panel Chair and as a Leader of the Green Party Group. We have held balance of power and so have managed to implement a number of Green Party policies including the UK’s first universally free insulation scheme and what is effectively a ban on Fracking in our Local Plan.

I have lead on the Green Party response to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Devolution Consultation writing, collating and integrating responses from members. The response highlighted the lack of focus on climate change, the lack of accountability of the proposed Elected Mayor and the threat to local democracy posed by the Mayoral Combined Authority. The full response can be viewed here. https://clrandrewcooper.blogspot.com/2020/07/yorkshire-and-humber-green-party.html

In my Campaign to be the first Green Mayor of West Yorkshire I will focus on Jobs, Homes and Climate Change

Green Jobs

Over 5 years I will seek to generate and influence the creation of 100,000 new Green jobs. In line with the landmark Campaign against Climate Change report. These jobs will be in renewable energy, sustainable construction, retrofit of buildings, establishing new public transport and active travel networks and through promoting rich natural environments in and around our communities.

Green Homes

I will campaign hard to have the ‘right to buy’ Council Housing suspended in West Yorkshire to protect valuable social housing and to help the business case for investment in more Council housing. This will also act as a check on house prices at the lower end on the market.

I will establish a Green Building Fund that all Local Authorities in West Yorkshire can access to support the development of homes and other buildings to the Passivhaus standard. This will reduce carbon emissions, energy bills and fuel poverty.

I will establish a new retrofit fund to improve the energy performance of existing homes, targeting those on the lowest incomes and seeking to draw in matched funding from energy companies and central government.

Tackling Climate Change

One of my first jobs in office would be to boost the ambition of our plan to deliver a Zero Carbon Economy. This would aim to bring the target date for a Zero Carbon Economy forward from 2038 to 2030 in line with the recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

I will cease all new road building projects and any project that supports the expansion of Leeds/Bradford Airport.

I will work with green industries on a plan to boost our renewable energy generation capacity across all appropriate technologies and seeking to support community owned and managed renewable energy projects.

A Green Team for West Yorkshire

If elected as Green Party nominee for West Yorkshire Mayor I will invite the second placed Candidate to be the named Deputy mayoral candidate. Normally Labour Mayors simply appoint them after and election.


Friday, 14 August 2020

The Housing and Planning Bill we should have had

 The Conservative Government’s proposals in the Business and Planning Bill have been justly criticised for being far too developer friendly to the detriment of the local environment, climate change, housing standards and local democracy. It panders to the interests of the big builders and not those of millions of people who need low cost, secure housing with low living costs.

 So what would an alternative look like that addressed these issues and made things better rather than worse? Here’s some thoughts.

A National Planning Policy Planning Framework that acknowledges the Climate Emergency

A principal issue is that the National Planning Policy Framework NPPF which all Local Plans have to comply with gives a greater emphasis on development above environmental concerns. Since the NPPF came into law we have had Councils and Parliament declaring a climate emergency in response to the warning from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have to get our emissions under control by 2030. So the NPPF needs revising swiftly to reflect the urgency of the climate emergency and allow Local Councils to revise their Local Plans accordingly. One immediate effect might be to stop the allocation of land for development on flood plains and in absence of sufficiently robust energy efficiency standards the ability to set higher ones locally.

Building Council Housing a new national priority and an end to the 'Right to Buy'

Another priority needs to be a renaissance in social housing and council housing in particular. Property ownership is neither a viable nor desirable option for millions. The diminishing stock of council houses has meant that it has become poverty housing for those in the direst of circumstances. We have to end the ‘Right to Buy’ for tenants of council homes. The implicit assumption of the policy is that owner occupation is somehow preferable to council housing. We need to recognise that social housing is a social good with low rent, security of tenure and upkeep the responsibility of the landlord. If supply of council housing were plentiful than it would be a check on rising house prices and a viable alternative for people looking for a home. To make investment in new council housing stack up the Right to Buy with the generous discounts on the value should cease immediately. This would bolster the business case for council housing by filling the hole in the revenue bucket, preventing the loss of housing stock and giving councils the confidence to build at scale.

Zero Carbon Homes now!

In the Business and Planning Bill the Conservatives announced that we would be building Zero Carbon homes in the UK by 2050. Utterly scandalous. We can build Zero Carbon housing now and we would have done if, the then Chancellor, George Osborne hadn’t cancelled the policy back in 2015.

A reasonable timeframe would be 3 years to get the housing industry to be geared up to deliver low emission passivhaus standard housing. Passivhaus is a quality assured method of building to a standard that delivers very low energy demand buildings making homes more affordable and healthier to live in.

Protect the green belt and end land banking

Councils are encouraged by Government to reconsider the designation of green belt land to boost land for potential development. Given excessive demands from Government to boost the supply of land for development some Councils have diminished the amount of land with greenbelt status. Threatening the green belt is completely unnecessary as developers are sitting on planning permissions for a million homes. In fact we should tax developers punitively for not developing on land that they have been granted permission to develop.

Abolish Private Sector Building Control

Perversely there is a competitive market in companies that developers can use to determine whether or not their buildings conform with Building Regulations. One thing we do know is that in reality many homes and other buildings use far more energy than we would expect if they had been built in accordance with Building Regulations. The suspicion is that developers have cut corners, built sub-standard housing and paid a private Building Control company to sign off their developments. Hence the performance gap. It is bizarre that private companies can pay another private company to decide whether or not they have complied with the law. It must stop and Building Control should be purely a public sector function resting with Local Authorities.

Well that's what you could have had.


Sunday, 19 July 2020

Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal


Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal


Question 1

Do you agree or disagree with our proposals for the revised arrangements for the Combined Authority, as set out above and in the Scheme, in particular the proposed arrangements for a Mayor, Mayoral Combined  Authority, and the councils, working together?

Strongly Disagree

This is not real devolution.

The Elected Mayor does not represent real devolution. It is simply replacing a remote Westminster politican with a remote individual who is supposed to represent 2.3 million people which they cannot. When mayoral models have been put before local people in referenda before they have rejected. Now it is proposed to impose a Mayor on West Yorkshire without a referendum.

The Mayoral Combined Authority – Some members are more equal than others

The proposed West Yorkshire Combined Authority will have 11 members. 5 of these members will most likely be the Leaders of the constituent Councils. These will be Councillors who have been elected by the unfair first past the post electoral system unlike the WYCA mayor. Having members of the same body elected by different electoral systems is bizarre and perverse. The proposed 3 additional members will also be Councillors elected under the first past the post system but these places will be allocated on the basis of the number of Councillors in political groups on the constituent councils not on the basis of popular share of the vote. We believe that West Yorkshire should have an Assembly like the GLA in London elected by Proportional Representation. If it is good enough for London why not West Yorkshire?

The 3 additional constituent council members on the Mayoral Combined Authority appointed for political balance should be referred to as “Second Class Members” as their support is not required to pass the Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy, the designation of land for a Mayoral Combined Authority Area, the compulsory purchase of land, decisions that could incur a financial liability on a constituent council or any matter pertaining to the Mayoral Combined Authority’s Constitution. Using the same logic the 5 members appointed by each constituent Council should be referred to as “Premier Class Members” as their support is required to approve the above matters.

All Councillors need to be represented on the Mayoral Combined Authority

Over 8% of elected Councillors in West Yorkshire are from parties other than Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. All these Councillors are members of the LGA Independent Group. Current proposals would mean that these Councillors and the communities they represent would have no representation at all on the Mayoral Combined Authority. Provision should be made on the board to represent all groupings represented by LGA Political Groups including the LGA Independent Group which consists of Independent and Green Party Councillors. We propose an additional member for political balance to ensure Councillors who are members of the LGA Independent Group, and therefore the people who vote for them, are represented.

The proposals for 2 Deputy Mayors are undemocratic

The proposal for the Mayor to be able to simply appoint 2 paid Deputies is undemocratic and will most likely be given to ‘Party worthies’ as a form of patronage. If it follows the model of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner the Deputy Mayors positions will attract an allowance of at least £50k/year with no democratic mandate. The Leader of Kirklees Council has stated at a Kirklees Scrutiny meeting that a Deputy Mayor position will be taken by a Leader of one of the Constituent Councils. There is no reference to this in the Governance Review document.

Mayoral Compulsory Purchase and Development Area powers should need approval of a meeting of the constituent Full Council

The Mayor will have the power to compulsory purchase land within each Combined Authority area and set up Mayoral Development areas. Before any of these powers are put into effect they should require the approval of a vote in Full Council in the constituent Council affected.
As with the Compulsory Purchase powers we strongly believe that proposals to establish a Mayoral Development area should also require Full Council approval.

If London can have the GLA why can’t West Yorkshire have an elected assembly?

It is not at all clear that powers will not be taken away from Councils and given to the Mayoral Combined Authority - the exact opposite of devolution.
It is our view, for Devolution to work in this area it needs to have a representational assembly elected by proportional representation to cover the whole Yorkshire region with similar powers to those of the Scottish Parliament or the Welsh Assembly. Yorkshire has a population somewhat greater than Scotland, and significantly larger that Wales. What’s good enough for Scotland & Wales is good enough for Yorkshire.

Specific Governance proposals

·       Allocation of places to be based on LGA Groups - Greens and Independent councillors would all fall under the LGA Independent Grouping rather than being treated as small parties or individuals.

·       There should be 4 balancing members on the Mayoral Combined Authority. This would create a more balanced authority giving 10 voting members. 4 balancing members would currently result in 2 Conservative, 1 Lib-Dem and 1 LGA Independent Group members.

·       Equal voting rights for all Mayoral Combined Authority members on all matters not reserved to the Mayor. The proposed structure creates 3 classes of voting member.  There is no justification for the Mayor and the balancing members to be excluded from key decisions, and there should be only 1 class of voting member on Combined Authority decisions.

·       In the absence of an Elected Assembly there should be all member assembly from the constituent councils for key decisions - As far as possible all elected members should be involved in the decisions that will shape and determine our shared future.

Question 2
Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer transport functions and new transport related functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Disagree

Additional Transport funding should simply be passed down to each constituent Council

While we would welcome some of the potential powers that would be granted to the Elected Mayor in relation to Public Transport and access to funding, we believe that Government should simply devolve this funding and powers to the Local Authorities without requiring the establishment of a new undemocratic Mayoral Authority.

Transport funding should not be used to support higher carbon emissions

The Key Route Network proposed could involve the establishment of new roads encouraging car use and destroying valued green corridors. This would also be inconsistent with WYCA’s commitment to have a zero carbon economy by 2038. It might be noted that while WYCA have stated a target of 2038, Leeds City Council, via a motion of Council, set a target date of 2030 – We believe that within the boundary of Leeds the Elected Mayor, if brought in, should implement the Zero-Carbon economy by the 2030 date.


We would oppose the use of funding on any projects that would enable expansion at Leeds Bradford Airport by the Mayor and the Mayoral Combined Authority. Any such funding would be contrary to reaching Zero-Carbon.
We acknowledge that delivering a mass transit system has long been the plan for Leeds City Region, and aligns with the move towards becoming Zero Carbon. However, the need to progress at pace to achieve modal transport shifts in order for Leeds to reach its Zero Carbon target of 2030 may require the mass transit system ambition to be revisited. Funding is needed now to develop an effective and responsive bus system, the means for all transport to be Zero Carbon and to greatly increase active travel. Planning for low carbon transport is no longer good enough; travel needs to be Zero Carbon, and this must include ensuring that the electricity for electric vehicles is generated from renewable sources. We welcome the plans for improvements at Leeds city station as long as the modal shift is to Zero Carbon transport.

Question 3

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer skills and employment functions to a West Yorkshire mayoral combined authority?

Agree with some reservations

While we would argue that Adult Education – lifelong learning – is about more than those outcomes linked to employability and the minor extensions into Community Learning covered by the current AEB, the question asks only about the current system.

We are conscious that levels of participation in the Yorkshire & the Humber region in the forms of Adult Education covered by the AEB at 30%, are only just above the lowest level nationally (29% in the South West)

There is a concern about the unpredictability of funding levels, which have seen a 45% fall over the last ten years. Clearly if the mayoral region is to plan for provision in the long term it needs assurance that funding will reflect levels of commitment made and increase at the very least to cover the inflationary costs.

We are conscious that the administrative and procurement processes that have operated at a national level have shown great weaknesses that have undermined provider confidence. We would want to see devolution of the budget linked to the power to simplify rules, make required outcomes clearer and support provider confidence. The devolution of the budget has promise, but only if the administration can be simplified and made more transparent. If devolution is to mean anything it must include devolution of decision making about the outcomes wanted in the region.

The region as a whole, and the West Yorkshire region in particular have great potential in building the new green economic order that is needed. There is a strong skills base that can be built on in the provision of training, and this development should take place not just in the context of the 2038 Zero carbon Agenda target of the WYCA, but also reflect local commitments, such as those in Leeds to a 2030 target.

As such we would favour further devolution of the budget to the five constituent authorities of the sub-region and not just to the WY mayor, and for the opportunity for lifelong learning to become an offer that is available very locally, for example from community centres or schools.

Question 4

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer housing and planning functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Disagree

Planning decisions should be taken at a local level

We do not support the granting of any land assembly or planning powers to the Elected Mayor, these should be held by the appropriate Local Authority, as those councillors have the local knowledge to be able to make these decisions. Clearly, it is our view if this function were to be granted to the Elected Mayor and, we note that the local authority will have a veto, we would like to put in the safeguard that any decision taken by the Elected Mayor in this area should have to be endorsed by both the Executive Board and a meeting of the full Council of that particular metropolitan authority.

The Mayoral Combined Authority should be able to suspend the ‘Right to Buy’

One function we would like devolved to a local level is the power to suspend the Right to Buy scheme. We have seen a massive reduction in Council Housing at a time of high demand for income particularly for the millions left behind in the policy push over the last 40 years towards home ownership. Not everybody can own a home and we need a secure affordable option for the millions who cannot.  Suspending or preferably abolishing the Right to Buy would boost the business case for Councils wanting to build new affordable homes.

The power we need is to insist on higher energy efficiency standards for buildings

The Mayor will not have powers to insist on higher building standards in the region such as Passivhaus for all new build. This would be compatible with WYCA’s stated commitment to a Zero Carbon Economy by 2038 but is a power that we won’t have.

We need a 2030 Target for the West Yorkshire Zero Carbon Economy

We strongly believe that the Mayoral Combined Authority should set a new, more ambitious target for a Zero Carbon Economy by 2030 in line with the conclusions of the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This would help support our argument for stronger housing and planning policies either at the local or regional level.

Question 5

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer Police and Crime Commissioner functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor?

Strongly oppose

Police and Crime functions are even more unaccountable under the Mayoral Combined Authority.

The appointment of a highly paid, unelected Deputy Mayor to lead on the Policing function, however, just makes matters worse.  It will undoubtedly put an unelected politician in a role where the people scrutinising them will have a democratic mandate (albeit through FPTP), but they will not.

Question 6

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer additional finance functions on a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Strongly oppose

No taxation without adequate representation and scrutiny.

Our opposition to these additional powers is due to the lack of a suitable democratic mandate as we have detailed in our answer to question 1 and/or the lack of suitable scrutiny and powers to limit the powers of the Mayor by a democratically elected Assembly.
The power to charge a precept for policing would mean that the funding gained could be the responsibility of an unelected functionary and or ‘Party Worthy’.

Question 7

Are there any comments you would like to make that you do not feel you have addressed in your response?

What about the challenge of Climate Change?

The West Yorkshire Authorities Governance Review document highlights the major challenges to the sub region. It includes growth, productivity, diversity, innovation and trade but Climate Change is not identified as a challenge bizarrely. The self-declared target of having a Zero Carbon Economy in just 18 years’ time is a significant challenge but it is concerning that it has not been included here. For the record the Green Party believes that our target should be 2030 not 2038 in line with the evidence from climate scientists.

What about a resilient economy?

Another significant challenge highlighted by the COVID19 crisis is the need for a resilient economy that is less affected by global factors such as international trade, the money markets and financial speculation.

A more resilient economy would have an emphasis on local production for local need, more locally owned and managed businesses trading with each other ensuring money remains within the regional economy. This is not identified as a significant challenge and therefore cannot be regarded as a priority by the Mayoral Combined Authority. This is a major weakness in the Governance Review Document

A Devolution Deal for a Post-COVID/Post-Growth World

The proposed devolution deal was prepared in the pre-COVID world, and therefore it will need significant rethinking in order to align with the new normal that individuals, businesses, communities, councils, regions and nations are now preparing for. Recently 200 leading UK businesses, investors and business networks, called on the Government to deliver a Covid-19 recovery plan that builds back a more inclusive, stronger and more resilient UK economy that aligns with the UK's wider social, environmental and climate goals. There is no mention here of economic growth. More and more people with vision are realising that growing an economy is at odds with tackling climate change. What we can have instead is a strong, vibrant, inclusive and sustainable economy and that should be the vision that underpins the devolution deal. We have an opportunity here in West Yorkshire to be leaders in this new green recovery world.

In view of this, the metrics used for making the 5 year Gateway Assessments on which ongoing funding may depend cannot be based on economic growth, but on other measurements of a vibrant economy. In the new COVID 19 world economic growth may be a thing of the past anyway. In particular decisions must not be made in order to meet the Gateway Assessments that will reduce the capacity of Leeds to meet the Climate Emergency commitments.

Let’s have Real Devolution not Faux Devolution

In our view this is only partial devolution to, effectively, an elected dictatorship, and not a proper democratic body. The area covered, the County of West Yorkshire, is a failed concept of the early 1970’s and does not cover the economic footprint of the Leeds City Region. To have real devolution we need an Assembly and First Minister with powers similar to those granted to Wales, and Scotland, but based upon the region of Yorkshire. The proposal states that this agreement is the first step in the process to further devolution, therefore a Yorkshire Assembly should be seen as the assumed next step, which should be included in this devolution agreement. Devolution for Yorkshire has wide support, including in the Sheffield City Region where referendums held in Barnsley and Doncaster, indicated an overwhelming preference for a One Yorkshire deal over the South Yorkshire deal.

Devolution that acknowledges the Climate Crisis

On October 8 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a report, in which they stated that ‘Limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.’ Other parts of the report state that ‘With clear benefits to people and natural ecosystems, limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society’. We are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes. The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities.’ It is already widely acknowledged that the UK’s zero carbon target of 2050 will not achieve the limiting of global warming required, which is why councils around the UK have committed to achieve zero carbon much sooner.

So it is within the context of the Climate Emergency that West Yorkshire now has the opportunity, through devolution, to set truly ambitious plans to lead this country in a green economic recovery from the COVID pandemic, a recovery that will achieve the challenging but necessary zero carbon targets that have been set. This will require public support, and that can only be achieved through the democratic processes and structures that are outlined in our response.

Tuesday, 7 July 2020

PRESS RELEASE Green Councillor proposes making Government Insulation scheme free to all.

Green Councillor proposes making Government Insulation scheme free to all.

The Government has announced a scheme to start in September that would provide grants of up to £5000 for insulation work on peoples homes but still leaving them to find a third of the costs
Kirklees Councillor and Green Party Energy Spokesperson Andrew Cooper has proposed making the scheme free to boost the take up by householders, ensure quality work is carried out and so help reduce fuel bills and carbon emissions.
Councillor Cooper said
"This scheme falls well short of the Green Party's proposal for a Green New Deal in terms of funding and scope but there are still positive things we can do to improve the scheme announced by the Chancellor."
“When Kirklees ran the free Kirklees Warm Zone project between 2007 and 2011 we insulated over 50,000 homes and it was the biggest scheme of its kind in the country. What really made the scheme fly was the Green Party amendment to the 2007 Council Budget  that made the scheme free for all applicants. This is what we should be doing with this scheme.”
“With the cost of capital borrowing so low at present the Council can use its financial leverage to top up the Government proposal ensuring people don’t have to dip into their pockets during a time of recession and job losses. Really the Government should make the scheme free but in the absence of that Councils like Kirklees and across the Country could fill the gap and make the difference. Existing funding via Regional Sources such as the West Yorkshire Combined Authority could also play a big role in financing such a scheme ”
“For householders the hundreds they will save oon their energy bills  means more money in their pockets at a time of huge financial uncertainty. The impact on reducing our carbon emissions will also be significant,”
“The involvement of local councils in the scheme will help with local promotion and also provide local accountability helping ensure quality of work”
“ This level of funding could allow us to carry out insulation work on hard to treat cavity walls, provide external wall insulation, attic room and under floor insulation. It is a huge opportunity if done properly wih a focus on quality work.”
“ Kirklees has the opportunity once again to be a national Leader in action on Climate Change and show through example what can be achieved with imagination and political commitment. If other Councils follow our lead we could make the scheme free for millions across the UK. “


Sunday, 14 June 2020

DRAFT Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to WY Devolution Deal


DRAFT Yorkshire and Humber Green Party Response to WY Devolution Deal

Question 1

Do you agree or disagree with our proposals for the revised arrangements for the Combined Authority, as set out above and in the Scheme, in particular the proposed arrangements for a Mayor, Mayoral Combined  Authority, and the councils, working together?

Strongly Disagree

This is not real devolution.

The Elected Mayor does not represent real devolution. It is simply replacing a remote Westminster politican with a remote individual who is supposed to represent millions of people which they cannot. When mayoral models have been put before local people in referenda before they have rejected. Now it is proposed to impose a Mayor on West Yorkshire without a referendum.

The Mayoral Combined Authority – Some members are more equal than others

The proposed West Yorkshire Combined Authority will have 11 members. 5 of these members will most likely be the Leaders of the constituent Councils. These will be Councillors who have been elected by the unfair first past the post electoral system unlike the WYCA mayor. Having members of the same body elected by different electoral systems is bizarre and perverse. The 3 additional members will also be Councillors elected under the first past the post system but these places will be allocated on the basis of the number of Councillors in political groups on the constituent councils not on the basis of popular share of the vote. We believe that West Yorkshire should have an Assembly like the GLA in London elected by Proportional Representation. If it is good enough for London why not West Yorkshire?

The 3 additional constituent council members on the Mayoral Combined Authority appointed for political balance should be referred to as “Second Class Members” as their support is not required to pass the Mayor’s Spatial Development Strategy, the designation of land for a Mayoral Combined Authority Area, the compulsory purchase of land, decisions that could incur a financial liability on a constituent council or any matter pertaining to the Mayoral Combined Authority’s Constitution. Using the same logic the 5 members appointed by each constituent Council should be referred to as “Premier Class Members” as their support is required to approve the above matters.

All Councillors need to be represented on the Mayoral Combined Authority

Over 8% of elected Councillors in West Yorkshire are from parties other than Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. All these Councillors are members of the LGA Independent Group. Current proposals would mean that these Councillors and the communities they represent would have no representation at all on the Mayoral Combined Authority. Provision should be made on the board to represent all groupings represented by LGA Political Groups including the LGA Independent Group which consists of Independent and Green Party Councillors. We propose an additional member for political balance to ensure Councillors who are members of the LGA Independent Group, and therefore the people who vote for them, are represented.

The proposals for 2 Deputy Mayors are undemocratic

The proposal for the Mayor to be able to simply appoint a 2 Paid Deputies is undemocratic and will most likely be given to ‘Party worthies’ as a form of patronage. If it follows the model of the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner the Deputy Mayors positions will attract an allowance of at least £50’000/year with no democratic mandate. The Leader of Kirklees Council has stated at a Kirklees Scrutiny meeting that a Deputy Mayor position will be taken by a Leader of one of the Constituent Councils. There is no reference to this in the Governance Review.

Mayoral Compulsory Purchase and Development Area powers should need approval of a meeting of the constituent Full Council

The Mayor will have the power to compulsory purchase land within each Combined Authority area and set up Mayoral Development areas. Before any of these powers are put into effect they should require the approval of a vote in Full Council in the constituent Council affected.

As with the Compulsory Purchase powers we strongly believe that proposals to establish a Mayoral Development area should also require Full Council approval.

 Question 2

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer transport functions and new transport related functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Disagree

Additional Transport funding should simply be passed down to each Constitutent Council

Government should simply devolve the additional funding for transport related functions to Local Authorities anyway without requiring the establishment of a new undemocratic Mayoral Authority.

Transport funding should not be used to support higher carbon emissions

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority is currently proposing the use of funding for transport functions to support the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. This is inconsistent with the Zero Carbon Agenda the Authority is currently signed up to. We would need a commitment from the Mayoral Combined Authority to not fund transport projects that increase carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.  

The Key Route Network proposed could involve the establishment of new roads encouraging car use and destroying valued green corridors. This would also be inconsistent with WYCA’s commitment to have a zero carbon economy by 2038.

 Question 3

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer skills and employment functions to a West Yorkshire mayoral combined authority?

Neither agree nor disagree

The important thing to recognise here is that this is not new money and the Mayoral Combined Authority will have no control over the amount of money invested in West Yorkshire for skills and employment functions.

We strongly believe that the funding that is passed down from central government should play a key role in supporting the skills needed for the Zero Carbon Economy Agenda.

Question 4

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer housing and planning functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Disagree

Planning decisions should be taken at a local level

We believe that planning decisions are best taken at a local level not by a remote Mayoral Combined Authority and as such we would want any planning decisions to require the support of the Planning Authority of the relevant constituent Council and be put before them for debate and decision.

The Mayoral Combined Authority should be able to suspend the ‘Right to Buy’

One function we would like devolved to a local level is the power to suspend the Right to Buy scheme. We have seen a massive reduction in Council Housing at a time of high demand for income particularly for the millions left behind in the policy push over the last 40 years towards home ownership. Not everybody can own a home and we need a secure affordable option for the millions who cannot.  Suspending or preferably abolishing the Right to Buy would boost the business case for Councils wanting to build new affordable homes.

The power we need is to insist on higher energy efficiency standards for buildings

The Mayor will not have powers to insist on higher building standards in the region such as Passivhaus for all new build. This would be compatible with WYCA’s stated commitment to a Zero Carbon Economy by 2038 but is a power that we won’t have.

We need a 2030 Target for the West Yorkshire Zero Carbon Economy

We strongly believe that the Mayoral Combined Authority should set a new, more ambitious target for a Zero Carbon Economy by 2030 in line with report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Repor . This would help support our argument for stronger housing and planning policies either at the local or regional level.

Question 5

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer Police and Crime Commissioner functions to a West Yorkshire Mayor?

Strongly oppose

Police and Crime functions are even more unaccountable under the Mayoral Combined Authority.

The abolition of the Police and Crime Commissioner role is a positive in that it is a role that has not excited interested the electorate and takes away from rather than adds to local democratic accountability of the Police. The appointment of a highly paid unelected Deputy Mayor to lead on the Policing function however just makes matters worse and will undoubtedly put an unelected politician in a role where the people scrutinising them will have a democratic mandate (albeit through FPTP) but they will not.

 Question 6

Do you support or oppose this proposal to confer additional finance functions on a West Yorkshire Mayor and mayoral combined authority?

Strongly oppose

No taxation without adequate representation and scrutiny.

Our opposition to these additional powers is due to the lack of a suitable democratic mandate as we have detailed in our answer to question 1 and the lack of suitable scrutiny and powers to limit the powers of the Mayor by a democratically elected Assembly.

The power to charge a precept for policing would mean that the funding gained could be the responsibility of an unelected functionary.

Question 7

Are there any comments you would like to make that you do not feel you have addressed in your response?

What about the challenge of Climate Change?

The West Yorkshire Authorities Governance Review document highlights the major challenges to the sub region. It includes growth, productivity, diversity, innovation and trade but Climate Change is not identified as a challenge bizarrely. The self-declared target of having a Zero Carbon Economy in just 18 years time is a significant challenge but it is concerning that it has not been included here. For the record the Green Party believes that our target should be 2030 not 2038 in line with the evidence from climate scientists.

What about a resilient economy?

Another significant challenge highlighted by the COVID19 crisis is the need for a resilient economy that is less affected by global factors such as international trade, the money markets and financial speculation.

A more resilient economy would have an emphasis on local production for local need, more locally owned and managed businesses trading with each other ensuring money remains within the regional economy. This is not identified as a significant challenge and therefore cannot be regarded as a priority by the Mayoral Combined Authority. This is a major weakness in the Governance Review Document

 

 


Saturday, 9 May 2020

Time to press the reset button on all we know.

"Normal life" is on hold. 

For many of us the 'pause' button has been pressed on all we know. The all consuming,  news dominating B word 'Brexit' has been replaced with the C-word 'Corona' or 'Covid19'.  The physical places where we once came together as a society, where we met, collaborated, planned and had a darned good time on occasion, are all closed. Workplaces, cafes, restaurants, pubs, churches, mosques, temples, schools are all empty. The treadmill of everyday life  has stopped for the first time in generations. The machine has stopped. We can't simply start it again without asking some serious questions about what is important to us.

It is a time to reflect, to think about the things that we value and all that we want to see changed for the better.

We have relied on the Public and voluntary sectors like never before. They are valued like never before and so is what they can do to protect us and provide for our everyday needs. This is something the private sector simply cannot and would never match.

The NHS's future has to be secured, but it has got to go way beyond the warm words that all politicians say. Those who supported a market of NHS services need to reflect on whether the likes of Richard Branson have any place making a profit from our health services.

A positive out of this awful situation is the benefit to our local and global environment. The "engines of death" no longer leave their trails across the sky as planes are grounded at airports,o ur roads are uncongested and cycling has become a much safer option. The air is cleaner than ever before with the knock on benefit to climate change and public health.

Millions have discovered the joys of video conferencing apps for meetings, conferences or even simply meeting up with friends for a drink. That will not disappear when lockdown ceases. The need to travel and meet face to face will be much less.

Our sense of community has grown. People have been confined to their homes largely and many have helped their more vulnerable neighbours through difficult times. The Thursday night clapping rituals for the NHS have brought many together as never before.

With local government and the NHS having been at the forefront of the fight against COVID 19 there can be no return to austerity economics. Boris Johnson professes to have opposed Conservative austerity (but there is  little evidence for that in his voting record). So now we have  ensure that the vision we have for a clean environment, a more equal society and one that has support for community at the heart of its thinking is supported by the economic choices we make.

So now we must provide the space for a public debate on the future for the UK so we can press the reset button on all we know and have a new consensus about the better future that can be achieved for us all.