Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas All

Got the sprouts from the allotment Christmas Day morning.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Councillor Graham Simpson – 2011 Annual Report to Newsome Residents

Councillor Graham Simpson – Annual Report 2011

I have had a period of illness this year and so have not been as active as I would have liked but I’m pleased to say I’m on the mend. Despite this I have still got a number of things to report back on in from the past year.

I spoke out at the Kirklees Council Budget meeting this year against the cuts which were being imposed on us by central government. I and my Green Party colleagues are opposed to the reductions in budgets and services for elderly and disabled people. Green Councillors engaged fully with the budget process to understand in detail what the implicatoions of the cuts were and what, if any room for manoeuvre there was and in truth there was very little. What disappointed me was real cuts in provision being presented by the Labour Party as ‘improvements’. We should be straight with people about the impact of decisions we make even if they are unpopular.

I was actively involved in the protest on the land between New Laithe Hill and High Lane earlier this year. It was great to see so many people turn out and the photograph of the crowd there has been used on a number of times in the Examiner highlighting our opposition. The land is used regularly by walkers,especially dog walkers & children as recreation area's If this land and the land adjacent to Jackroyd Lane and Newsome Road was developed Newsome would lose its individual identity and become an extension of the town centre.

I also spoke out at the scrutiny enquiry into the future management of council housing in Kirklees. I thought that the proposals to include non housing services in the new contract needed more work to see if they would benefit tenants and also that there had not been enough information or consultation with tenants on how the new proposals would affect them. I am pleased that this matter was then referred back to Cabinet and it has now been agreed that the management contract will continue on the existing terms until more information has been provided to tenants and that tenants and there representatives will be fully consulted to see if they agree with any proposed changes before they are implemented.

My main activity this year as a Councillor has been to take up local issues and concerns. Here are just some examples

• I asked Kirklees Highways to address an issue on Colne Street, Aspley by the carpet warehouse and the Flyboat Pub where the road surface was worn down to the cobbles in places and had numerous potholes.

• I sought to get a supply of grit for the residents of Aspley some of whom are unsteady on their feet.

• Another road issue I took up was potholes on Daisy Royd Newsome.

• Drains on Cross Lane Primrose Hill were overflowing at the bottom end of the road and I asked Kirklees Highways to get these cleared.

• I was contacted by local residents about Bankfield House in Taylor Hill. Planning permission was granted in 2008 and the site was secured, work started and construction materials were brought onto site. However nothing has happened for the last couple of years and residents are concerned that the site is not secure and boundary panels frequently fall over or are vandalised. I asked the Council to contact the owners to ensure the site was properly secured. This is an issue I’ll be keeping a close eye on

• I have taken up a number of complaints regarding empty properties around the Newsome Ward. At a time when we are under pressure by the Council and central government to build more houses it makes no sense that we have so many standing empty

These are the ‘bread and butter’ issues of being a local Councillor which affect people’s everyday lives.

I’ve played a key role in getting the thousands of leaflets out to you that we get printed and distributed using our own funds and legwork. If you’d like to help us with either this would be greatly appreciated.

I have joined my fellow Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper at some of the Green Party advice surgeries at the Monkey Club, Armitage Bridge that we hold on the first Sunday of the month between 1pm and 2pm. Please come along if you have any issues you would like to bring to our attention.

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all

Cllr Graham Simpson Mobile 07814 239317

Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner - 2011 Annual Report to Newsome Ward residents

Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner – Annual Report 2011

This has been a year full of new and difficult challenges; here’s some of those challenges along with some highlights.

January: Andrew and I started the year being very heavily involved in budget briefings and debates. We weren’t willing to accept large reductions in care for vulnerable people, and so we took an opposing position (along with the verbal abuse from the 3 larger parties) We are confident we did the right thing.

February Kirklees successfully gained Fairtrade status, and many community groups, children’s centres and schools joined us in celebrating this achievement during Fairtrade fortnight. The Fairtrade Foundation was successful in gaining the world record for the longest length of bunting and it was all made from Fairtrade cotton. Many of the bunting triangles came from Kirklees. In February I was being re-elected as Chairperson of Newsome Ward Community Forum. The title of Chairperson gives the impression of leading on the work we do, and in some cases that is true, but in other cases, the team just tell me what to do now!

February included the ongoing debates over the budget and we continued to champion the needs of vulnerable people. We also had a visit from Caroline Lucas Green Party MP, and I hosted the public meeting where she addressed a large crowd, supported by our Andrew. The questions from the public were constructive and considered.

In March I went to a free conference provided by the Local Government Association about Localism. I know many people are anxious about the bits of information in the news and how it would affect local people. The conference didn’t help much, it focussed mainly on Social Enterprises and working with the voluntary sector; something I already do a lot of and is commonplace across Kirklees.

April I lead on arrangements for a street party in my neighbourhood for the Royal Wedding, and it was great to see so many people, from many different backgrounds, come out to celebrate just being British. April was also very busy with the build up to the local elections, but also very enjoyable, as I got to speak to many positive people.

May: What a great result in the Local Elections! I was delighted to have won so convincingly with over 50% of the vote. Thank you to all of you who believe in me – I won’t let you down.

Following the elections I was reappointed as Lead Member for the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Panel for Resources. It oversees very complex fast moving issues due to the need to restructure the Council due to big reductions in Council budgets. Trying to save £83m without impacting on front line services will be difficult to achieve, e.g. front line workers need to do their own admin / office work as back of house staff are reduced, so they can’t be out doing their main role as much as they used to.

In June I was appointed to the Board of Trustees for the One Community Foundation. It was established in May 2010, to generate financial support for local community activities. Our role is to build and manage a series of endowment funds, so that we can make a lasting contribution across Kirklees, by delivering grants to local groups and the wider community. You can help raise funds by doing your on-line Christmas shopping via

In July, I made time to do a sponsored Dragon Boat Race for the Huddersfield Rotary, and I got to Captain their team. The majority of the money raised went to the two hospices, with a little of the profits going to their local charity funds. I also managed to do the Race for Life this year, I’d not been able to do it for a couple of years, and it was great to be a part of it again.

The Newsome Out To Play sub group of the community forum gained funding to develop local play opportunities for children of all ages, arrange training for volunteers, enable better co-ordination of activity, etc. One of the highlights of the year was the Play Day event on 3rd August; I was amazed by how many people joined in.

August: Newsome High School had tremendous GCSE results, and is going from strength to strength. I’ve been a Governor at the school for several years and I’m so pleased with the continual improvements and achievements.

September: Members of CPRE (Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) arranged for us to talk to local residents at a public meeting in Hall Bower Chapel, which was very helpful. Andrew and I were able to share our views about the impending Localism Bill and the National Planning Policy Framework, and listen to concerns of local people.

October: While I was Mayor of Kirklees, I chose to champion local farming and local food production, and this campaign had several lasting legacies. In October I was delighted to help present awards to several more schools who have achieved the Soil Association Food for Life Bronze Awards. We now have 24 local schools who have achieved this award and 25 more progressing towards it. The School Catering Service itself has achieved the Soil Association’s Bronze Food for Life Catering Mark for its healthy meals supplied to 184 schools across Kirklees. The March figures show that Kirklees Catering Service was the second largest local authority caterer in the country and the only one in the Yorkshire and Humber region to have achieved this award.


There is a Special Meeting of Council scheduled for 23rd November regarding the LDF, which hadn’t taken place at the time of writing this report. We will do all we can to influence the LDF policies; to protect our valuable open spaces, to ensure there is space for agriculture, and to ensure development is targeted at the real needs of our communities.

December: We’ve arranged a Special Public meeting for 1st December to help raise awareness about Welfare Reform. Another huge challenge facing everyone is the cuts to benefits, there are 47 in total which are being introduced in stages until April 2013. One of the biggest changes will be the Housing Benefit changes which will be introduced in January. Council have produced an information booklet to try and help. Copies are available at Together Shop in Newsome, as well as Children’s Centres, Council Information Points and Job Centre Plus.

The Budget process starts again in December, meaning another series of briefings and debates on the best way to manage the huge reduction in funds provided by the Government. It’s a position no one would want to be in and some tough decisions will need to be made. I’m not looking forward to it, but I do take it very seriously and will be taking an active part in the process.

The ‘Kiddies Xmas Party’ takes place again on 10th December, all organised by volunteers of Newsome Ward Community Forum, and always a wonderful occasion; the start of the Christmas season for me. I’ll be doing the ‘Santa Dash’, organised by the Lions Club of Huddersfield, in Huddersfield the next day to help raise funds for the Mayor’s Charity Appeal – the ‘Forget Me Not Trust’; a very seasonal weekend.

Throughout the year, casework for individuals seems to be getting more complex; I’ve helped people with things that are common concerns e.g. planning, highways, cleansing issues, but this year there seems to be an increasing number of more personal issues, e.g. home care, care for people with dementia, domestic violence, and anti-social behaviour.

Despite this sad note to end on, I am looking forward to Christmas and wish you all warmth, health and happiness this Christmas and for the year ahead.

Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner

Councillor Derek Hardcastle – 2011 Annual Report to Kirkburton Residents

Councillor Derek Hardcastle – 2011 Annual Report

Dear Resident,

This year has been one of the most challenging in my time as one of your local Councillors. We have had one of the toughest budget settlements the Council has ever had to face with central government slashing £80 million from Kirklees Council services over the next 4 years with no reduction in the Council Tax we have to pay. We have had the Local Development Framework which threatens green fields and spaces (and not just greenbelt) right across the district. It is against this background that the Green Party team have been continuing to take up issues at the Kirklees and Parish level.

In February this year the Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavillion visited Huddersfield and we held a well attended public meeting the evening before Kirklees Councils budget decision. I must say she is a real asset to our Party and has impressed many people with her insights into the actions of the government and the impacts of the cuts on ordinary families up and down the country.

In the Council Budget meeting the Green Party stood alone in opposing Council cuts to services for elderly and vulnerable people. The majority of the cuts fell on those in the greatest need. The budget for care for older people was slashed from £52 million to £40 million. Daycare services were cut from £5.3million to £1.5million. We believed as a matter of principle that to cut services for those who are in the direst circumstances is morally wrong particularly when the bankers who got us into this economic crisis seem to be able to continue to reap the same rewards as before. You don’t have to be a ‘socialist’ to see that this is wrong. The Green Party made these points strongly in the Kirklees Budget meeting in February and received a lot of abuse from the other Parties on the Council for making that stand. We still believe it was right that we spoke for those in most need. As it turned out some of the proposed cuts to day care services were withdrawn following a legal challenge which has at least brought respite for some people. What really annoys me is when cuts are characterised as ‘improvements’ to services. If we have to make cuts the least the Council can do is be upfront with people about the impacts on heir everyday lives.

This year was the end of my first 4 years as one of your Councillors and so I was up re-election in May. What I really enjoyed was getting round to seeing so many people in the run up to the election. It is a huge ward that stretches from Farnley Tyas to Flockton so we had a big area to get round. As usual it was a nail biting election count and I was re-elected by 82 votes but then I‘ve lost by 5 in the past so I was very pleased. I still can’t get used to the misinformation and half truths from my local opponents that I get during local campaigns. There were some very misleading statements about my attendance at meetings and dodgy montages of a wind turbine at Grange Moor (which I actually opposed at Planning Committee). All I can really say to people is that if you see some criticism of us in our opponents please don’t take it at face value please ring me or one of my colleagues and we’ll give you a straight story. Having said all that I found my Conservative opponent Amanda Shaw to be a pleasant and capable candidate and I’m sure she wasn’t responsible for much of the material in her leaflets.

The other elections that were held this year were those for the Parish Council and I was really pleased that the Green Party got the most votes and Parish seats of all the parties and that every village in the Kirkburton Ward has a Green representative. We are the only party that can make that claim. Our candidates topped the poll in Kirkburton/Highburton, Shepley, Grange Moor and Farnley Tyas and Thurstonland. Thank you to everyone who voted for us.

Of course the day to day role of a Councillor is taking up local issues. Here’s a small selection of the issues we’ve taken up this year:-

• Getting Moor Top Avenue resurfaced at Thurstonland

• Helping get funding for ‘The Hub’ at Kirkburton

• Helping get a new bench for Stocksmoor (then getting Kirklees to turn it round to face the right way!)

• Helping householders with planning advice for installing solar panels on their roofs

• New street lighting for Grange Moor on Bedford Avenue

There are issues which continue to frustrate me such as the need to get the footpath at Paddock Road in Kirkburton resurfaced. I must confess that it has been difficult to get this issue resolved been one voice among three local Councillors who don’t share my view on this. The other issue I really want to see progressed is traffic calming in Stocksmoor. We successfully worked with local people in Farnley Tyas and Thurstonland on their schemes now we need to get some impetus behind resolving issues in Stocksmoor. My Parish Colleagues Robert Barraclough and Andrew Cooper are helping me and liaising with the village association.

Wind turbines continues to be a concern for some householders and I and my Green Party colleagues have taken a balance approaching where we have opposed those that are poorly sited and intrusive and supported those that aren’t. I have opposed new turbines at Shelley and Grange Moor but supported 2 small turbines on farmland at Thurstonland. Sadly there was a rather political letter produced at Kirklees expense distributed in Thurstonland by the 2 Conservative Councillors on the subject of the wind turbines and the Green Party response to this. I have no objection to people putting their opinions in a leaflet and letter but no funded by the Council Tax. We have always taken the trouble to speak to the Thurstonland Village Association about local concerns and we had in this instance and I think actually talking through some of the issues we managed to address a number of concerns people had which were associated with much larger turbines.

My year will end very much like the last one. I will be driving a minibus on Boxing Day from Flockton to Grange Moor through Lepton and on to town. We have been running this free service for local people for 4 years now and I really enjoy it.

A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.

Yours sincerely

Councillor Derek Hardcastle

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

PRESS RELEASE - Greens select Robert Barraclough to contest Kirkburton election next May

Robert Barraclough
Following Derek Hardcastle’s successful re-election for a four year term as a Kirklees Councillor for the Kirkburton Ward last May the Green Party have selected Robert Barraclough as their candidate for the May 2012 elections.

Robert has been a Parish Councillor representing the Thurstonland and Farnley Tyas Ward on Kirkburton Parish Council since 2007 and in 2009 was elected Chairman of the Parish Council. He has lived and worked in the Kirkburton ward all his life and is a tenant farmer at Farnley Tyas. He became involved with the National Farmers Union (NFU) in 1994 becoming Local Branch chairman until 2003 holding office through both the BSE and Foot & Mouth crises. During this period he also represented the NFU on the Kirkburton Parish Council Environment Committee.

Robert said of his nomination as Green Party candidate,

“I will aim to make a real difference as a local Councillor for the Kirkburton Ward. It is an area I know well and have a genuine concern for, which goes beyond party politics. I already engage with local groups in the area and am always keen to see community involvement in the delivery of local projects. During my time as Chairman of the Parish Council I was able to meet and help a number of community organisations across the area so I feel well placed and up for the challenge of representing our area at the Kirklees level.”

Councillor Derek Hardcastle said,

“People who know Robert know he can be trusted, is straightforward and hardworking . He is a real asset to our area and I would greatly value his support on Kirklees Council.”

Green Party Council Leader Councillor Andrew Cooper,

“I’m really pleased Robert has been selected as our prospective candidate. His knowledge of rural and community issues is very strong and he brings a whole new set of skills to the Green Party Team.”

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Councillor Andrew Cooper –Annual Report 2011 to Newsome Ward residents

Councillor Andrew Cooper –Annual Report 2011

This has been my twelfth year as one of your local Councillors and almost certainly one of the busiest I can remember. Much of the beginning of 2011 was dedicated to the Kirklees Council budget as we grappled with the £80 million of cuts imposed on Kirklees by the Coalition Government. I spent hours in budget meetings going over proposals to come up with a solution which did not result in huge cuts to adult social care. In the end I and my Green Party colleagues were not prepared to vote for the Kirklees budget as a matter of conscience and principle. We could not vote for a budget which saw care for older people reduced from £52 million to around £40 million over the next 4 years and Day Care Services to drop from £5.3 million to £1.5 million and all this at a time when the demand for these services is likely to rise. All this is happening at a time when the banks are seemingly unscathed, benefits are being cut and services are disappearing all around us.

Planning was also a major item for me in this Council year. I was the only Councillor, not on the Planning Committee to speak against the proposed Tesco development to be built on the site of the current Sports Centre. Bizarrely many of the Councillors on the Planning Committee had huge reservations but ended up voting for it. Could it have been anything to do with the ‘bung’ Kirklees were getting from Tesco to build a new Sports Centre at Springwood? Also last month I attended and spoke at the Public Enquiry into the Tesco Planning Decision along with Barry Sheerman MP who spoke in favour of the Planning Decision being overturned.

Another key big issue this year was changes to planning policy both at the national and local level. The Coalition Government has introduced a new National Planning Policy Framework which in a nutshell makes it easier for developers to build on greenfield sites. I have spoke out regarding this issue at a number of meetings including a well attended one at Hall Bower Chapel. I have also used links with the Local Government Association to get some direct input into the Conservative Minister responsible Eric Pickles MP. As things stand I don’t anticipate much change. At the Kirklees level we have the Local Development Framework which will contain the policies which guide where housing will and will not be developed working with Julie and Graham we are continuing to press hard on the Labour led Council not to allocate greenfield land for development we have particularly mentioned land adjacent to New Laithe Hill and Jackroyd Lane on a number of occasions. We’ll keep people updated with developments.

I was particularly pleased this year to welcome Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP to Huddersfield. She spoke at a meeting in February in the Hudawi Centre about her work as an MP and the impact of government cuts.

The Newsome Ward continues to be a national beacon for renewable energy and I was able to help Newsome South Methodist Church with sourcing funding to get solar panels installed on their roof. The Church did a lot of fund raising itself and the panels will help them save electricity costs and provide funds to keep this well used community building going.

When I first started knocking on doors in Newsome in 1993 I took up the issue of traffic calming on Hangingstone Road Berry Brow. This year we finally got the funding sorted out. I asked the Highways Engineer leading the project how old he was in 1993 and he told me he was just 5! In the end the real success of this was local people getting together to put their case strongly to Kirklees with me as local councillor providing help and guidance.

I continue to be a strong supporter of the Growing Newsome project and I share an allotment in Primrose Hill where I’ve grown food now for the last couple of years. I‘m especially pleased that the Stirley Farm project is up and running to support local food initiatives and it now has its own cattle in addition to its vegetable and fruit growing activities. It is important that the green land around the area is worked and useful to protect it from those would see it as ripe development land but it is also a great project in its own right and lots of local people are getting involved.

One issue which has affected a great number of people in the Ward has been Labour’s proposed £30 charge for permit parking. Many people in Aspley, Highfields and Springwood are on low or fixed incomes and even though many don’t have, or can’t afford, a car they are able to offer visitors, carers and relatives a car parking space. This proposed charge is effectively a £30 increase on the Council Tax for people who are generally on lower incomes. I have been very vocal on this issue in Council and have asked for an equalities impact assessment to be carried out on this decision.

I was originally a sceptic but now have a ‘blog’ which is basically an online diary of my views and opinions on things affecting the Newsome Ward and Kirklees in general. Again I was sceptical about Twitter but now I am an avid user of it. If you want to ‘follow’ me I’m at @clrandrewcooper

My New Year will begin as it did last year driving Newsome’s New Years Day Bus Service. This is now in it’s 19th year and thanks to everyone who helps with and uses this service.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Andrew Cooper

Monday, 5 December 2011

Solar Downfall - Hilarious!

Feed In Tariff letters in Huddersfield Examiner

Another recent exchange of emails regarding the cut to the solar PV Feed In Tariffs in theHuddersfield Examiner. RJ Bray can be forgiven for taking some of the dubious misinformation from Government and in the papers about the cost of Feed In Tariffs at face value but maybe not on describing me as "Clr Khan’s friendly Green ". More research required R J! If he'd stuck 'occasionally' in front that would be fine! Anyway here's R J followed by myself

KIRKLEES Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan’s latest gripe is that money which he hoped to receive for a solar energy panel scheme which were to be fitted to 1,000 council properties has now been cancelled.

Clr Khan’s friendly Green Clr Andrew Cooper told the Examiner that it was a blow to the elderly and vulnerable people currently living in fuel poverty.

So does Clr Cooper’s statement mean that there are only 1,000 people in the Huddersfield area living in fuel poverty and all are currently living in council property? I think not.

Come the cold months myself and her that shall be obeyed will be wearing more layers than an onion has skins due to the criminally high energy prices.

Clr Khan and Clr Cooper I feel would have more credibility if they represented the collective rather than a select few.

Why do they not campaign for cheaper energy for everyone or more winter fuel allowance for those in more need?

Instead, they help create higher energy bills for people by having them fund through their meters the feed-in tariffs for those who have solar panels or wind turbines.

In this manner they also put more money into the energy companies’ pockets. In all fairness, is this right?

Alternative energy will never drive our country forward. It will have the reverse effect and send our country back to the Stone Age.

Industry along with our homes cannot be sustained by wind, solar or wave power. It’s a little like a dripping tap into an empty reservoir at the height of summer.

The country needs a nuclear project and it needs it now if we are to get away from fossil fuels and be less dependent on gas from overseas. Let’s not forget the madcap carbon capture process that is to get underway at the cost of billions of pounds to the taxpayer along with industry itself.

Maybe Clr Khan and Clr Cooper could ask for some money from that major worthless project called the European Union which drives these schemes.

I agree that we must pollute our atmosphere less and giant steps have been taken – but let us remember that this cannot be at the cost of the extinction of mankind, otherwise what has it all been for?

R J Bray


Read More

To the Editor

RJ Bray (Examiner 3/12) takes me to task for my dismay over the government cuts to the funding of the Feed In Tariff for solar panels and in particular the suspending of the Council scheme to install solar panels on the homes of 1000 Council Tenants. He says,

“does Clr Cooper’s statement mean that there are only 1,000 people in the Huddersfield area living in fuel poverty and all are currently living in council property?”

No I don’t, but it would be a start to help those people by running such a scheme which could then be expanded later. There are also currently schemes available for private householders where the panels are installed for free and the householders get the benefit of the electricity in return for handing the Feed in Tariff to the installing company. A number of households around Huddersfield have done this already. If he wants details I’ll pass them onto him. Of course not everyone can benefit from this scheme due to the orientation or size of their roof but many can. So the existing policy framework for solar is one which many people can take advantage of but changes by the government threaten its viability for everyone.

Mr Bray says that Feed In Tariffs,

“help create higher energy bills for people by having them fund through their meters the feed-in tariffs for those who have solar panels or wind turbines”

The actual impact of the Feed In Tariff policy on energy bills last year was 30p for the average household. This is less than a penny a week. The cost of a new nuclear power station, which Mr Bray is so keen on, can be a round £4.25 Billion and that doesn’t take into account the decommissioning costs and the costly handling of dangerous nuclear waste. This will have a much more significant impact on energy bills.

He asks of myself and Cllr Khan,

“Why do they not campaign for cheaper energy for everyone”

I don’t presume to speak for Cllr Khan but for my part I successfully proposed making insulation free for all householders in Kirklees, I was the trustee of a national fuel poverty charity for 8 years and have helped many householders reduce their fuel bills through advice on energy tariffs and by getting information out to householders on a number of ways to help reduce fuel bills. So I don’t believe I’m deficient in wanting to help people reduce their bills.

Mr Bray goes on to say,

“Industry along with our homes cannot be sustained by wind, solar or wave power.”
I agree to a point. In addition we are going to need greater levels of energy efficiency in buildings better controls and energy management, district heating systems, anaerobic digestion and a whole host of other actions to make the future of energy supply in the UK more secure. Althis l does rather beg a question why only Malta and Luxembourg in Europe have a worse proportion of their energy generated from renewable sources than the UK. What is technically possible on the continent seems somehow difficult here. The laws of physics are not different this side of the channel but some attitudes, prejudices and opinions among some certainly are.

Councillor Andrew Cooper - Green Party

Saturday, 3 December 2011

FIT to drop! Solar PV - A question of priorities

A ground mounted PV install in Brockholes where I live.
Will the flag be at half mast on the 12th of December when the FIT rate drops?

Somehow I can’t separate in my mind the cuts in Solar PV tariffs from other unrelated news items other than they are all outpourings of policy announcements from Government.

The basic mantra from Climate Change Minister Greg Barker is ‘Solar PV is expensive, the tariffs are unaffordable, capital costs are dropping so fast that the FIT is overgenerous that’s why we are cutting it. Its times not right yet for mass deployment, it’s a regressive tax on energy bills and adversely affects the fuel poor. Its like the poll tax and we all know how unpopular that was!’

This line doesn’t stand a lot of examination but it represents their expressed views and it would seem that DECC have pulled the drawbridge up on this one and are sticking their fingers in their ears to reasoned argument. So given it only cost a few million last year, the equivalent of 30p on the average energy bill what other things have the government been spending our money on? Well there’s the £600 million for Free Schools, a totally unnecessary support for a new school system usually parent led which will run parallel and in addition to local authority schools. There was the £250 million by Eric Pickles offered to councils to recommence weekly bin collections which actually nobody is much bothered about. Then there’s all the money for new infrastructure projects that has been announced this week. All this yet solar PV a technology that has been made available for the fuel rich and the fuel poor, that can be quickly deployed, that significantly reduces fuel cost and carbon emissions is regarded as too expensive (it isn’t). It simply doesn’t add up as an argument. You can’t really believe that they believe it. When we are talking about expanding nuclear generation this is couched in the terms of energy security and there’s no real reference to the impact on energy bills. The same arguments could be used for solar PV but they aren’t. So what is really going on? I’ll stick my neck out and say that it must be lobbying from the energy generators and suppliers. How would you feel if your monopoly over the provision of electricity was under threat from millions of people sticking solar panels on their roofs and then you have to pay them for the privilege. I’ve heard no mutterings, I have no proof but given the government’s position on FITs isn’t really credible this seems like a believable explanation. DECC Ministers may wag their fingers at the suppliers and generators but ultimately they’re going to need them to pursue their energy ambitions for new nuclear. May lord have mercy on us all!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Pensions Strike

A really inspiring turnout today from Unions, staff and folk generally expressing their concern about the cuts. I couldn't stay too long unfortunately but I did make the mistake of telling Cllr Khan it was my birthday. Apparently after the video finishes they sang me a rendition of Happy Birthday. I wish I'd had time to see it. Thanks Mehboob - I think!

What I think was a real game changer for this March was that it wasn't just the usual suspects in the crowd. The crowd for one thing was a lot bigger which reflects the fact that the concern is more deeply routed than those who are permanently politically aware and motivated. It also recognises the links between large scale public sector cuts and the assault on public pensions.  If this is the way things are now what are they going to be like in another 12 months, 2 years or the 6 months of pain we are told we have. The government haven't a mandate for these policies and their therefore legitimacy is highly questionable. I don't think I've ever see a government in this country that is more divisive than this. Thank goodness we've got the Lib Dems using their restraining influence - Ok that was a joke!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Greens join with Holme Valley Independents on Local Development Framework

Grimescar Valley - saved from development by all Parties

The 16200 figure presented in the Green Party/Independent amendment has a strong
evidence base supported by economic projections, past performance on housing completions, the impact of Coalition Government policies on the construction and housing sectors and the Communities and Local Government Paper, 'Estimating Housing Need' (2010).

Current economic projections for growth show 1.5% this year and 2.5% next year according to the government's own Office for Budget Responsibility. Historically these figures have been highly optimistic. This projection compares to the an annual growth rates averaging 2.68% between 1992–2007 according to the IMF. The British Chambers of Commerce Economic Forecast in March this year said:

“Further forceful cuts in the budget deficit, the unresolved problems in the banking sector, and the financial fragility in the household sector will delay a return to pre‐crisis growth rates. Over the next 4‐5 years, growth of UK GDP is likely to average just over 2% per annum, considerably less than the 3.0% average growth recorded in the 15‐year period 1993‐2007”

Coalition Government cuts of 60% in the Homes and Communities Agency is going to significantly reduce the levels of social housing and shared ownership housing available. The viability of younger people being able to enter the housing market will be increasingly stifled due to the impact of tuition fees which will mean that when students leave college and start receiving the sort of salaries they would need to consider the purchase of a property they will start having to repay those fees.

While we recognise that there is an increasing social need for more housing, the mere projection of house building figures in the absence of interventionist social and economic policies will not create the construction of needed housing units. Rather it will give greater licence to the speculative builder of executive properties on green field sites. Without changes in government policy which will support the development of social housing, an open supply‐side private housing market cannot solve this problem, but only create distortions of excessive building on green field sites whilst leaving the overall stock of needed housing low.

Simply making land available in its own terms will not deliver new housing so the LDF’s own targets are not realisable due to the underlying economic conditions the UK is in and the lack of policies to stimulate an economic revival and develop social housing.

Past performance on housing completions does not support the targets given in the LDF document. The average number of completions between 2000 and 2010 was 1248 per year and even this level is skewed due to particularly high years. Expectations of mainly 1500 completions per year across the plan are clearly unattainable.

If our figures were to be adopted this would require no housing development on land that is currently in the greenbelt. We wish to see development in Grimescar, Honley, Meltham and Brockholes taken out of the plan. Just as the Local Development Framework has proposed to remove greenbelt status from nominated areas we would add land below Castle Hill bordered by High Lane and New Laithe Hill which is directly adjacent to greenbelt land and part of the backdrop to the historic and iconic Victoria Tower on Castle Hill.

Like the Government asserts we also believe in Localism and support the concept of Neighbourhood Development Plans where communities establish what land they would like to see developed in their area above and beyond those targets set in the LDF. Our fear is that the Government's belief in localism is only skin deep and that the Government through the Planning Inspectorate would favour developers rather than communities.

We believe that where previously undeveloped land is to be developed that this should be constructed to a higher environmental standard than those proposed in building regulations in terms of energy performance and sustainable urban drainage.

We recognise that there is value in the juxtaposition of new design and new technology with heritage assets such as modern glass atriums on church buildings and solar panels being utilised on older properties and we would expect the LDF to include policies that support that approach.

Overall the Kirklees Local Plan should not only consider the urban settlements on a quantitative basis, but qualitatively take into account their unique features of these different communities taking into account their urban, rural and environmental factors . Hence more detailed and specific polices should be developed for the Huddersfield Hub, Dewsbury, North Kirklees and the valleys in the South of Kirklees.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Huddersfield Tesco Public Enquiry - Barry and the Barrister

Fortnum and Mason - where i believe Tesco's Barrister shops. Go on sue me!

You'd be forgiven for not knowing about the Tesco Public Enquiry. Not highly publicised they held it out of town in the Hudawi Centre this week. Just to recap Kirklees Council sells Huddersfield Sports Centre and surrounding area to Tescos for millions to allow them to build a huge store at the edge of the Town Centre to help suck more money out of the local economy. The money from Tesco's is then going to used to build a new Sports Centre on Springwood Car Park. The Planning Committee decision was highly dubious given the background and expressed reservations of Counciilors who then went on to vote for it. Barry Sheerman Huddersfield's MP (he managed to beat me in the General Election as did  a couple of others) successfully called for a Public Enquiry. You should be up to date now.

Here's the Tesco Enquiry I spoke at on Friday. On your left is the Tesco Legal team mob. At the far end is posh Barrister. The Planning Inspector in the middle and Barry Sheerman on the left. I followed on from our esteemed MP
I managed to get there for half an hour to present my evidence. I arrived as Barry Sheerman MP was having a set to with Tesco's rather plummy Barrister. It seemed I had entered just as class war was breaking out between Barry and the Barrister. Barry gamely slagged off supermarkets and how much money was being drawn out of the local economy while the 'Tescos Toff' said Barry was biased against supermarkets and wasn't giving any planning reasons to oppose the application. So when I took the stand following Barry I decided not to go off on a Tescopoly tirade but to stick to the unsound nature of the planning decision itself. I pointed out the deep reservations expressed by councillors in the planning meeting who then went on to promptly vote for the application. I told the Planning Inspector about the seven fold increase in traffic at the end of an air quality management area on Leeds Road, the lack of a commitment to social housing, the lack of natural stone in the development despite Councillors wishes. I went on to point out the extraordinarily long time, 9 years, that Kirklees had granted Tesco to build their barn and the lack of trees and biodiversity about the site as well as the impact on the Town Centre. I finished giving my evidence and awaited the onslaught of probing questions from Tescos Barrister. The Planning Inspector invited him to respond but 'No questions' 'Cmon!' I said, 'there must be some questions' I had focussed on the Planning Decision after all. 'I've no questions but that doesn't mean I agree with what has been said'. During my evidence 2 of  Barrister Posh's staff rushed up to him with bits of paper and conferred with him but whatever they said it did not seem like he wanted to engage. I counted about 8 Tesco's people there either legal or company people so they are certainly throwing some money at this lets hope Kirklees Planning's deeply dodgy decision on this ( with the honorable exception of Cllr Christine Iredale) is overturned.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Solar Sundown

Many council and free solar schemes have checked into the Sundown Motel

A few weeks ago, and somewhat inexplicably,Winchester City Council in Hampshire cancelled its plans to install solar panels on their municipal buildings as they said that they did not stack up financially and that the prices they got back from their tender were not what they were expecting. To any informed outside observer this must have been nonsense. Up and down the country Councils had been pursuing schemes to install panels on their own buildings and council houses having done the maths and concluded their proposals were self financing. Possibly Winchester knew something the rest of us didn’t about the FIT cuts that were coming over the horizon.

The implications of the Governments rushed review of the Feed In Tariff rates for solar photovoltaics are significant and in many ways tragic. In Leeds the City Council had innovative plans to use the Feed In Tariff incomes from installations on Council houses to help finance free insulation for private homes. That great idea would now appear to be a total dead duck. In Kirklees we have/had a thousand house solar PV programme some of which are in the Newsome Ward. I’ve asked the Council’s Leader Councillor Khan and the Chief Executive to see what can be done to accelerate installations ahead of the cut. It’s going to be difficult and I anticipate a lot of weekend working to get PV systems commissioned and working ahead of the deadline.

So why are government making this cut? Well the first thing to say is that this is not public money we are talking about so this is not saving you and me tax. We do however all pay for the feed in tariff through a levy on our fuel bills along with a number of charges which subsidise nuclear and renewable programmes. The FIT element of this is reckoned to cost the average household around 30 pence per year or less than 1 penny/week. As the FIT is the result of public policy however it is counted in the governments Public Sector Borrowing Requirement and so Treasury has put a cap on it OR as Climate Change Minister Greg Barker refers to it ‘a budget’. Given the very low cost of the tariff the cap is obviously set very low demonstrating a very limited ambition by government for the solar sector. Government’s argument is that the capital costs for installing PV have dropped dramatically and therefore the FIT should drop. While this is true it is only half the story. Government are ignoring the fact that demand for PV has been generated by the level of FIT that has in turn helped generate the economies of scale that have enabled prices to come down. So if you reduce the FIT rate then capital costs are likely to start rising significantly. There is probably a reasoned argument for a limited FIT reduction but not one of over 50% that will put companies out of business and make thousands unemployed.

The cuts to the FIT rates take effect on the 12th of December yet the consultation on the review of feed in tariffs is due to close on the 23rd of December. So Merry Christmas everybody! This is just one of the reasons that solar companies are pursuing legal routes to challenge government over this abomination of a consultation. The other reason is that right now there will be many millions of pounds worth of solar panels and inverters on the high seas already bought and paid for by British companies on the understanding of a return based on current FIT rates. Some of these solar panels will have been destined for Council projects such as those planned for Kirklees, Leeds and York but NOT Hampshire.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Press Release - People urged to install solar panels while they can

Andrew Cooper with the solar panels installed on Civic Centre 3
Greens urge people to install solar panels while they can.

Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper has urged Huddersfield householders to install solar panels as soon as they can.  Following newspaper reports and mistakenly leaked documents it has become clear that the Government has plans to halve the Feed In Tariffs for solar photovoltaic panels.

Currently people can claim 43 pence for every kilowatt of electricity they generate off their roof but the government now plans to cut this to around 21p from the beginning of December.

Councillor Cooper who has solar panels himself said,

 “If people install solar panels now before the cut is due to take place in December then they will get the 43p rate for the next 25 years if they were to install them after that they would get less than half that.”

I recommend that people get three quotes from local companies. You can save significant amounts of money by comparing the prices of installers.  A list of installers in our area can be obtained from the Yorkshire and Humber Microgeneration Partnership website

You should make sure your contractors and the components they install are registered under the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. All companies on the website should be.

It is also worth checking the warranty period on the solar panels and the inverter which converts the DC electricity from the panels into the AC electricity that we use in our homes. You can get warranties of over 20 years for solar panels but it can vary more with inverters.

If you can’t afford the capital cost of solar panels then there are companies that will install them on your house for free. They  claim the feed in tariff and you get the benefit of the electricity generated of the roof saving you around £150 - £250 per year depending on the number of panels you have and the current cost of electricity. One such company is A Shade Greener who are based in Tankersley  another is Home Sun

Commenting on these cuts Councillor Cooper said,

“These cuts by the government are nonsensical. Over 25,000 people are employed in the solar industry and these cuts are a threat to them. The cost of the Feed In Tarrif is very small less than 50p/year on the average fuel bill and a fraction of the cost of government subsidies of nuclear power stations. As always it is those on the lowest incomes who will suffer the most. This cut will jeopardise free solar schemes for people unable to afford the upfront costs of solar panels and planned schemes for council tenants properties which are self funding under current Feed In Tariff arrangements but may not be following the proposed cut. The government’s claim to be the Greenest Government ever is looking increasingly hollow and lacking in substance.”

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Growing Newsome Grows and Grows -Autumn Gathering on Saturday

Kim Warren of Stirley Farm.Pumpkin maker extraordinaire
Hardy winter veg and seedlings on offer for donations
Cut price fleece and netting for your allotment. We got 5 metres of good stuff for our patch
Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner dished out Pumpkin and Parsnip soup and bread to the masses
Stacks of people turned up throughout the morning
Cherry and Diane hard at work soup making in the kitchen

Friday, 21 October 2011

Stop Press - So did Labour and Tories agree to reduce their allowances in Brighton?

Add caption
Of course they didn't! Following on from my last blogpost here's a post script. Just to recap, Cllr Khan had wrongly accusing the Green Party in Brighton of not keeping their commitment to reduce members allowances. However it now transpires that when Green proposals to reduce them were put forward yesterday Labour and Tory Councillors voted together to preserve them. So much irony here I don't know really where to start. For the full story here's Councillor Ben Duncan's Blog Brighton Green Cllrs blog on the meeting.

80's Plenty? - Last Kirklees Full Council Report

80's Plenty?
The misinformation quotient was pretty high at last Wednesday's Kirklees Full Council meeting. We had Lib Dem Councillor James Blanchard with what I presume was a planted a question to Councillor Khan on the Green Party’s record as the administration on Brighton City Council. Basically the question was implying that the Greens there had broken a manifesto commitment to lower Councillors allowances and top executives pay. On the basis of past planted questions to Cllr Khan on the subject I was pretty sure this was a load of.... rubbish (that was the word I was searching for). I sent a quick email to Brighton Green Party Councillor and Cabinet Member for finance Jason KitKat for his view. The other point to make is that the question goes against the Councils Constitution in that it has nothing to do with the area of responsibility of the Leader of the Council nor was it anything to do with the Kirklees area. Of course if I’d made that point before the question was made or the dubious answer given then I’d have been accused of trying to hide what the Greens were doing in Brighton. So I let them have their fun then made a point of order pointing out the question was out of order and read Jason Kitkat’s email to me which conveniently arrived a couple of minutes before the question was put and said,
“Not true. Our Chief Exec reduced his salary by 5% and tomorrow we are voting on report to reduce the total cost of councillors allowances and expenses packages.” (see it on Kirklees Webcast here 2.22 in)
There’s a pattern of Green bashing  and misinformation going on here from Mehboob (see Wrath of Khan) and its strange that Cllr Blanchard somehow or other gives credence to him. All good knockabout stuff of course but you do wonder what the point is.

The other source of misinformation in the Council meeting was Lib Dem Councillor Kath Pinnock. A debate was held on Kirklees proposals to outsource Adult Homecare provision as the result of 5000 signature petition. Independent Councillor Edgar Holroyd-Doveton spoke in support of the petitioners and also later proposed a motion to promote a public sector ethos for care homes and services. Councillor Pinnock decided that this meant the Holme Valley Independents wanted to bring all Homecare services inhouse (they don't) and tweeted,

“Holme Valley Independent Cllr now proposing action to raise council tax 12.5% costing every tax payer about £100 extra a year”

All pretty shameless stuff from Councillor Pinnock, but consistent with her usual approach and her dubious relationship with the truth.

The Lib Dems put forward a motion on restricting speed limits to 20 in residential areas on the basis that it will help road safety. All good stuff and not anything new in that we’ve all been pushing for this for a long time but Highways officers always block it on the basis that if there are no physical measures in place e.g. humps, ramps, chicanes then the speed restrictions would be ignored and unenforceable. I’ve disagreed with this approach for a long time and agree that we should send a message, even if it is just with signange, that residential areas are low speed zones. Unfortunately the motion was not put, due to time restrictions, but I would have pointed out that Lib Dem/Con Government proposals to raise the motorway speed limit to 80 will probably lead to more deaths and certainly more carbon emissions. I wanted to know if the Lib Dems had done the maths to work out if they would save more lives with the ‘20s Plenty’ policy than they lost on the ‘80s plenty’ policy.

There was another motion on the changes to constituency boundaries which is going to see around 50 Parliamentary seats going across the country. There are some fairly crazy new boundaries being proposed with Dewsbury being split between 3 MPs. Ultimately though you have got to ask why the Lib Dems agreed to this with the Conservatives in their coalition agreement without getting an agreement on some form of Proportional Representation. Instead they just got a referendum on an inferior form of PR, the Alternative Vote. They seem to have been taken to the cleaners in their negotiations on the coalition agreement. What a wasted opportunity.

As usual we didn’t get through the agenda and Edgar’s motion was curtailed at the 9.00pm deadline and despite me seconding the motion and reserving the right to speak the larger parties voted against our proposal to extend the Council meeting so we could debate the motion properly.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Jobs, Homes and Cows

Jobs and homes and that's it!
I've long had an issue with the way  Kirklees Council has approached the Local Development Framework. I remember sitting in a Kirklees Party Leaders meeting and seeing the proofs of the consultation document entitled 'Jobs and Homes'. Immediately I said that planning was about much more than simply 'jobs and homes'. It was about transport , agriculture, amenity, quality of life. Somehow it reminded me of one of those Labour Conference slogans in the 80s. Did they ever have one called 'Jobs, Homes and Peace'. I  probably just imagined it. What is really striking (and frankly depressing) is how similar Council Leader Mehboob Khan's approach is to the Coalition Goverment is on planning policy. When Labour Cllr Khan and Conservative Communities Minister Eric Pickles see a field they see people building on it and pound signs. They both see a field ripe for development that once it has a house built on it has a monetary value, a quick bung for allowing development, some short term jobs in construction and a revenue stream to replace some of the central government cuts. It is a narrow, unimaginative and rubbish concept of land that devalues our local environment.

In planning policy at the national level  I've had a very small victory recently in the Local Government Association's response to the consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework. It is a much reviled document and the Coalition Government has attacked some of the 'anti growth/anti capitalist' orgainsations that have had the temerity to oppose them. These include the National Trust, English Heritage and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The LGA has to balance its responses to consultations against the competing views of different political parties and the ruling Conservative Group. I am the Independent Cllrs group rep on the LGA Environment and Housing Board (the Greens are included with Independents). Of course the LGA response is much more restrained than the Green Party's but I have got the following wording included:

"It should also be recognised that undeveloped land can have a sustained lasting economic value in terms of agriculture, tourism and amenity and can be strongly related to the quality of life of the people in the area."

Jobs , Homes and Cows
There can be real value in land which is not simply related to sticking some huge 'shopping shed 'on it erected by some monopolistic company which will take most of the economic value of their work out of the area (and probably out of the country as well via tax avoidance). These sort of developments are exactly the sort of rubbish approach that gives politics a bad name, creating cynicsm and alienating communities, but it doesn't have to be like this. We have a prime (beef?) example on our doorstep with Stirley Farm in Newsome. This council land was disused agricultural fields with derelict buildings. It is now managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust who are developing a community farm and local food projects on the farmland around Newsome and below Castle Hill. It enjoys huge local support, links well with the Growing Newsome group and is rapidly being embraced as part of the tapestry that makes up the Newsome community. It is 'development'. Jobs are being created in paid employment, training and voluntary work. Local food is being grown and through outreach work local people are being shown how to grow their own fruit and vegetables and thereby helping lower their household costs. This 'development' is preserving and improving the local area in harmony with the community in a way that simply 'bunging up' another Barratt estate or yet another sodding Tesco's never would or could. Stirley Farm has real value, is valued locally and today has cows. The first 3 beef shorthorns arrived today with another dozen on the way to help build the herd. This is a small part what a real 'Local Development Framework' that people could support and one that would enhance rather than threaten their quality of life.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Longley Tennis Club goes solar

Longley Tennis Club has now got a solar PV system just under the magic 4kWp level. Yet another PV system in the Newsome Ward! The club has had a lot of investment in recent years with a new club house (where the solar panels are) and refurbished tennis courts. This is down in large part to the efforts of Mr Geoff Durrans who has dedicated a lot of time and effort into reviving the club and sourcing funding from a number of pots. With a lot of uncertainty at the moment regarding the Feed In Tariff and threats of unsympathetic government policy reviews it is important that we get as many systems on roofs as possible.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Growing Aspley

Aspley is a small community on the edge of the Newsome Ward and the housing is a mix of Council and Chevin tenancies. Now they have six new raised beds for growing herbs and vegetables and the tenants I have spoken to are really pleased to have them and they are looking forward to getting stuck into growing stuff there. I must admit I was a bit sceptical about a similar raised bed scheme that started last year at the other end of the ward at Berry Brow flats but I'm happy to be proved wrong and the raised beds are now fully subscribed there by tenants and there's a waiting list. Growing projects in Newsome are going from strength to strength and the Stirley Farm project is linking well with Growing Newsome and wider community enthusiasm for food growing.

For my own part 100 winter onions will be going into our allotment shortly (only £2 for 50 onion sets from Wilkinsons)