Friday, 21 January 2011

Local Government Group - Economy and Transport Board Report

Wot no Bus!
 One of my roles is as the Independent Group representative on the Local Government Group's Economy and Transport Programme Board. The Green Party with our 130 or so Councillors is linked with the Independents on what was the Local Government Association. Yesterday's Programme Board had an interesting agenda which was, as you can imagine, dominated by the impact of the Coalition Government's cuts agenda.

The first major item was on Investment and Growth and the demise of the  Regional Development Agencies.  The area I highlighted was the increase in the interest costs of prudential borrowing for Councils. Just as Government is saying to the banks that they should make it easier to lend money (and are largely being ignored) Government itself is raising the costs of public sector borrowing making it more expensive to get economic regeneration projects off the ground.

The next area we looked at was the localisation of Council Tax. One possible impact is that adjoining boroughs could have differing policies on Council Tax Benefit. This is clearly bonkers and inequitable and not in the least fair. The reality however may be that there is so little financial flexibility anyway that varying policies may become more difficult but peraps not in Dorset!

Responsibility for Consessionary Fares is being transferred to Councils but surprise, surprise the funding allowed from central government may not actually cover the costs. I did wryly point out that the cuts in funding  to the PTEs will mean less subsidy for rural and off peak services. These are the very services that many pensioners use and as such the opportunity for them to take advantage of free public transport might be more limited anyway. Less public transport , less concessionary fares. So perhaps this is a well thought out Government policy!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Windmill Madness

An Industrial scale wind turbine !
 Misinformation is rife from the foaming mouth brigade when it comes to wind turbines. They give people epilepsy, make bats explode, decapitate people, explode, don't work and on and on it goes. These same 'issues' with sometimes a small grain of truth don't tend to arise in Europe where most countries get more renewable energy installed where the laws of physics obviously work differently. Here's one such letter from Dr David Hill who's standing as an Independent at the next election. Interestingly he's anti nuclear as well. My response follows (but it's not quite as long)

 Windmill madness

I HOPE that Clr Andrew Cooper and all those who believe in wind power took notice of Look North’s recent exposé which showed that over the past two months wind turbines have provided virtually no electricity.
Added to this, international studies have determined over the years that, on average, these monstrosities at their maximum only work 23% of the time.
When we consider that international research also determined that these white elephants need completely replacing in less than 20 years from being built (wear-out of components is high), we the taxpayers will have to pay out billions again over the next 20 years to simply keep them going.
This strategy devised by the former Labour government and continued now by the present coalition government is sheer madness.
It is also remarkable that the so-called wise men of Whitehall, who advise government, are proposing to commit £10bn to the construction of a single nuclear power station.
This new station will have major nuclear waste problems in the years to come, most probably costing the taxpayers again another £10bn to get rid of it, and will only provide at the best, 5% of our future electricity needs.
For in this respect, a scheme put forward to government for a hydro-electric scheme that would cut shipping costs substantially, has the same cost but will provide the UK with 10% of its electricity needs in perpetuity.
This would have been clean energy with no toxic waste and would have lasted forever once built with very little maintenance at all.
Are we crazy in this country and just like throwing taxpayers’ money away as though it was going out of fashion?
It certainly seems that way to me or is it there are some very powerful lobby groups doing very nicely indeed out of this old codswallop?
The Green Party should be backing this hydro scheme, not stupid wind turbines that have a bottomless pit and appetite for continual finance.
Our town planners and Kirklees councillors should take note of all these facts when giving the ‘green’ light to these schemes, as they invariably do!
But I have to say that I was happy to see that at least David Brown’s is getting some work out of this stupidity (Examiner, January 8).
For if politicians are so stupid to see wind as the Holy Grail, at least Huddersfield is getting something out of it.
A sane world? I think not when it comes to spending our hard-earned tax.
It’s about time our central and local government politicians started to do a bit of their own research for all our long-term sakes.

Dr David Hill
Prospective Independent candidate, Golcar

Dr David Hill highlights the Look North ‘expose’ on the recent lull in windpower and on that basis says windpower is a waste of money.  The reality is that the UK  produces one of the lowest percentages of its energy from renewable sources of any country in Europe. Only Malta and Luxembourg produce a lower proportion of their energy from renewables. So if you don’t have a lot of wind turbines, onshore or offshore, in the first place it is hardly surprising that the potential to produce electricity from wind is limited. The truth is that we have one of the highest and most predictable wind resources in Europe particularly offshore but have been very tardy in investing in it compared with other countries.

Dr Hill goes on to say that the Green Party should be supporting hydro power schemes. Actually the Green Party does support large scale hydro and I don’t know why he believes we don’t. Hydro projects can store energy to be released at times of high demand. The truth is that we need a mix of energy sources renewable and non renewable hopefully using the developing carbon capture and storage technologies. Crucially though we need to be wasting less energy and using it more efficiently in the first place.

Councillor Andrew Cooper

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Thoughts on 2011

Labour off the hook due to the short memories of many.
2011 is going to be a pivotal year for the Lib Dems. The Oldham and Saddleworth Bye -election is not looking particularly good for them and its seems the Labour Candidate, the very pleasant, Debbie Abrahams (who stood in the Colne Valley in the General Election) is probably in with the best shot. The Lib Dems got the bye-election on the basis of Labour's Phil Woolas lying in his election leaflets. As people in the political scene know the irony is heavy given  the many examples of lying in Lib Dem leaflets. Of course since then we've had the student tuition fees vote and the Lib Dems are now dubbed the 'Fib Dems' by people outside the political mainstream.

Labour appear to have got 'off the hook' with many people which is odd given they introduced tuition fees in the first place against a manifesto promise. Many appear to have the memories of goldfish where Labour is concerned and of course we'll never know what the alternative universe would be like if Labour had won the General Election but I reckon it would have still been a slightly different but still the unpalatable cocktail of cuts that we are experiencing right now.

So now we head into May, the local elections and the Alternative Vote Referendum. This I think was the Lib Dems single biggest error during their coalition agreement negotiations. The inequities of the first past the post electoral system are well known. Governments can be chosen by a minority of the electors and most constituencies are 'safe seats' so it is only the votes in a minority of constituencies that decide the election. This is not a matter for a referendum it is about what's right. Either the Tories should have simply agreed to a system of proportional representation or there should have been no deal, this should have been a 'red line' for the Lib Dems. Instead we have a question on an inferior version of 'PR' on offer which is acually not even proportional. A binding agreement to support the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote was what the Lib Dems should have insisted on. Of course we need to back the improvement that AV offers in the referendum but it's association with the increasingly  unpopular Lib Dems might ironcallly work against it in the ballot. The word 'fair' has been so contaminated and misused by this government that valuing 'fair' votes and been seen to be rewarding the Lib Dems by supporting AV might not sit well with many people. I mean how do we feel about putting the duplicitous Nick Clegg in a position of power after the next General Election? Though electors may have the memory of goldfish where Labour are concerned I don't believe they are going to forget the broken Lib Dem pledges for a long, long time.