welcoming walkers

Welcoming the walkers

We had a great evening welcoming the cross-country walkers of the No Fracking Way on Wednesday 8th March at our benefit gig at Tramways Club, to show our complete opposition to fracking in North Yorkshire & indeed nationwide – we are the first political party to come out clearly against it (Labour have belatedly expressed opposition). We enjoyed home-cooked food, gorgeous songs & percussion from duet Lunabai, old school classics entertaining dancing people to the end and Hannah Davies’ brilliant spoken-word. We were able to send Frack Free Ryedale off with some funds for the cause too.

wholesome food

Hearty food prepared by Nicola, Denise, Rosie & Ginnie (and Tom who carried his couscous the first 25 miles!)

Foot spa Andrew

A well-deserved foot spa for our Regional campaign coordinator, Andrew Cooper

Why are our schools, hospitals, libraries, police and even armed forces being starved of funds? Because the government wants to spend thousands of millions of pounds replacing the Trident nuclear missile system.

It is impossible to put an exact figure on the cost of this. Estimates vary widely and, like the original Trident system, the final cost will overshoot any official estimate so wildly as to render it meaningless.

The original Trident system has never been used. Is this surprising? No circumstances have ever arisen when it could have been used; nor could they possibly arise in the future.

The British Government considered whether to attack Syria but no one is suggesting we use nuclear weapons. Everyone agrees that would be utter madness, as it would have been in Iraq or Afghanistan. You can’t fight Al Qaida or IS with Nuclear bombs, neither could you contemplate taking on Russia or China. The truth is – you can’t fight anyone with nuclear bombs. So why do we have them?

We express our bewilderment at the situation in the USA where people are allowed to carry guns despite the appalling death toll this causes. To the rest of the world, and, to be fair, to many Americans, the argument that guns are needed to protect people from guns is sheer lunacy. So why is the same argument not used for nuclear weapons?

To seek protection from nuclear weapons by building nuclear weapons is not only lunacy but extremely expensive lunacy.

In the years after the Second World War, Germany, Italy and Japan very quickly regained prosperity. They called it the ‘Economic Miracle’. There was no miracle about it! The victorious Allies had forbidden these countries to spend money on arms, so, thus relieved of this burden, their standard of living rose dramatically – as could ours today if we stopped spending such a chunk of our GDP on these useless weapons.

Happily, you don’t have to lose a war to join this fortunate club. Most countries in the world do not possess nuclear weapons but they are no less secure as a result. Is Brasil vulnerable to attack because it doesn’t have a nuclear submarine fleet? Is Sweden? Costa Rica? New Zealand? Papua New Guinea? Do these people worry at night because they are unable to obliterate their neighbours? It seems the only ones worrying are ourselves. Will someone steal our uranium? Will someone bomb our bombs? Will the damn things go off by accident?

The non nuclear nations, even the poor ones, can at least spend what wealth they do have on things that benefit them.

Nuclear weapons have no positive effect on security, only a detrimental effect on prosperity.

It does not take courage to give up nuclear weapons. All it takes is common sense.

John Walford.

cliffords-tower

Comments to Executive from Cllr Craghill, January 2017

As a Guildhall ward councillor, I’m very happy to see the progress being made on plans for the improvement of the area now being called The Castle Gateway. I still have a lot of questions about details of the plans, for example, the design of any new buildings along the west bank of the Foss facing Clifford’s Tower will be a key issue, but hopefully will be fully consulted on.

The paper states that a key purpose is to ‘radically enhance the setting of Clifford’s Tower and the Eye of York to recognise and interpret their importance to York’s unique history.’

This is a very laudable aim – and yet in the next item we have a proposal to sell off Council land to make possible the construction of a visitor centre tacked onto the side of the iconic mound, that in the opinion of a great many people will do just the opposite – not a good start to the Castle Gateway project.

I voted against this proposal in the planning committee and I still believe this building is the wrong design in the wrong place.

The greatest irony is that the paper before you on the Castle Gateway holds out the prospect of an alternative solution and the possibility that a new visitor centre could be located in the new civic space – away from any interference with the mound itself.

Of course, you will be told that it comes down to timescales and money! On timescales it seems we might be looking at around 2020, or even a bit longer, to build as part of the new development – yet Clifford’s Tower has been here for around 700 years – isn’t it worth waiting 3 or 4 or 5 years or so to get this right? English Heritage have the planning permission to go ahead with the conservation work and changes to the interior. Surely working in partnership with the Council and York Museums Trust via the Castle Gateway, they could secure facilities for a temporary visitor centre?

Ah, but it still comes down to money, you might say! English Heritage have essentially been privatised by the Government and must repay the capital investment now on offer from the Government by becoming self-funding by 2022. To do this they need to get more paying visitors through turnstiles and more income from each visitor on coffee and souvenirs – and also they must do the work in 2017 or the money will be whipped away. Well, if this is really the very sad reason why we have to put up with this shoddy solution, then at least we should be honest about it. But do we really believe that funding to support this iconic monument will just be pulled out, that an alternative way forward couldn’t be negotiated with the will to do so?

I’m asking you to show that you do value this unique piece of heritage of which the city of York is the custodian and that you have listened to residents’ concerns – and to defer this land-sale indefinitely pending further investigation into other options for the visitor centre in the context of the Castle Gateway.

Green Party Councillors strongly feel that the budget proposed by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats is inadequate to maintain vital services for the wider community as services for the elderly or disabled would be particularly affected. In order to raise enough revenue to ensure the minimum of what the Green Party regards as necessary their alternative proposal includes a 10% increase in council tax – on average this means £ 76pa above the Tory/LibDem suggestion of a 3.7% rise. A referendum will be needed if the Green Party’s suggestion goes through, but the authors of the proposal believe that the majority of residents can be persuaded as the additional resources will be beneficial to many and are in everyone’s long term interest.

The current council tax rate in York is amongst the lowest in the UK (7th lowest Band D), and a 10% increase will bring it up to an acceptable median level. The proposal would mean that several cuts which have been assessed as likely to cause harm to elderly or disabled residents would be reversed. Since even the Tory led Surrey Council was proposing a 15% increase to protect social care until the government found more money for them, an increase of 10% seems justified and reasonable.

Green Group leader Cllr Andy D’Agorne said “Council services are in crisis at the same time as our NHS, at a point when the number of frail elderly in our community is also rising. As government support for local services tapers to nothing we have to increase our own resilience and adding the price of a cup of tea or a half of beer once a week to our council tax is surely a price worth paying to maintain these vital services.”

Green Group finance spokesperson Cllr Denise Craghill said: “These government funding cuts hit the most vulnerable in our community, and we believe it right that they should be protected, if necessary through a council tax increase above the norm to bring our council tax level up about what is paid in East Riding or North Lincolnshire*. We also propose more support for the financial assistance scheme and other ways to tackle poverty and support those who cant afford council tax payments.”

To look at the wider picture of costs and benefits, there is much more that the Green Party would propose e.g:-

“While the main focus of the Green amendment is on mitigating the savage cuts to social care, we have also included some common sense changes to benefit local residents” said Cllr D’Agorne.

“For instance we propose to reduce the cost of standard residents parking permit to £90 per year (when Tories and Lib Dems plan to increase it to nearly £100), to be paid for from a small increase in city centre parking charges for non residents. We also want to protect owners of small cars from a massive doubling of their annual pass, as Tories and Lib Dems intend to scrap the reduced rate for all but ultra low emission and short vehicles.”

The group say that ultimately they would reduce residents parking permit costs to less than £50pa so that its price was no longer an obstacle to introducing residents parking more widely within terraced streets around the centre of York.

“We have an excellent park and ride service, but too many commuters are still driving into the city and creating headaches for residents by taking spaces all day outside peoples houses and business premises” said Andy

These changes will be proposed as self-funding parts of the Green amendment to the council budget at the Full Council meeting on 23rd February 2017

By Jakob Fichert, Co-Media Officer, YGP

WE MUST MEET THE HEALTH NEEDS OF ALL YORK RESIDENTS DESPITE THE CUTS TO THE NHS

Guildhall councillor, Denise Craghill has reported on the latest of York Green Party’s health-focused actions by giving her comments on York city council’s draft Health & Well Being Strategy, submitted 22 January 2017. The strategy sets out the health and wellbeing priorities for our city over the next 5 years but she believes it must make more reference to the under-funding and potential crisis facing the NHS.

This Health & Well Being Strategy is driven by the need to reduce demands on statutory services, to keep people out of hospital, away from A & E and where possible away from GP surgeries too. Prevention, early intervention, health promotion, social prescribing, community services etc etc are all very positive if properly funded but we know they are attempting to achieve this with less rather than more funding. Additional demands from the public are not the root cause of the problem but rather a failure by Government to fully fund and support our NHS as a universal public service.”

On issues of employment & low pay, Cllr Craghill would like the strategy to be much clearer on what the real difficulties facing many people in York are:-

the problem is not so much access to employment as access to an adequate income – low paid jobs and low household incomes are a significant problem in York and can often link to ill health, particularly when housing is so expensive. The strategy should make this clear.”

On young people‘s issues Cllr Craghill would like to see more clarity on how the Health & Wellbeing Board will act on residents’ hopes for more play spaces, better air quality and life skills teaching in schools. Specifically with regards to physical health and as part of York Green party’s current air-quality improvement campaign, she would expect the strategy to mention the rising numbers of children and young people being treated for asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Mental health being a key theme is welcomed. The main additions she would like to see highlighted in the final strategy are

  • making connections with the causes of worsening mental health in the population (poverty, low wages, long working hours, the benefits trap, debt, homelessness, worries about climate change, terrorism & educational, financial & social media pressures on young people)
  • ensuring access to timely support for all
  • how the Board will act give more help to families and carers.

On ageing well there are good key objectives in the draft but in addition she would like to see commitments made towards

  • reducing the number of unnecessary admissions to hospital for older people
  • closely monitoring the number of re-admissions to hospital for older people
  • increased capacity in community services and
  • increased service user/patient satisfaction with these services

New technologies are of course supported but the Party’s Equality & Diversity officer insists that an equality-driven strategy should

never forget those who don’t use computers and acknowledge that at least for a very long time there will always be people who do not and do not wish to access services via IT therefore it should ensure that services are also available and accessible in other ways.”

One of Cllr Craghill’s other main concerns is the confusing definitions of what the strategy means by working with communitiesand ‘co-production’, which she claims should always be between equal partners. She questions the reasonableness of continually encouraging more and more activity from often voluntary, hard-working people in the community as a way to compensate for lost health service provisions. The needs of all York residents cannot be met like this and she comments that

we are not at all convinced that so-called ‘resilient communities’ initiatives can ever be a substitute for properly funded public services for those who need them – ‘peers’ cannot provide continuity of care. Creating more active communities with lots of activities and places to meet and be active for people of all ages is definitely a good thing and can contribute to improving health over time – it can’t replace health services.”

– UPDATE ON OUR MOTION TO FULL COUNCIL

A motion to look at the implications of the new housing on air quality in York from the Green Party wasair-pollution discussed at a scrutiny meeting on Monday 13th February 2017. The motion was originally proposed for the December full council meeting but Conservative and Lib Dem councillors voted for it to be referred to a committee rather than voted on.

Cllr Andy D’Agorne has described this as ‘ducking the issue’ and says he is still waiting for an explanation as to why the administration were afraid of supporting the proposal. “The motion simply stated the facts and called for two actions – for the Executive to take responsibility for considering public health impacts of poor air quality and for the Local Plan Working Group to consider reports on how new development might affect our ability to remove dangerous levels of traffic pollution.”

Thanks to our pressure on this topic so far and support from the Fishergate Ward Committee, the environment protection team at the council state they are already:

  • Reducing emissions from buses through a proposed Clean Air Zone, the Park & Ride contract and retrofitting older buses with newer, cleaner engines
  • Reducing emissions from taxis through incentive grants to switch from diesel to ultra low emission taxis and a low emission taxi policy
  • Reducing emissions from private cars through an extensive electric vehicle charging network
  • Reducing emissions from HGVs through a Eco Stars fleet scheme that provides operators with advice on saving fuel and reducing pollution
  • Reducing emissions from council business by staff using lower emission vehicles and a low emission car club
  • Reducing emissions from development through low emission planning guidance

Last month air pollution levels in London made the news because they were so high the Mayor issued a warning to residents – but we know it’s not only London which suffers awful air pollution.

You can check the level of pollution for where you live here: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/latest/

On a national level, these latest stats come just months after the High Court ruled that the UK Government’s plans to tackle air pollution are illegally inadequate. (see http://www.clientearth.org/major-victory-health-uk-high-court-government-inaction-air-pollution/)

Letter published in York Press

tram_3074_at_manchester_airport_2

Trams in Manchester (source Wikimedia)

 

Dear Sir,

Maureen Robinson (Letters 1/12/16) asks how we are going to cope with congestion on Fulford Rd generated by more housing planned for the south of York. Air pollution already kills more than traffic collisions in our city and growing obesity threatens a health crisis. York’s Local Plan should be a catalyst for a vision to provide top quality walking, cycling and tram routes to serve the growth plans. Instead, Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour councillors agonise about how to fund a dual carriageway for the north of the city which will never catch up with traffic growth. Why is no work being done to design a tram or dedicated busway route from the proposed 3300 homes near Elvington to link to the city centre via University of York? This might also serve the Barracks site and Germany Beck/ Fulford. It would link the east side of the city centre to a rail interchange behind York Hospital. Phase 2 would be a tram-train link for Haxby/ Strensall and York Central – Poppleton. German towns of comparable size have done this and cut their congestion problems – why are we so blinkered in York?