Saturday, 26 September 2015

Andrew Cooper speech on Emergency Motion on Proposed Solar Feed InTariff cuts

Proposed Government cuts of 87% for the Feed In Tariff for solar photovoltaics threaten over 20000 UK jobs, make even our modest EU targets for renewable energy even more unattainable than they are at present.

In Kirklees where I am a Councillor the Green Party initiative that is already underway to install solar panels on 2000 council homes is now looking financially difficult to achieve. This scheme will reduce the energy bill of many low income households by the equivalent of 2 weeks rent each year. That money saved will go back into the local economy and not go towards bolster the profits of hard pressed companies.

Nationally the Solar Trade Association have published a Solar Independence Plan that will make the installation of Solar PV subsidy free by 2020. Compare that to nuclear power that will NEVER be subsidy free.

Write to your MP, sign on line petitions, get your Council to oppose these cuts and pass this motion. I move.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Green Party Conference - Emergency Motions on Solar PV cuts and Zero Carbon Homes Standards

Emergency Motion on Solar Photovoltaic Feed In Tariff cuts

Green Party Conference notes the Conservative Government proposals to cut the Feed In Tariff for Solar Photovoltaics by 87%. These cuts will mean a catastrophic reduction in the amount of solar panels being installed, leading to significant job losses and putting our modest 2020 EU Renewable Energy targets at risk.

Green Party Conference calls on the UK Government to enter talks with the Solar Industry to agree a plan that delivers a sustainable future for the solar industry (e.g. Solar Trade Association's Solar Independence Plan) and also puts us on a path towards 100% Renewable Energy in the UK

Emergency Motion on Zero Carbon Homes and Passivhaus Standards

Green Party Conference notes:

• The government cancelling the introduction of Zero Carbon Home Standards in 2016
• The negative impact this will have on householders at risk of fuel poverty in new housing
• The missed opportunity to reduce carbon emissions in new developments
• The loss of income to the local economy as a result of these lower energy efficiency standards, as householders’ income is spent paying energy bills rather than in local shops and on local services

Green Party Conference  believes:

• That under the principle of ‘localism’ councils can determine their own standards on land that they own if those standards comply with UK Building Regulations
• That the internationally recognised ‘Passivhaus Standard’ offers an alternative to the UK’s diminished energy efficiency ambitions for new-build housing
• That the Passivhaus standard complies with UK Building Regulations and can deliver heating bills of less than £100/year for the average three bedroom terrace

Green Party Conference agrees:

• To call on all Local Parties to campaign to specify Passivhaus Standards on all buildings on Council-owned land and as a condition of sale on any council land

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Refugee crisis -Kirklees at the blunt end!

The old Huddersfield Sports Centre- not a Refugee Reception Centre
We had a meeting of Party leaders in Kirklees last week to discuss our response to the refugee crisis. When we heard there was to be a shift in government policy to a more sympathetic approach to refugees rather than the 'beware the swarm' approach of our beloved Prime Minister I figured we may actually have to do some serious work in Kirklees to play our part. The change in public mood was very real following the desperately sad picture of a child on a beach. He could have been anybody's child. There was an outpouring of humanity and certain politicians decided to keep their mouths shut, as expressing their humanity wasn't their strong point and at least they knew that much.

 My better half came up with the great idea of getting Huddersfield Sports Centre out of mothballs to make it into a reception centre for arriving refugees. Large halls, showers, secure, it seemed a good idea. Next let's look at what accommodation we could bring into use to address medium term needs. I was thinking of conversions of empty buildings such as Crown Court Buildings, Huddersfield Technical College, St George's Warehouse to provide personal space as an interim measure before people became embedded in the community. These refurbished units could also fulfil a role to address longer term  local housing need and support. It became clear as the meeting unfolded that these ideas were far too radical and sadly unnecessary. The UK Government had not been in touch with  Councils like Kirklees to ask for our assistance. Our views and support were not sought. No Minister wrote to us calling for plans on how we could best help at this time of desperate need. It is almost as if hey didn't care.

The UK Govt plan is to help 20,000 refugees over the next 4 years. That is equivalent to 96/week for the whole UK. Hungary were seeing 2000/3000 pass through their borders daily just a few weeks ago so we clearly are playing a very small Part. Given our role in destabilising the Middle East  it could be argued we bear more responsibility than most European countries for the refugee crisis, but the UK Govt approach is paying money to support camps abroad so we don't have to have actual people coming to our country. I don't know whether you could call his conscience money but it sure does look like an excuse.

Ultimately I think the UK could be the losers here. The interviews with refugees showed people in crisis but also many resilient people who will make a success of their lives and bring real benefits to any community they become a part of. On that basis it looks like the new tranche of refugees could be Germany's gain and our loss. Of course people will raise the issue of population and the impact that this has on local services but if we duck our humanitarian responsibilities we abandon our humanity. Of course we have to work for a more just world and one free of conflict but if that can't be achieved then we have an obligation as fortunate people of the same species, on the same world, to help 'our own'.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Right to buy? Wrong to sell.

 A BBC report yesterday highlighted that Councils were failing to replace council houses lost from public ownership under the Right to Buy. As is becoming typical of certain sections of the BBC News, it was a report that lacked explanation or analysis. It seemed to lay the blame squarely with Local Authorities with no recognition that lack of resources from central Government or even the lead in times required to build new housing to replace it with were very significant factors. The big concern at present is the Government manifesto commitment to extend the Right to Buy to Housing Association properties will further diminish the stock of affordable rented accommodation. I am aware of a number of sensible Conservatives who think this policy is nonsense as well.

One of the principal problems is the Government commitment that houses lost through the Right to Buy will be replaced with an 'affordable' home. So for a start an 'affordable' home is not a council house. It could be a house provided by a Housing Association where the rents are usually higher  than Council properties or it could be a starter home or a house which is just a little cheaper to buy than the average price in that area. So it may be an 'affordable' home for a few but certainly not for everyone and definitely not for people on the lowest of incomes. What we need if housing is to be replaced is at the very least a'like for like' replacement. A council house for a council house. 

My view would be that the huge discounts given to householders to purchase what was a public asset is a loss to us all. Council housing is a common good. It offers an alternative to ownership. It provides a wider choice of tenure and as such, if properly supported and expanded, could offer a restraining force on ever rising house prices. One of the real problems of Right to Buy is the sale of properties ending up as private rented properties at extortionate rents. On Elm Manor Estate in Newsome there are ex Council houses that are now student rented accommodation. Students need homes like everyone else but for private landlords to make a killing largely at the public expense is just plain wrong.

Ultimately government need to recognise that having a mixed tenure of housing, with a strong and growing social rented sector is a good thing and that ownership of property is not always positive or desirable. I guess that makes me a dangerous communist and a threat to national security. I'll go and hand myself into the nearest police station immediately.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Response to Conservative Cllr Bill Armer's misleading letter in the Huddersfield Examiner

It is rather perplexing to read Cllr Bill Armer complaining about the supposed financial legacy left by the Green Party on Kirkburton Parish Council. In reality Cllr Armer and his Conservative colleague voted in favour of the last Parish Council budget. He says that the last Parish Council gave pledges which he describes as ‘coming from a left leaning, quasi – socialist Party’ . I do find it rather bizarre then that he voted for these policies as did the Liberal Democrats and the Independents. In fact the only person who didn’t vote for the last Parish Council budget was the sole Labour Party Councillor who abstained and I guess he regards himself as a ‘Socialist’.

Cllr Armer says he wants to move ‘Kirkburton Parish Council away from Party Political Ideology’ . My very clear recollection was that there was a lot of goodwill right across the Parties on the Parish Council. The only people I ever remember as bringing ‘party politics’ into the Parish Council were in fact the Conservatives. We generally worked well together across political parties and independents. We worked with the Keep Shelley Pyramid campaign to protect local schools. We engaged with many community groups and schools on worthwhile projects including the thousand fruit tree project. We supported the Kirkburton walks projects promoting walking in our beautiful countryside. There was nothing that I can recollect or I suspect many other Parish Cllrs of any Party that could be described as ‘Party Political Ideology’.

Anyone who has followed politics in the Kirkburton Ward should recognise that this is not about invented issues with the Parish Council Budget or some mythical ‘quasi socialist’ Parish Council. This is all about next Year’s May Local Elections and a cynical attempt by the Conservatives to smear the Green Party for political gain.

Councillor Andrew Cooper

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Response to Conservative Cllr John Taylor's misleading statement on Kirkburton Parish Council finances

Councillor John Taylor has made a number of factually incorrect statements regarding Kirkburton Parish Council’s finances.

He states that the Council reserves should be 25% of the Annual precept (the amount the Parish raises from the Council Tax payer each year) . In fact it should be 25% of the planned expenditure. This is an important difference as it is up to the Parish each year to decide how much it will or will not spend. Councillor Taylor correctly notes that Parish Council reserves were reduced but fails to acknowledge that these reserves were approved by an Independent Auditor of the Parish Council finances. £4k of that reduction was to cover the costs of improvements to Kirkburton Library as part of the previous administrations plans to save the service for local people and as such is a proper use of reserves. Currently Parish reserves are expected to be £31,384 well within the tolerance of expected expenditure. Before Councillor Taylor says that  this is down to the cuts he has introduced these only account for £2k of savings to date.  Cllr Taylor also states that the reduction in the Environment Budget was  about a supposed financial crisis. The reality is that this money was re- allocated to a project to install defibrillators across the Parish. It wasn’t used to fill some mythical hole in the Parish Council’s budget.

Cllr Taylor keeps referring to the  budgets being agreed by the previous Green Party Administration. The fact is that no Parish Councillors voted against it including the 2 Conservative Parish Councillors present who actually voted in favour. In reality Cllr Taylor in my opinion does not really have concern for the Community or the Parish Council in mind here. This is all about the Conservatives desire to discredit the Green Party in advance of next May’s Local Elections.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Letter to West Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner Mark BurnsWilliamson regarding Green Party "extremism"

Letter to Mark Burns Williamson,
West Yorkshire Police 
From: Cllr Andrew Cooper, Kirklees
Dear Mr Mark Burns-Williamson,
Re: Green Party “Extremists”
I am writing to you on behalf of Yorkshire and Humber Green Party and as a Kirklees Green Party Councillor to ask for an apology to Green Party members for remarks made by West Yorkshire Police staff equating the actions of peaceful Green Party protestors, such as Green MP Caroline Lucas, as examples of “Extremism”.
This occurred at a recent training event for teachers in Kirklees, as reported in theTimes Educational Supplement on the 4/9/15. 
You may recall that Caroline was found not guilty at her trial along with several other peaceful protestors.
Surely it is a right for people in the UK to peacefully protest, as Caroline Lucas MP did at Balcombe to oppose fracking? Would you agree with me that equating her actions to that of the supporters of Al Qa'ida or ISIS is wholly inappropriate? Given that there may well be protests against fracking in West Yorkshire, how are you going to ensure that the people who are trying to protect their communities from fracking are not put in the same category as people who support violent terrorist activities and are treated accordingly by West Yorkshire Police?
There is at the heart of this issue an interpretation of the ‘Prevent’ Strategy that seems to label all people who oppose Government policy as extremists. This is not the approach that we need if we are to have a healthy democracy. Don't you agree?
Of course we would like an apology from West Yorkshire Police, but we would also like to offer to meet to discuss how West Yorkshire Police can have a better understanding about the activities and motivations of Green Party activists and other peaceful protestors. I think this is essential to ensure protestors are understood by the Police and are treated respectfully.
Yours sincerely,

Councillor Andrew Cooper
Leader of the Green Group on Kirklees Council

Sunday, 6 September 2015

PRESS RELEASE - A Statement by Green Party Councillors in the Yorkshireand Humber Region on proposals for an Elected Mayor.

Kirklees Cllr Andrew Cooper with from l to r York Cllrs Lars Kramm, Denise Craghill , Andy  D'Agorne, Leeds Cllr David Blackburn & Sheffield Cllr Rob Murphy
Let us be clear there is no popular clamour among local people for an elected Mayor and in fact where referenda have taken place the public is overwhelmingly opposed to the concept. The Green Party are opposed to the centralisation of power inherent in the Government’s Mayoral proposals. Instead of a Mayor the Green Party would ideally prefer an elected Assembly for the whole of the Yorkshire and The Humber Region with the same powers as the Scottish Government.

Greens recognise that there is no actual increase in funds being offered to the Region by the UK Government, but instead the transfer of control from a remote Whitehall Government to remote Mayors. This is not true devolution of power that is on offer but the centralisation of power in the hands of one individual.

There are some attractions in taking powers from Whitehall to the Yorkshire and The Humber Region. For example, in 2013 the UK Government redirected £200million of European funding that was destined for Yorkshire to Scotland, presumably with one eye on the Independence referendum. If what is on offer could prevent that misappropriation of funds by the UK Government then that would be a positive thing. It has to be pointed out that ‘Asks’ from Yorkshire Council Leaders have not been voted on by the Councils in the Region so the negotiations themselves lack any democratic legitimacy.

The ‘Asks’ that Yorkshire Council Leaders have requested of Government in return for having Elected Mayors will be meaningless if they are not accountable. The Combined Authorities in the Region are not truly democratic or accountable bodies. Its members are there by virtue of the fact that they are Leaders of Councils, along with a few Opposition leaders to nominally give political balance. They are effectively unelected appointees to a political body and have no mandate.

Green Party Councillors in the Yorkshire Region believe there should be no Mayoral Deals without Elected Assemblies. The Assemblies, elected by proportional representation, should become the Combined Authorities. They should have the same powers as the Greater London Assembly and be able to veto any Mayor’s proposed Budgets and Strategies with a 2/3rds majority. What is good enough for London should be good enough for Yorkshire.

The Green Party believes that any proposals for an Elected Mayor within the region should be subject to a Referendum to be held at the same time as the Police and Crime Commissioner/Local Elections in May 2016. This will help reduce costs and ensure that the people have the final say.

Without all these conditions and safeguards Green Party Councillors will oppose any proposed Elected Mayor in our region.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Kirklees Greens motion to ban Flying Lanterns passed

Green Party Councillors were celebrating today following their motion to ban Flying Lanterns being successfully passed at the September Kirklees Full Council meeting.

Green Party Cllr Robert Barraclough who proposed the motion said,

"I am very pleased the motion has been passed. We need to make more people aware of the dangers associated with these lanterns to horses, cows and other animals. Kirklees now needs to take a lead and get the message out to other landowners across the district"

Robert Barraclough's said

 Evidence has shown that the frames of lanterns can harm or even kill farm animals if they are ingested But it’s not just farm animals which can be affected. Sky lanterns can cause fires to crops, grassland on moors and bales of hay and straw that have been stacked, which can lead to a loss of buildings. 
Cows on Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Stirley Farm, near Newsome, have had to be destroyed due to metal from flying lanterns contaminating their feed. Lanterns are known to have been set off from Castle Hill and have been chopped up into small pieces when grass in farm fields is mowed for animal feed. Once in bales these small pieces of metal are almost impossible to detect but do terrible damage and pain to animals as the metal tears through their internal organs.

 Many people simply do not understand that these lanterns are dangerous and damaging and this motion is aimed at raising peoples’ awareness of the dangers of setting off these lanterns and the consequences it has for cows and sheep on local farms.

This is a problem which not only affects livestock farmers but also the thriving Equestrian population in our area as horses also are fed on fodder which can be contaminated with the lanterns.

 This is not just about animal welfare and raising awareness to the public about the dangers posed by these lanterns it is about litter in our local environment.

Last year, the Trading Standards Institute published a new code of practice for sky lanterns following discussions between the government and industry.

The code offers guidance for those designing, manufacturing, distributing, retailing or using sky lanterns – this motion also calls on West Yorkshire Trading Standards /West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service to sign up to this Trading Standards Institute  Industry Code of Practice and to work with manufacturers , distributors and retailers in West Yorkshire to improve safety standards  and biodegradeability  of sky lantern products