Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Campaign to Save Courts Success

Local Greens have been campaigning to save our local courts. It is good news that Harlow Magistrates Court has been saved from the axe when it may have gone the way of Epping Magistrates and Harlow County Courts which the Conservative-Liberal Democrat government havem in their less than infinite wisdom, decided to close. Both Harlow courts were well used, it seems totally stupid to not keep both open. Justice will now be served, in many cases, in Chelmsford in new extension project.  Greens believe in localism and fostering strong communities which means justice should be as local as possible and while we very much welcome the decision to keep Harlow Magistrates Court open we deplore the decision to close Harlow County and Epping Magistrates Court.

Students can join Young Greens for free!

Feel let down by other politicians’ lack of support for young people and students? The Green Party supports free education for all.
Students of any age can join the Green Party for free until 1st Jan 2011 (and you are eligible for this offer if you are under 30 too). 400 have already done so in the last few days!

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Greens only party to fight for free education

I have kept out of this debate, but now feel I should add my two pence worth. It is clear that the Con-Dem governments wish to push up tuition fees and this will hurt the very people, those on low incomes, who could benefit most from a university education and saddle them with huge debts. This is thus a regressive not progressive move. While the few Lib-Dems MPs who kept their pledge are praise worthy as are the Tories who on principle are against this fee rise I am appalled by all the Lib-Dems who have gone into the voting lobby to vote this regressive move through and break such a firm pledge. If I were a principled Lib-Dem I would seriously think of joining another party.
Earlier this week, Green Party Leader and Brighton Pavilion MP, Caroline Lucas, co-sponsored an Early Day Motion (EDM 1130) with Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland, calling for the vote on raising tuition fees to be halted, noting that “the government has failed to convince many people that its proposals will be fair and sustainable” (1).  She also co-sponsored an amendment to the Government’s Tuition Fees Motion to the same effect.
The government’s plans to saddle young people with huge debts, and to scrap the Educational Maintenance Allowance which has been so successful in enabling more young people to stay on in education, are hugely destructive, and completely unnecessary.
Caroline said “There are alternative ways to fund education, including a more progressive taxation system.  For example, a business education tax levied on the top 4% of UK companies, as proposed by the University and Colleges Union (UCU)(2), would require business to pay its fair share for the substantial benefits it receives from higher education.”
“Raising corporation tax to the G7 average would generate enough annually to abolish tuition fees, and increase UK investment in higher education to the average for other comparable countries, while leaving 96% of companies in the UK unaffected by the change, and still leaving the UK’s main corporation tax below that of France, Japan and the US.”
Caroline Lucas continued:
“The Green Party believes that education is absolutely vital for people to be able to participate fully in society, and as such, access to learning should be as democratic as possible, with no person made to feel excluded by prohibitively high costs.”
It is all very well for Vince Cable to say there was no other way but putting it quite simply there is. If you want to protect free education the Green Party is only sensible option. 

1. Research published by university think-tank million+ and London Economics suggests that the majority of students (60-65%) will be worse-off under the new proposals, and that social mobility and participation will also be adversely affected, “Fair, progressive and good value?”, (30 November 2010),  

2. “In place of fees: time for a Business Education Tax?” (10 March 2010),  

Core Planning Strategy: Consulation?

I am very concerned about Epping Forest District Council’s current consultation exercise regarding the new Core Planning Strategy. I know of one person who has had a leaflet through his door, but I and many others (some of whom have no access to the internet, I may add) have not.  There has also been a travelling exhibition which is nothing more than the leaflet over several panels: when I went to see it nobody at Loughton Library knew it was there, not even the lady who worked for Epping Forest District Council! I found it eventually through trial and error. There are also consultation workshops: our local one was on 2nd December and yet without the leaflet many people would not know it is happening at all. I feel the minimal amount of effort has been put into this, and yet this is highly important as it will determine council attitudes to development over the next 20 years. We want to protect green spaces, and have a say where houses, schools and other infrastructure projects go. We are often unhappy about planning decisions and when we have a chance to have a say the council seemingly wants as few people to contribute as possible!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Next Surgery in Buckhurst Hill

Steven Neville will be meeting concerned residents on Saturday 20th November 2010 at 10am at St James United Reformed Church,
Palmerston Road, Buckhurst Hill
. Come to him with your concerns about the local area.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Alternative Vote Campaign Starts, But Where is the PR Option?

A Campaign for the Alternative Vote has started with a Public Meeting this Friday at 7.30pm at Theydon Bois Village Hall. “Lovely” you may think. What is at stake is keeping the current First Past the Post system or moving over to the Alternative Vote system, very similar to how Londoners elect their Mayor. You vote for favourite and then your second favourite candidate. After that they count your votes for your favourite party (1st preference), then they look to who came last amongst those votes and eliminate them. Then they look at all the people who voted the lowest placed candidate and see what their second choices were, and add them onto the remaining candidates. So a Tory might have 43%, Labour 21%, Lib Dem 20%, Green 8%, UKIP 7% and other 1%. So you remove Other, then UKIP and so on until one person gets over 50% of voters’ first and second choice votes. 

Lovely, but it did not have to be this way. On October 13th Dr Caroline Lucas MP tabled an Amendment with some Labour and Tory support to put a PR choice on the Ballot for the forthcoming Referendum and every Lib-Dem voted it down. 1 It is very sad that not one Lib-Dem feels they can support fare votes. While AV is a step in the right direction we all know PR will mean your first choices will all count!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Public Spending Review: Another Way

Yesterday the Con-Dem government announced cuts of £81 billion in public spending. Much of these are in front line services hitting the poorest the most. The rise in train fares will be especially difficult for pensioners and others on fixed incomes.  It will have least 500,000 people losing jobs in the public sector with a knock effect in the private sector. 1

Local services will be cut in Epping Forest and indeed we wait to see what they will be. We do know they want to cut our well used local courts and the police are bracing themselves for more cuts. 2 Locally people using social housing will find it increasingly difficult to pay rents. 3

This follows a betrayal by the Lib-Dems on Tuition Fees with students having an even greater burden to pay.

On the Environment we have the Lib-Dems supporting nuclear energy by permitting it and then paying for the waste to be stored. A back-door subsidy. 4 On the same day, the Energy Secretary pulled the plug on a major renewable project: Cycle England, which has been a great boon in encouraging cycling and safe cycling, is to be abolished (it only cost £200,000).5

Our Leader Caroline Lucas MP summed it up “Where's the fairness in a budget that lets vital public services go to the wall, hitting the poorest hardest?"6 “Rather than callously cutting to the bone the UK’s vital social infrastructure the Chancellor should axe the renewal of Trident, which would save £100bn.”
“And if he also scraps plans for the proposed eight new nuclear power stations, he’ll save the UK something like £8bn in waste disposal subsidies.” 7
2,, and ,
4,, and,

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Neighbourhood Watch Update

I have met with Colin Freeman, the man charged by the police of reviving this worthwhile scheme, and we had a really productive meeting. Now we have the task of encouraging people to sign up. It does rebuild community spirit and lower crime. Coalition Government Cuts will reduce the number of Police Constable Support Officers (PCSO) on which the Police are so dependent. These officers do much of the work on the ground. It is now even more important that we get involved.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Lucas ammendment for AV Referendum Bill

Dr Caroline Lucas MP, the Green Party leader, has tabled an amendment to the AV referendum bill. The amendment would allow us, the voters, to have a genuine Proportional system choice at the referendum rather than just a choice between the Alternative Vote or First Past the Post, which the Lib-Dems accepted as part of the coalition deal. The Green Party is committed to the Additional Member System (AMS), which authorities agree would deliver a result closer to true proportionality as well as retaining constituency.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Green Party Conference

Caroline Speech Part 1  Caroline Speech part 2
It’s the Green Party Conference this weekend in Birmingham and obviously we are celebrating Dr Caroline Lucas becoming our first MP. Caroline’s career shows she is a lady with a strong ethical and principled stance as she showed in her expenses when she was an MEP. She is also our leader.

At the conference we reflected on how we address the savage cuts of the ConDem coalition government. She appealed to Liberal Democrat supporters who were shocked by what they are doing in government:

"We are gaining members from the Liberal Democrats too. Perhaps their anguish and sense of betrayal is all the more sharp, for being so unexpected. Could they really have imagined during the election campaign, when Nick Clegg could hardly open his mouth without saying the word "fairness", that they would be voting for a party that would become an apologist for the most brutal, savage cuts in a generation?

"Cuts which are decimating communities up and down the country.

"Cuts that affect people like the woman who came to my surgery a few weeks ago, desperate to be re-housed because she, her partner and child were all living in a single room in Brighton, and she was expecting another child very soon.

"That's why the Green Party is committed to fighting these cuts every step of the way.

"I don't criticise Nick Clegg and those around him for agreeing to work with the Conservatives. But I do criticise him for the terms of that deal. With our principles and our courage to be honest with the public about the greatest issues of our time, such as climate change, we are the natural home for Liberal Democrats who feel betrayed by their leaders.

"And so to those Liberal Democrats, I say, join us. Many of your former colleagues are already here.

"Don't give up on politics. There is a party out there of principle and integrity - and it's the Green Party. " 1

Lucas went on to outline why, on nuclear power, the Trident nuclear deterrent, and education, the Green Party is providing the real opposition to the coalition government:

"Labour championed the Academies programme, despite all our warnings about the risk of creating a two-tier education system. Now - surprise, surprise - the Coalition has dropped any requirement that Academies should gain from outside sponsorship, or should help those communities most in need. Any pretence of a higher social purpose is out. Michael Gove's plans are simply about an ideological opposition to state education and a chance to allow private companies to make a profit from our schools. And Labour, having opened the door to this in the first place, cannot mount an effective, principled opposition, despite their heroic efforts to try to rewrite history. And that's why we need the Green Party." 2

Along with this speech there were commitments to fight the privatisations of the NHS and Post Office, that the Tory-Lib-Dem government are proposing. We propose also that we separate Retail and Investment Banking. It is this link that caused so much of the pain we have suffered as a nation.

1,, Retreived 12th September 2010.
2,, Retreived 12th September 2010.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Neighbourhood Watch Coming Back!

I have been calling for the reintroduction of Neighbourhood Watch as a way to build community and to lower crime, with anti-social behaviour up 11% recently. 1
It will help the Police to have extra eyes and ears, but more importantly it will get people talking to one another who may not have done so and deepen community spirit. Recently the Tories said they agreed with us. So do the Police, and have appointed a man called Colin Freeman to reintroduce this worthwhile scheme to Loughton and Buckhurst Hill. Watch out for his next move.

1, (Retrieved 1st September 2010).

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Save our Local Courts

Epping Forest Green Party are concerned about government cuts that will mean our local Magistrates Courts at Epping and Harlow being closed. I have said said "There are enough pressures on our justice system as it is: closing these courts, and forcing more work on Chelmsford, is just crazy. Justice should be seen to be done locally and not just far away. There are also rumours that Epping Police could close; if so this would put unbearable pressure on Loughton. This petition is calling on the government not to do this and allow justice to stay local."

You can sign our online petiton here or download a paper copy here

Monday, 16 August 2010

Coaltion cuts hit poorest

“Conservative-Lib Dem cuts will hit the poorer people in society”, says Lucas

New Green MP and Party Leader has had some interesting things to say about housing benefit after a Crisis report:

She has warned that the coalition government's cuts to housing benefit could result in increasing social problems with serious debt and homelessness.

The Green Party leader was commenting on a recent report published by homelessness charity Crisis (1). The report highlights the social risks of housing benefit cuts, which will affect 936,960 households across the UK who are currently claiming local housing allowance (LHA). On average, these households will lose over £600 a year (2).

The report also warns that cuts to housing benefit could have hidden costs in the future, in order to deal with the social problems of homelessness, including health problems and providing accommodation.

Housing benefit cut is equivalent to big increase in income tax for poorer people

Caroline Lucas MP said:

“Consider someone earning £16,000 (after tax-free allowance) and receiving housing benefit. If they lose £728 that would be the equivalent of paying an income tax rise of over 4.5 per cent (3, 4, 5).

“These particular Tory-Lib Dem cuts will leave more people struggling to pay the rent, more people falling into serious debt and ultimately more people becoming homeless.

“This is very unfair, coming at a time when many of these people are facing economic uncertainty or even redundancy.

“Once again we see the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition’s cuts hitting the poorer people in society. The government could avoid these cuts by properly tackling tax avoidance and tax evasion perpetrated by some of the wealthiest, which could raise billions of pounds a year (6).”

It seems we too in Epping Forest will be affected with 1,000 households being hit. (7)


1. The report by Crisis can be found at Crisis comments, “The Government announced cuts of £1.8bn to housing benefit in its emergency Budget soon after coming to power. According to an impact assessment by the Department of Work and Pensions, every one of the 123,000 households in the region reliant on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) — the form of housing benefit paid to tenants in the Private Rented Sector — will be affected. On average, claimants in the South East will see their LHA cut by £12 per week, or £624 per year.”

2. Figures from “New figures reveal areas hardest hit by housing benefit cuts”, Crisis news release of 12 August 2010:

3. £728 is the extra rent that people in one-bed properties in Caroline’s own constituency, Brighton and Hove will be forced to pay annually due to cuts in housing benefit. The amount will vary from area to area due to the government’s method of calculation. The calculation of housing benefit is complicated. The level of benefit you can claim is linked to local rents in the area and is calculated at the median rent level. The government is moving the basis of calculation of entitlement from the 50th to the 30th percentile (of rental costs of properties in a given area). The reason for the relatively high figure in Brighton and Hove is that there’s a bigger gap between the 30th and 50th percentiles. This is because there’s an especially large private rented sector in Brighton and Hove, so rent levels are more spread out, hence the bigger gap, hence the higher average cut in benefit.

4. £728 as a percentage of £16,000 = 4.55%. Of course taking into account tax-free allowance, the actual percentage would be much higher.

5. This and all other raw figures here are derived from the aforementioned report by Crisis, citing two government sources: and

6. See Cuts: The Callous Con Trick by Caroline Lucas et al, See also Green Party news release of 19 June 2010, “Cuts ‘destructive and unnecessary’ says Green Party leader”, at

7 The figures can be found here:

Friday, 13 August 2010

Potholes and the future

Over recent years we have had a regular pothole problem each winter. Potholes have been filled in. I have been taking photos from around Buckhurst Hill and, along with some residents, have met with council officials. I was glad of the prompt response by the council. I am surprised that many were left unfilled from the previous winter. Of course we had the dictat from the previous Labour government over the depth the holes needed to be before being filled (not, as some have claimed, the Tory County Council). Let’s be fair - they had their hands tied. In the long term we need a complete overhaul of our roads. The council officals agree. However we have one thing stopping this: Coalition Government cuts will mean this cannot happen or that it will be a stretch to make it happen.