Thursday, 30 August 2012

Staying Bought?

The Conservatives were well rewarded for allowing Cllr Khan to continue to run the Council
I further enhanced my good relations with the Kirklees Conservative Council Group with this line at the last Council meeting in July, by saying,

“The Conservative Party has few virtues but one it does have is that when it is bought it stays bought.”

Speeches by Conservative Councillors had just let the cat out of the bag. They wouldn’t be supporting the amendment to the Councils rollover report which would have secured the library service at its current staffing levels for the next 4 years. Given their public pronouncements during the election campaign this flew in the face of their stated position of defending the library service from future cuts that are strongly indicated by the review of the service. In short the Tories were backing Labour against the Lib Dems , Independents and Greens. This followed their tacit support for the Labour Leadership at the Annual Council Meeting in May as Labour supported the Tories taking a disproportionate number of Committee Chair places (along with the allowances that go with them) hence the ‘staying bought’ comment.

This situation is a bit of a shift for Labour as well. The ‘Strong Leader’ Mehboob Khan made much of the need for ‘progressive’ parties to unite against the Conservatives, who had been pushing a misleading and populist agenda in the run up to the local elections.

Patronage and the pursuit of power beats both populism and progressive politics in this particular version of the‘paper stone scissors’ game.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sticking with your old G-Rated boiler

My old G-Rated boiler providing an additional log and paper brick drying function
 Before I went on my hols in Wales for a week I checked our gas meter reading. We have an old Glow worm gas boiler fitted in 1981. On the national A to G scheme for measuring the efficiency of boilers it is a shameful SEDBUK 'G rated' and very inefficient. One of the features of the boiler is a gas pilot light that runs all the time and so I was keen to find out how much gas this uses over a week when it is not being used for heating and hot water. The result over the week was 5 units. Not a huge amount but over a year that would make 260 units at around 4.5p/unit or £11.70. This isn't a huge cost spread over an entire year and I've not taken into account the inherent inefficiency of the boiler in producing heat and hot water anyway. I wanted to know how much gas it used in 'standby mode' from basic curiosity but also to see whether it was worth turning the boiler off entirely at certain times of the year. I have other options for heating and hot water either by solar water heating or via my Dunsley Yorkshire wood boiler in the winter. From the figures it hardly seems worth the trouble of turning it off and I would probably have difficulty relighting the pilot light (I've had issues with this in the past). I'm keen to stick with this old gas boiler for a number of reasons. It may be grossly inefficient compared with modern boilers but it is largely maintenance free and only requires a gas safety check each year and the thermocouple changing every now and again. I have improved the energy and carbon efficiency of my heating and hot water system by having the options of solar thermal  and wood burning which like my gas boiler feeds into a single thermal store. This was not a cheap option compared with simply changing the boiler but is practical for me as I have good supplies of wood fuel and got the solar financed through the Kirklees Re-charge scheme and also a Low Carbon Buildings Grant a couple of years ago.

My next thought on improving the efficiency of my heating system (while retaining my old boiler) is by fitting a flue gas heat recovery unit on the boiler and I'm researching potential systems that could save significant amount from my boiler. I will probably need to replace the asbestos flue which will add more cost to this option. One of the models claims a 7.5% fuel saving on a SEDBUK A rated boiler so I'm guessing it's potential for fuel savings on my G- Rated Glow Worm should be significantly greater. We will see.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Now I want to make it quite clear I'm not short of something to do!

At this time of year it's good to plan ahead for winter and I'm sourcing wood fuel from here and there  so the Dunsley Yorkshire boiler can be providing us with central heating and hot water through the winter months. One of the key issues is making sure your wood is well seasoned  which means as low  a moisture content as possible. Ideally chopped and split logs should be left for up to 2 years. Seasoned wood tends to have radial cracks coming from the centre. So I've been experimenting with ways to speed up the process
The first step is to weigh your original log

then put the weights of logs and date of measurement
Using the power of reliable English sunshine under a cloche I now speed dry out the logs

I'll see after a week or two if its helped speed up the drying process and reweigh the logs. If all goes according to plan on the log front (my whacky experiments not withstanding) we should be toasty for the winter. Here's a vid from the 'Ice Age' winter of 2010/11

Friday, 3 August 2012

Green Party Leadership Elections - Why I voted for Peter Cranie.

The Green Party leadership campaign is in full swing and we will soon be choosing the 2nd Leader (and Deputy Leader of the Green Party). Ballot papers are out and we'll know next month who will be the public face of the Green Party. In reality we are expecting Caroline Lucas as our sole Westminister representative to remain a  key 'go to Green' for the media, but our new Leader and Deputy will still have a significant profile and media role.

The contest has been pretty good humoured and the leadership candidates have all conducted themselves well through the process. Many activists have had an opportunity to form informed views of the candidates style and abilities. Politically there is very little between them even though some lay claim to 'unique' positions. In reality when you look at what they're saying their uniqueness is the language they use and the particular badges they choose to wear when seeking to attract a particular constituency of support.

The real differences between leadership candidates is in the tone that they use and in how accessible their approach will make them to the wider public. We should not appear to be so strident that we could almost be speaking a foreign language to many electors and even to many members of the the Green Party. As a Party we can be earnest, intelligent and worthy but if we appear to lack the common touch and a sense of humour we will fail to resonate with the wider electorate. Our strength is when we are down there with the people, standing shoulder to shoulder with them in difficult times and doing it with confidence and a smile, in the sure and certain knowledge that we are on the side of the angels. If you have gone through difficult times it gives your words an undeniable authenticity and from that you gain the natural authority that a Leader needs. It is this approach that will give us the confidence we need to give others hope, to show them another path which puts people and planet before the political establishment and profit.

The Green Party was originally called 'People' even before it was the 'Ecology Party'. We have got to show that we are the 'People's Party' because such a poltical force is so desperately needed . That is why I have voted for Peter Cranie.