2015 Manifesto – TO BE UPDATED

  • We will work through the new Local Plan and in other ways to promote policies that support a sustainable future, local services, a good quality of life and a resilient local economy, with full involvement of local people in planning decisions. Environmental sustainability and local self-sufficiency should be at the heart of planning policies.
  • Resist excessive housing development and focus our efforts on environmentally sustainable developments on brown field sites, with the provision of sufficient affordable homes. Our preferred level of house building in the Local Plan is well under 800 per annum over the next 15 years. However we believe it is crucial that a Local Plan is approved to protect against indiscriminate over-development. We will argue that any Plan with a higher level of development must include stringent zero carbon sustainability measures, including nature conservation, traffic reduction and excellent public transport provision ensure the Local Plan maintains the economic focus on the city centre as a ‘living city’ with many residents and
    local shoppers as well as tourists and family friendly evening activities.
  • Oppose any further major out of town retail development for any reason whatsoever ensure the Local Plan encourages mixed use development so employment is close to housing to reduce the need to commute.
  • Ensure the Local Plan safeguards open space and community facilities, including community centres, sports clubs, pubs, social clubs, youth clubs, post offices, local shops and similar venues where people are able to meet each other and help create a safer and more vibrant community. We support the implementation of a city-wide article 4 direction (approved by Council following a Green Party motion) to ensure that all the city’s pubs have to be subject to planning permission for change of use to retail. We also support the registration of ‘assets of community value.’
  • Ensure the Local Plan protects, expands and enhances natural green spaces that act as the city’s lungs, providing clean air, safe walking and cycling routes and preserve wildlife and habitat ensure the Council retains sufficient capacity to adequately protect our historic and natural heritage through the planning process via sufficient Conservation and Enforcement Officers initiate a proper Environmental Capacity study in the longer term, as part of the process of Local Plan Review,
    followed by a city-wide consultation process to assess what level of development the city can sustain without changing its special character, overloading its infrastructure, or significantly damaging the quality of life of residents review the scheme of planning delegation so that more planning decisions are returned to public scrutiny and where local residents are fully informed about planning applications that may affect them. Where decisions are delegated to officers there must still be a transparent publicly accountable process that is clear for residents to
    influence and follow.
  • We will lobby the new Government to overturn the National Planning Policy Framework, which is essentially a developers’ charter and which contrary to the misleading claims of the Localism Act, is at the core of a massive centralisation of planning decisions. We will also lobby for the return of full planning powers to local authorities and local people.
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2015 Manifesto – TO BE UPDATED

Sporting activities, leisure, culture and the Arts can enhance the quality of life for everyone. We will:

  • Review the Council’s strategy for providing better access for all of York’s residents to swimming and other sports facilities. Following the Barbican fiasco provision is patchy and many residents, including those in the
    city centre, have no nearby public facilities
  • Review the decision to privatise the running of all our main sports facilities as part of the Monks Cross Stadium deal. We will seek to ensure that York’s citizens are getting the best value for money in the short and longer term and affordable access to high quality services
  • Keep Yearsley Pool open and work with the support group and local residents to seeking additional funding to enhance its valued community provision
  • Monitor the outsourced Library Service and if necessary consult on the pros and cons of bringing it back into direct Council service provision. We will keep all of York’s libraries open protect Council funding to arts and cultural organisations, prioritising community arts and initiatives to promote access for all (A representative of YGP. John Walford, attended a public engagement/consultation event on this in January 2018 which we can feedback on.)
  • Work with York’s many heritage organisations large and small to protect York’s heritage.

 – To be updated – 

We were totally opposed to the decision made by the Council in October to go ahead with the over-sized waste processing plant and incinerator at Allerton Park, as the junior partner with North Yorkshire County Council. We believe this will be disastrous for residents’ health, for a sustainable waste policy and in financial terms. We will

* Take advice on options for withdrawing from the hugely expensive contract with Amey Cespa or renegotiating the contract with appropriate small scale waste retrieval plants and no incinerator

* work towards a Zero Waste Strategy for the City of York drawing on best practice from around the country and abroad. For example San Francisco has a target of zero waste by 2020 without incineration. It has now topped 80% recovery of waste and is being followed by other US cities

A Zero Waste Strategy will include

  • very high targets for doorstep recycling with appropriate measures to make this possible. York’s residents are very keen to recycle but are often confused by lack of clear information and support from the Council
  • working with local communities, residents in flats and terraced streets and improving the service in alley-gated areas to make sure everyone can recycle as much as possible
  • the use of community competitions and door to door advice to increase recycling rates
  • small scale mechanical sorting and biological treatment to remove further recyclable materials from the remaining waste
  • working with public sector partners and local businesses to reduce waste production
  • encouragement of home composting and a mobile service for home chipping of woody material
  • the introduction of food waste collections and far more municipal composting
  • active promotion of modern re-useable nappy services
  • an increase in the number of small scale recycling sites around the city for a wide range of recyclables (for example at allotments and any new developments)
  • keeping the cost for collection of bulky household items down and encourage shared collections
  • prioritising some investment in re-use and repair policies
  • the creation of re-use centres at Hazel Court and other feasible locations. Complementing the Community Furniture Store these could include household goods, white goods, clothes, fabrics and other items, possibly run by a franchise as in other towns and cities
  • initiatives to increase the local demand for recycled products. We will ensure that the Council itself uses recycled products throughout all its functions including schools and other facilities and not just in Environmental Services!

YGP views on the new Allerton incinerator – and Scottish Tories sympathise!

Cllr Andy D’Agorne, York Green Party group leader comments this week as the controversial new incinerator opens at Allerton Park just north off the A59/A1 junction.

“Including 5% additional recycling in the contract and converting the biogas to energy is good. However the process still causes climate change through Carbon Dioxide emissions and is an inefficient way of generating energy: waste heat is not currently used on site (could be used for market gardening, e.g. heating greenhouses!)

It would be more energy efficient for the bio-gas from the Anaerobic Digester to be either pumped directly into the gas grid to heat offices and homes (only 40% of energy produced reaches consumers as electricity), or the gas could be used to power the refuse vehicles (currently operating on polluting diesel ) CNG is used in Sweden to power buses and refuse trucks and could be here.”

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You might find this link from Waste Management World interesting, showing that other countries have far more energy efficient ways of using the bio-gas produced from Anaerobic Digestors!

The 25 year contract perpetuates the ‘linear economy’, destroying valuable materials that could be recycled into new products. Recycling reduces the need to make new disposable products from virgin materials.

As we cut down on single use plastics going into the waste stream (following ‘Blue Planet’ awareness) the contract will undermine the market for plastic recycling as we are committed to supply a minimum volume of combustible waste. In order to ensure toxic emissions are minimised, the technology is very expensive compared with home composting, re- use and recycling – this cost impacts on local council services for 25 years.”

Read the York Press articles here from 9th March when a reporter visits the site and Andy’s comments are reported and from 6th March announcing the new incinerator is open. And from a month ago when a Tory MSP spoke out against incinerators in Scotland: echoing the good sense of our own councillors here in York! Conservative Maurice Golden warned Scotland risks becoming the “ashtray of Europe” unless new incinerators are banned and called for a moratorium on new incineration plants across Scotland.

Speaking in a Holyrood debate on tackling plastic pollution, he said that by 2050 the litter in the sea will outweigh fish and praised proposals to tackle this such as developing alternative materials.

He added: “If we are going to do all the positive work that has been said around plastics and around this agenda it would be incongruous to then see Scotland be the ashtray of Europe.”

Waste Management – the YGP 2015 Manifesto – to be updated

We are totally opposed to the decision made by the Council in October to go ahead with the over-sized waste processing plant and incinerator at Allerton Park, as the junior partner with North Yorkshire County Council. We believe this will be disastrous for residents’ health, for a sustainable waste policy and in financial terms. We will

* Take advice on options for withdrawing from the hugely expensive contract with Amey Cespa or renegotiating the contract with appropriate small scale waste retrieval plants and no incinerator

* work towards a Zero Waste Strategy for the City of York drawing on best practice from around the country and abroad. For example San Francisco has a target of zero waste by 2020 without incineration. It has now topped 80% recovery of waste and is being followed by other US cities

A Zero Waste Strategy will include

  • very high targets for doorstep recycling with appropriate measures to make this possible. York’s residents are very keen to recycle but are often confused by lack of clear information and support from the Council
  • working with local communities, residents in flats and terraced streets and improving the service in alley-gated areas to make sure everyone can recycle as much as possible
  • the use of community competitions and door to door advice to increase recycling rates
  • small scale mechanical sorting and biological treatment to remove further recyclable materials from the remaining waste
  • working with public sector partners and local businesses to reduce waste production
  • encouragement of home composting and a mobile service for home chipping of woody material
  • the introduction of food waste collections and far more municipal composting
  • active promotion of modern re-useable nappy services
  • an increase in the number of small scale recycling sites around the city for a wide range of recyclables (for example at allotments and any new developments)
  • keeping the cost for collection of bulky household items down and encourage shared collections
  • prioritising some investment in re-use and repair policies
  • the creation of re-use centres at Hazel Court and other feasible locations. Complementing the Community Furniture Store these could include household goods, white goods, clothes, fabrics and other items, possibly run by a franchise as in other towns and cities
  • initiatives to increase the local demand for recycled products. We will ensure that the Council itself uses recycled products throughout all its functions including schools and other facilities and not just in Environmental Services!

A group of people living in the terraced streets off Heslington Rd have been meeting together with Andy D’Agorne as their ward councillor to work out ways that they can make their back alleys more attractive community spaces.

Starting from the idea of bringing in more greenery including planters, plants on tops of back walls, benches and shrubs, discussion has quickly moved on to planning an ‘alley party’ as an alternative to street parties on the day of the royal wedding in May.

The group has already surveyed the street to find out how much support there is for their idea and identified residents who might want vehicle access along the route. They are now getting themselves a bank account so that they can apply for ward funding to help pay for plants and pots!

Already conversation has strayed into issues of cleaning up any fly tipping, organising activities for families, design competitions etc. Provisional name for the group is ‘Redfearn Alley Greening’ in recognition that the houses were built to house workers at the Redfearn glass factory which used to sit on the site of the Novotel.

Greening alleys

Greens propose increased funding for social care and city parks & cuts to ResPark fees

As with the Labour amendment we propose increasing the General Fund Council Tax by a further 1%. We have also taken the option of adding a further 1.5% via the Social Care Precept – the maximum amount allowed by the Government, to ‘front load’ this contribution for the next two years to an area of considerable budget pressure as acknowledged in the treasury report.

There’s a number of reasons why we have chosen to add this amount this year rather than next year. The pressure on adult social care services is enormous. The social care system is struggling with increasing demands and increasingly complex needs from a growing elderly population. At the same time, in the bizarre funding world created by this Government, whilst bits of extra social care funding are periodically announced by Government, huge cuts are also taking place with a target of £1.7m of savings from Health, Housing and Adult Social Care in this current budget [page 272]. This is coupled with the bringing together of Adult Social Care with health services and the financial risks set out in this paper inherent in the scale of local NHS financial deficits.

Our council is therefore looking at wholesale changes to the way that our social care system operates in future. As Greens we have always been very much in support of preventative health. Indeed many other measures in our budget are focussed on preventative health in the widest sense – from making the most of our parks and open spaces to improving air quality, tackling fuel poverty and promoting warmer homes, to better public transport and targeted support for those struggling financially.

There is, however, a major concern that attempting a transition to a new system based on more home-based and community-based care without sufficient financial cushion will mean individuals in need of high levels of care suffering during the transition.

Our amendment ensures that the maximum level of investment allowed by the Government goes into social care now when it can be most effective in supporting the transition and ensuring that individuals receive the levels of care that they need.

Our amendment follows this advice and invests nearly half a million pounds directly into the adult social care system to support the transition to the new operating model. It also invests £200,000 in extending the falls service pilot across much more of the city to give a free service in people’s homes, giving advice and carrying out physical alterations to prevent falls. [Janet will have said all this bit!] We have also reversed a substantial (£100,000) cut to so-called ‘small day services’ – services which provide a range of daytime social activities for older people and people with disabilities – surely a key part of a preventative health approach? And we’ve reversed a cut to running costs for council run sheltered housing with extra care. We should not be skimping on this cost effective alternative to nursing care.

These investments in social care would be in addition to the £800,000 extra social care spending already in the Executive Budget but funded out of general funds rather than the social care precept. Our amendment would cover much of this out of the additional social care precept, in preference to the administration approach of further paring to the bone of core services. In the current budget the Executive has chosen to take yet more funds away from our public transport health promotion work etc to fund the growing social care pressures.

SO overall, our proposal focus on 3 key principles: protecting older and disadvantaged citizens, parks as frontline services, and planning for the future

Protecting older and disadvantaged citizens:

  • In addition to social care provision,
  • We would put a further £100,000 into the Financial Assistance Fund along with creating a post to pro-actively promote this to residents in financial need. This fund provides emergency payments and assistance to some of most vulnerable residents who are struggling financially. At a time when this applies to more people than ever it is a scandal that in recent years take-up of the fund has been relatively low – it therefore seems a prudent and sensible measure to appoint an outreach worker at least on a trial basis to ensure that those most in need can access the fund.
  • For similar reasons we believe there should be continued investment to support the excellent work of Citizens Advice York, particularly in relation to debt advice and we would also lower the cap on Council Tax support for our worst off citizens by 5% , enabling more people to benefit from Council Tax Support.
  • We believe that access to the arts should be a basic right for everyone not middle class luxury – and have included funding to continue free admission for lower income citizens [£52k] to the city’s heritage which is managed on behalf of the council by York Museums Trust

Parks as frontline services:

  • We are re-investing a total of £229,000 back into our parks service – to ensure that all parks are locked at night and to be bring back a number of full time gardeners and park rangers. The extent of the cuts to this key neighbourhood service has become counterproductive – damaging to the wellbeing of our local residents and embarrassing for the city. Volunteers can’t be expected to replace the continuity of service needed to maintain these valuable resources. Decent parks and play spaces can play a huge part in promoting physical and mental health for all age groups, promoting social interaction and helping to tackle loneliness but they can’t do this on a shoe string. Even our flagship Rowntree’s Park has flower beds, originally funded by a Heritage Lottery grant, now full of weeds. Residents clearly agree with this concern, placing parks high on their list of priorities in the budget consultation

 

  • Planning for the future
  • As a Council we should be planning for the future, both in terms of our finances and how we respond to other threats such as climate change.
  • We would Include a new scheme to invest £2m, if necessary using compulsory purchase powers to secure the repair and reinstatement of long term void premises in key location funded by prudential borrowing;’

 

  • Funding is a key concern for this city, and we propose a post which in time should more than pay for itself, with a professional funding officer post dedicated to supporting bids for external funding to support our priorities for a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive city.
  • We would get to grips with lots of blocked drains and risks of surface water flooding by investing an additional £100k

 

  • We would create the equivalent of a full-time post to tackle energy poverty and affordable warmth, with more officer time being available to ensure landlords and home owners take advantage of any finance available to reduce insulate homes and reduce heating costs with fuel efficient or renewable energy.

 

  • We would reduce the cost of bulky waste collection so as to encourage responsible recycling or safe disposal of broken white goods and reduce the problems of fly tipping in our streets.

 

  • We would get to grips with the air pollution on our city streets with a dedicated officer post, so that there is someone who can talk to fleet operators, developers, businesses, schools and the general public about actions we need to take to clean up the air we breathe in York.

 

  • Air pollution links in closely with concerns about transport – we would reinvest £100k in subsidies for bus services so that for example residents would be able to get a bus rather than having to get a taxi to visit the Crematorium on a Sunday. We would like to see targeted campaigns not just to defend existing threatened bus services but also trials of more early morning and late night services where there currently a poor service or no service. Many people drive to work because there is no suitable bus service either to get them to work or to get home at the end of their shift. Subsidies can also be used to help pump prime different types of services to key places such as the hospital, city centre, Monks Cross and Clifton Moor.

 

  • We would also redress the balance between car parking charges and the recently increased park and ride fares by adding a further 10p to city centre visitor parking charges and use the extra revenue to help to reduce the cost of respark permits to £90. We would also reinstate the 50% discount for band A-C cars that this administration scrapped last year. In the longer term we propose work on a radical overhaul of our respark system to share the cost savings of new technology investment with those residents covered by a permit scheme. Automatic Number Plate Recognition for enforcement combined with online payments could half the cost of a permit and create the situation where most residential streets in York are covered by permit parking. Our budget allocation would be for work on developing a business case and practical details for such a revolutionary change that would benefit all those except the people currently choosing to park and walk rather than park and ride.

 

Concluding comments on Council tax rise = 5.99%. This Government is removing all support via income tax from local government services. For this budget year practically all Council income comes from Council Tax and Business Rates – this isn’t a situation we support. We believe that as a country we should be funding our local services properly, to maintain our city centres and local neighbourhoods and to meet local needs. But this isn’t the case – and we have to plan ahead and do what we can to maintain local services.

York has the 7th lowest Band D council tax of all unitary authorities, significantly lower than, for example the neighbouring East Riding of Yorkshire – and the second lowest spend per head of all unitary authorities. [appendix 9 page 359].

We believe we need to gradually raise our Council Tax to closer to the average for comparable authorities, whilst protecting our least well off and most vulnerable residents, providing decent frontline services and planning longer term for 10 -20 year’s time.

 

 

 

Scotland is united in curiosity as some of their councils trial Universal Basic Income –  have a read of the news about this here and we also have some insights from one of our dedicated Media Officers, Jakob Fichert.

A few thoughts on Society and Universal Basic Income

Recently, on a train in South London, I overheard the conversation between four boys returning from school. They, each of them around 10 years old and from ethnic minority backgrounds, were discussing politics and football with much engagement. I couldn’t help eavesdropping and heard the names of Theresa May and Vladimir Putin interspersed with references to Arsenal and Champions League. I wasn’t paying full attention but overall I rather enjoyed their lively exchange of arguments as it is great to see young people engaging in current affairs and being curious about the world. An elderly man got on the train at the next station addressing the passengers in our coach and asking them for spare change. Most people ignored him: sadly, this kind of scene happens too often on London trains for many to take notice of them anymore. Actually, the man wasn’t just asking for money but indicated that ‘a few crisps or biscuits will do’, and the boys, still engaged in their conversation, offered him their Pringles. At first the man didn’t want to accept the gift from the children but one of them managed to persuade him to take the crisps after all. It was clearly evident the man was hungry as he started to eat straight away.

This short and seemingly banal occurrence has stayed with me ever since. On the one hand it conveys an upbeat and positive message about a wonderful young generation of immigrants, but on the other hand it sadly also mirrors the widespread destitution in our country. Like many others the old man was suffering from hunger and saw no other way to make ends meet than going through the humiliating process of begging for money on the train. Unfortunately his case is not singular: Around 1.9 million pensioners in our country have been hit by poverty, and according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation the numbers are increasing.

(https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/uk-poverty-2017).

Overall 14 million people in the UK live in poverty, 4 million children amongst them. Given that the size of our population is around 65.5 million, this is in excess of 20%.

The shocking fact is that we are not looking at a developing country here but one with a strong economy – in fact one of the strongest in the world – and with an abundance of wealth floating around somewhere. According to a survey quoted by the Guardian the total household wealth in the UK exceeds £10 trillion with £5 trillion being owned by 10% of the population, whilst 15% don’t own anything or are in debt (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/aug/08/total-uk-wealth-city-property-homes-inequality-saving).

This obscene inequality rises inevitable questions: Why does a wealthy society like ours allow this kind of poverty to exist? Is there any reason why anybody would have to suffer from malnutrition or even homelessness? Shouldn’t it be a basic human right to be able to live life in dignity? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if the effects of this crass injustice could be alleviated?

Over the past decades the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has become more popular and is now on the brink of becoming mainstream. UBI essentially means that every citizen regardless of their age, wealth or background is entitled to a modest sum of money provided by the state in order to cater for basic needs. This will enable everyone to live their lives in humane conditions and fully participate in society. An unconditional income will also make the humiliating process of applying for unemployment benefits unnecessary, and free people from the stigma of being out of work. As more and more jobs become superfluous due to automation, the demand for UBI becomes ever more pressing. It is evident that much money is saved by job cuts, whilst the level of wealth generated by industry and service sector remains consistent.

Instead of forcing people into doing jobs merely to generate an income UBI will give everyone a real choice. It will make employers less dependent on their bosses and has the potential to provide entrepreneurs with greater flexibility as well. UBI is neither a socialist nor a neoliberal project and is advocated for across the political spectrum. Supporters range from left-wingers such as the former Greek finance minister Yannis Varoufakis and the Marxist thinker Erik Olin Wright to entrepreneurs unsuspicious of any socialist association like Mark Zuckerberg or Pierre Omidyar, the founders of Facebook and eBay. It can be argued that because of the diversity of its advocates UBI, amongst many other benefits, has the potential to contribute to the reconciliation of our divided society. Some of its critics, however, argue that UBI will in effect water down employment laws and regulations and provide corporations with a carte blanche to hire and fire as they please. Whilst this is a valid argument, and we might have to accept that with the introduction of an unconditional income the sustainability of paid work will decrease to some extent, in my view the social benefits of UBI by far out-trump its risks as it has the potential to radically reduce poverty and increase general wellbeing.

When discussing UBI the most common reservation is affordability. UBI is sometimes seen as some sort of utopia, an idea concocted by people living in cloud cuckoo land. There are numerous different models and suggestions with regards to financing UBI and various forms of taxation have been proposed. I am no expert in this matter and the juxtaposition of these concepts would go beyond the scope of this article anyway. The Green Party, one of the organisations spearheading the UBI movement in the UK, has published a detailed document on the subject as part of its 2015 manifesto (https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/Policy%20files/Basic%20Income%20Consultation%20Paper.pdf).

The topic often features in Green Party seminars and workshops as well. Further information is provided online with the Wikipedia article on UBI providing a sufficient overview of the whole spectrum of financing proposals (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income).

Judging from my own experience, the most important step towards understanding the logicality of UBI has been the realisation that we don’t live of money but of goods and services, an argument put forward by Götz Werner, the owner of DM, Germany’s biggest drug store chain and author of numerous books promoting UBI. Just by looking at the massive surplus of goods and services we produce it becomes evident that there is enough wealth to support UBI, i.e. the catering for everyone’s basic needs.

UBI probably won’t make us better people or solve all our social problems, but it has the potential to bring out the best in us. Pilots have shown that the vast majority of recipients of an unconditional income have utilised these resources to invest in their and their families’ futures in a meaningful way. The additional security of UBI has enabled the participants to work for something they deemed sensible and allowed them to make long-term plans for themselves. Bottom line productivity has grown with the help of a guaranteed income because it creates space for creativity and thus generates motivation.

It will not be possible to implemented UBI over night. Changing a system mainly based on work generated income will have to be gradual, and the economy as well as our benefits system need time to adapt. In advocating UBI we, the Green Party, pursue a longterm vision, and we believe that our vision can help to create a fairer and truly inclusive society. A society in which our man from South London doesn’t suffer from poverty and malnutrition, but where everyone has the resources to live their lives in dignity and no-one is in danger of falling through the net. Is it realistic to hope for a better future, where having the means to live is not a privilege but a basic human right? When I think of the boys on the train who were showing such an interest in society and sympathy for the poor, I am cautiously optimistic about this future.