Monday, 14 December 2015

Help Save Faithspace


 
 
 
Southville’s two Green councillors will today call on the mayor and the council to pledge support for a well-loved community venue in Southville.
 




Faithspace is a former Methodist church on Stackpool Road in Southville, which has been used for community activities for many years. The venue was closed down a year ago and is now boarded up and starting to deteriorate. The Methodists intend to sell the building while the local community are campaigning for it to be retained for local community use, rather than just sold to the highest bidder.


Southville’s Green councillor Stephen Clarke has submitted a question to the Full Council meeting on 15th December to ask the mayor for support in the campaign to keep Faithspace as a community venue. He said:

“We are really short of community venues in Southville. We already have a high density of housing, and more houses are planned as the population in the ward continues to increase. That’s why we need to keep what community venues we have to ensure that Southville remains the vibrant and attractive community it currently is.”

Southville’s other Green councillor, Charlie Bolton has also submitted a statement to the council meeting, stressing the importance of Faithspace for the local community.
The meeting follows a ‘love-bombing’ event of Faithspace at the weekend – where nearly 100 local people came to express their support for the former church by attaching hearts to it, explaining why they think it is important.

Greens have been lobbying for the building to be retained for community use for many months. Councillor Bolton submitted statements of support last winter, and he and Councillor Clarke have lobbied the mayor, assistant mayor and officers to take all possible steps to support the community in their campaign to save this community space.

 
 
STATEMENT FROM December 2015: FaithSpace building (Southville Methodist Church)

Faithspace is a much loved part of the Southville community scene.

As local councillors for the ward of Southville, we would like to congratulate the significant numbers of people who turned up on a December Sunday afternoon to express their support for Faithspace. Local people of all ages expressed their support for the venue by leaving messages of support in the shape of hearts on the building. They have made it very apparent how important the building is to the local community.

Residents have made it clear that they want to see the building retained for community use. Local councillors also want the building retained for community use.

It has been a struggle to get the Methodist church to engage with the local community locally, and it seems clear that they intend to sell the building to the highest bidder. This is a real pity.

We therefore ask the mayor to take what steps he can to support the community of Southville, including talking to the recently formed campaign – and help us save Faithspace for community use.


 
 
STATEMENT FROM December 2014
 
 
Faithspace, Stackpool Road, Southville

As Labour and Green Party councillors for Southville, we jointly submit the following statement.

Faithspace is the former Methodist Church on Stackpool Road. It lies between the Southville Centre and Southville Primary School.
 
It has been a community venue for as long as people can remember. Users, however, have recently been stopped from using it, and the venue has recently been boarded up.

There has been a significant increase in the population of the Southville ward over recent years. This has resulted in an increase in the pressure on local resources and infrastructure. For example, there is a serious shortage in nursery provision in the area.

There is significant local concern over the closure of Faithspace. It has been registered as a 'Asset of Community Value'. There is a local petition in support of its retention as a community venue.

We have no knowledge of plans for its future. However, there has to be a possibility that it will lost as a community venue.  We believe we simply cannot afford to lose community venues in our local area. We urge the council and the mayor to take whatever actions it can to help ensure it remains as a venue for the benefit of the community of Southville as a whole. In particular, we ask that the council do all it can to protect its current planning use
 
Sean Beynon (Labour Party Councillor, Southville)
Charlie Bolton (Green Party Councillor, Southville)

Monday, 23 November 2015

Letter to the Post on TTIP


Dear Sir

 

I was puzzled to see the letter from Hadleigh Roberts – who as vice chair of Bristol Labour Party – wrote to support TTIP (Post, letters, 19th November). He also pointed out the local Labour MEP’s support for it.

 

I say this because it seems to the complete opposite of the position of Labour councillor Sue Milestone who submitted a motion to Bristol City Council calling on the council to ‘publicise the council’s concerns about TTIP’ and ‘join with other local authorities which are opposed to TTIP’.

 

Greens have consistently opposed this damaging, secretive and undemocratic trade treaty. The TTIp treaty threatens to hand power to multinationals, wipe out our social and environmental standards in the name of ‘harmonisation,’ undermine local power to run our own services. So I was extremely pleased with Ms Milestones motion – which was very similar to a similar one from our own Councillor Anna McMullen.

 

Sadly, it seems the Labour Party may not be quite as ‘Corbyn’ as we’d hoped. Hey ho.

 

 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Objecting to possible merger/take-over of Fire Authority by Policy Authority


There is a government consultation on closer working between 'blue light' services

 


 
Contained within it is the possibility that the Police and Crime commissioner takes over the Avon Fire Service. 

This is the response from myself and Gus Hoyt..... 




This response comes from Councillors Charlie Bolton and Gus Hoyt, serving as Green Party members on the Avon Fire Authority, and also as councillors on Bristol City Council.

 

 

As Greens we are appalled at the cuts which have been and are still being implemented on the Fire service. The Fire service saves lives, is highly regarded and we believe has been under sustained, ideologically motivated attack. We believe that the government should commit now to halting cuts to this valued and vital service. We further believe that the Fire Service, along with Police needs to be properly funded.

 

As Green Party members of the Avon Fire Authority, we register our opposition to the possibility of a merger of the authority with the Police Authority.

 

We support many of the reasons given by the Avon Fire Authority in its submission also opposing the possibility of a merger, namely:

 

  • Existing governance arrangements work well
  • Boundaries between the authorities do not match
  • There will be difficulties aligning council tax amounts
  • There are differing electoral arrangements in place over the area
  • There is already some effective collaborative working between authorities, however the proposal will make it harder to form other working partnerships
  • Practical issues merging back office functions which are in different arrangements (ie outsourced or not) with different contractual arrangements
  • Practical staffing issues re TUPE

 

In addition to these, we believe that combining the authorities would also require a significant beefing up of scrutiny functions to meet any new organisation (unless the intention is to dispense with such democratic oversite).

 

We further draw to the your attention to the fact that there are many examples of attempts to merge systems, computerised or other – which intend  to make economies of scale – end up either failing completely, or result in a more complex (and costly) solution. We further point out to those suggesting ‘private sector management methods’ that HBOS and RBS were private  businesses, using such techniques -   who failed in spectacular fashion.  In other words, there are big dangers as well as opportunities.

 

We point out that merging organisations can frequently lead to additional bureaucracy, and which in itself leads to inefficiencies. One of the benefits of the current organisation of the Fire Authority is its relatively simple structure which allows it to concentrate on its ‘core business’ of keeping people safe and putting out fires. A merger could jeopardise this.

 

Finally, we – as Greens – support decentralisation of power to the lowest level. A merger, and in particular, a merger of the power structure represents a centralisation of power which we oppose.

 

Friday, 9 October 2015

Letter to the editor 20mph, Association of British Drivers


Dear Sir

 

I’d like to thank Bob Bull of the Alliance of British Drivers. He writes to ask for ‘driver improvement classes’ (Post letters, 8/10/15). As such, he clearly believes that numbers of drivers in this city have habits which are clearly not up to scratch.

 

Actually, personally, I think that the vast majority of motorists try to drive in a way which is considerate to other road users. Indeed I have been told that in the area that I represent, something like 85% of motorists either stick to or close to the 20mph speed limit.

 

However, Mr Bull’s idea that 20mph should only be close to schools is quite wrong. First off, the vast majority of accidents to children take place away from  the area around a school.  Secondly, children – with their parents walk – or cycle – to school and back home.

 

If we wish to protect children, we must surely protect them everywhere. That means significant areas of slower, safer speeds in a wide area around schools, in residential areas and on walking routes. That’s just one of the reasons why a widespread 20mph area is so important. And of course, as Public Health England tell us ‘physical inactivity is  the 4th largest cause of disease in the UK’.

 

Finally, can I just urge your readers to sign the petition in support of 20mph (Link: http://epetitions.bristol.gov.uk/epetition_core/community/petition/3132)

 

Yours

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

20mph speech


I rise to speak as a strong supporter of the roll out of 20mph speed limits in Bristol.


As such, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Liberal Democrats for being the first to agree the roll out of 20mph limits in Bristol, and to thank the mayor for continuing with the rollout.

The roll out of 20mph is only possible because it has gained a significant amount of funding from the LSTF programme - money awarded to Bristol with government approval. This means two things - on e is that those who say ‘why not spend the money on this  or that’ well, the argument simply does not work. We only have the moneyBut it also means that the rollout its only going ahead because the Tories approved the cash in the first place. I given them credit, therefore, for their part in this excellent initiative.

I’d also like to congratulate the organisors of the anti-20mph petition. I have seen the leaflets - this is clearly a well-orchestrated, and well funded campaign. I will leave it to others to say whether the fact that 3,000 of the 8,000 who signed who don’t live in Bristol at all is a good thing or a bad thing. I also congratulate the organisors of the pro-20mph petition - who despite starting much later than anti’s - have gained well over 2300 signatures - it would not surprise me at all if they went on to push this number of the 3,500 limit and therefore force what would be the 4th debate on the subject in about a year.


Looking in more detail at the petitions, I observe that – despite starting a pro-petition four and a half months later,  there are already more supporters of 20mph in the wards of Ashley, Bishopston, Cabot, Cotham, Easton, Redland, Southville and Windmill Hill – all areas with 20mph. When you get it, it seems you like it.


What interest me more, however, is the reasoning that some of those living locally to me give for supporting the anti-20mph petition.

Some just want it gone. However, there are others who have told me either that they support having 20mph to within half a mile or a mile of locals schools. Or they support it in residential areas.


I have to say, if you apply that rationale to the Greater Bedminster area – well, it covers the whole area. I suspect it pretty much covers the whole of the city


The argument – if there is one – is about one or two major streets. And I observe that the 20mph rollout is not ‘blanket’. Many of the major roads in the city remain at 30mph or higher.


One of the arguments against 20mph is that it causes pollution. It isn’t true. There is a study covering central London – by Imperial College – that’s peer reviewed science – which concludes:


It is concluded that it would be incorrect to assume a 20mph speed restriction would be

detrimental to ambient local air quality, as the effects on vehicle emissions are mixed’


It goes on to say


‘At lower speed limits, it is expected that changes in average speed and accelerating and decelerating behaviours will reduce transient demand for power. This in turn is expected to be beneficial to non-tailpipe emissions of particular matter.’


‘It was therefore concluded that air quality is unlikely to be made worse as a result of 20mph speed limits on streets in London’


I would add that this conclusion was borne out by the council’s air quality experts at a meeting of the Place scrutiny commission last week. Many of us are aware that it is down to how you drive – how often you change gear and how much you accelerate or decelerate – which is a major determinant of fuel efficiency and therefore air quality.


The anti-petition mentions retaining 20mph outside school and hospitals. Well, I have been told that upto 80% of accidents to children take place away from schools. Surely, surely – if it is right to protect our children, it is right to protect them everywhere? We therefore surely therefore – go back to extensive 20mph areas.


And of course, I know – having recently left a cycling charity after 8 years – that a major reason people give for not cycling – is the speed of vehicles on the road. Slow down the cars, and you encourage alternative forms of travel.


We also all know that the slower the speed, the better the chance of survival in an accident.


To sum up. to those people who have signed this petition on the basis of changes to one or two major roads, then I say, ok, lets have that debate. Although I believe the case for slower speed is likely to be strong.


To those who want 20mph gone, be clear – even if you can find a mayoral candidate foolish enough to support your cause, be clear, we will fight you all the way.


I sincerely believe that in years to come, we will look back and regard it as anachronistic that anyone doubted the merits of slower speeds in our cities.  20mph is good for the young, good for the old, good for communities and deserves our fullest support.


Thursday, 10 September 2015

Henbury loop analysis (well, moan....)

I have started to get a bit annoyed at the unscientific way in which the case for the Henbury spur has been dealt with, so I thought I'd blog about it, and the lack of science used in calculating the results


http://www.westofenglandlep.co.uk/meetings/joint-scrutiny-committee




 
The papers recommend:



 
Recommendations
 
1) To endorse the Preliminary Business Case and the progressing of Option 1A
 
(Henbury Spur plus Yate Turn-back), without Constable Road Station, to the
Outline Business Case (Programme Entry).
 
 
 

Essentially, the report uses something called a GRIP2 (or it might have been a GRIP4) analysis of information to come up with a benefit:cost ratio of the Spur v the loop.






 
I don't intend to go in to the detail but at a basic level:


 
  • To produce a benefit cost ratio of take up of particular service will involve a large number of factors. Populations, catchment areas, policy decisions, growth rates in train usage, variations in such take up by location etc etc
  • Each factor will have a level of accuracy (or inaccuracy) associated with it 
  • The accumulation of all these factors will result in a large error
  • The analysis is apparently done over a 60 year period. This will exacerbate the problem significantly.


  
From my memories of doing science (ok, a long time ago....), you would calculate an error to a 95%confidence limit.




This means you are 95% confident that your answer is correct between (Your value minus the error limit) to (Your value plus the error limit). Each value in that range is equally likely.


 
Hence a BCR of 2 with an error of 1 means the value is somewhere between one and three, you can not say with any more accuracy than that.
 
The values for the loop are 'BCR with WBS' = 1.35.


If the error margin is 0.7, it gives you a range of 0.65 to 2.05 (which is significant because a 'BCR' of 2 is required to qualify as a scheme.


Likewise, the BCR for the spur with WBS is 2.46. If it had an error margin of 0.7, the range would be 1.76 to 3.16. You'll note that some of these values are lower than some of those above. Given that each value in either range is equally likely, then you simply cannot say that one scheme is better than the other.


The obvious question to ask then - is what error margins/confidence limits did those advocating the Henbury spur come up with?


Answer: they didn't calculate one.


 

Friday, 28 August 2015

Henbury loop speech


This is the speech I made on the Henbutry loop to yesterdays council meeting.

Henbury loop

Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a city where we had a public transport network we can be proud of. Don’t you just want to be able to get on a train or bus near to where you live and actually have a decent chance of getting close to most of the major sites in Bristol? For most of the day? Without having to wait for too long?

I’d like to speak in favour of having the Henbury loop rather than having a Henbury Spur.

In my opinion the proposals to go for a Henbury spur rather than a loop sum up  just what is wrong with transport decisions made in this city. It reminds me very much of Bus Rapid Transit – a scheme determined by the funding available rather than the right scheme.

I don’t particularly blame the authors of the report  for doing this.  In some ways, getting anything at all is a bonus. But what sticks in the craw is the sheer lack of ambition – and indeed the sheer lack of control over how we run ‘our patch’.

The benefit of the Henbury loop can be summed up as follows. It forms the basis of a local rail network within the northern part of Bristol. 

It is the hub from which most other local rail projects in that area flow. It enables a passenger route around Bristol. It shows that we are serious about local rail. It shows we are serious about sustainable transport. It shows we are prepared to make a commitment to a sustainable future. It addresses climate change. It addresses congestion. It addresses air quality.

If you look at the 2011 census figures, it suggests that something like 2% of the population commuted by train, while 50% commute by car. It must be obvious to everyone that we need to be adopting an ambitious strategy  to change this. We need at least five times as many rail passengers. We need to maximise the numbers who walk, cycle or take the bus as well.

If you drill down into the detail of what the report into the viability of the Henbury loop – then consider this:

The report suggests and additional 13 passengers a day on the loop. The report suggests that there would be 4.4 passengers per day between Henbury and Avonmouth. The much slower bus has about 12 passengers per journey between the same destinations. Does anyone seriously believe these projections?

There is no reference to the expansion of Cribbs Causeway. Has the potential for employment in Severnside been taken into account? Is RPS taken into account? I’m told not. Growth rates of passenger take-up are suspiciously low. How have the serious levels of congestion in the Northern fringe been taken into account? There are a series of questions which can be asked about the scheme

This is why it is so frustrating to have to say - again and again and again – we need a world class local rail network. We need trains which are sufficiently frequent so as not to need a timetable. We need the choice. We need the flexibility. Above all, we need the Henbury loop.

The choice we are given in the report is to either accept the decision – or to object and refer it back. I will be voting to refer it back on the grounds of lack of ambition and a suspicion that the business case for the Henbury loop has been woefully under-estimated. I hope others agree with me.

Letter to the Post on 20mph

Dear Sir

I read with interest your item about a poll you conducted on 20mph speed limits (‘Poll shows Bristol wants city 20mph limit scrapped except near hospitals and schools’, 27/8/15).

As a supporter of the slower, safer speeds that a properly enforced 20mph offers, I find myself asking how far do those who support this view think a 20mph zone should extend around a school?

To me, it is obvious that if we want streets to be safe for children, then we should be aiming to make them safe for children for the whole of their journey between home and school. Thus zones need to be large enough to make it safe for them should they choose to walk or cycle. And of course, we should also be looking after the safety of the young, the old, all of us in fact – where we live.

The point being that you end up with an extensive area which is rightly at 20mph, which rapidly approaches the scheme we have now.



Friday, 7 August 2015

Henbury loop


I attended the call in meeting this morning re the Henbury loop. I had thought of a number of things to say, most of which I didn't, but may hold on until it is debated at the meeting of full council which will now be arranged.

All party support

I’d first off like to congratulate the Wet of England partnership on getting all four party groups on Bristol City Council on the same side – in opposition to your decision to go for a Henbury spur rather than a Henbury loop.

Sign in

I am not going to pretend that I signed the call-in papers because of the process. I signed it because I disagreed with the decision. I am fully supportive of having a Henbury loop over other solutions.

That isn’t to say that I don’t have problems with the decision-making process itself.

Commitment to Public transport

As a Green, I am committed to having the best sustainable transport solution for the city of Bristol (and surrounds) in order to create a truly sustainable future. This means many things – for example dramatically improving the bus service, or improving facilities for those who cycle. But it also  includes having the best possible  public transport solutions for the city. We need a local rail network which allows as many people as possible to get to get to all of the major venues, employment centres and retail centres in the area. Clearly this includes having a rail network which allows people flexibility in their travel decisions. It also means taking an imaginative , ambitious can-do approach.

Why a Henbury loop?

In our opinion, the point of the Henbury loop is that it is a significant part of the basis of a rail network. Not all of Bristol, but a significant portion of it. If you do that,  it is the basis for a large number of the other possibilities for improving he rail network, especially in the North of the city. And, as a matter of principle, we need to be making best use of the existing rail infrastructure.

My experience of this decision

Following Green Party successes in the council elections last May, we were allocated a seat on the West of England scrutiny panel for the first time. This is because we replaced the LDs on the committee. I was invited to one meeting, but was unable to attend due to a prior commitment. Almost immediately afterwards, I was notified of the intention to make the decision to choose the Henbury spur over the loop.

This notification came on a Thursday morning, saying the decision was going to be made the following Friday and asking for comments by the Wednesday lunchtime.

I spent Thursday preparing for a Place scrutiny committee meeting on the Monday afternoon. I had a prior commitment (to visit my parents) which took me out of Bristol from the Friday to the Monday lunchtime. I went straight into the committee meeting (which I chaired). I had another meeting that evening.

This meant I had the Tuesday and Wednesday morning to read, analyse and respond to the reports for the committee.

The report was 70 pages long, and the key information is contained within a GRIP analysis which is on the WoE website, which is 1330 pages long. In other words, to participate, I would have to have analysed 1400 pages in about a day and a bit.

I hope you agree that the idea of doing this sensibly in the time available is absurd. God help me had I had a job.

 

I might add that at the scrutiny committee meeting I did not attend, I note there were some 57 projects with a total cost of something like £150m – which are to be scrutinised in 4 meetings per year.

Benefit cost ratio analysis

According to the WoE Assurance Framework rules:

The BCR of less than 2.0 for all the Loop-based options (2a, 2b) mean that they still do not qualify for funding from the Local Growth Fund under the West of England’s Assurance Framework rules

 

I have a few comments to make about this:

  1. It is interesting to note that the use of benefit:cost ratio dates back to 1848. One wonders if a more up-to-date system of analysis exists.
  2. A critique of the system suggests:

  • A cost benefit analysis requires that all costs and benefits be identified and appropriately quantified. Unfortunately, human error often results in common cost benefit analysis errors such as accidentally omitting certain costs and benefits due to the inability to forecast indirect causal relationships
  • Another disadvantage of the cost benefit analysis is the amount of subjectivity involved when identifying, quantifying, and estimating different costs and benefits
  • Since this evaluation method estimates the costs and benefits for a project over a period of time, it is necessary to calculate the present value. This equalizes all present and future costs and benefits by evaluating all items in terms of present-day values, which eliminates the need to account for inflation or speculative financial gains. Unfortunately, this poses a significant disadvantage because, even if one can accurately calculate the present value, there is no guarantee that the discount rate used in the calculation is realistic.

Applying this to the specific example of the Henbury loop, I immediately ask myself the following questions:

In calculating the cost benefit ratio for the Henbury loop, what factors have been included in the calculation, and how have they been included?

How sensitive is the methodology to change of variable? It has been suggested to me that a small change to the input could result in a large change to the output. Is this correct? (ie how reliable are the figures?)

Some things are directly quantifiable. Other things are much harder to assess. Has the additional congestion  on a variety of roads in North Bristol been taken into account? Has the contribution of to air pollution and therefore increased ill-health been taken into account?

Other submissions

I am sure we can all come up with are own set of similar questions. (And I note – for example – that Martin Garrett of TfGB has come up with a set, including

  1. What is impact of RPS?
  2. Do Big Players such as Centro (West Midlands) or Greater Manchester have their own versions of the BCR rules?  (Martin says they do and this is because their relationship with the DfT is different and their vision is truly regional.  They bring in economic development and social factors and take a regional view of funding and need, and then focus regional resources.) If we have different rules of assessment, which is correct?
  3. BCR methodology might be useful when considering marginal improvements to an existing network, but it largely ignores potential network effects and is even more inappropriate when there is no recognisable modern public transport network in the first place, as is the case here. How have the impacts across the full network been taken into account?
     
    I further note that Rob Dixon has put in a statement of behalf of FosBR listing a set of reasons why the decision to proceed with a spur rather than a loop is open to debate. I would like to see these questions answered point by point.
     

Political  support for Henbury loop

I refer you to the document signed by George Ferguson, Charlotte Leslie and others

‘Outline Business Case for the Henbury Loop’

http://www.activenp.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Outline-Business-Case-for-the-Henbury-Loop-1.pdf

As the name suggests, it supports the Henbury loop. Please note that one of the signatories is the elected mayor of Bristol.

I also draw you attention to the motion put by Cllr Weston and passed by Bristol City Council at its meeting on 20th January 2015. Passed by 58 votes to zero, it includes the statement:

To this end this Council:

- Fully supports the opening of a Henbury Loop in North Bristol, with new Stations at Ashley Down, Horfield, Filton North and Henbury and believes that an additional stop at Charlton should be explored

 

I note that one of those voting in favour of the amendment was Cllr Simon Cook.

I assume that officers of Bristol City Council have communicated this fact to officers of the West of England partnership. I wondered how this decision had been taken into account?

What consultation has there been?

As a newly-appointed councillor to the committee, I have not had the opportunity to scrutinise this decision in any way, shape or form.

What I would like to have seen is presentations to councillors of the business case, allowing questioning of the assumptions and the case in general. This would be followed by an opportunity to either support or oppose the proposal (prior to a decision being made).

I am not aware of the public being meaningfully consulted.

Conclusion

My conclusion is this. I have sufficient doubts about the scrutiny of the West of England partnership in general, and of this decision in particular to believe it right and proper that this decision be referred to a full meeting of Bristol City Council.

I would like it to be preceded by briefings of councillors by officers and responses to the questions raised in public forum. I actually think such an approach could be of benefit to all concerned.

 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Letter to South Bristol Voice re libraries


re your item 'Libraries saved after huge campaign'

Campaigners will be delighted to have 'saved' local libraries at Marksbury Road and Wick Road'. Many people will have claimed credit for this ranging from the campaigners themselves to politicians of all hues. And , indeed, in the case of the campaigners they have certainly done their bit.

However, it needs to be pointed out that we have not got rid of the cut. It has simply moved elsewhere.

Labour and Conservative councillors on Bristol City Council voted through £83million of cuts to its 3 year budget in February 2014 . This including cutting £1.1m from the library service - which is the origin of the need for change. 


Of course, the real reason for the cuts is the government austerity programme.


So - having saved the libraries, which the Green Party supports as a vital public service, remember - someone else will face the cut. Someone else will lose their livelihood. Someone else will lose their service.

Yours


Cllr Charlie Bolton and Cllr Deb Joffe

Bristol Green Party

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Statement to cabinet supporting energy efficiency proposals


Statement to cabinet on agenda items;

5 Report title: Warmer Homes Project – External Wall insulation to High-Rise and Low-Rise Flats in Bristol

 

6 Procurement of Domestic Heating Installation; and New Bathroom

Installation Contracts for Council owned homes.

 

Bristol Green Party councillors would like to welcome the proposal to spend £70m on insulating the 45 multi-story and low-rise blocks of flats – which includes 1,715 individual flats. We further welcome the proposal to procure domestic heat insulation.

 

The first proposal has the capacity to cut the fuel bills to the residents of these blocks and therefore cut levels of fuel poverty. It will also cut Bristol’s carbon emissions. It is therefore a win-win project.

 

The second project also has the capacity to deliver similar benefits – and, in general – we welcome it too.

 

We do wish to make a number of comments however:

 

1.    We note that the Economy 7 heating system will be replaced with gas central heating in something like 200 properties per year. While we accept that these will be a more efficient heating system, we are aware that an electricity-based system is usually easier to source from renewable energy generation. Gas central heating, however efficient, offers greater challenges in ensuring a renewable energy supply. We therefore ask that, where possible, measures are taken to ensure the future use of  renewable sources that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.

2.    We ask that any heating systems installed are future-proofed so that they are compatible with any potential district heating systems and/or – as far as possible – compatible with renewable energy sources

3.    We ask - given this is a 30 year programme, and that by the end of this timeframe, (unless the Tories abolish our climate change targets), we will be close to the point whereby we should have cut our carbon emissions by 80% -– will this programme be making a sufficient contribution to our emissions reduction targets?

4.    In view of the Tory government attacks on social housing, we also ask if these proposals are affected by changes to the potential rental income the council may receive into its housing revenue account

 

We ask the mayor to take this into account, when making his decision.

 

 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Speech on Place scrutiny intergrated transport enquiry day


Thankyou

I have to say my memory of the integrated transport inquiry day was that we received a massive amount of information over a relatively short period of time, and then did not have adequate time to discuss the detail.


I suppose it sums up one of the problems of scrutiny. ‘Integrated’ transport is a huge issue. You won’t just do it in one day. The problem therefore is to either devote a lot of your limited time on such an issue or to focus down on a subset of it.

The second point I’d like to make about the day was the thought that I’d seen quite a bit of it before. This is partly true – in 2009 I was a member of a sustainable transport select committee which met a number of times over the course of the year and came up with a set of recommendations.

These included the need for a transport authority – a combined authority is still being discussed, of course. It included the need for smart cards, something still being asked for.

It mentioned the need for improved travel information to allow people to make informed choices.
It talked of ‘Improve cross boundary working in the Greater Bristol Travel area.’ Also suggestions made in the latest report.


SO I’m not actually sure whether or not to be pleased or alarmed to see so many things repeated in a report 6 years after its predecessor. On the one hand, there is a consistency in recognising the need. On the other, progress does seem to be painfully slow.

Having said that, there are parts of the report which are clearly valuable. For example, the report calls for :

‘ a universal approach to traffic management and network development be developed between West of England (WoE) authorities, to increase co-ordination and ensure that there is strategic overview at the planning stage and when developing operational infrastructure. ‘

I’m sure everyone would like to see a consistency of approach. - although my current view of the West of England partnership is that they already have this as long as it benefits the Tory shires.

I was certainly interested to see the item about ‘increasing segregated bus routes’. I would certainly support this on the grounds that it uses existing road space, rather than taking out green space.

I also note that the day and the report included a discussion on bus quality contracts. I disagree with the item in the report stating that ‘that approach is unlikely to work in Bristol alone as the boundaries are too tight to design an effective network’. I remember quite specifically asking the expert speaker about this issue - and he saw no reason why you could not have agreements which crossed boundaries. I believe there is merit to further consideration of bus quality contracts or seeking to gain similar powers.

There are many other aspects to integrating transport - cycling barely gets a mention - and yet we need to integrate cycling into both bus and rail services in a consistent and positive manner. We need to look at measures to increase the number of buses operating in the city. We need a Henbury loop. We need a station at Ashton Gate. We need to adopt the sort of measures contained in Sustrans excellent ‘Good transport guide’ produced for the Green capital project.

 

To sum up then, I see the inquiry day as making a contribution to the on-going need to address all aspects of improving sustainable transport in this city. I would, however, like to see much more rapid progress.

 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Camden Road bridge consultation


Strictly speaking, this is a response to the consultation from the new bridge (when it comes) to North St



We are extremely pleased that Camden Road bridge is being built. We are generally supportive of the proposals contained in this proposal and the likely increase in cycling and walking that it will bring.

 

However, we consider it vital that there is a controlled crossing over Coronation Road from the bridge to Camden Road itself.

 

We support the closure of Camden Road to traffic. There is an opportunity for this to be an entrance to Southville (or South Bristol even!).  We would like to see some sort of entry arch, some planters and perhaps a row of Sheffield cycle stands (with letters in the middle spelling out the word ‘Southville’).

 

The speed tables on Raleigh Road are likely to reduce speed on this road, which we regard as important, especially with the new school on Upton Road.  

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

My speech on the freeholdof the docks

Thankyou



The report before you today asks council to either accept the decision to sell the port freehold, or to refer it back to the mayor, with its views. I rise to ask the council to choose to 

‘To object to the decision and refer it back to the Mayor, together
with its views’

and for its view to be to ask George not to sell the port freehold.



First, I would like to make it clear that the Green Party is fully supportive of Avonmouth docks and wishes to succeed and for it to investment in its future for the benefit of the city, for local people, local jobs, and the local economy.

However, I oppose the sale of council land in principle, because council land is a community asset, and the council holds that land - in effect - in trust for the people of Bristol both now and for its future generations. The council’s job as trustees therefore is to manage that land, not to dispose of it.

Once land is sold, it is lost to the city for ever, and Bristol’s current and future citizens are thereby impoverished for ever – all for a short term financial addition to its treasury.

I am also concerned that the loss of freehold and therefore the handing over of all control to the company could result in the sale of the business, or see its exploitation for purposes far beyond those concerned with a successful port.



I am aware that the council has long since lost most of its control over the port authority.

 I am aware of the officer view of the relative value of the £10m compared with not selling.

However, I am not convinced that the sale price is sufficiently high to warrant the permanent loss of such a large area of land.

Having said that, I suspect that the mayor will approve the sale in which case, I ask him to take on board and put in safeguards for some of the concerns raised in public forum and elsewhere.

These include:



- we need to ensure good rail good passenger rail access for both staff and visitors to Avonmouth and Royal Portbury,


- we need to ensure the Henbury loop is retained for the use of passenger traffic
- we need to improve rail links from the docks to the rail network
- ensure that any sale of the freehold allows the full development of renewables on the land


To sum up, then, if the mayor is intent on going ahead with its sale, I urge him to ensure the relevant safeguards are built in. However, I do not think that the sale is actually justified at all. I ask him to reverse his decision and hold the land for future generations of Bristol residents.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Members remuneration (pay!) speech

My speech on members remuneration: rejects a 9% increase but make the point that we should base councillors expense on need. Points out that some people are excluded from being councillors because of the level of the allowance. Seemed to get jeered by some Labour councillors, goodness only knows why.



There are two basic reasons for supporting the recommendations of the member’s remuneration panel.


First off, it the panel is independent. As a rule, we as councillors should not seek to politically interfere with its suggestions. That is what it is for. As an aside, I wonder why we are even in the position where we end up taking a decision we clearly wish to avoid.


Second, the allowance for a councillor at the moment is sufficiently low at the moment that it – as a sole income – prevents a significant proportion of the population from being councillors at all. This is, therefore, an act of overt discrimination, an act of overt bias in favour of the wealthy. You can only be a councillor if you can afford the time, you don’t need the money, or you have another form of income. You can therefore argue that making a significant increase to the allowance of a councillor seeks to address this - particularly when you take into account the number of hours that many councillors work.


The problem – of course – is the fact that councillors are in the privileged position of being able to award themselves a pay increase.  The panel can recommend, but we are the ones who vote. And here we are – at a time when local government is under attack like never before, and facing the prospect of further deep, and utterly unacceptable cuts. Hundreds of people at Bristol City Council have lost or will lose their livelihoods. Thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of people in this City have suffered or will suffer as a result of loss of services or benefits.


At this time – can we seriously expect to both vote for a £100k increase in total expenditure on councillors and – at the same time – vote for a 9% increase in the basic councillor allowance?

The answer has to be no. And that doesn’t even begin to address the proposed increase for the mayor.


I do not have a strong view for or against most of the other proposals contained in the report. They are based on multiples of allowances as a way of defining the merit of a particular role.

If ‘I ruled the world’, I would take a different approach. One based on need. I would be asking myself if councillors with no outside source of income should be considered in a different way to those who have such an income. Greens want all people to earn at least a living wage as a fruit of their labours. This counts for agency cleaners and shop workers but it also includes councillors



Clearly, I do not rule the world. And in this world, had the total increase in allowance been similar to the pay rise that local government staff are receiving – with the levels of allowance being adjusted accordingly – I suspect this report would be adopted almost without discussion.


Assuming other party groups also reject this report, I suspect the solution to this lies in recommendation 14 which states:


RECOMMENDATION 14: That in the event that the Council does not accept the Panel’s recommended level of Basic Allowance, the values of special responsibility allowances be adjusted to the present or alternative Basic Allowance, using the same multipliers.

I suggest that the recommendations are adopted, but with a basic allowance set at or slightly higher than the current level, but as thing stand will vote against this report..

Monday, 27 April 2015

Why the Ashcroft opinion poll might just hand Bristol West to the Greens



Lord Ashcroft has published an opinion poll for Bristol West.


The relevant figures are second up from the bottom, so it predicts Labour to get 38% of the vote, Greens are second on 25%, LibDems third on 20% and Tories 4th on 14%.

Superficially, and perhaps in fact, this is great news for Labour. They are well ahead in this seat. And yet.....there are some messages which as a Green, I think it only right and proper to suggest:

1. The Tories are 4th

While stopping short of saying the 'Tories can't win here', well, it is pretty much inconceivable.

The single biggest reason the Labour Party have for people to vote for them is they ain't the Tories, and you have to vote Labour to stop the Tories.

In Bristol West, it clearly isn't true.

To those people who say they will vote Labour because it stops the Tories, well, the Tories are stopped. This is NOT a reason not to vote Green. If you are diehard Labour or think they have the best policies, by all means vote for them. If you would consider voting Green, but want to stop the Tories first and foremost, we urge you to think again.

2. The LibDems are third

The LibDems are behind the Greens and a long way behind Labour. I like Stephen Williams as a person, but his time is up.

The LibDem vote has collapsed in recent council elections. It has now collapsed in the general election.

If there is to be a challenge to Labour, it will come from the challenger - and that is the Green Party.

We call on those thinking of voting Liberal Democrat to think again. If you want to see a challenge to Labour in Bristol West, vote for the nearest challenger - and that is the Green Party.

3. Vote for the status quo or vote for something other than the status quo

I have met the Labour candidate a couple of times, and have no problem with her as a person. However, she will just become another Labour MP, one of hundreds, and part of the Labour establishment.

Darren Hall, the Green candidate - if he came the second Green MP - and achieved a fraction of what Caroline Lucas has achieved - he will be a brilliant asset to Bristol, to the Green Party, to the planet and to those wanting achieve a socially just society.

So I urge voters in Bristol West to move beyond thinking of the statistically  probable, but just this once, think of the possible ....




Monday, 23 March 2015

How we voted on Bristol's budget






This probably isn't very interesting, but if you analyse the votes at the last full council budget meeting, you'll see that

Labour and Conservative voted together for 17 of the 20 votes (ie 85% of the time)

(Greens and LDs voted with the Tories 11x out of 20)

I might mention this the next time I get a 'vote Green, get Tory' comment.....

Friday, 20 March 2015

Letter to the editor - libraries

Dear Sir

Now that Green cabinet member Cllr Radice has, with others,  successfully lobbied the mayor to delay any closure of libraries, we need to look to the future.

It is completely obvious that for many of our libraries to succeed in the way many want, they need a substantial increase in investment. They need to be better resourced, open for longer, and better promoted.

We in the Green Party, therefore believe, we do not need a 20% cut in the libraries budget - as voted for by Bristol Labour and Conservative councillors. Far better would be a 20% increase.

Given that both main parties have also committed to further spending cuts whichever party forms the next government, we need to see evidence that their campaigns are more than just an election ploy - but to see a commitment from their parties to increase such expenditure in the long term. (It must also be noted that the Liberal Democrats, should they survive the election, are also committed to substantial further cuts).

Failure to deliver this is will lead to either a full complement of libraries which are scarcely ever open; or libraries run by untrained volunteers. Or closures.

The alternative would be to move the cut somewhere else - in which case, Labour and Conservative councillors  should tell us - who do you want to lose their job? What service would your party cut?

Yours