Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Brace yourself!

There's a picture of me that I quite like taken by my friend Gideon Richards from a couple of years ago. I am speaking at an early Hands Off HRI Rally in Huddersfield Town Centre. Yours truly is addressing the crowd, microphones in hand with the Harold Wilson statue in the background. I have to confess however that the photo has been doctored /photoshopped. Like so many photos of me in the original a shirt flap is hanging out. Somehow or other for years and years belts haven't really worked for me. Too tight, too loose. Either shirt hanging out or the unintentional, and I'm sure unappealing, half moony that occurs from time to time. This was just an occupational hazard of being me.

A few months ago I went to a friends 50th birthday party and the dress code was 'Northern Soul'. A bit of research revealed that one way you could achieve 'the look' was by wearing braces which I duly did.  Since then I have started wearing them as standard which has been a bit of a revelation in terms of keeping my trousers up and obviously so much so that I have thought it worthy of a blogpost (my blog description does include the words 'and anything else I fancy talking about'.).

Leo Sayer - braces wearer
Its been suggested to me that braces are 'a bitTory'. I guess the thinking behind that is all those City traders in their red braces who busily mucked up the economy for us all. For me I always think of my Grandad, who was a South Yorkshire miner who on occasions wore braces.  So maybe braces are classless, maybe we can all wear them and have our own take.

Here's Madness with 'Our House' where some people are wearing braces

Friday, 9 February 2018

Breaking the law

Dodging Police with Gaby Naptali at Kirby Misperton
I'm not going to Green Party Spring Conference in Bournemouth this year. The truth is I'm too busy really and I need to be concentrating on local things.  I could say however that I'm not going because I'm too embarassed at not having been arrested yet as there are so many Greens who have. Most famously our own Caroline Lucas MP was arrested at Balcombe on a Fracking protest or more recently Green Cllr Alison Teal was arrested and later acquitted for one of her tree protests in Sheffield or what about Green Baroness Jenny Jones who was identified as a 'domestic extremist' by the Metropolitan Police. All women as it happens.

The front line of  Non Violent Direct Action at the moment are the Fracking sites around the country. And today's Suffragettes are the Anti Fracking Nannas like Tina Rothery and some of us blokes who turn up as well. At Kirby Misperton Fracking Site I've been jostled and kettled by North Yorkshire Police but not actually arrested yet. Of course there are risks in getting arrested you could be found guilty and fined or even imprisoned but then that's all part of what you sign up for as a 'Protector'.  Protectors is a much more positive term  than 'Protestor'.  Protectors are seeking to protect our environment they are acting for a better world as well as protesting against the threat to it.

The last time I went to Kirby Misperton I was doing a speech to the assembled masses (about 20 folks to be honest) and we were surrounded by around 25 Police. In a homage to 'The Blues Brothers' I opened with the words  "I'd like to thank members of the North Yorkshire Law Enforcement Community for choosing to be with us here today" some of the Police got the reference and had a chuckle.

I continued talking over the megaphone as we were pushed away by the Police from the entrance to the Fracking Site to allow the HGVs carrying equipment to gain access. We slowed things up a bit, the Police and ourselves were engaged in the usual game of cat and mouse at the entrance. Chatting with the Police you can tell they don't really want to be there. They have had some Public Relations disasters at Kirby Misperton most famously in harrassing a the 'Tea lady' pensioner in a video that went viral  right round the world. Now we hear that some Fracking equipment is being removed from the site as costs for Policing continue to mount and the future of Fracking at the site is beginning to be in doubt. Victory may be in sight.

It is in this context that this week as a nation we have been noting the Centenary of the moment some women first got the vote in our country. We are celebrating the actions of law breakers, women who were persecuted, demonised by the press, imprisoned and force fed by the state. It is in that context that todays anti fracking protestors should be viewed.

So where is the new front line of Non Violent Direct Action? It could be back to the voting system. For years majority Governments have been elected by a minority of voters in the UK. Millions of peoples votes are effectively disregarded by the electoral system. It suits the larger parties but is archaic and most European countries have abandoned this bizarre unfair voting system in favour of some form of Proportional Representation. Arguments against it are often bogus and self serving and make our claim to be the mother of democracies very hollow indeed. It was in that context that 410 people around the country had a 24 hour fast this week (including yours truly) for fair votes to 'Make votes matter'. Some participants called it a 'hunger strike' which I felt was inappropriate given the real hunger strikes that suffragettes held at considerable risk. Given the way the campaign for fair votes has been ridiculed by the powerful people and parties who benefit from the status quo then I can't see the electoral system being changed anytime soon.

The 24 hour fast was a first step. We need to up the anti if we are to ensure that democracy means anything to the millions of voters it ignores. Anyone fancy handcuffing themselves to First Past the Post Fan Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn or  our own Barry Sheerman MP?

Here's 'Breaking the Law' by Judas Priest

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Green Group Budget Proposals to Kirklees Council – 14th February 2018

Kirklees Green Cllrs Julie Stewart-Turner, Karen Allison & Andrew Cooper
The Green Party are submitting a Budget amendment to Kirklees Council that will result in a 5% Council tax rise which is 1% lower than that being proposed by the Labour Administration.

The aim of our budget
amendment is to address just some of the social, environmental & financial issues that affect the Council. What this amendment cannot do is solve all the problems faced by the Council and the people who live within its boundaries. It takes the Council forward & provides it with some of the vision & direction that it needs.

Restoring Play Areas removed for Health and Safety reasons

Play areas have recently been removed from Manor Estate in the Newsome Ward and Rufford Road in the Golcar Ward.These were removed for Health and Safety reasons but no provision was made by the Labour Administration for their replacement. This amendment addresses that deficiency.

Huddersfield Town Centre is not a family friendly area and our proposal to provide a play area on Macauley Street outside the Bus Station would go some way towards addressing this.

Mount Pleasant Primary School - Roof to Multi Use Games Area

Mount Pleasant Primary School in the Crosland Moor Ward has just had a new school building built to Government specifications. As a result it has lost the large covered Sports Hall that enabled children and local people outside school hours to play sport in all weathers. Installing a roof on the soon to be installed Multi Use Games Area would restore the flexibility the school had previously with all the benefits for health, school effectiveness and wider community engagement.

Traffic Calming measures

The provision of resources for traffic calming are insufficient. This amendment will not resolve that but will provide more flexibility to address the many calls on the Highways Service for traffic calming across Kirklees.

Provision of Electric Vehicle fleet

The first Kirklees Council Electric Vehicle was provided over 10 years ago as a result of a Green Party Budget amendment. Electric vehicles since then have come on leaps and bounds and have low servicing costs, lower costs per mile and the range of electric vehicles is well within the Councils operational requirements. The benefit to the Council is not just lower running costs but also demonstrates that we are playing our part in reducing vehicle emissions at a time when we have growing concerns about air quality in Kirklees. As the carbon intensity of UK electricity begins to fall electric vehicles will play an important role in storing renewable energy generated overnight. This will help us play our part in reducing carbon emissions in line with the COP21 Paris Climate Goals.

Public Rapid Charging of Electric Vehicles

With a growing number of people buying and using electric vehicles the Council needs to play its part in providing the infrastructure we need to allow this cleaner more efficient form of transport to grow.  Match funding is being provided for charging points so this proposal can be used as leverage.

Addressing the growing number of rough sleepers in Kirklees

There are a growing number of rough sleepers in Kirklees as the result of benefit changes, mental health issues and the lack of sufficient social rented housing. This proposal seeks to provide more support and assistance to rough sleepers to help them get back control of their lives.

Support for Community Engagement Facilities

There are a range of buildings across Kirklees from which the Council engages with the Community these include Community Hubs/Former Childrens Centres and Libraries. This proposal seeks to provide greater flexibility for the Council to work with Schools and Parish Councils to help preserve vital community facilities.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Andrew Cooper - Speech to Save our NHS Rally - Huddersfield Royal Infirmary

I'm going to talk today about the key threats our NHS faces

Lack of funding threatens our NHS

Everybody loves the NHS and in the run up to Valentine’s Day we need to ask how deep is our love. Our love maybe great but spending in the UK on Health compared with other EU countries is shameful. We spend around 8.5% of our GDP on Healthcare compared with the EU average of 10.1% Countries that spend more than the UK on health include those you might expect Netherlands , Sweden, German, France, Belgium, Austria but then there’s Portugal, Italy, Spain and yes even Greece. Government needs to fundamentally change its priorities and put the health of the people at the top of the agenda.

Ongoing privatisation of NHS services threatens our NHS

The millions spent on administering and monitoring privatised NHS services is not only inefficient it is also immoral that public money is used to bolster the wealth of private companies and people like Richard Branson. Green MP Caroline Lucas has been a great champion of the NHS Reinstatement Bill which seeks to reset the NHS as a public service.

Brexit threatens our NHS

As skilled medical staff from the EU feel unwelcome and uncertain about the UK as a place to live and work we are and will continue to lose valuable staff who simply don’t want to come here anymore.

Every crisis the NHS has is a treat to its future

Every time we have a winter crisis in the NHS like the one we have just had what message does that send to young people who are looking for a direction in life and a career in the NHS perhaps. It says to them that they will be entering a work environment that is under resourced, undervalued, where they will work long hours in hospitals with not enough beds and a high demand for services. We need an NHS that is good for those who use it but also those who work in it.

I am disappointed the Conservatives aren’t here today and that the Kirklees Conservative Tory Leader Cllr Hall does not believe the NHS crisis is real. Unfortunately it is and successive Governments have got us to this place with the marketization of a service that should always have been a public one. He says he respects NHS staff and the work that they do.

Respect is demonstrated by the priority that is placed on healthcare by Government and it is clearly lacking here.

So let’s press the reset button on the NHS provide the funding that is needed, kick out the profiteering companies and match the pride we all feel for the NHS with the resources it needs and deserves.