Sunday, 29 December 2013

Never mind the baubles


I've just seen 'Never mind the baubles' a documentary about the Sex Pistols last ever UK gig on Christmas Day 1977 in Huddersfield at Ivanhoes (the facade is to the rear of Lidl on Manchester Road). The gig was a benefit in aid of the hard pressed families of firemen ( they were all men then ) who had been on strike for weeks. I'd love to be able to say I was there but the truth is that I would have been half a mile up the road in Edgerton at the family home at Imperial Road being 13 and all. What I do remember about punk was that it was a part of growing up for me and others around me a few years later. I was in a band called the Criminal Minds in 1981. There was a lot of gratuitous swearing involved and we did a few gigs, a barn in Sowood, the Venn Street Arts Centre and once at our school spring to mind. All good fun and I still have a cassette of our 'music'. Punk is anti establishment and our song 'F***the Government' was.definitely on message.

There was a good punk scene in Huddersfield which carried on a good few years after the Pistols departed. I always remember Punk as not just anti establishment but also pro people and anti fascist. (There were exceptions such as the Neo Nazi band  Screwdriver' who were offensive but they were the exception not the rule). This pro people aspect came across listening to Johnny Rotten speaking about the Huddersfield gig and their motivations for doing it. It wasn't a big prestigious gig but doing it was right for the band that was finding it difficult to get gigs due to a hysterical media and for the striking firefighters who were going through hard times. It was authentic and demonstrated the humanity of the   Pistols in choosing to do this benefit gig. 

Something I take from the punk years is a healthy disrespect for authority and institutions and a dislike of deference to people, titles and positions. Is this contradictory as I've been elected to Kirklees Council five times now? Maybe a little, but I still feel slightly uncomfortable when people address me as 'Councillor' and recognise that power and authority is something that should be used carefully and sparingly.  

Boxing Day Bus Service- Flockton/Grange Moor/ Huddersfield

With Grange Moor Parish Councillor on the first run
Kirkburton Green Cllrs Derek Hardcastle and Robert Hardcastle  - second crew

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Great day in Grimsby

Here's some pics from a recent fact finding trip to Grimsby organised by Vicky Dunn (number 3 on the Green Party Euro list)

An early morning visit to Grimsby Fish Market where we really did talk about the price of fish and marine conservation.

A visit to Renewable Energy Systems to hear bout the growth of the offshor wind sector and the positive impact on the Grimsby economy.

Then a long walk up to the top of the Grimsby dock tower 

At the top with brother James

Then off to visit a great community food growing project

A quick stop at Cleethorpes Pier before a lunch of sustainably sourced fish.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

PRESS RELEASE School League tables - Pupils are children not widgets

Do School League Tables make pupils 'just another brick in the wall''?

A leading Green Party politician has criticised Government league tables that show nearly half the areas with primary schools not meeting new nationally set targets are in Yorkshire.

Cllr Andrew Cooper, who is lead Green candidate for Yorkshire & The Humber in the European elections next year, said he was at least as concerned about the process of league tables as he was about the findings. Greens would abolish league tables as they are currently devised and used.

“These targets are nationally set and take no account of local issues – it is telling that many of the schools identified are in areas of social deprivation which have been especially badly affected by the Government’s austerity drive. Using league tables, which by default rank schools above or below others, is a crude mechanism for determining real educational needs and outcomes. It is not helpful and simply stigmatises schools where teachers, parents and pupils are often working incredibly hard in spite of frequently lacking resources or having to keep adjusting to changing diktats from central Government.”

Cllr Cooper went on to say, ”This comes in the same week we have heard that the Coalition’s flagship policy on free schools is running three times over budget and failing to meet need in areas with oversubscribed places. It is dreadful for the Government to now compound this assault on education by using a one dimensional process to assess our primary schools.”

Cllr Cooper added, “Greens want a very different approach to education. We support a model where needs are determined more locally but on a community basis rather than in the way free schools are allowed to operate, and in particular we want the education process to be one that is geared to individual children’s needs rather than Michael Gove’s latest idea.”

He said that Greens support primary children starting academic schooling at 6 rather than 5, which would be in line with successful education systems such as those in several European countries. Prior to that, building on the Surestart programme, a system of free nursery education should be available with an emphasis on learning through play. Greens would also adopt the Scandinavian model of “all through schools” where pupils would remain in the same school throughout their education but the schools themselves would become more local in their nature and smaller than some of the super-sized establishments found across the UK today.
“We want schools that are linked to the local community, not Whitehall, and that are central to the local area and focus on the varying needs of children,” said Cllr Cooper. “The Government has a two-faced approach of encouraging elitist free schools which drift off in their own direction but then imposes a one-size-fits-all assessment which simply tarnishes the reputation of less well resouced schools and even their local area. “
Cllr Cooper concluded, ”Like any parent, I want my children to have an education that meets their needs, not some national target. Schools should not be exam factories; pupils are children, not widgets.”


Green Party youth and education policy:

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Mono Mania

A monorail goes up New Street - from 2025 Kirklees Transport Vision

 One anecdote from the last Full Council meeting was my mock proposal to have a monorail from Scapegoat Hill, through Golcar and Milnsbridge and on into Town. The idea was to highlight the fantasy proposal from the Lib Dems about having some flyover bridge over Milnsbridge by coming up with something similarly financially unfeasible. For more background see my 'What's pink and hangs from a lamppost' blogpost about the Golcar By election.

It was during my speech that Tory Leader Robert Light piped up and said, 'The monorail was our idea!'. Apart from completely missing the point that I was taking the 'michael' out of the Lib Dems he was also wrong. Back in the days of plenty, 2005 to be exact, I asked for a feasibility study to be carried out into having a monorail link between Huddersfield Railway Station going up Leeds Road and past the Stadium on up to Cooper Bridge and back. The idea was to provide an alternative link for people going to the shopping up Leeds Rd, going to the Cinema or to watch a match without using the car. Leeds Road is a hotspot for traffic pollution and is an Air Quality Management Area so it would be one way of addressing this. The following day from the meeting I put the word 'monorail' into my search facility in my Outlook account and hey presto on the 14/2/2005 popped up the Green Party Budget amendment for that year compiled for us by the Ex Finanace Chief for Kirklees Dick Hewitson and there it stated:-

Provide a detailed feasibility for a public transport link between Huddersfield Town Centre, Leeds Road and Cooper Bridge - The 'Cooper Monorail'

This was from the Press Release we put out at the time:-

Leeds Road is a hive of industrial and retail units, the Galpharm stadium and the UCI. With the possible expansion of industrial outlets on the Leeds Road corridor this puts increasing pressure on traffic congestion and increasingly dangerous levels of low air quality. “This is a typical example of the ‘build it and they will come’ mentality where no thought has been given to how people will be able to get to places other than by road. Greens are proposing a detailed feasibility study into alternative modes of transport from Huddersfield Town Centre up Leeds Road and to Cooper Bridge. These will include the serious evaluation of dedicated bus lanes, trams and monorails as alternatives to the car.” Said Councillor Cooper.

 I'm pretty sure I'd asked Dick Hewitson to take the 'Cooper Monorail' out of the final version of our Budget Amendment. At the time it was a bit of a 'mono mania' I had and the sort of Councillor enthusiasm that Council Officers may be sceptical about but can't really ignore if it is part of budget discussions. The reason I was pushing it was because whenever I saw a futuristic city ('Logans Run' springs to mind) they always had monorails as their preferred form of public transport. Electric non polluting and modern. The idea was taken up and some work was done on it during the Tory minority administration but like some other notable acheivements during their time such as 'free insulation'   their origins came from the Green Party.  

The thing to take away from all this is that with imposed local austerity, significant improvements to local transport are stalled and in some cases going backwards. Many local bus service are under threat and slow and unreliable train services like the Penistone Line limp on. Meanwhile the Coalition has its own 'mono mania' with the £50-80 Billion HS2 which it continues to bulldoze through despite robust evidence of its non-benefits. Governments should be judged, in part, by their vision of the future. For the Coalition it is big, national with highly contested benefits. The future has to be local, of significance to health and quality of life and benefit to communities and local economies. I think the 'Cooper Monorail' would stand up to scrutiny against HS2 on those parameters at least.

Kirklees is not the first place to consider a monorail the small town of Springfield in the USA also gave it some serious thought

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Bridge over the River Colne

Last Wednesdays Full Council meeting saw a motion from the Liberal Democrats calling on the Kirklees Labour Cabinet to "undertake the work that is needed to build a second bridge in Milnsbridge" to help relieve congestion through the busy village. Just to recap, there was a by-election last month in the Golcar Ward which the Liberal Democrats won after promising to "Stop Labours Gridlock" in Milnsbridge, or so it said on the signs said which they plastered all over the lamp posts. Of course it would cost millions and one thing Kirklees has got a lot less of is millions, so it was never a realistic option. Say the Council were to pay for a bridge, what services would be cut to pay for it. Shamefully the Labour Party and the Conservatives backed a feasibility study into the unfeasible bridge during the By Election campaign. I tried to put a bit of 'realism' into the debate  by calling for a monorail from Scapegoat Hill through Golcar, Milnsbridge and into Huddersfield. My tongue was firmly in my cheek as I asked for something even more unfeasible than what all the other parties were asking for. Bizarrely Conservative Leader got up and insisted his Party were the first to think of a monorail.

It will be interesting to see what the Lib Dems put in their Council budget proposal in February on this one. If their government were to restore Council finances perhaps the Lib Dems could have a bridge.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

PRESS RELEASE - Transatlantic Trade Treaty threatens democracy, say Greens

Cllr Andrew Cooper, lead Green Party Eurocandidate for Yorkshire & The Humber, has warned that an American-EU trade treaty poses a major threat to our country. The US-EU Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) could be sealed in the next few days and under cover of the benefits of free trade, it is set to create an obscure process, known as the investor-state dispute mechanism, which could strike down the democratic wishes of British citizens.

Andrew Cooper said:
“The Government has repeatedly promised a referendum on any big changes to the EU, but, TTIP poses by far the biggest potential threat on the sovereignty of Britain in decades and it seems ready to just sign our rights away. The treaty is supposed to harmonise regulations between Europe and the USA, but it will also create the legal right to rip the heart out of any Government policies or laws which big businesses decide are not in the interests of their shareholders.”

Many of TTIP’s provisions are being kept confidential at the moment, but they are known to include a right for private companies to sue Governments that introduce any policies that go against their business objectives, especially if they harm their profits. Under the investor-state dispute mechanism, private investors will then be able to take legal action against Governments to reverse policies and claim compensation from taxpayers.

Andrew Cooper continued: 
“Look at the current debate on energy policy and the different choices for Britain's future. Well, a few years ago, Argentina introduced a range of policies on energy and economics to rescue the country from a national financial crisis. Because they were unhappy with these, five international energy companies used a similar treaty arrangement to TTIP to sue the Argentinian Government, which has just agreed to pay them $677 millionsto settle their claims. There are similar examples with plain cigarette packets in Australia and cyanide water pollution from gold-mining in El Salvador.”

“If the TTIP passes, companies based anywhere in the world would be able to sue over laws on environmental protection, renewables commitment, health and so on, whenever EU rules are tougher than US ones or affect profit. For example, in food, Yorkshire consumers could be forced to accept hormones in beef cattle and chicken meat washed in chlorine and our farmers could have to surrender any freedom to choose about GM crops.”

The US and British Governments argue that the treaty will create jobs, but there is no evidence for this – indeed, similar agreements in the past in other countries have led to the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.

“The Green Party is raising the alarm – the other parties aren’t,” said Andrew Cooper. “The costs will dramatically outweigh any benefits. Jobs could be lost here in Yorkshire as well as elsewhere unless we accept lower and lower standards, and even potentially dangerous ones, in both consumer and employee protection.”

“Caroline Lucas, Green MP, has tabled an Early Day Motion in Parliament expressing concern about the investor-state dispute mechanism – but she has received no support from the Coalition or Labour.  Apart from the Greens, the other parties at Westminster and in Europe seem spellbound by the desire for free trade at any price, and the price could be high indeed.”
Contact: Andrew Cooper, 01484 667519 | 07721 348619
Green Party Energy Spokesperson; Yorkshire & Humber lead Euro candidate.