Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The Tories plan to make pensioners poorer

One of the great scandals of the past quarter century in the UK has been the way pensions have been handled and pensioners treated. Pensions have slowly but surely been devalued and the result has been misery for millions in old age.

Go back 25 years in the UK and you'll find many workers in the private and public sectors on final salary pension or defined benefit schemes but these have been whittled away to almost nothing in the intervening years. Workers in the private sector now have to rely on defined contribution or money purchase pension schemes which are worth much less. When Gordon Brown became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1997 he made tax
changes which made it more difficult to sustain final salary schemes in the private sector and New Labour have much to answer for in the pensions debacle. But its not just about Gordon. Many companies have taken pensions 'holidays' - periods when they failed to contribute to their own schemes. The same is true of local government. Employers can simply save money by refusing to contribute to employees pensions.

As a gulf has opened up between pensions in the private and public sectors there have been howls of rage from the right. It is claimed that public sector pensioners are living in the lap of luxury while their private sector counterparts are living in poverty. This is nonsense. Certainly private sector workers are suffering but most public sector workers are low paid and earn less than the average wage, hence their final salary pensions are still very low.

David Cameron in a recent speech to business leaders said "We have got to end the apartheid. We are getting into a situation now where pretty much everyone in the private sector has gone to defined contributions and the final salary schemes are closed." Now we all know what that means don't we. The Tories are planning to slash public sector pensions just as the Daily Mail have been urging them to do. The Daily Mail complains that private sector workers are living in poverty and public sector pensioners are better off - its solution, like David Cameron's - is to make all pensioners live in poverty by ending public sector final salary pensions - smart huh?

We need better pensions for everyone. If public sector pensioners are benefiting from final salary pension schemes its time to create the conditions in which private sector workers can also enjoy those benefits, by legislation, if necessary. Here is a quote from the Green Party's policy on pensions - "The Green Party would introduce a Citizen's Pension that would pay pensioners a livable amount, without means testing and would be linked to the rise in average earnings. Independent studies by the National Association of Pension Funds have shown that a citizen's Pension could be afforded today within current net expenditure on state pensions."

We live in a society with an aging population its in the interest of all of us to ensure that we can have a dignified old age.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Party Meeting - 24th November

The next CWCGP meeting will be in Chester on Monday the 24th of November at 7.30pm. The venue is the Quakers Meeting House, Union Walk, Frodsham Street, Chester. There is a possibility that the venue may be changed. If it is I will post the change on here. Please check this blog before you come along.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Party Meeting

The Cheshire West and Chester Green Party is meeting at the Old Harkers Arms, City Road, Chester at 7.30 pm on Monday 20th October 2008. If you are interested in joining the party please come along. The pub is on the canal near to the railway station.

Its the environment stupid!

As we slide into a recession, one or two commentators such as George Monbiot have been doing us a service by reminding us that the credit crunch is trivial compared to what is potentially facing us in terms of a climate crunch.

In August I highlighted a report from the New Economics Foundation which stated that we had just 100 months to avert rising temperatures and runaway climate change - 98 months now! There is an increasing sense of urgency about our need to do something about this, and the recent pledge by the government to make an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is encouraging. Problem is, they have a lousy track record of delivery on such pledges - they are too wedded to big business and consumption.

In any case, we can't make big enough cuts unless everyone is involved - and that means you! And yes it means insulating your house, using low energy light bulbs, turning the central heating down, putting a jumper on, car sharing, dusting off your bike lights and cycling to work if you can. You have heard it all before but now is the time to get on with doing it and encouraging other in your local community to do so also.

I am working with a nearby local action group and trying to set up a group in the village I live in. In Cheshire, we have the example of Ashton Hayes, which aims to be the first village in England to become carbon neutral. Since starting in January 2006 they have cut their carbon emissions by 21%. You can get help in doing this from the Low Carbon Communities Network. If you have a local group - get involved. I have only just started but I'll keep you informed of progress. So far I have contacted the Parish Council and will speak at their next meeting to try and get their support. I've put a poster on the village notice board, and have an article coming out in next weeks local paper.

But this isn't just about climate change. Also of great significance is Peak Oil. Its worth quoting the definition from Wikipedia:

Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of global petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline

There is some disagreement about when peak oil occurred. Some people say 2007 others as long ago as 2005. But there is a consensus that we have passed peak oil. Just think for a moment what this means - a world without oil means massive changes in the way we live and there is no substitute, no magic technological fix on offer. We are going to go through what is known as an energy descent. And it is going to happen in our lifetimes. We are going to have to get used to living in a lower energy environment. And that means making the same kind of adjustments we would have to make for climate change anyway.

So, the local group I am trying to set up is not just about climate change because climate change adjustments to our lifestyle and peak oil adjustments go hand in hand. If you want to find out more I suggest you take a look at what Caroline Lucas had to say about the Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins.

We need to see theses changes as an opportunity rather than a threat. An opportunity to connect with our neighbours and build sustainable communities, communities free from the destructive excesses of free market capitalism,

Thursday, 2 October 2008

We want government on our side, not turning its back

01 October 2008

Caroline Lucas has spoken out against David Cameron's attempt to use the financial crisis to take control of the economy away from Parliament, and to introduce more market reforms and privatisation in public services.

Caroline said:

"David Cameron's proposals are nothing more than a hair of the dog. He claims that the way to solve a financial crisis brought on by irresponsible corporations in underregulated markets is to reduce regulation and hand more power to the corporations.

"He wants to remove power over government finances from parliament, and hand it to the City. Under the Tories, he says, two separate bodies will decide on public borrowing, and neither are elected: the governors of the Bank of England, and George Osbourne's shadowy Office of Budget Responsibility.

"Cameron is using the economic situation to try to dismantle the NHS and comprehensive education, promising an even more cutthroat internal market in health, pitting individual doctors against one another, and making it the norm for the curriculum of your local school to be controlled by one business or wealthy individual.

"No wonder Cameron got so excited he proclaimed "thank God for Margaret Thatcher"; the Tories are like vultures waiting to feast on the carcass of the British economy.

"We don't need a government of asset-strippers. We need a Green New Deal: a financial system in which banks are a manageable, sustainable size and responsibly run; and a government that invests in our public services and in rebuilding our economy to get us through the tough times.

"David Cameron says it is 'arrogant' to want government to be on the side of the people; I think most people would rather have government on their side than turning its back."

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

New Labour's free market economic disaster

At the weekend we had Lehman Brothers going bust , then AIG having a £75 billion handout from the US Government and today HBOS merging with Lloyds TSB. In the latter case the government has been bending over backwards to avoid having to pay out for another Northern Rock, even to the extent of breaking competition rules. So the new British banking behemoth will have 28% of the mortgage market - good for customers eh?

But lets not forget that although much of the credit crunch originated in the USA, New Labour have a lot to answer for. And who was Chancellor while the conditions for the crash were being created? - none other than Gordon Brown. Mr 'prudence', who claimed to have eliminated boom and bust, has now lead us into the biggest bust since 1929. The 'sound' economy he created over here was based on a housing boom and ballooning credit. That is economic mismanagement. Notice that the biggest casualties in all this are the USA and UK - the cheerleaders for free market deregulation and privatisation. Do you hear of a housing collapse in Germany or France - no they follow the European Social model much despised by Gordon Brown.

Blair and Brown encouraged the City-lead deregulatory financial model that got us into this mess in the first place and turned the UK into a tax haven for non doms and other tax dodgers. Well now the chickens have come home to roost. If Brown had any integrity he'd resign and if his party had any guts they'd sack him. Sadly, neither is likely to happen.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

We do not need GM technology to feed the world

A recent report has highlighted the fact that while enough food is being produced to feed the world's population 800 million people are still going hungry. The report, based on the findings of 400 scientists from around the world, and chaired by professor Robert Watson, the government's Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, also concluded that GM technology was not the answer to feeding the world's population.

Not surprisingly, these conclusions have not gone down at all well with agribusiness corporations like Monsanto. They don't want to feed the world, they want to make huge profits by controlling the food chain with GM technology which effectively puts the farmers, and the crops they produce, in their pockets. That is why the GM companies have been buying up traditional seed companies - they want to monopolise world markets. If they succeed you will end up with no choice other than to eat GM, unless you can source food locally. But if GM is used here in the UK it is unlikely that non GM agriculture would remain uncontaminated.

GM technology is a pig in poke. We are told it increases yield but there is little concrete evidence to support this. In fact there is evidence that GM reduces yield. GM crops are a vast unregulated gamble. We don't know what the possible long terms effects on the environment or harm to human health could be. There are a number of potential dangers such as harm to human health and damage to biodiversity and environmental systems.

The simple fact is that we don't need GM to feed the world. So why take the gamble - especially when the main beneficiaries are large corporations and their shareholders - not the poor or the hungry.

Gordon Brown provides too little too late .... again

Many people were disappointed when the government announced a stamp duty holiday for properties costing up to £175,000. It was rightly denounced as too little too late to stimulate the housing market and help first-time buyers.

Now we have the latest gem from Gordon - £910 million for household insulation to tackle fuel poverty. £560 million of which is old money. We also know that the work to insulate all the houses of the 'fuel poor' can't be done before winter. Which means the old and the poor are likely to freeze. Meanwhile the energy companies are making billions in extra profits and laughing all the way to the government bailed out bank. Much of the extra cash that they are making is going where you would expect - straight into the pockets of shareholders. The energy suppliers paid £1.64bn in dividends in 2007 - £257m more than the year before.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party Leader, has called for a windfall tax - she wrote:-

"When the fuel crisis started to bite, a strong leader would have set their sights on achieving energy independence. Instead, our prime minister went running to the profiteers-in-chief to beg for just enough more oil to keep us dependent. Just three of these companies – BP, Centrica, and Shell – together made £1000 profit every second over the first 6 months of this year. Every penny that the oil price inches up, is a new surge of cash from the pockets of working families, students, the elderly and the disabled, directly into the bank accounts of the world's petro-giants."

It's unlikely that Gordon Brown, who is deeply committed to protecting the interests of big business, will be shifted on a windfall tax. But his obstinacy in the face of the overwhelming case for such a tax might just result in him finally being shifted out of office.

The Green Party elects its first ever leader

Caroline Lucas has been elected as the first ever leader of the Green Party of England and Wales. I voted for Caroline and I wish her every success in the job. I believe that she has got the ability and integrity to make a good leader for the Party.

But she is going to have to be tough. When it was suggested (this time around) that the GP elect a leader I thought twice about it. Why? Because I know that the media agenda will be to neutralise the GP's radical programme of reform by making the GP conform to the same neoliberal agenda that every other mainstream party has adopted.

That means that our leader will come under great pressure to act and behave as every other leader does, and that isn't what the GP is about. They will also shine a spotlight into her private life in an attempt to rake up anything they can use to discredit her. They are probably sifting through her (recycled) rubbish as I write this.

The Party agreed, if I recall correctly, that we would have an elected leader for a two year term. There will obviously be pressure to increase this into a 'permanent' leadership position - so that the GP leader will become an elected dictator. What do I mean by elected dictator? I mean that the media like 'strong' leaders because once they are 'onside' - i.e. they have adopted the privatising deregulatory agenda demanded by big business and the City- there is little the rest of the party can do to change anything - remember Tony Blair? We have to make sure we resist these pressures. If we don't the GP will become like all the other parties - and then, like them, it won't be worth voting for.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Just 100 months......

According to a report from the New Economics Foundation we have just 100 months to save the planet from climate change. That is 8 1/3 years which takes us to about 2017. Its well worth reading the article by Andrew Simms which explains why we have such a short time left to take effective action. Here is a quote from part of that article:

The concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere today, the most prevalent greenhouse gas, is the highest it has been for the past 650,000 years. In the space of just 250 years, as a result of the coal-fired Industrial Revolution, and changes to land use such as the growth of cities and the felling of forests, we have released, cumulatively, more than 1,800bn tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Currently, approximately 1,000 tonnes of CO2 are released into the Earth's atmosphere every second, due to human activity. Greenhouse gases trap incoming solar radiation, warming the atmosphere. When these gases accumulate beyond a certain level - often termed a "tipping point" - global warming will accelerate, potentially beyond control".

In the UK we know that we can save 30% of our energy needs just by having effective insulation in all our homes. What is being done about this - nothing! While politicians prevaricate and appease their chums in the energy industry with promises of coal fired plants and nuclear reactors we are going to hell in a handcart. Even if the 100 months prediction is wrong, in a time where we have passed peak oil, energy conservation measures and greater use of renewables are essential measures, which we need to take to prevent fuel poverty, and to make us all more energy efficient.

If the 100 month prediction is correct be very afraid because at the rate we are going we have no chance of constraining atmospheric CO2 to 400 ppm by 2017 and we are heading for social breakdown. Our politicians are far too wedded to the kind of capitalist solutions that enable the energy industry to make big bucks to take energy conservation measures. The government's policy of shifting to nuclear is bad enough - now we have government support for coal in the form of the proposed Kingsnorth power station in Kent!

The Kingsnorth debacle has attracted the attention of climate change campaigners, who have set up camp near the proposed power station. The camp, which runs from 3-11 August, has already been subject to police harassment. The police have raided the camp, kept the campaigners awake at night and even stolen the campaigner's bicycles! This is typical of the increasing criminalisation of legitimate protest brought about by a New Labour government.

I wish the protesters at the camp every success and I hope that they manage to persuade the government to think again. But I doubt if they will. Energy conservation, de-centralised energy generation (e.g. using your own solar power) all threaten to reduce the massive profits of the energy companies in the long run, or that how they see it, so it can't be allowed to happen.

The energy companies could take a different tack. They could sell us insulation and renewables instead of fossil fuel alternatives,. Enlightened governments might even be able to push them down that road. But not ours - it will still be fiddling with itself while the planet burns.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Green Party local election website and broadcasts

Its well worth visiting our local government election website by following this link.

Also....don't forget to watch our election broadcasts (local election and GLA) which will air on Tuesday the 15th - 6.30pm on ITV and 6.55pm on the BBC (radio and television).

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Green Party - Find Out More!

Want to find out more about the Green Party? Why not read some of our leaflets such as the mini-manifesto and our views on public services and climate change. Follow this link.

Green Party Local successes 2 - Norwich

The Green Party has had real successes in local government. We are making a real difference up and down the country.

In Norwich, where we have 10 councillors, The Green Party has been responsible for renewable energy in all new developments and protecting and promoting local businesses. To find out more, follow this link and watch the video.

Green Party Local successes 1 - Renewables in Kirklees

The Green Party has had real successes in local government. We are making a real difference up and down the country.

In Kirklees, West Yorkshire, The Green Party has been responsible for a free insulation scheme for householders and the installation of solar panels in Huddersfiled. To find ot abot this follow this link and watch the video.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Mr 10%

Gordon's at it again - bashing the poor..........

Here are the headlines from the 8th April on the BBC:-

"Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to rethink scrapping the lowest 10p rate of income tax, amid warnings it will hurt low earners.

The Commons Treasury committee said childless single people earning under £18,500 would lose up to £232 a year.

Some 73 Labour MPs have signed motions expressing concerns, among them David Hamilton, MP for Midlothian, who warned Gordon Brown could face a rebellion.

Treasury Minister Jane Kennedy said the government would not reverse the move.

She told the BBC's Newsnight programme: "I can't see us reversing this tax change at all."

This tax change was introduced by Gordon himself, when he was chancellor, in last years budget, to cheers from New Labour backbenchers. Now those same backbenchers are threatening to vote the measure down - which is odd because they had an opportunity when the budget was introduced - so why didn't they take it then?

What Gordon's change shows is that New Labour have now totally abandoned their traditional supporters in the working class. Yet another betrayal in the long years of betrayal from a New Labour government.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

My Manifesto for Northwich West

If elected I will work to:

• Get Cheshire West and Chester to invest in small-scale locally owned renewable energy, saving you money and helping to fight climate change

• Promote local shops and businesses so that people can provide local services saving time, energy and money

• Build better public transport links to integrate local bus and rail services, and provide safe cycleways

• Oppose the construction of a waste incinerator in Lostock Gralam and promote waste reduction and recycling

• Introduce a 50mph speed limit on the A566 Northwich bypass in Davenham and Kingsmead

• Protect local schools, post offices and health services from cuts, closures, creeping privatisation and financially damaging PFI schemes

• Give local neighbourhoods a direct say in issues that affect them – devolving powers to neighbourhood forums and parish councils.

The great renewable energy swiz

Are you, like me, one of many people in the UK who would like to generate electricity in your own home? We now have the technology to generate energy locally by means of solar panels and wind turbines and the technology is improving all the time. The government is committed to having 15% of the UK's energy needs fulfilled by renewables by 2020 - so you would think that they'd be working hard to help people like you and me move into renewable energy. Not so. The New Labour government seems to be trying to do its best to strangle the UK renewables industry.

Why is this happening? New Labour is tied firmly to its friends in big business and that includes the energy companies. In addition, New Labour has fallen hook, line and sinker for the mythology of nuclear power. BERR (the Department of Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform) is pretty much owned by the nuclear lobby, just as the old MAFF was controlled by the pesticide companies and agribusinesses.

The last thing these people want is for you and I to be able to generate our own power when we could be paying exorbitant bills to them so that they can generate big profits. So now we find ourselves in the absurd position that, while countries like Germany are pressing ahead with relatively massive development in renewables, we are just scratching the surface. This is another one of the growing list of reasons why New labour are going to lose the next general election.