Monday, 23 July 2012

PRESS RELEASE 'Right to buy? Wrong to sell!' say Greens

The Green Party today condemned the Lib Dem/Conservative Coalition for subsidising and promoting the sale of valuable council housing through the 'Right to Buy' mechanism.

"At a time when public money is being made scarce by the government it beggars belief that the Coalition are increasing the subsidy on the sale of Council Housing to up to £75000. At a time when we need more social housing to give people an option to have an affordable home to rent it is crazy that we are selling off into private ownership much valued public assets." Said Councillor Andrew Cooper , Chair of the Association of Green Councillors

"What is bizarre is that the government supposedly believes in 'choice' in education and in the provision of health care. Though the Green Party does not share the coalitions enthusiasm for the privatisation of health and education it would at least be consistent if they also promoted choice in tenure of housing. The coalition seems to believe that owner occupation or private renting are the only options that should be available to households. One of the fundamental lessons the economic crisis we are facing should teach us is that saddling households with years of mortgage debt they cannot afford is nonsensical" , said Councillor Cooper

The Greens also accused the Coalition of hypocrisy by spending public money on a 'national helpline' for providing information about the sale of council houses when that service is already provided by Councils. "This is a duplication of an existing function and another waste of public money by a government that is imposing austerity on the public sector."

Councillor Cooper also highlighted the possibility of abuse of the Right to Buy mechanism for personal gain by

"The sale of council housing has been and is open to widescale abuse with relatives of tenants and unscrupulous individuals seeking to purchase council houses through the tenants 'by the back door'. These can then be sold on at a profit and therefore at the expense of the public purse," said Councillor Cooper

Huddersfield Examiner Article - Dangerous BT Pole to be moved

Kirklees councillors Phil Scott and Andrew Cooper joined forces to have the pole on Ashes Lane moved.

And after BT carried out an investigation, they agreed to move it to an alternative position.

The spot, which is just below Castle Hill, currently has a floral tribute dedicated to Mrs Diane Lodge, 53, who died on the road last December.

Although there was a concern that the telegraph pole may have caused Mrs Lodge to veer out, it was rejected at her inquest last month.

Almondbury Liberal Democrat Clr Phil Scott said: “I am delighted at the news from BT who have taken on board the views of the local residents, myself and Clr Cooper.

“We have been successful in our fight to prove to BT that the pole, in its current location is in a stupid place.

“It’s location was causing an unnecessary obstruction, which could lead to a serious accident.”

The pole had raise concern among residents from both councillors’ wards, who claimed it “narrowed the road.”

Some claimed they had smashed their wing mirrors on the pole and had come dangerously close to an accident.

Newsome Green Party and Valley Independent Clr Cooper said: “I think it certainly makes more sense to move the pole to a nearby field – which is owned by the council.

“We have worked closely with BT to identify an alternative position, which is more suitable for everyone.”

Friday, 13 July 2012

Labour's Election Expenses for Newsome Ward 2012

When people think about politicians and expenses they often think about duckhouses and dodgy expenses claims. Election expenses are different, they are about how much political parties are legally allowed to spend on local elections. The legal spending limit is based on a base amount and an amount per elector. In Newsome this equated to a spend limit of around £1300. The idea is that a political party can't effectively 'buy an election' by outclassing their opponent with flashy literature and paid support. During the election campaign in Newsome we became increasingly aware of the amount of colour literature being produced by Labour. We had a full colour A2 leaflet, An A4 full colour leaflet, a colour prepoll leaflet, a colour polling day card, student letters, postal voter letters, letters to asian householders (full of misinformation), a colour leaflet for Council tenants, posters. I strongly suspect the people putting posterboards up were paid, at least they said they were when I asked them!

So I went to the Elections Office last week to get a copy of the election expense return for the Newsome Labour Candidate intrigued to know what they had put down as their expenses because we were absolutely sure they must have completely blown their legal limit.  What was interesting in the document was the total lack of detail. Their (friendly?) printer was Sheaf Graphics of Sheffield (the Labour Party's usual printer and provider of receipts). Leaflets on the form said a straight £1095 which was supposed to cover all their printing supplied. On the breakdown of all their printing it states:
  • Election addresses (2 sorts) - £740
  • Pre-poll cards - £140
  • Letters - £120
  • Posters - £95
There was no specified number of leaflets that were produced but it is clear that the number of different items  Labour distributed was not reflected in the information provided on the election expenses submission and their leaflets are extremely cheap according to their receipt.

The official election agent for the Labour campaign was Sheikh Noor Ullah but it is well known that the real manager of their campaign was one Mehboob Khan, Leader of Kirklees Council.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Tory Zombie Posterboard in Brockholes

Still up there past its useful life!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Kirklees Libraries - Labour not brought to book!

Where do I begin with last Wednesday's Full Council meeting? Well we learnt that it appears the Conservatives support for Labour at the Annual Council meeting wasn't a one off and that they are intent on propping up Mehboob Khan's administration.The debate on the Lib Dem amendment on the Council budget rollover report demonstrated this new alliance between the supposed adversaries.

The Council had significant underspends of several million on its budgets for 2011/12 on both the Capital and Revenue side. This gave an opportunity to use some of these funds to support threatened services and develop new projects. The  amendment, which was supported by the 8 Green Party and Valley Independent Group Councillors, proposed secure funding of the Library service for the next four years at its current level. This would have protected the staffing of the 7 village libraries currently under threat including Shepley Library which is in the Kirkburton Ward.This gave the combined 'opposition' Councillors an opportunity to outvote the Labour minority administration and save the library service from likely cuts in provision. When it came to the vote the Conservatives voted with Labour against the amendment. So what arguments were used against the amendment by Labour and Conservatives? One argument was that there would be no certainty for the Library service after 4 years. This argument was interesting on a number of levels. For one thing it was an implicit acceptance by Labour that if their Party came to power following the next General Election that there would be no assumed change in government support to Councils and that Labour would continue to follow Coalition spending priorities. Also the Conservatives like all Parties know that we don't plan budgets more than 4 years ahead anyway so it would be consistent with how we currently approach Kirklees budgets. Council Leader Mehboob Khan's oft quoted position is that the libraries are not under threat anyway. Unfortunatelty this is the usual, (and by I guess automatic) attempt to mislead by our glorious Leader. Why the review of 7 libraries if there is no threat? Why did Council officers advise the sum of 1.3 million to the Lib Dems to maintain the service at its current levels if there are no assumed cuts to the services?

So why are the Conservatives propping Labour up? Well they were given several committee Chairs (and the allowances which go with these) at the Annual Council meeting in return for supporting Mehboob remaining Leader. My comment at Council was along the lines of  "The Conservatives have few virtues but one is that when they are bought they stay bought". I think it probably has as much to do with the fact that certain (but not all) Conservative Councillors who would rather walk over hot coals than be on the same side as the Greens. I find it strange and bizarre that such a destructive and partisan approach prevents our communities getting the best outcomes and in this case a secure Library service.

If it's raining and there's nothing on the telly you can watch the rerun of the Council Webcast here:

We definitely missed Huddersfield Examiner coverage and comment on the meeting and particulalry Mr Barry Gibson's take on events. I guess everyone needs some time off!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Parking at Lockwood - Examiner article 6/7/12

Councillor Cooper at Victoria Road, Lockwood
COUNCILLORS are campaigning for residents near the new Kirklees College building to have parking permits.

Green Party councillors fear parking chaos on residential streets in Lockwood when the new building opens next year.

Clr Andrew Cooper, leader of the Greens on Kirklees Council, is organising a petition calling for action.
Kirklees College is currently building a new £74 million campus off Chapel Hill on the edge of the town centre.

Completion of the new building has been delayed with the September opening date now put back to January.

The new campus, which replaces the college building in New North Road, will cater for thousands of students and Clr Cooper said: “No doubt parking will be at a premium.

“This is bound to put extra pressure on residential streets in the surrounding area.”

Streets in and around Victoria Road, Lockwood Road and Rashcliffe Hill Road will be included in the bid for residents-only permits.

Clr Cooper (Newsome) said there were some problems already and the situation would only get worse when the college opened.

“Victoria Road is already busy and there are a lot of terraced properties which don’t have driveways for the most part,” he said. “As a consequence it’s going to get fairly congested.

“Kirklees Council has been very supportive of Kirklees College and it should recognise the impact of this development on local residents.”

Clr Cooper added: “The council may see this as an additional cost – and yes it is – but it is a natural consequence of the new Kirklees College site and it is something the council cannot ignore.”

The Greens plan to submit the petition and a formal request to the council shortly.

Clr Cooper added: “The delay to the opening of the new college gives us an opportunity to resolve this and we intend to speak to the council’s Cabinet about it.”

Last year the council attempted to introduce a £30 charge for parking permits but backed down after an outcry. The move would have raised £260,000 for the austerity-hit local authority.

Pics of River Holme at Armitage Bridge

I nipped down to Armitage Bridge to see what was happening with the river levels at around 6.30pm this evening. The river was only a few feet from the top of the boundary wall but thankfully the rains have stopped for a bit. Dean Brook on Dean Brook Road seemed to be flowing well with little debris so all seems well set for the Monkey Fest tomorrow and Sunday. Go along and soak up the real ale at the Monkey Club!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Return of the Zombie Posterboards

Rehman Remains

Regular readers of my blog may remember my posting on the 3rd June last year entitled 'Zombie Posterboards' which was about posterboards which remain on lamp posts (or in that instance a telegraph pole) long past their useful life and indeed past the time they are allowed to be up there by Kirklees Council. So here on the 4th July is a photo I took today of another zombie board somewhere in Newsome Ward.

By the way I can recommend, 'The Walking Dead' on Channel 5 at 10pm on Mondays definitely worth catching up with.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Greens Clean Up!

Last Sunday morning we carried out one of our Green Party volunteer clean ups focussing on the cat steps from Primrose Hill to Damside/Queens Mill Road.. The usual joy of picking up smelly rubbish but its worth it to see an area really improved.