Sunday, 29 December 2019

PRESS RELEASE - 27 years of Green Party New Year's Day buses

Huddersfield Greens are marking 27 years of the volunteer buses they have been running over the Christmas Holidays since 1992. Newsome Councillors Andrew Cooper, Karen Allison, Sue Lee-Richards and Sue's husband Gideon will all be volunteering on the  long running service on New Years Day 

Councillor Andrew Cooper who is a volunteer driver said,

“I remember the first one we ran in 1992 which we ran as a protest against the removal of services over the holiday period. Since then some services have been resumed in some areas, including Newsome in recent years on Boxing Day”

“I really enjoy doing the bus service each year and it is now very much part of my  holiday routine. At this time of year there can be limited public transport services, trains from Berry Brow are often cancelled and taxi journeys can be expensive  so people who use the minibus we operate really do value it. We put timetables on bus stops and in local shops so people are aware of our schedule. The service is free to use but donations towards fuel costs are always welcome. Our thanks to Kirklees who provide the minibus while we provide drivers, stewards and fuel A copy of our timetable is below.”
The service provided are on New Year’s Day connects  Berry Brow, Newsome into Town and on the Huddersfield Royal Infirmary.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

The day before Polling Day - some thoughts with cultural references

Polling Day is tomorrow and why are we here? Essentially it was Jeremy Corbyn's decision. Without the Labour Party's support we would not be having a General Election now.

 As was correctly reported Corbyn had again and again called for a General Election and had been called 'frit' and in particular 'chicken' a number of times and when, in recent months, Boris Johnson offered him one he resisted. Now anyone who has watched the 'Back to the Future' Trilogy will know that Marty McFly's achilles heel was reacting poorly when been called 'chicken'. It usually didn't end well. for Marty. Obviously Corybyn didn't watch it.  So in the run up to Corbyn's decision to back a General Election they had someone following him around in a chicken costume and constant jibing of a 'chicken' nature in Parliament. It was almost as if they wanted him to react and sadly he did. He fell into a very obvious trap

So what should you do if you are Jeremy Corbyn before you agree to a General Election?

"A clear, agreed and easy to understand position on Brexit that appeals to core supporters who were Leave voters?" - Check/Not Check?

"All that Anti Semitism issue addressed?" - Check/Not Check?

"Contact with all other non Tory parties to agree a common strategy for the Election Campaign?" - Check/not check?

It was all pretty much  "Not check" wasn't it? So anyone with any political nous would say a big "No" to a General Election at this time. The problem was that Jezza was calling for a General Election at every opportunity over the last couple of years. Really the  only way of addressing the Brexit Conundrum was by another referendum. It was through the 'magic' of a referendun that we created the Brexit turmoil, so only using the same 'magic' could you defeat it.

Corbyn who had made his hallmark his conviction politics based on strong principles had become equivocal on Brexit. His message was far too nuanced and certainly wasn't the simple, and yes far too simplistic, "Get Brexit Done" message that the Tories have successfully pedaled for the last few weeks.

What has irritated me during this campaign is the pressure Greens have been under by Labour Party activists not to stand in marginal seats. There has been no pretence that there would be any form of reciprocation from them. Not even a token gesture of standing aside in Caroline Lucas's seat of Brighton Pavillion. Their approach has shown contempt for the Green Party, our supporters and the validity of our politics. They have also made a gross assumption that non-Tory votes are their votes and, though they don't support Proportional Representation they believe we should deny people their Green First Preference on the assumption that Labour is their Second Preference. Though I respect a lot of individual Labour members I find this hugely arrogant and indicative of a wrongful sense of entitlement that has been with Labour for a very long time. As such I did all I could not to indulge them and to get as many Green Candidates to stand as possible. Others did indulge them and they had their justifications for their actions. Justifications I do not share.

So here we are, the dawn of battle. I can't help but think of King Theoden in 'The Two Towers' before the battle of Helms Deep when he faced almost certain defeat and he is supported despite his own doubts by his devoted uncritical subjects. Corbyn and Momentum? perhaps? In the end Theoden won but that was with help of others. Elves, a wizard and the occasional dwarf. Corbyn has no others to call upon. The Green Party's role in relation to Labour would only be as unquestioning subjects with no rights or will of our own. Simply the providers of a grudging endorsement to our supporters. Ironic for Corbyn I guess as someone who is undoubtedly opposed to the monarchy to have such an approach.

The best we can hope for is a hung parliament and I hope Greens have a significant influence in that if we are lucky enough for that to occur . If not we are in for 5 years of  a Tory Government lead by someone who has, demonstrably, no respect for the truth.  As far as I'm concerned Boris may as well be a different species as I, and so many others, have so little in common with him. He has surrounded himself with people who have made a huge catalogue of contemptible utterances that I and many others abhor. In many ways they should be easy to take apart for a competent principal opposition party but sadly not this one.

If Labour do lose they will blame a lack of resources, the mainstream media etc but ultimately they need to take a long hard look in the mirror as in reality they will have no one to blame but themselves

How did it come to this?

Thursday, 21 November 2019

EU Committee of the Regions - Signing Off!

My last day at the EUCommittee of the Regions
It was my last meeting of the Committee of the Regions in Brussels today. Not because of Brexit but because we are reaching the end of our mandate and I'll be unable to attend further meetings due to the General Election.

It has been 4 years and I've got to say I've enjoyed it. Are politicians supposed to admit they enjoy things? Well one of the things that I particularly like doing is getting to understand political institutions and seeing how they work and using them to get some positive change. So I understand that is not everybody's cup of tea but it is mine.

It was 4 years ago when I was offered a place on the EU Committee of the Regions by Councillor Marianne Overton, Leader of the Independent Group on the Local Government Association I was part of the 24 strong UK delegation giving a voice from the local level into EU policy making. As a representative of the European Alliance group I have participated in 4 United Nations COP Climate Talks, lead on 2 policy documents (opinions) and seen best practice on mainly environmental initiatives across the EU. By it's very existence it demonstrates the lie that we have no influence over EU policy.

 It has been a part of my working life for the last 4 years and I've reported on my activity fairly regularly on my Blog. The last few years, for  have been blighted by the Brexit vote in 2016 for me. Just as UK MEPs have continued to go to the European Parliament I have continued to go to the Committee of the Regions and provide my views from a Green and UK perspective on EU policy.

Today I made my last contribution. We heard from Jacob Werksman, Principal Adviser for International Aspects of EU Climate Policy, European Commission, who is the EU's chief climate negotiator to the UNFCCC COP25. He explained how he was working on something called the 'Climate Pact'  a process by which National Governments would make agreements with local authorities on how they could work together on climate action. My suggestion was that the EU Committee of the Regions, as the body representing Local and Regional Authorities, should be involved in the design of the Climate Pacts. This seemed to go down well and I'm hopeful that we will get a better document as a result. Depending on the outcome of the UK General Election,  UK Councils may or may not be involved in climate pacts with National Governments to address the climate emergency we face.

So farewell talented employees of the EU Committee of the Regions who guided us through EU policy and helped me achieve some of my policy ambitions, farewell colleagues and now friends who I worked with and some who I'll continue to work with.

Is it the end? Who knows what the next few weeks will bring.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Green Candidate says "Don't mess with Castle Hill"

The Green Party Candidate for Huddersfield, Councillor Andrew Cooper has called on politicians to leave Castle Hill alone.

"People in Huddersfield really value Castle Hill. Local people have an almost spiritual connection to it. When we come home from our holidays the sight of Castle Hill on the horizon tells us that we are near home. When we bring visitors to see the town it is one of the places we take them. Its history goes back to the Iron Age and anyone suggesting 'improvements' should tread with caution"

" It has not taken long for me to work out that suggestions that we might have a cable car going up Castle Hill is a non starter. It is not a theme park or a visitor attraction like Disneyland it is a place that people go to to look at the town they live in and the hills that surround us. I also oppose any suggestion that we should put a hotel on top of Castle Hill. I like many had a great deal of affection for the old Castle Hill Hotel and raised the alarm when the owners started to demolish it in contravention of their Planning Application. Sadly we can't recreate what they destroyed."

"What we do need on Castle Hill is a retractable bollard at the bottom of the road to shut it off to traffic at night and particularly around October/November when it becomes a magnet for setting off fireworks. It causes huge disturbance for local people and needs a significant clear up operation in the following days, usually by local volunteers. Kirklees Council has simply not enforced the Public Space Protection Order that banned fireworks been set off from the hill. Last year the whole side of the hill, that was tinder dry, went up in flames as a result. The Labour run Kirklees Council  needs to get a grip and when it declares a Public Space Protection Order actually enforce it."

Sunday, 17 November 2019

Kirklees Peer Challenge Report - A Corporate Opportunities Register?

How will Kirklees develop a buccaneering approach to risk and opportunity?
Kirklees Council has recently had a Peer Challenge Review conducted by the Local Government Association. They came to look at the Council , see how it operates, interviewed staff, councillors and partner organisations to get a clear picture of Kirklees and make recommendations on how it could improve.

The report makes fascinating reading for a Council insider and there are some clear observations about the Council's strengths and weaknesses. One particular criticism made me ponder,

"The peer team identified a lack of risk appetite in the Council, which could constrain the Council's pace and ambition. A bolder approach to risk and opportunity is required throughout the organisation and existing governance processes should be strengthened to support this. Taking calculated risks will help the Council to move forward with the delivery of its long term ambitions".

This resonated strongly with me and my view of the Council at present. When senior figures in the Council are asked how we are responding to this criticism, the generally well received Huddersfield Blueprint is referred to as proof that the Council has vision, ambition and is willing to take risks. It's a reasonable response but it stands out as an example of ambition and risk taking in a what is otherwise a fairly small 'c' conservative Council.

On Friday I was chairing the Kirklees Corporate Scrutiny Panel and a reference came up to the Council's Corporate Risk Register. This is a list of threats to Kirklees, its priorities, its reputation. It assesses how serious the risks are and what action is being taken to address and reduce those risks. The aim is to demonstrate the Council is thinking about all the bad things that could happen and how to mitigate them  through a Risk Management Plan. It occurred to me in the meeting that we don't take the same approach to opportunities and that perhaps we should.  How do we provide the space and structure for risk takers in the Council so they can thrive? Those people in the the council who have a buccaneering spirit that challenges the risk averse natures of so many local authorities. So perhaps to help those people we need a Corporate Opportunities Register and an Opportunities Management Plan that helps build a buccaneering culture that just doesn't recognise and address risk but also embraces it

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Press Release - Greens select Andrew Cooper to contest Huddersfield Constituency

Huddersfield Greens have selected experienced Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper to contest the Huddersfield seat in the December General Election.

Andrew has been elected and re-elected to the Newsome Ward of Kirklees six times and  has notched up over 20 years service on the Council. He has taken up hundreds of local issues and concerns in his years as a Councillor and was responsible for making the Kirklees Warm Zone scheme free to all householders ensuring thousands of homes in Huddersfield were warmer and easier to heat. He now has a role providing advice and assistance to over 300 Green Party Councillors around the country.

At the national level Andrew is the Green Party’s Energy Spokesperson and has influenced the UN global climate talks by getting more recognition for the importance of the work of Local and Regional Authorities in addressing Climate Change.

On being selected Andrew said,

“Huddersfield is crying out for change. We need a fresh start for our town that provides a voice that is independent of the old parties that have failed us all for far too long. I’ve lived worked and represented people in Huddersfield for many years. It’s a town I love and it would be a huge honour to represent Huddersfield in Parliament, to be a voice that is dealing with peoples everyday problems but also looking at ways to address the climate crisis we all face.”

“I’m looking forward to the campaign. I want to see as many people as I possibly can over the coming weeks and to show people that there is a way we can aspire to a politics that is better than the one we have all endured for so long.”

Thursday, 17 October 2019

One does not simply 'Declare a Climate Emergency' - Kirklees Council Meeting Report 16/10/19

One does not simply declare a climate emergency. That became obvious, with stark clarity at last night's Kirklees Full Council meeting.

I had resubmitted a motion that the Green Group had submitted to the last Full Council. This motion called for West Yorkshire Combined Authority to withdraw £100 million of support for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. This motion despite my best efforts had fallen off the end of the agenda at the last meeting. This time in an effort to get it debated I withdrew a long standing Green motion that was nearer the beginning of the agenda and asked the Council to allow us to have the Leeds Bradford Airport motion heard in its place. This was rejected by Labour. When we got to near the end of the Council meeting there was a call from Labour, under Council rules to have their motion on Universal Credit voted on without debate. Quickly I asked for the same for our motion on Leeds Bradford Airport. We backed Labour to ensure their motion was put before the Council but then Labour, (with one or two honorable exceptions) voted against our motion being put. They really didn't want to discuss or vote on the motion at all.

Anticipating that this would happen, earlier in the meeting, I had submitted a question to the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Peter McBride which said,

"Will you be calling for West Yorkshire Combined Authority to withdraw the £100 million of support it is providing for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport in light of the Climate Emergency that we and they have declared?"

His simple, unadorned, one word answer was "No". I pushed him in my supplementary question for a more serious answer to my question, to which he answered saying that the funding was for some sort of Park and Ride scheme and he effectively said it was nothing to do with airport expansion. There was clearly an illogical disconnect in his mind between developing extra transport capacity to Leeds Bradford Airport and its expansion.

Councillor McBride was also in the hot seat that evening to talk about progress under his Cabinet Portfolio. He mentioned that the Council would be promoting high energy efficiency standards in new housing. I welcomed this but then highlighted the 'performance gap' issue where housing, built supposedly in accordance with current building regulations, were using twice as much energy in operation as expected. So much as he might believe he was promoting high efficiency buildings that might not actually be the case in practice. As in previous meetings I then suggested the Council adopt 'Passivhaus' standards for new buildings which have a quality assurance system which ensures that buildings actually perform as expected and use around 75% less energy than a building built to current Building Regulation standards. I and Councillor Marchington from the Lib Dems highlighted other Councils that had successfully applied Passivhaus standards in new housing including the Sterling Prize winning 100 house scheme in Norwich. Councillor McBride then repeated a number of misunderstandings and myths around Passivhaus costs and the supposed complexity of living in a Passivhaus. This pretty much indicated that this wasn't a route he was going to go down.

We had considered Passivhaus in detail in the Climate Emergency Working Group where a lot of these issues that Cllr McBride raised were dealt with through evidence provided by an  Observer on the Working Group, Chris Herring from the Passivhaus Trust . Hopefully some positive recommendations on the subject will appear in the Final Report. We will see.

What struck me is that even if the Final Report from the Climate Emergency Working Group is as radical and inspiring as I hope it is then it has the hurdle to overcome of the Labour Cabinet. After  last nights performance I doubt the Council will do anything other than a very mediocre response to the very real Climate Emergency we face. Unfortunately mediocre doesn't cut it.


Friday, 27 September 2019

Climate Emergency - Will Kirklees take it seriously?

Speaking at the Climate Strike demo in Huddersfield
At last weeks Kirklees Full Council meeting I attempted to submit a Green Party motion on the £100 million of regional funding from West Yorkshire Combined Authority that is being used to support the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport. The Combined Authority is Labour Controlled and Kirklees Labour Leader Shabir Pandor sits on the Authority. There is a clear conflict with the statements by Leaders supposedly supporting the calls for a Climate Emergency. In the meeting I requested that a Green Party motion that was the first motion on the agenda be substituted for our motion on Leeds Bradford Airport that was much later on the agenda. I made the point that we have declared a climate emergency and as such this was an important issue that we ought to debate and as we were simply substituting one Green motion for another there was no detriment. The Labour Party Councillors voted down this change in the agenda. They clearly did not want to debate it. In the end no motions were debated at all as Council was guillotined at 9.00pm.

This has been the month when millions of children and adults from around the world have been demonstrating to show the need for urgent action given our deteriorating climate. Only days ago Greta Thunberg in the United Nations has berated those politicians who have failed to act in the face of undeniable evidence from climate scientists saying that the need for action is urgently required.  Commendably Leeds City Region has stated how it aims to be carbon neutral by 2038 however a study by researchers at the University of Leeds has shown that Leeds City Region Carbon Targets could be blown completely by Leeds Bradford Airports expansion plans.

My reading matter this week.
In the next few weeks Kirklees Climate Emergency Working Party, of which I am a member, will be reporting on its recommendations for action by the Kirklees Labour Cabinet. We have heard a lot of evidence from Council officers and some input from relevant local businesses. I hope the recommendations from the Working Party will be challenging but realistic. Of course realistic can be radical, realistic can be cutting edge and realistic can be pioneering but it requires political will and being prepared to take risks. Mediocrity on climate action is not acceptable and is completely ineffective.  I have been concerned to hear leading Labour politicians talking of being ‘realistic’ when what they really mean is doing the bare minimum. I feel that the voices of the Labour Old Guard hold sway. Those who at worst don’t really understand the threat of climate change and at best don’t recognise the opportunities we have to make significant change. A change that could really show the way for other  Local Authorities across the country.  If we are led by dinosaurs we will simply go the way of the dinosaurs.

Hearing the Labour Cabinet Member with responsibility for Climate Change speak at the Climate Strike Demonstration in St Georges Square on Friday claiming, hopefully through ignorance, that we were the first Council in the country to declare a climate emergency was particularly concerning. We were actually about the hundredth in the UK. We weren’t even the first in Yorkshire. It’s not that it was Green Councillors who successfully proposed the first climate emergencies that concerns me ( in Bristol, Nationally and Scarborough, Regionally) but that Kirklees Leaders have such a lack of self awareness as a Council that we don’t  recognise that we are no longer one of the Leading Authorities on action on Climate Change. There’s no shame in that if we have positive plans to improve but not recognising reality is not a good place to start from.

There is an urgent need for politicians in Kirklees to ‘step up’ and provide a radical and inspiring plan showing how we can be local leaders on climate action and not simply take the easy path that is destined to achieve very little. I remain hopeful and I will do my best to advise Kirklees on what action it should take but I believe that perhaps the most useful thing would be to play Greta Thunberg’s speech to the United Nations before the next Kirklees Full Council meeting. That should help focus Councillors minds.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

An open letter regarding investment in Leeds Bradford Airport to members of the Leeds City Region Board from Green Party Councillors in the Region

An open letter regarding investment in Leeds Bradford Airport to members of the Leeds City Board from Green Party Councillors in the region

You will of course be aware that only a few weeks ago Leeds City Region and its constituent Councils declared a Climate Emergency in response to the stark warnings on the threat of climate change from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the fact that we have a limited amount of time to bring our emissions under control.

Proposals to invest public money in transport links to Leeds Bradford Airport are aimed at supporting its expansion plans which can only mean more flights and more carbon emissions making our chances of hitting our net zero carbon emissions target by 2038 remote if not impossible.

A study by academics at Leeds University has shown how support for the expansion of Leeds Bradford Airport is incompatible with our declaration of a climate emergency. This contradiction needs to be addressed.

As Green Party Councillors in the Leeds City Region we are calling on you to oppose the use of public funds to improve transport links to Leeds Bradford airport and for that funding to be reinvested in projects that will significantly reduce carbon emissions.

I am sure you will agree with us that declaring a climate emergency and then making no changes to those actions which are in conflict with that policy makes no sense.

Cllr Andrew Cooper - Kirklees Council
Cllr Karen Allison - Kirklees Council
Cllr Sue Lee-Richards - Kirklees Council

Cllr Ann Blackburn - Leeds City Council
Cllr Ann Forsaith - Leeds City Council
Cllr David Blackburn - Leeds City Council

Cllr Martin Love - Bradford City Council
Cllr Kevin Warnes - Bradford City Council

Cllr Andy Brown - Craven District Coumcil
Cllr David Noland : Craven District Council

Cllr Andy D'Agorne - York City Council
Cllr Denise Craghill - York City Council
Cllr Dave Taylor - York City Council
Cllr Rosie Baker - York City Council

Holiday house book review - The Ladybird Book - The Story of Plastics

There's been a bit of a fad in the last few years for spoof Ladybird books such as the Ladybird book of  'The Mother' 'The Student' etc so imagine my delight to find some on the bookshelves in the holiday house we stayed in in Scotland.

They were actually not spoof books but the real thing that with hindsight were  grimly amusing.

Given the impact of Blue Planet showing how plastics have polluted our oceans and caused umtold damage to our marine ecosystems The one that caught my eye was the Ladybird book of ' Plastics' published in 1972. I laughed out loud when I saw the page on 'before plastics and they had a picture of stone age cave dwellers, as if the whole of history was completely primitive before the age
of plastic.

The whole book is completely uncritical as you would expect from an educational book aimed at children just before the dawn of the Green Movement in the UK and probably written by the industry itself. What really did strike me was what innocent times those were. Our actions had no perceived consequences. We don't have that excuse anymore.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Climate Change? No problem let's move to Havering!

As sea levels rise, heatwaves ravage the populations of our cities and crop failures leave millions facing starvation what are we to do? We are told by Climate Scientists after years of peer reviewed science that climate change will affect us all but fortunately they are rather surprisingly wrong, in Havering at least!

Now I'm no climate change denier as a general rule but the good Councillors of the London Borough of Havering when presented with a motion at a Council meeting in July asking them to 'Declare a Climate Emergency' voted against it. It would be uncharitable to suggest they ignored the scientific evidence, that they valued their own opinions, or that of some bloke in a pub, more than that of climate scientists so all I can assume is that the London Borough of Havering has a very resilient micro climate or a protective shield which maintains a stable environment. That's not all of course their economy must also be independent of all the same influences that those of us unfortunates on the rest of the planet who are actually affected by a climate emergency have to put up with.

The London Borough of Havering is a truly blessed place. So when our homes and streets are inundated, when extreme weather conditions make large parts of the world uninhabitable then the London Borough of Havering is the place to go to. I am sure that was what the Councillors who opposed the Climate Emergency meant. They want Havering to be a beacon for climate refugees. Perhaps they could build a 'Statue of Climate Liberty' saying beneath it " Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses your yearning masses". What a good spirited bunch are the Councillors who opposed the Climate Emergency motion are and what were those Havering Councillors who proposed the motion thinking of?

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Sounds from Number 76

I did a couple of compilations of varied music that I liked about 10 years or so ago. I found one of  the CDs yesterday so I thought I'd put them all in a blogpost. Harder to lose! Harder to scratch. This obviously comes under the "and also anything else I fancy talking about" part of my Blog description.
 It's pretty varied from 17th century choral music to the Dead Kennedy's but I think it hangs together OK. It finishes off with 'That's Entertainment' by The Jam. I've mentioned to a number of people that I'd like it played at my funeral. So if you happen to be there and they don't play it then please feel free to complain on my behalf.

Enjoy or not!

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Kingfisher Court will not be a new Grenfell Tower

Today I and my 2 Newsome Cllr colleagues Sue Lee-Richards and Karen Allison were on the scene as officers from Kirklees Council and West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service entered  Kingfisher Court, on Manchester Rd in Huddersfield to issue a notice making it illegal for the flats there to be used overnight as sleeping accommodation due to non-compliance with fire safety elements of the building regulations.

Kingfisher Court is supposed to be student accommodation  and during the summer it is generally overseas students who are still in residence which has limited to an extent the number of people disrupted but it was good to see Kirklees staff on hand to help those people who would have nowhere safe to stay that evening. The people managing the blocks now need to rectify the problems identified so Kingfisher Court can be a safe place for people to live in.

The relatively new buildings have had a troubled history with some of the student flats appearing as places to stay on Air BnB in contravention of their student status and therefore eligible for Council Tax. There was also some speculation that those rooms may have been used for purposes other than simple overnight stays.

So how do we end up with a situation where new buildings end up in contravention of fire regulations? Building Regulations in the UK are privatised. Developers don't have to use the Council's diminished Building Control function. Instead they can get a private contractor to carry out this work who they pay, who may cut corners and not be as stringent on compliance with the rules as they should be. It looks highly possible that this is what has occurred in this case, So with all that been revealed in the Grenfell Enquiry has anything meaningful being done to change the Building Control system? Last years amemdments to Building Regulations certainly tightened things up but in my view Building Control should be re-regulated brought back into the public sector and be properly resourced to ensure safety for residents and strict compliance with Building Regulations. The private sector should never override the public interest ever again.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Local Government Association - Climate Emergency Task and Finish Group - some thoughts

A few weeks ago the Local Government Association (LGA) declared a Climate Emergency following on from over a 100 Councils doing so, from around the country, in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report saying we have only 12 years (now 11 years!) to stabilise emissions to a level which can achieve the Paris Climate Goals agreed at COP21. As part of this declaration the LGA established a Climate Emergency Task and Finish group to examine the issues and make recommendations. I am one of five Councillors from around the UK on this group. 

Here's some thoughts in advance about some of the the recommendations we could make

  • establish a National Climate Taskforce including Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Communities, Housing & Local Government and the Local Government Association representatives to drive action on climate change at the local level, addressing barriers to action and making good practice examples the mainstream 
  • Councils to produce  Climate Action Plans on how they can cut emissions quickly and what actions they could take with greater support from central Government.
  • Councils to lead local Climate Action Partnerships to drive deeper action on carbon emission reductions. This would draw in support from business, the wider public sector, the voluntary sector and the wider community
  • Government  to give  a clear steer to local Councils that they are expected to insist on higher energy efficiency standards in new buildings up to (and preferably) the Passivhaus Standard. This to be followed as swiftly as possible by strengthening of the energy efficiency standards in Building Regulations.
  • Reregulate and strengthen the Building Control function to ensure strict adherence to energy efficiency standards.
  • Councils to produce a plan (with a timetable) for a complete electrification of their vehicle fleets and to work with other large fleet operators on similar plans.
  • Revive the Home Energy Conservation Act powers of Local Government and ask for new plans to be established within a year for costed plans to improve the energy efficiency of homes in line with the emissions savings we need to achieve the Paris Climate goals within a ten year timeframe.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Climate Emergency - Heading for 3 degrees - How do we stop it?

Tough but still not enough!
What do we know? We know that the carbon savings agreed by governments from around the world will not meet the Paris Climate goals. They will in fact take us to a 3 degree world by 2050. A global temperature rise of 3 degrees across the world is a world where large regions of the world become uninhabitable, where the sea rises by a metre every 20 years, where coastal cities are either inundated or fortresses, with many millions of refugees, where agricultural production will crash. The Home Counties of England will be more like Marrakech. 500 Million tonnes of carbon will be released from melted permafrost locking in future temperature rises. People will die in their millions. So our current inadequate Nationally Determined Contributions to reduce carbon emissions are effectively a death sentence for countless people and will condemn many millions more into stifling, miserable and poor living conditions.

So what made Climate Change into a Climate Emergency? Last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change the United Nations sponsored body produced a special report on Climate Change stating that  serious action to limit emissions was too slow and that if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change then action needs taking now. Currently it is estimated that the Earth's temperature rises by an average of 0.2 degrees every 10 years. So with global temperatures already estimated to be nearly 1 degree above post industrial levels we need to act very swiftly to have a chance of stabilising our Climate. Last years IPCC report said within 12 years it is now 11 years and the clock is still ticking downwards.

So what does this mean for us as local authorities?

Many of us (over 100 now at the last count) have declared Climate Emergencies. The first was in Bristol City Council following a motion proposed by the Green Party Councillors there. Many Councils have now followed their lead including my own Kirklees Council.

In Parliament the Green Baroness Jenny Jones introduced a Climate Emergency debate to the House of Lords and Caroline Lucas MP raised it first in the Commons as an Early Day Motion and in May Labour tabled a motion which was agreed.

Last week Leeds City Region announced that all the Councils within their boundaries will be net zero carbon by 2038. This target is undoubtedly tough but not enough. 2038 according to the science is 8 years too late, but it is a start and we should embrace it as an encouraging first step. Leeds City Region is a huge area consisting of the Councils of Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield, Kirklees, Calderdale, Harrogate, Craven, Barnsley, York and Selby so to get this degree of joint commitment is impressive.

The new Leeds City Region Climate Coalition needs a new committed partner and that has to be the UK Government. All the Council Leaders in the City Region need to send a letter to whoever the Prime Minister is next month and tell them "Congratulations  you are now a member of the Leeds City Region Climate Coalition!". With membership comes responsibilities and we need their commitment to ensure we reach even the 2038 target and certainly the 2030 target that we really need to achieve.

The concern now is that feeling that the Councils that make up the Leeds City Region don't really appreciate what they have signed up to and consider it 'Business as Usual' but with a few green initiatives. What is needed now are robust action plans that demonstate what actions will be taken and by when and how much carbon emissions will be reduced by and how quickly.

A demonstrable sense of urgency is essential in a climate emergency

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

PRESS STATEMENT - Greens Welcome Climate Change lobby of Kirklees Council

Green Party Councillors on Kirklees Council have welcomed the lobby of Kirklees Council today by nearly a 100 Climate Change protestors.

Councillor Andrew Cooper, Leader of the Green Group said

“It is surely no coincidence that Kirklees Council have put out a statement on the climate emergency a day before the lobby of the Council. It was inspiring to see nearly 100 people attend to show the strength of local support for robust action on climate change. We have a lot of work to do  if we are to play our part in reducing carbon emissions to a safe level.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say that we need to stabilise our emissions to a safe level by 2030. Kirklees Council has agreed, along with other West Yorkshire Councils, to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2038. This target is tough but not enough. There is no clear idea in Kirklees yet on how this target will be achieved and we need to plan quickly the actions we will need to take to ensure it is achieved.

A real area of concern is that the Council has not yet adopted a high energy efficiency standard for new buildings. An all party Policy Working Group recommended adopting the Passivhaus standard for new buildings in Kirklees over 2 years ago and the Cabinet has not responded to the report recommendations despite several attempts  to get them to do so. Other Councils such as Norwich and Exeter are specifying the Passivhaus standard in their developments but Kirklees is so far lagging behind in this area.

The Climate Emergency Working Group on Kirklees Council continues to work hard to see what proposals and initiatives we should recpommend to Kirklees Cabinet. It is supposed to be an all –party Working Group but it is shameful that the Conservatives have refused to nominate a representative to this important group. We need to have all politicians working together on this vital issue.”

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Green Party Motion to Kirklees Council - The proper funding of local services

Motion to July Full Council in the names of Cllrs 
Andrew Cooper, Sue Lee-Richards and Karen Allison

Motion - 
The proper funding of local services

The UK is a member of the Council of Europe (this is not the European Union) and as such is a signatory to the European Charter of Local Self Government.
The provisions of the Charter state
“The protection of financially weaker local authorities calls for the institution of financial
equalisation procedures or equivalent measures which are designed to correct the effects of
the unequal distribution of potential sources of finance and of the financial burden they must
support. Such procedures or measures shall not diminish the discretion local authorities may
exercise within their own sphere of responsibility”.

It has been demonstrated that Kirklees Council is seriously underfunded per head of population compared with other Councils with similar responsibilities and characteristics.

This Council calls on the Leader of Kirklees Council to raise this breach with
-          the Council of Europe in his role as a member of that body
-          the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government

This Council further calls on the Leader of the Council, working with all other political group leaders , to request that Government takes steps to ensure that Kirklees is properly able to fund local services and that Government fulfils its obligations as a signatory of the European Charter of Self Government.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Greening the Huddersfield Blueprint

The drawings and visions of what Huddersfield Town Centre could be in the Huddersfield Blueprint have been generally well received. Huddersfield could certainly do with a new look and re-imagining for the rest of the 21st Century. But what about the detail? What are the things that will help make the Town Centre a destination for people both from our area and further afield? How will we attract people of all ages and interests to spend time there and also some money perhaps? 

Here's some ideas.

Promote locally owned and managed shops as a priority - The future is local. The demise of big town centre stores, the loss of places like Marks and Spencer and BHS owes a lot to the rise of internet shopping.  Town Centre retail in the future should be more about unique, quality, local products with shops and services that are owned and managed by local people and are not readily available on the internet. Quite apart from anything else this means that more money will circulate in the local economy with shops being a key part of a local supply chain. A key question Kirklees need to ask themselves again and again is "How do our proposals help locally owned and managed businesses?". Too much emphasis can be placed on pursuing big national anchor retailers when their precarious future is best protected by having a diverse offer which brings a variety of people into the Town Centre looking for a mix of offers.

A Bilbao drinking water fountain
Lots of drinking water fountains - I saw this in my recent visit to Bilbao. There were public drinking water fountains all over the place. If we really do want to see the end of the plastic bottle then one way is to make our refreshing Yorkshire tap water more accessible to more people. We want to encourage a culture of people carrying their own water bottles. These drinking water fountains should be attractive, sculptural and more of a feature than simply a utilitarian municipal provision.

More pedestrianisation - the most successful Town and City Centres are the ones with lots of pedestrianised areas. There is always resistance to pedestrianisation from people who claim that it will diminish trade  by making the town centre not car- friendly but all the evidence actually points in the other direction.

Huddersfield Town Centre Clean Air Zone - Parts of Huddersfield Town Centre are already Air Quality Management Areas due to polluting vehicles. Leeds and Bradford have plans for Clean Air Zones where they will charge the most polluting vehicles to enter their City Centres. This will undoubtedly mean that the most polluting buses will be operating in towns like Huddersfield and the clean low emission ones will be in Leeds and Bradford. Establishing a clean air zone within Huddersfield Town Centre will send a message that this is a cleaner, safer and healthy environment for people to bring their families. It will also help accelerate the adoption of lower emission taxi vehicles and delivery vehicles coming into the Town Centre.

More Electric vehicle charging points - The electric car, van and truck are coming and the number of electric vehicles is growing quickly. The council needs a much greater number of electric charging points than the few that are currently planned. As electric vehicles become more common the Council could offer free parking for electric vehicles but charge for charging them up. Any new parking facilities planned like the one next to St Georges Warehouse should all have electric charging points

Childrens Play Areas - Other than the Childrens Library
what is there for kids in Huddersfield Town Centre? The Huddersfield Blueprint says it wants the town to be "family friendly" but no play areas in the visuals. I have seen numerous European city centres where there are lots of play areas and the places are alive and are welcoming to families. For many years Greens and particularly ex-Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner have pushed hard for more play areas in Huddersfield

Giant spider sculpture - Bilbao
Street art and sculpture - When I visited Bilbao a key part of its revival as a city was about embracing public art. There are murals and sculpture in so many places in the city centre. Some are modern some are traditional but they all add vibrancy and interest to the area. We need to think big on public art. On a visit to Sweden I remember seeing a 30 foot tall Pinnochio statue striding across a roundabout. It was striking and one of a number of art installations across the town. 

Embrace the night-time economy and make it safer for young people - Young people and students love a night out in Huddersfield with clubs and bars staying open till the early hours of the morning. Its great and it's all part of the experience of being young but we need to do much more to ensure they feel safe and better resourced policing and Kirklees licensing officers would all help. 

Free WiFi - Free Wifi in Huddersfield Town Centre  would be hugely attractive and definitely make the Town a destination for many. Many coffee shops and some pubs offer it now but to make it free across the whole town centre and particularly in public spaces would be hugely attractive

An outdoor gym in the Civic Quarter
Free to use outdoor gym equipment - or play areas for older people if you like. What if we had a number of locations across the town where outdoor gym equipment was available and you could charge your mobile phone by using it? A number of places spring to mind but top of my list would the empty space between Civic Centre 1 and Civic Centre 3 that I call "The Civic Expanse of Doom". It is one of the most depressing places in Huddersfield in my opinion

 A more democratic plan - If this is a plan that is to have the 'buy in' we so desperately need for something of this importance we need a broad range of involvement in its formulation and implementation. It needs other Huddersfield voices and interests involved other than one or two Cabinet members who happen to be members of one particular political party. We need broader political representation but also more involvement from bodies like the Huddersfield Civic Society and local businesses. They need to be the driving force behind the plan, the 'Huddersfield Blueprint Board' and not just recipients of information or consultees.

Personally I'm more than happy to back a plan that has a clear vision for the future of Huddersfield Town Centre  but it is vital that it is a Peoples Plan formed by many and not just the few.