Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Give youth a voice in Shepway!

Our excellent candidate for the upcoming Folkestone Harvey West by-election is 19 year-old Jasmine Heywood. She is the chair of Shepway Young Greens and would be a great addition to the District and Town councils. If you can help with her campaign, please contact out election coordinator, David Horton (contact@shepwaygreenparty.com).

Jasmine is a former Folkestone School for Girls student who, through Shepway Green Party, has become involved with campaigning in local politics. She is keen to give a voice and engage with young people, and present a more positive alternative to the other political parties.

Among other things, Jasmine is carrying out a survey of local residents to help us to set our priorities for taking action locally. You can also fill out our survey online via this website (see front page).

Jasmine feels that more needs to be done to address road safety. In particular she is interested in making cycling a more accessible and safer mode of transport as it acts as a healthier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly way of getting around than any other. Campaigning for 20mph zones around schools and introducing more cycle lanes would play a vital role in achieving this.

Jasmine is also involved with the Local Works campaign to implement a tax on supermarket profits, which would then be reinvested in local business and the community, a similar scheme of which is currently in place in Northern Ireland. She is also keen to ensure that local residents have access to decent and affordable parking, and that the expansion of the Folkestone West Station does not infringe upon that.

If you would like to get involved in the campaign to elect Jasmine (the by-election is 23rd October), we’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Lodge Hill Decision – Disgraceful Hypocrisy by Medway Council

Medway Green Party has accused Medway Council of hypocrisy in passing plans for housebuilding at Lodge Hill  and called on local people to contact the Secretary of State.
Medway Green Party members have expressed extreme disappointment in Medway Council’s decision to approve the plans for 5000 houses at Lodge Hill. The party is also highly critical of the conflict between this decision and previous arguments made in Medway Council’s campaign against an airport in the Hoo penisular.
Trish Marchant, parliamentary candidate for Gillingham and Rainham comments:
“Only last week, Medway Council Leader, Rodney Chambers, was celebrating the Council’s anti-airport campaign for stopping (in his own words) “mass destruction of habitat and wildlife that could never be replaced”.  How is this any different? The hypocrisy of Medway Council is disgraceful!”
The Lodge Hill site has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as it supports the UK’s largest nightingale population which could be destroyed if the development goes ahead.  Campaigners claim that overruling the SSSI would set a dangerous precedent for many other SSSI’s in the country.
Medway Green Party is urging local people to continue their support for the nightingales by contacting the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, who has overall responsibility for housing.
Clive Gregory, parliamentary candidate for Rochester and Strood says:
“So much for Medway Council putting local democracy first; these plans were opposed by the overwhelming majority of those consulted, a factor which Medway Council completely disregarded. There is still a chance to stop this unique site being destroyed, however, if we contact Eric Pickles, Secretary of State, who has the power to overrule this decision. Please ask Eric Pickles to call in this disastrous plan”.
RSPB are heading a campaign to contact the Secretary of State regarding the Lodge Hill decision, called “Ask Eric Pickles to Step In”.  This is available on the following website address: http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/381776-Lodge-Hill

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Alarm at CQC findings in East Kent

Green Party Councillor and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South, Ian Driver, has expressed his alarm at the publication today of the Care Quality Commission Inspection Report into East Kent University Hospitals Trust which has given the Trust an overall rating of inadequate.

Said Driver “whilst I applaud the excellent work and dedication of the doctors, nurses and ancillary staff at the QEQM Margate, I am astonished to learn that there is a divide between senior managers and frontline staff and astounded to hear that there is a culture of bullying and harassment at the Trust. These revelations suggest to me that there are extremely serious problems within the senior management team at the Trust”

I am also extremely alarmed by the reported lack of “appropriately trained staff across the three sites” and the Inspectors concerns about poor staffing of emergency departments and hospital wards at night.

I appreciate that the Trust has a tight budget, but surely senior managers should be getting the basics right such has having enough trained staff in A&E and sufficient ward cover at night”.

The CQC is so concerned about the Trust that it has recommended it be placed in “special measures” allowing for extra support to be brought into the organisation to overcome its current difficulties. Driver said “I fully support this proposal. Its clear to me on reading the report that frontline medical staff have been badly let down by their senior management team who are clearly struggling. Special measures will hopefully get to the bottom of these failures and perhaps allow for the introduction of new managers who can ensure that the Trust runs a more effective service providing first rate patient care”.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Fracking in Kent will meet with stiff opposition from the Greens

Kent Greens have reacted with dismay at today's news that more fracking licences are to be granted. Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party has called for energy security to be met by renewables and has vowed to step up opposition to any fracking in Kent. The Green Party is the only party opposed to fracking.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party: "The Government is charging headlong into environmental disaster. The evidence from fracking sites across the globe demonstrates just how bad this technology is and to claim that it will be different in the UK is frankly ridiculous.

"The government has acknowledged that fracking won't reduce our fuel bills and if we want energy security then we need to be tapping into the huge amount of renewable potential that this country has.

"This summer, global temperatures are breaking records once again. Climate change is the greatest threat to mankind so we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground where they belong rather than increasing extraction.

"We will be watching closely where the licences are to be granted and stepping up our opposition to any fracking here in Kent."

ends

Notes: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28513036

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Change the approach to Defence

Kent Greens have written to the new Defence Secretary and the new Minister for Defence, Michael Fallon and Julian Brazier, congratulating them on their appointments and calling on them to bring a new direction to the government. They have called for an end to Trident and a reversal of the military intervention approach to foreign wars without a request from the UN.

Stuart Jeffery Chair of Kent Green Party: "Spending £25 billion on an unnecessary and devastating weapon of mass destruction is frankly obscene. This money should be used for socially and environmentally useful projects, such as renewable energy, public transport or improving health care. I have no doubt that the Kent MPs will continue with the disgraceful replacement programme but they must be challenged to reverse the decision.

"Military intervention should be last resort and only when requested by the UN. I want Julian Brazier to take a radical new approach to defence, one that doesn't have aggression at its heart."

Amelie Boleyn, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Sevenoaks: " Michael Fallon has an opportunity to change the way the UK is seen in the world. We want the UK to be seen as a nation that promotes peace rather than war. While I have no doubt the he will remain committed to trying to police the world, I hope that he will come to agree that this outdated colonial attitude must come to an end. Rather than promoting our military strength, which can only breed more fear, we must learn the lessons from our colonial past and work with the UN and INGOs in an exclusive peacekeeping capacity, setting a progressive example as world leaders for peace, not war"

ends
Notes: http://www.cnduk.org/campaigns/no-to-trident



Dear Mr Fallon and Mr Brazier,

Congratulations on your appointments as Defence Secretary and Minister in the Ministry of Defence.

We are aware of Mr Brazier's military background and hope that you will be able to reflect on those experiences in your new role. Given Mr Brazier's knowledge of the military and Mr Fallon's standing in the Conservative Party we hope that you will be able to influence the government on the need for a new approach for defence, one that is less aggressive and not focused on direct military intervention.

In particular we call on you to reverse your previous support for Trident and to now champion its demise so that the funds devoted to this outdated, unnecessary and devastating weapon system are channelled into socially and environmentally useful schemes.

We also call on you to reverse your previous support for foreign military intervention, unless requested by the UN.

Yours sincerely,

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party
Amelie Boleyn, Green Party PPC for Sevenoaks

Monday, 14 July 2014

Message of Support to the Fire Brigade Union

Kent Green Party have sent a message of support to the Fire Brigade Union at the start of their strike against the increase in the age of retirement. The government want to increase the retirement age to 60 which the FBU deem as unsafe. Kent Greens have

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party: "It is very clear that this is the latest in a long line of ideological attacks on the public sector and one that affects the safety of the service.

"Kent Fire and Rescue Service provide an excellent and vital service to Kent but our public sector services have, for decades, been systematically attacked. Workers are bearing the brunt of this, and are being expected to pay the price for an economic crisis not of their making.

"We are proud to be able to express our solidarity with the workers on strike who have done this as a last resort. We hope their action is successful."

ends.


Letter to the FBU 15th July 2014

Dear Mr Simmons,

On behalf of Kent Green Party, I wanted to drop you a short note to express our solidarity with your strike action.

We are disgusted by the approach of the government against all sections of the public sector and we have been supporting recent actions across the country. The latest attempt to increase retirement ages is simply another attack on the public sector and as you rightly point out, it impacts on the safety of the Fire Brigade.

It is very clear that you provide an excellent and vital service to Kent but our public sector services have, for decades, been systematically attacked. Workers are bearing the brunt of this, and are being expected to pay the price for an economic crisis not of their making.

We recognise that going on strike is the option of last resort. We sincerely hope that your action succeeds in defending your pensions and working conditions – all of which are vital if we are to protect the integrity of the service.

Kind regards,

Stuart Jeffery
Chair of Kent Green Party

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Whitstable Job Centre under threat

Canterbury Greens will be supporting the PCS protest on Friday at the threatened closure of Whitstable Job Centre.

Pat Marsh, Canterbury Green Party: "Whitstable Job Centre is there to provide a key service to people in need. It has already seen its hours reduced and closure will simply make it harder to access and more likely that people miss essential appointments.

"This appears to be the latest in a long line of attacks by the government on the poor and vulnerable in our society."

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party: "I have written to the PCS expressing our support for their campaign and to the Job Centre management calling for the Whitstable centre to remain open. We have to ensure that essential services are available and accessible to all who need them."

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

MEP dismayed at Dungeness announcement

Keith Taylor MEP has responded to news that the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has approved changes to key safety standards at Dungeness B nuclear power station in Kent.

EDF, the energy company operating Dungeness, had applied to the ONR to relax the safety limits for graphite bricks inside the reactor, which are vital for safety.

Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for Kent and South East England, responded to the announcement:

"I am dismayed that the ONR has approved EDF’s application to lower key safety standards at Dungeness in order to prolong the life of the reactor.

"This is particularly worrying as Dungeness has had a number of unplanned shutdowns in recent months due to safety concerns.

"Rather than re-writing the rules in order to keep this unsafe and expensive form of energy production online for a few more years, we should be focussing our efforts on the switch to a truly sustainable energy future – one which focuses on renewable energy and energy efficiency, and which would deliver more jobs, faster carbon reductions and a fundamentally more democratic energy system fit for the future."

- See more at: http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2014/07/01/mep-dismayed-at-dungeness-announcement/#sthash.KVhCaYhP.dpuf

Monday, 30 June 2014

Killed or Seriously Injured on Kent's roads has hit a 4 year high

While Brighton's roads (1) are getting safer under the Green Council, figures out last week (2) show that the number of people Killed or Seriously Injured on Kent's roads has hit a 4 year high.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party: "This shocking position with its third rise in a row demonstrates the complete complacency that Kent County Council have towards road safety. Their refusal to implement 20mph limits in all residential areas, their failure to provide safe paths for cyclists or good pavements for pedestrians, and their seeming passion to see more cars on our road tell me that the council is complicit in these accidents.

"These accidents will have been devastating to the families of the people killed or seriously injured in these 594 accidents in 2013.

"Kent County Council have failed to protect people across Kent."

Notes:
1. http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/06/27/green-transport-policies-are-saving-lives-in-brighton-and-hove/
2. https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/ras30-reported-casualties-in-road-accidents#table-ras30008

Monday, 23 June 2014

Create jobs for young adults, don't treat them as children

Create jobs, value real work and encourage young people rather than cutting their benefits and treating them as children is the message from Kent Greens. This comes after Labour's announcement that they would cut benefits for 18-21 year olds. The Greens are calling for investment in jobs that support sustainability rather than insisting young adults go back into education.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Greens: "Labour has joined the Coalition's assault on younger people with their plan to end benefits for young adults without A Levels or equivalent. Insisting that 18 to 21 year olds have to get more education and must live with their parents if they are struggling to find work is simply treating these young adults as children.

"Labour need to recognise that not everyone needs to be educated to A Level standard and in fact having a mix of education is better for society.  We need to start valuing jobs that don't have a high educational basis; farm labourers, cleaners and road sweepers are some of the most important people in society.

"Secondly, forcing young adults to become dependent children again will simply alienate them. We need to recognise that people will act as adults only when they are treated as such.

"Finally, the most important issue is that jobs are needed for young people. Cutting benefits will not create jobs but government investment in the right types of industry will. "


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Kent Greens Urge KCC To Do More To Help County's Vulnerable

Kent Greens have called on KCC to open the purse strings and do more for the county’s most vulnerable people. A large portion of the Council’s emergency fund to help low-income families remains unspent and Green Party KCC councillor, Martin Whybrow, is seeking assurances that the surplus will be rolled over at the end of this month and ring-fenced for its original intended purpose.

Councillor Whybrow explains: “We know that the number of people experiencing severe hardship has increased, with the government’s attack on benefits being a major cause, along with the rising cost of living. A system that fails to release funds for those that need it most looks to be fundamentally flawed, so there needs to be a reappraisal of eligibility criteria and we also have to make sure that KCC does not divert any remaining funds for other purposes.”

The Kent Support and Assistance Service (KSAS) was established by KCC on 1 April 2013 following the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which transferred the management of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund and Community Care Grants to 150 local authorities across England.

The devolved funding is used to help people on low income manage during crisis situations, such as helping when gas and electricity have been cut off, providing cash for food, the purchase of cookers, furniture or clothes. However, instead of providing cash, KSAS generally provides vouchers and help in kind to people facing economic difficulties.

For Kent, there were two grants provided from the DWP comprising an Administration Funding Grant of £605,142 and a Programme Funding grant of £2,863,798. This total funding grant amounts to £3,468,940 for the current financial year (from 1st April 2013).

By 21st January 2014, almost 10 months into the financial year, KSAS had only spent £939,991 of this budget, with the rest unspent. At this point, 22,401 enquiries had been received seeking advice, support and assistance. From these enquiries, 6,702 applications for goods and services had been made, resulting in 4,028 households being granted an award. The total number of awards was 7,415 as often households will have more than one award in a single application e.g. a single application may request food, energy and clothing.

To put this into context, there were more than 20,000 cases of people being offered help in a crisis in the final year of the Community Care Grant and Social Fund (1). 

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, said: “The money allocated to KSAS is not ring-fenced and any underspends at the end of the financial year can be used for other purposes. The scheme needs to be better publicised and we want assurances that the large amount that will be left at the end of April will be added to the funding for 2014/15.”

Councillor Whybrow is also concerned about the criteria. “It is clear that many on benefits are now the victims of unwarranted sanctioning, typically with little or no warning, and this can cause immediate hardship. I know from talking to people in this situation and from voluntary groups that work with the vulnerable, there is amazement that at the moment when help is most needed, these people are seldom deemed eligible for KSAS, with the official explanation being that this would be, in the words of KCC, undermining the work of the DWP.”

 Ends

FURTHER INFORMATION:  Councillor Ian Driver, Tel: 07866 588767, or Martin Whybrow on 07787 124794

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

 Notes

The breakdown of the number and costs of the goods and services that have provided to residents under KSAS to 21st January is:

 Year to 21/1                    Food            Energy        Equipment     Travel          Cash    Total awards

Number of awards           3,658           2,172          1,471           18              96            7,415

Spend                           £309,545        £102,571     £519,695    £1,059      £7,121  £939,991

Value of awards by district:

Ashford                        9.30%
Canterbury                  7.12%
Dartford                       5.90%
Dover                          8.86%
Gravesham                 7.61%
Maidstone                    8.50%
Sevenoaks                  1.96%
Shepway                     9.51%
Swale                          13.87%
Thanet                          20.29%
Tonbridge & Malling    3.75%
Tunbridge Wells          3.35%

 1. See spreadsheet attached to this e-mail. Figures produced by the Guardian. See http://www.theguardian.com/politics/datablog/2014/apr/20/the-crisis-in-local-welfare-assistance-explained
In addition, KSAS supported 47 individuals who were evacuated from their homes in the Yalding and East Farleigh areas due to flooding.

Friday, 18 April 2014

Green Party Urgent Action to Tackle Kent's "Killer Pollution"

Kent Greens are  calling on KCC to take urgent action to tackle the county’s “killer pollution” problem.

According to a major report published  by Public Health England (PHE) last week, 25,000 people, aged 25 or over, died from  cardiovascular and respiratory causes  linked to long-term exposure to air pollution in 2010 (1). Kent has the highest rate of air pollution related deaths in South East England at 745. Neighbouring Surrey had 527 deaths, East Sussex 294, West Sussex 429, and Hampshire 294(2).

Out of the 12 Kent District Councils, Thanet had  90 air pollution related deaths, the largest number in the county. Canterbury was in second place at 81. The lowest numbers of air pollution related deaths  were in Ashford with 50 and Tunbridge Wells with 46 (3).

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,  said “Too many people are dying prematurely because of airborne pollution produced by  cars and industry. This pollution is also a cause of respiratory illness amongst children and young people and is a major contributor to climate change. KCC needs to urgently review this unacceptable situation and review and strengthen its strategies to reduce airborne pollution and premature deaths across the county”.

“Thanet and the other Kent councils should all  be investing more money in the development of better cycling facilities, the promotion of walking and the improvement and expansion of affordable public transport. There should also be an major increase in roadside vehicle emission testing to catch and fine  polluters”.
The PHE research  was published several days after a report commissioned by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, revealed that almost  42,000 Kent school students attend schools located within 150 metres of busy roads (roads with more than 10,000 vehicle movements per day), placing  their cardiovascular and respiratory health at  high levels of risk (4).

Ends
Notes

Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014. http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607
See above report
Figures extracted from 1.Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014.



District Attributable  deaths

Ashford 50

Canterbury 81

Dartford 54

Dover 61

Gravesham 52

Maidstone 75

Sevenoaks 57

Shepway 58

Swale  68

Thanet 90

Tonbridge and Malling 53

Tunbridge Wells 46

TOTAL 745

 Keith launches air pollution report in Canterbury http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2014/04/09/keith-launches-air-pollution-report-in-canterbury/

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Pathetic: New data shows KCC has done nothing to increase cycling

Pathetic, is how the Kent's Green County Councillor has described cycling to work rates across the country. Figures released last week[1] show that cycling to work has fallen in every area of Kent since 2001.

Martin Whybrow, Green Party Kent County Councillor for Hythe, said : "The proportion of people cycling to work has fallen by a fifth over the past 10 years, from a previously paltry 2.0% to a pathetic 1.6% in Kent. This contrasts with rises in London of up to 7.6%.

"Furthermore, cycling to work has fallen in every area across Kent which simply shows that Kent County Council has done nothing to promote one of the most sustainable forms of transport.

"With air pollution at dangerous levels in the county, including a smog this month which prompted warnings for people to stay indoors, real action is urgently needed to increase cycling across the county."

Far from meeting road casualty targets, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured on Kent's roads has been increasing of late[2].

"This is an extremely car-centric council that gives scant consideration to cycling. There is no concerted effort to improve safety and thereby encourage more cycling," concludes Cllr Whybrow.

1. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-353510

Monday, 3 March 2014

Kent Greens Call for Abolition of County Council

The Green Party is calling for the abolition of Kent County Council and its replacement by six unitary councils based on the following groupings.

    Thanet and  Dover (population 245,500)
    Canterbury and Swale (population 287,000)
    Shepway and Ashford (population 226,000)
    Maidstone Tonbridge and  Malling (population 289,000)
    Dartford and Gravesham (population 199,000)
    Sevenoaks, and Tunbridge Wells (population 230,000)

Existing Medway unitary council with a population 264,000 will remain unchanged.

 The new unitary authorities  would provide education, social care, highways, planning, housing, refuse collection and many other services to populations of between 200,000 – 300,000 people.

Chair of Kent Green Party and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, Stuart Jeffrey said “the existing county council is too large and unwieldy. It lacks any real connection and accountability to the people it serves. Local government should, by definition, be based as close to its electors as possible, rather than being inaccessible to most of Kent’s residents.

Smaller unitary councils will bring together areas  of  Kent which are already closely  connected and share many common issues. They will also bring together residents, staff and politicians with an expert understanding of the areas covered by the new councils. This would place them in a stronger  position to develop  more effective policies and strategies than the current Maidstone based system”.

Green Party Thanet District Councillor Ian Driver said, “In  East Kent many of the District Councils are already working closely together. They have  successfully  shared Housing, Human Resources, IT,  Revenues, Benefits and  Audit services for several years, so why not include KCC services as well?

I believe that the new unitary councils should be elected by proportional representation so that smaller parties and independent candidates can  be represented giving a more balanced and inclusive approach to decision making. The new councils should be managed by committee systems to prevent power being concentrated into the hands of a tiny handful of cabinet members and they should be underpinned and supported by a strong system of parish and town councils which will ensure community accountability”.

The establishment of unitary authorities will form part of the Kent Green Party’s manifesto for the 2015 council elections.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Kent Greens Condem Fracking Bribery

Today’s Government announcement allowing local councils to retain 100% of business rates paid by fracking site operators, alongside industry proposals to pay local communities £100,000 lump sums and 1% of revenues for each  drilling rig (1), have been condemned by the Kent Green Party as “fracking bribery”.

Green Party Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South, Ian Driver, said: “The Government is preparing to hand out cash sweeteners and inducements in advance of the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licensing (PEDL) round, taking place later this year.”

In Kent only two sites, one to the west and one to the east of the county, are currently licensed for oil and gas exploration. But Driver warns that maps produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (2) show that “every last square inch of Kent’s land will be brought under the PEDL licensing scheme”,  allowing companies such as Cuadrilla,  notorious for its Balcombe drilling site, to purchase exploration rights anywhere in the county, providing they have the permission of the landowner.”

The Government predicts a strong interest in the licence sales, especially in the South East. In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Sevenoaks MP and Minister of State for Energy, Michael Fallon, said that significant reserves of shale gas are likely to be found “right across the South. We’re talking about Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, into Kent” and that “households right across the South should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas (3)”.

Government reassurances that, if properly regulated, controversial fracking techniques can be carried out without danger are hotly disputed by Driver, who said: “There is strong and compelling evidence emerging from countries such as the USA and Australia, where fracking has been taking place for some time, that such procedures can never be carried out safely.

“Even the Government’s own Environmental Assessment highlights the dangers of  fracking, including the astronomical demand for billions of cubic metres of water, much of which will become polluted by the extraction process, the danger to underground drinking water supplies (especially in Kent where 70% of drinking water comes from underground sources),  the huge number of  additional vehicle movements and congestion in the countryside, where many drilling rigs will be located, and the noise and atmospheric pollution associated with this process (4).”

Despite the large financial incentives, Driver predicts strong opposition to the expansion of gas exploration and extraction in Kent. “In East Kent, exploration company Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd was recently forced, by overwhelming public opposition, to withdraw three planning applications for exploratory drilling at Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone (5). Planning authority Kent County Council was inundated by hundreds of objections from local residents and all four Parish Councils covering the proposed drilling sites voted to oppose the plans.

“I expect to see many more examples of people power and community opposition developing across Kent and the rest of south-east England as the new licences are sold and planning applications to drill are submitted. Whatever the Government might say, and no matter how much they try to bribe local communities, most people don’t want their villages and towns disrupted and devastated by fracking, or the security of their water supplies put at risk. It’s too high a price to pay.

“The Green Party is the only national political party to oppose the extraction of shale and coal bed methane gas and the use of fracking processes. We will work with local communities across Kent to fight plans for drilling for gas.”

Kent Greens Councillors for Sale at £99.99

During a week in which a poll revealed 46% of voters believe MPs are “on the take” (1), the Kent Green Party has accused the county’s councillors of “pimping out their services and influence for £99.99 a go”.

This hard-hitting allegation follows the adoption, by KCC, the 12 District and many of the county’s 315 Town and Parish Councils, of the so-called Kent Code of Conduct for Members (2).

The Code, which replaces rules set by the now defunct Standards Board for England, regulates the ethical behaviour of most of Kent’s 2,500(3) plus councillors. Amongst other things, it allows them to accept gifts and hospitality up to the value of £100 without any need to make a declaration (4). This is a 400% increase on the Standards Board for England previous declaration limit of £25 for gifts and hospitality.

Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, who voted against Thanet Council’s decision to adopt the controversial gifts and hospitality rules said: “It’s morally wrong for County, District, Town or Parish Councillors to accept any form of payment or gift from constituents, businesses, lobbyists, or any other organisation. Permitting councillors to accept treats of up to £99.99 without any declaration sends out all the wrong messages. It’s like saying that Kent’s Councillors are free to pimp out their services and influence for £99.99 a go without anyone finding out. This ill-conceived Code is a charter for corruption which reinforces the impression that politicians have their snouts in the trough. It brings local government into serious disrepute.”

Driver’s views  are supported by the world’s leading anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, which in a recent report entitled “Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks” said that “. . . without transparency about gifts and hospitality, there can be no serious scrutiny of an important channel through which individuals or interest groups might seek to corruptly influence members (5).”

Said Driver “I call on the County, District, Town and Parish Councils to review their Codes of Conduct and introduce changes which prohibit councillors from receiving any gifts or hospitality from constituents, lobbyists or any other organisations. I encourage the people of Kent to lobby their Councillors to put an end to this charter for corruption.”

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Kent Greens Call Rethink on KCC Freedom Pass Changes

The Kent Green Party has called on KCC to rethink its plans to place a cap on the value of its young person’s Freedom Pass.  

In a report to be presented at Friday’s (13th December) Environment, Highways and Waste Cabinet Committee meeting (1), it is proposed to limit the 11-16 year old Freedom Pass to journeys up to the value £350. The current Freedom Pass allows unlimited journeys within Kent.

The report also proposes the introduction of a new Freedom Pass for 16–20 year olds which will be limited to journeys up to the value of £250. Both passes will cost £100 to buy and when the limit is exhausted young people or their parents will have to top up the card by purchasing extra credit.

The changes hope to save £7 million as part of KCC’s drive to reduce its costs by £239 million over the next four years.

Kent Green Party believes that such a drastic reduction in help for youngsters travelling to and from school and college is short-sighted, adding more traffic, noise and congestion on Kent’s roads, and causing potential hardship for many families. It would like to see a more generous scheme, financed by cuts to other areas, such as new road building, a phased approach to the changes, and greater weighting than at present to aid those who most need help.

Green Party County Councillor Martin Whybrow said: “I fully understand that KCC is under enormous budget constraints as a result of central government cuts and that the attractiveness of the existing Freedom Pass means it is extremely expensive for KCC. However, the proposed changes are a massive hit for Kent’s youngsters and their families. They particularly discriminate against young people in rural areas who have to make longer journeys to school or college. Their credit will be used up much sooner than young people living in urban areas of Kent and their parents may have to find up to another £300 or £400 per year to pay for the additional credit.

“It will also be another significant setback for Kent’s poorest residents, already under great pressure from the government’s attack on benefits. Some of our towns such as Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Folkestone, Margate and Ramsgate have rates of child poverty of 20% and above (2). Forcing already hard pushed parents to pay additional travel costs will make their financial situation even worse.

“We already know from a report on the impact of welfare benefit changes in Kent, which was suppressed by KCC leader, Paul Carter, last week, that a growing number of Kent families are struggling to make ends meet. Forcing many of these families to pay out additional school and college costs will cause incredible hardship for these families (3).”

Ends

Friday, 29 November 2013

Kent Greens Energy Profits Immoral In Face of Rising Winter Deaths

Kent  Greens have blasted as “immoral” the massive 77% increase in the domestic profit rate of the Big Six energy companies (1) whilst excess winter deaths rose to 31,000 – a staggering 29% more than the previous year (2).

Kent Green Party Chair and European Parliamentary Candidate, Stuart Jeffrey, said: “It’s immoral for energy companies to be increasing profit margins by such high rates when thousands of people across the country are needlessly dying each winter because they cannot afford to keep warm.

“Instead of talking about getting rid of the ‘green crap’, as Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly called fuel bill environmental levies, the Government should be rolling out a major programme of home insulation and energy efficiency focused on those most likely to be facing fuel poverty, or with medical conditions placing them at risk of  cold-related death. There must also be an independent public enquiry into the vast profits made by the energy companies and steps taken to ensure that a greater portion is re-invested in ensuring that fuel poverty and excess winter deaths become a thing of the past.”
Latest figures show that there were 630 excess winter deaths in Kent during the winter of 2011-12. The highest number of deaths was in Canterbury with 120, followed by Thanet with 90. The lowest rates were in Dartford, Dover, Gravesham and Maidstone, where 30 deaths per district were recorded (3).
According to Government research, 53,272 Kent households (an average of 9% of total households) are in fuel poverty (4). In some areas of Kent the number of households in poverty is much higher than the county average. In Canterbury, Thanet, Swale and Dover fuel poverty rates of between 17-22% are concentrated in some of the most deprived wards (5).
“With wages and benefits frozen or reducing in value, and energy price rises many times greater than inflation, thousands of Kent people will find themselves in fuel poverty with many having to make the choice between eating and heating,” said Green Party Thanet Councillor, Ian Driver.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Almost 7,000 Kent Households Fall Victim to Bedroom Tax

6,921 households in Kent have had their housing benefits cut as a result of the Government’s bedroom tax according to figures released by the Department for  Work and Pensions (1).

The figures, which cover the period April until August 2013, are the first to identify how many households have lost housing benefit payments since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 2013.

In August, the most recent period for which figures are available, 788 people living in Swale lost an average of £900 per year in housing benefit, making it the worst affected district in Kent.

The least badly affected district is Dartford, where 365 people have lost an average of £894 per year in benefits.

An estimated £6 million will have been slashed from Kent’s housing benefit payments by the end of the first year of the bedroom tax. The average loss per Kent affected household has been calculated to be a staggering £868 per year.

Kent Green Party Chairman and European Parliamentary Candidate, Stuart Jeffrey  said: “The bedroom tax is having a major impact on the most vulnerable and low-paid people in Kent. There are simply not enough smaller rented properties to move into, so people already living on a low income are being forced to cut back even further on essentials such as food, heating and clothing. This ill-conceived policy will force thousands of families in Kent into poverty.”

Evidence is now beginning to emerge that many households caught by the bedroom tax are falling into rent arrears. A survey carried out by the National Housing Federation estimates that more than 50% of housing association tenants who are affected by the bedroom tax have fallen behind with rent since the introduction of this policy (2).

The Green Party opposes the Bedroom Tax. It is unfair and targets some of the most vulnerable and deprived  people in society. The Party calls upon Kent Councils not to evict anyone falling into rent arrears as a consequence of the bedroom tax. The Green Party, alongside many charities, disabled groups and trade unions is campaigning for the  immediate abolition of the bedroom tax.   




Local authority

Households hit by bedroom tax

Average amount lost per year

Ashford

604

£807.76

Canterbury

534

£829.66

Dartford

365

£894.33

Dover

621

£750.90

Gravesham

712

£812.32

Maidstone

636

£904.89

Sevenoaks

480

£976.35

Swale

788

£899.77

Shepway

453

£775.12

Tonbridge and Malling

660

£1,013.02

Tunbridge Wells

458

£986.07

Thanet

610

£770.84


6,921

av loss  = £868




Monday, 18 November 2013

Kent Greens Warn of Fracking Frenzy

Kent should ready itself for New Year “fracking frenzy”, warns Thanet Green Party councillor, Ian Driver.

According to Driver, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will be selling off  Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDLs) early next year, covering those areas of Kent not already subject to licensing (1).

A map produced by DECC shows that licences covering more than four fifths of Kent will be up for grabs (2). It is expected that companies such as Cuadrilla, notorious for its Balcombe drilling site, will be amongst those seeking rights to explore for shale and coal bed methane gas beneath the county’s countryside.

Said Driver: “The sale of the licences will coincide with the publication of a report by the British Geological Survey (BGS) which will quantify the amount of shale and coal bed methane gas in Kent. The fieldwork for this report is already underway (3) and if, as many people predict, large reserves of gas are identified, the licences will be snapped up like hotcakes and Kent will see fracking frenzy.”

Driver’s views are echoed by Sevenoaks MP and Minister of State for Energy, Michael Fallon, who in an interview with the Daily Telegraph last week said that significant reserves of shale gas are likely to be found “right across the South – we’re talking about Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, into Kent” and that “households right across the South should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas (3).

Driver predicts powerful opposition to gas exploration and extraction. “In East Kent, Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd was recently forced, by overwhelming public opposition, to withdraw three planning applications for exploratory drilling at Guston, Shepherds Well and Tilmanstone. Planning authority, Kent County Council, was inundated by hundreds of objections from local residents, all four parish councils covering the proposed drilling sites voted to oppose the plans and the Environment Agency, CPRE-Protect Kent and Dover MP Charlie Elphicke also objected to the plans.

“I expect to see many more examples of people power and community opposition developing across Kent and the rest of South East England, as the new licences are sold and planning applications to drill are submitted. Whatever the Government might say, people don’t want their villages and towns torn up and disrupted by teams of modern day Yukon-style prospectors. Also compelling evidence continues to emerge that fracking and exploratory drilling can pollute water supplies, destroy our countryside, and poison the atmosphere. The Green Party is the only national political party to oppose the extraction of shale and coal bed methane gas and the use of fracking processes. We will work with local communities across Kent and the rest of the country to oppose the drillers and prevent their dangerous and damaging activities”.



    The opening of the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round has been confirmed to be taking place in the first half of 2014.

See https://www.gov.uk/oil-and-gas-licensing-rounds

    The DECC map of the new licence areas (shown in light blue) is attached as a separate document to this e-mail.
    See e-mail from Dr Phil Richards BGS

Dear Councillor Driver, BGS is currently conducting a geological review of the shale oil and shale gas resource potential of the Weald area on behalf of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. We are not conducting any CBM investigations in that area. Work has only just started, and will take many months yet. DECC will publish the report when it is finished, probably sometime next year. I understand that Thanet is beyond the area of study.

Dr Phil Richards, Manager, Hydrocarbons ,British Geological Survey, Murchison House

West Mains Rd Edinburgh, EH9 3LA



    Interview with Michael Fallon MP, The Daily Telegraph, 8th November.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/fracking/10437394/Fracking-is-safe...-and-its-coming-soon.html