29 April 2007

Will Gordon Brown Change Labour?

What I'm encountering on the doorstep are folks who can be put into a few different categories:

- people who, in the Tim Spall TV ads with Jim Broadbent, don't do politics

- people who are so angry that they just don't vote anymore

- people who sympathise but don't think I'll get in

- people who are undecided

- people who are strong supporters of Labour or the Tories (I've only run into 3 people over 2 years of canvassing in Earlsdon who have said they are strong/lifelong Lib Dems -- maybe Lib Dems just don't declare at the door?), and,

- people who are Labour but wavering.

There are an awful lot of this final group.

Under Tony Blair, Labour has, on a variety of issues, become a centre-right party.

Off the top of my head, I'd cite the treatment of asylum seekers, the corporate influence in education, part-privatisations of air traffic control and the London Tube, keeping the railways private, Blair saying that Thatcher was right about the Falklands and the miners' strike, and their war alliance(s) with the US.

I'd guess that long-suffering Labour voters are holding out for a change of policy, and a dose of anti-spin presentation, under a Gordon Brown government.

However, Gordon Brown has been:

- the driving force behind the public-private-partnership of the London Underground
- the man who is privatising £16 billion in student loans
- a man, who unlike Robin Cook, remained in the cabinet despite Iraq, and who has been in charge of finding the money for Britain's part in the occupation of Iraq
- for 10 years, refusing to increase taxes on the rich ... this has meant that, for his tax credit policy, he has redistributed from the middle class and better-off working class to the poor
- someone who could have delivered more childcare by running state nurseries and crĂȘches; Brown's childcare tax credit has not increased places and may have simply inflated the price of childcare
- a man who has only corporate representatives on his advisory panel on globalisation (from BP, GlaxoSmithKline, Microsoft, Rolls Royce, Citigroup, Wal-Mart and eBay), that is to say, no representatives from NGOs, aid agencies, trade unions or human rights groups
- a man who Lord Turnbull (former Treasury permanent secretary) described as exercising such tight control of finances that he undermined government cohesion and coherence. Turnbull also said that Brown has a "very cynical view of mankind and his colleagues" and treats them dismissively, and that Brown prefers outsiders like Derek Wanless (NHS) and Paul Myners (corporate governance) to develop new ideas.

I fail to see how Gordon Brown will be agent of a wide-ranging renewal of Labour.

If anything, he will continue the PFI-led creeping privatisation of our public services, and in terms of spin/presentation, might out control-freak the control-freak's control-freak, Tony Blair.

28 April 2007

Plastic Bags No More!

Before I go out to pound the streets for six hours today and six hours tomorrow, I thought I'd post up this interesting story from a town in Devon.

The town's 43 traders have pledged to no longer sell, give away or otherwise provide plastic bags to anyone in Modbury for a minimum of six months.

The retailers have commissioned 2,000 official Modbury bags, which could soon be collectors' items. Made in Mumbai, they will sell for £3.95. The shops have sent all their unused plastic bags to Newcastle where they are being made into plastic chairs. The town has also set up "plastic bag amnesty points" where people can drop off the bags they keep under the kitchen sink.

It's a great story about small business coming together, since they realise the international impact of plastic bag pollution.

27 April 2007

Unison and PCS Hustings Last Night

Myself, Bryn Tittle and Dan Finnan attended, and I was the representative for the party on the panel. The other panelists were Dave Nellist (Socialists), John Mutton (Labour), Russell Fields (Lib Dems), and Caron McKenna (Respect).

It was my first hustings, by which I mean that I was nervous and it probably showed. The speakers for each question were in alpha order by party, so I was first each time too.

I suppose that myself and Caron faced an inherent disadvantage, as the other three were already councillors, and they could use "this happened at Scrutiny Board 4 in November 2002" comments.

- I fully support Unison’s request to negotiate with council leaders. 23% of Coventry City Council workers will lose out under single status. Despite its aim that pay discrepancies between men and women are addressed, in many instances, female staff will be worse off or have their pay capped. If we want to attract talented and hard-working people, who will make a difference in people’s lives, into public sector work, pay should reflect that.

- Central government needs to fund efforts to end pay inequality. Gordon Brown can't wash his hands of this issue. We need both pay equality and to avoid cuts in local services or council tax rises.

- The problem with PFI is that is has led to a greater burden upon taxpayers (building schools and hospitals on the never-never), reduced employment rights for workers transferred to the private sector, and guaranteed profits for shareholders. We oppose the PFI for funding the renewal of street lighting in Coventry (while renewal is needed, public funding is cheaper in the long-run).

- In general, companies shouldn’t make a profit out of basic public services, whether it is health, education or prisons.

- I oppose any further reduction in service provision or involvement of private companies within health delivery in Coventry.

- In contrast to the PFI, one-massive-hospital approach, I’d like to see community-based publicly-run centres that emphasise preventative healthcare. That means outreach projects on diet (to save long term costs in NHS treatment of diabetes), properly funded NHS dentistry, community physiotherapy, mental health appointments, sexual health clinics (especially for youth and university students), and blood clinics.

- We need to reduce the use of consultants (whose growth in the public sector have gone hand-in-hand with the PFI and target-driven Blairite culture).

- Last, but not least, the insights and know-how of union members in the public services in Coventry, who have daily contact with people who use public services, could be harnessed, rather than sticking with a top-down, consultant-oriented, form of management.

25 April 2007

Community Media In Coventry

We need more ways of binding communities together.

One way of doing this is through community media.

Community media is community-owned and controlled, and it has a key role in reaching people and communities at risk of exclusion and disadvantage.

Here in Coventry, we have The Hillz FM in Hillfields, a community radio project that tries to re-engage with 13 to 19 year olds who are in not in education, employment or training.

Liverpool has a fascinating community TV project, Tenantspin. 50% of Tenantspin's content was about social housing issues, and 50% content from artists commissions. It was developed and produced by high-rise social housing residents, the majority of whom are over 50, and residents are trained in studio management, production, research and presentation.

In a world that is increasingly complex and global, we need projects like this to empower people to become media producers, not just passive consumers.

As the Community Media Association puts it:

Community-based radio, television and Internet projects work by enabling people to become media producers, to send as well as to receive, and, by working together, to reinforce knowledge, dialogue and cultural expression at neighbourhood and community level. Access to new media and communication technologies is seen as an essential part of public life and a democratic culture.

24 April 2007

Private Prisons in Warwickshire

In light of Panorama's undercover sting at privately-run Rye Hill Prison (between Coventry and Rugby), Mark Serwotka's letter in the Guardian today is timely. Serwotka is the General Secretrary of the PCS (Public and Commercial Services) union.

There is no evidence that privateers have brought about "innovations in prison design and improved rehabilitation." Britain already has the most privatised prison system in Europe ... Private prisons constantly feature in some of the most critical prisons inspectorate reports and rely on using fewer staff, lower wages and less employment protection for their profits. The answer is not to award £300m-plus contracts to the private sector to build more prisons; it is to invest in measures within the public-sector prison service that will reduce reoffending: improved drug and alcohol treatments and instructional officers delivering prison education and workshops.
The idea of making profits from the incarceration of offenders is morally wrong. If the state takes someone's liberty away, the state should take responsibility for them, not contract it out.

Sexual Health and Coventry

A third of university students, surveyed by Terrence Higgins Trust and the NUS, thought latex condoms had holes in them large enough to allow HIV to pass through. They don't.

More than one in 10 of the 2,200 who took part in the survey didn't know how to put a condom on correctly. One in 10 also believed condoms should be stored in a warm place -- this may lead them to deteriorate.

With two universities in our city, this is as much of a Coventry issue as any.

Lisa Power, head of policy at Terrence Higgins Trust said:
"University students are no smarter than many other young people when it comes to sexual health. They are just as likely to believe myths about condoms and to have got more of their sex education in the playground than the classroom. We spend a fortune educating students, but leave them ignorant about key issues in their adult lives. It's hardly surprising that rates of sexually transmitted infections are soaring."
I agree with the THT's call for sex and relationships education to be compulsory in schools.

Young people need information around negotiating safer sex, how to use condoms and how to deal with relationships.

See also: HIV testing in Coventry (THT)

Offshore Wind Farms

Two interesting stories in the news:

- The "Egmond aan Zee Offshore Wind Farm" off the coast of The Netherlands has 36 turbines and cost 200 million oi-row to build. It's a joint venture of Nuon and Shell, and it was built on the initiative of the Dutch Government. It'll provide the annual electricity consumption for 100 000 Dutch households. What's more, for future projects, transmitters and mikes follow the movements of dolphins and seals. Soil samples have been taken from eighty locations to establish whether life on the sea floor is changing. Two radar systems have been installed to measure migratory bird movements, and fishing is prohibited in the wind farm, so certain species might use the area as a safe haven.

- The US is proposing a 130 wind turbine farm off Boston. It'll be built by Cape Wind Associates LLC, a privately funded Boston-based energy company. The project would meet the energy needs of 400,000 homes. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, said "We have work to do as we build a clean energy economy -- let's get on with it."

23 April 2007

How My Day Went

A good day for a number of reasons:

- The Coventry Telegraph had an article on Garden Organic Ryton's restaurant won in the "Best Organic Restaurant" category at the Organic Industry Awards by the Soil Association. Congratulations.

- I received a call from a woman in Earlsdon, requesting two posters, one for her, and one for her dad. She said that she had been impressed that I had canvassed her the year before. Worryingly, she wasn't on the electoral roll at her current address. She was on the roll at her old address (still in Earlsdon, thank goodness) and plans to now vote there. This also happened with our candidate in Radford, Dan Finnan (i.e. both of them had sent in change of address forms to the council for the electoral roll, but had got lost in the wash).

- Myself and three other Green Party candidates (Penny Walker, Cathy Wattebot, Gianluca Grimalda) met up for an arts+crafts session (making words -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- out of collected rubbish) and then did a photo for a press release, with our newly-made words, at Charterhouse Fields. We've sent out four press releases so far on:

a) urging folks not to sign BNP candidates papers
b) our election launch
c) on Bryn Tittle, our candidate in Cheylesmore (focusing on waste/incineration)
d) on Emma Biermann, our candidate in Wainbody (focusing on youth and democracy)

They'll be some coverage of a joint campaign (Campaign for Dark Skies, Coventry Friends of the Earth, Coventry Green Party) in this week's Coventry Times, on getting companies to turn off their office lights at night. We'll have a letter in this week's Times as well.

I suppose even if our other press releases don't lead to immediate coverage, the efforts will still get local media used to the idea that we're go-getters who will provide them with interesting copy.

- The final thing wasn't exactly good, but was, in a way, inspiring. My agent last year was Clive Rosher, and his wife, Maggie, passed away a few days into this year's campaign. It was her funeral today, at Canley Crematorium. The funeral had songs (The Internationale, We Shall Overcome) and many rememberances of her, her humour, her love of teaching, and parties that her and Clive threw. She had been active in CND for 40-some years and a stalwart supporter of Labour, including 30-some years on Coventry city council and a stint as Lady Mayoress. It was a bit odd, since I was there more as someone who knows Clive, but I felt that I came away with a much better sense of who Maggie had been.

Labour And The NHS

Labour thinks that the NHS is a vote-winner for them, or, as Patricia Hewitt says, "Health is a Labour issue. It always has been, and it always will be."

After 10 years of Labour, there is a lot wrong with our NHS and our wider approach to health in society.

The Green Party is particularly concerned at the number of public service workers who suffer extreme stress and end up leaving their posts. We now face the irony of stressed staff trying to heal stressed people.

Much of the NHS budget is spent treating cancer, mental illness and heart disease -- symptoms of our increasingly stressed and polluted way of life. We would be in favour of more preventative healthcare, short term actions for long term health and savings.

Led by Darren Johnson on the London Assembly, the Green Party is championing the right of Londoners to have clinics within walking distance of their homes. Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas are fighting to prevent Britain's health services from being forced open to international competition and privatisation.

Finally, we need to build a partnership between government, public sector workers and the communities they serve. That doesn't mean wasting our money by paying a private company £240m to provide a hospital that could have been built for £60m less on the NHS. Health care needs to be free at the point of use, including prescriptions, eye tests and dental treatment. Greens believe that the health service should be properly funded from higher levels of tax on higher incomes.

22 April 2007

Canvassing Update

In Earlsdon, we've been canvassing Winifred Road, Spencer Avenue, Tile Hill Lane, Hendre Close, Mayfield Road, Mickleton Ave, and Stanway Road over the last few days.

The primary goal is to talk to people on the doorstep and find out what issues matter to them.

The secondary goal is to get an idea of who are lifelong voters for one party or another, and who are the folks who decide based on the leaflets, who are undecided, who are wavering, etc. This will lead to "remember to vote Green" leaflets for all the houses we've visited.

Posters are being printed for use in Cheylesmore, and on the University of Warwick campus.

For our other wards, our candidate in Binley and Willenhall, Cathy Wattebot, is working on an A5 "paper candidate manifesto" to drop off to the 10 people per ward who signed our nomination papers.

It's always unclear how the vote will shake out. The dream scenario is for us to win Earlsdon and Cheylesmore.

With poor local election turnout (35%), even if a party last year received nigh on 50% of the vote, like the Tories did in Earlsdon, that's only 170 people out of every 1000 voters. Our goal in Earlsdon is for our message to reach the other 800 voters.

In Cheylesmore, it'll be more of a 5-candidate split, and if our candidate, Bryn Tittle, can secure 32% of the vote (112 voters out of 1000, based on 35% turnout), then four candidates will have to split 68% of the rest.

News From Iraq

- Tens of thousands of Iraqis are leaving the country each month. More than one million Iraqis now live in Syria, plus 750,000 more in neighbouring Jordan. The movement of Iraqis is being called the biggest displacement of people since Palestinian refugees and the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

- Last Wednesday, a series of bombings in Baghdad killed more than 200 people in the worst day of violence since the US-led "surge" began in mid-February. That's the same as 400 people dying in a country the size of Britain, or 2000 people dying in the US. How much coverage do you think it received in the US, compared to the Virginia Tech shootings?

- The new big US solution to the violence unleashed in Baghdad are Berlin/Belfast style walls between neighbourhoods. However:
"Erecting concrete walls between neighbourhoods is not a solution to the collapse in security and the rampant violence," housewife Um Haider told AFP news agency. "If so, Baghdadis would find themselves in a maze of high walls overnight."

Another resident, Mustafa, said: "I resent the barrier. It will make Adhamiya a big prison."
- Oliver Stone is to direct an advert for a campaign calling for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. It'll focus on the views of servicemen and women who have served in Iraq.

18 April 2007

French Postal Service and Electric Vehicles

At least someone's got the right idea.

The French postal service, La Poste, plans to order 10,000 electric delivery vehicles. They'll save 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per vehicle. It's six times cheaper to run an electric vehicle than a diesel one.

We need a similar commitment from British delivery organisations -- courier companies, the Royal Mail, home deliveries by supermarkets -- to support the electric vehicle industry.

New Thinking From The Green Party

- The UK Drug Policy Commission has found that Britain has the worst level of drug abuse in Europe and the second-highest rate of drug-related deaths. The study found that the number of heroin users in England alone is estimated at 281,000, compared to just 5,000 in 1975. Longer jail sentences and more arrests have not cut the number of addicts, nor the availability of drugs. Drugs policies in Britain aren't working. The Green Party is in favour of taking drugs, such as cannabis, out of the hands of criminal mafia. Mafia compete against each other, making drug supplies more and more potent to keep their customers. Legalisation would break that cycle.

- The national minimum wage does not allow many workers to escape poverty, so why not have a Green policy like a Citizen's Income? Barring that, the Green Party is involved in living wage campaigns, notably around the Olympic contracts in London. In the UK, 4.25 million adults, from aged 22 to retirement, were paid less than £6.50 per hour in 2006. Two thirds of these were women. We can't have a sustainable society without social justice.

- New buildings, such as secondary schools, have to have environmental transparency built into them. This means schools with display panels to show students can see how much electricity is being generated from renewable on-site sources. It would mean school meals cooked on site with local produce and schools with their own recycling centres. It would mean desks made from recycled yoghurt pots, more solar panels, water monitoring systems, and biomass boilers.

17 April 2007

Myths About Asylum And Migration

I've sent this off, in slightly different form, to the Telegraph today:

"The problem with a surge in BNP candidates, along with right-wing policies by Labour and the Conservatives, is that it leads to myths and half truths. Asylum seekers and refugees are less than 2% of the population of Coventry. They’re not pouring into our city. Until a decision on their claim, asylum seekers have to live on a poverty-level subsidy and aren’t allowed to work. We do have our share of economic migrants from Eastern Europe, but it’s not the highlife. Some are living six to a house, and are being exploited due to not knowing about employment rights or health and safety.

If you don’t bother understanding anyone different than you -- whether it is migrants, Muslims, asylum seekers, “scoungers who should get a job,” or gays, lesbians and bisexuals -- and if you hate a group hard enough, they start to seem less than human. Once that’s achieved, you can start taking their rights away.

We’re facing challenges like globalisation and global warming, and we have to build up local alternatives together, not become separated by difference."

Tesco's Profits of £2.55 Billion

That's £291 000 an hour.

The Today programme's Greg Wood had a barbed 4-minute interview with Terry Leahy, the chief exec of Tesco, this morning.

Wood pointed out that Tesco had objected to the Competition Commission's definition of a "local store." The Commission had defined "local" as a 15 minute drive away, whilst Tesco wanted a definition of 30 minutes. Wood said that you can drive from Liverpool to Manchester in 30 minutes, and that if his local pub was 30 minutes away, people would think he was barmy.

I'd probably respond that stores should be compared within a 10 minute bicycle ride. Driving a half-hour from your house or flat in Coventry to shop at Tesco?

It's a simple choice.

Do we want to patronise mammoth stores like Tesco, which now controls just over 30% of the UK market, or Saino's or Asda or Morrisons? It's a model that is dependent upon cheap petrol to keep their distribution centres linked to their hundreds of stores, with just-in-time deliveries. It's a model that prides itself on providing out-of-season fruit shipped from across the world year-round.

Or should we support locally-owned green grocers and butchers with locally-sourced and seasonal food, and independent health food and organic food shops?

15 April 2007

Canvassing Begins!

We only have 150-odd leaflets remaining out of 6500 in Earlsdon, so I've started to canvass streets in the ward down by the A45 and Kenilworth Road-- Cannon Close, Stareton Close and Gregory Avenue, so far.

A woman said on Gregory that it had been the first time in 20 years of living there that a local politician had knocked her door and asked for her vote.

It's puzzling why there is no canvassing going on, both last year and this year. If local politicians don't want an apathetic public, they have to press the flesh and present themselves on the doorstep. The public should expect all five candidates in Earlsdon to be canvassing them at some time in the next fortnight, not one candidate calling on them every two decades.

It's also a mystery to me why Coventry doesn't have a culture of having all candidates meetings, in Earlsdon at least. About a month ago, I sent out a letter asking primary schools, pubs with large back rooms and churches to consider hosting one, but no word as of yet.

Our candidate in Cheylesmore, Bryn Tittle, had an idea the other day for weekly surgeries throughout the year by Green councillors. I can't agree more. We need to increase the contact and availability by local politicians to break down this idea between "politics" and what matters to people in everyday life. That's one reason why I've been maintaining this blog for the last nine months.

Asylum and Immigration in Coventry

The definition of a refugee, under the 1951 UN Convention, is a "person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country."

Refugees are only 2% of the population of Coventry. Most refugees, in fact, never reach Britain -- the UK only takes 1 in 2000 of the global total of refugees.

Nevertheless, asylum seekers and refugees are convenient scapegoats for the far-right. Heck, in a coded far-rightist letter in the Coventry Observer two weeks back, asylum seekers and migrants were even blamed for road congestion. Who knew? No traffic problems on the A45 if we just close the border. This hysteric rhetoric will get worse before it gets better, with 16 BNP candidates in this year's elections.

Refugees and asylum seekers bring a wide range of skills and diversity to our city. They've left their country, culture, profession, friends and native language behind. They face discrimination in employment once here, either through a lack of English, or through racism. It's important to provide services for asylum seekers and refugees, if only for the purposes of (buzzword alert) community cohesion.

One interesting project in Coventry in the last year was at the Belgrade Theatre.

Young refugees and asylum seekers were given free lessons in clowning. The workshops were aimed at boosting confidence, improving language skills and, frankly, helping them to laugh again, in the face of dislocation and trauma.

11 April 2007

Tile Hill Lane and Buses

As part of the ongoing Primelines bus project by the city council, there are plans to make the entrance to Tile Hill Lane, from the A45 end, bus-only.

It's a rat run, and it's a needed change. We need to create safer communities, and children have a far greater chance of suriving being hit by a car if cars are driving at 20mph, not 35mph or higher. Hull has been a pioneer in this regard, creating over one hundred 20mph zones.

The change (bus-only access at the A45 end) would be accompagnied by improvements to cycle facilities, bus stop and shelter upgrading, and landscaping works.

The problem, I've been informed by a local resident today, is that a local takeaway is gathering signatures for a petition against the changes (i.e. they fear a loss of business if people have to drive around to the Village Hotel end to enter Tile Hill Lane and double back).

It occurs to me that maybe they'd gain local customers if they were seen to champion a safer environment along Tile Hill Lane, or customers who are people who'd hop a bus to the takeaway and back. There's a win-win here somewhere. I think, with transit planning, it's about getting more people onto buses and out of cars, but it's also about rallying support through public education campaigns that go door-to-door in the community.

10 April 2007

Reducing Rubbish in Coventry

How does Belgium recycle three times as much as Britain?

Their waste portion of council tax is seperate, an annual waste fee (£56 in this BBC example).

On top, they pay a variable charge based on the weight and volume of waste they leave for collection. Special rubbish lorries weigh each household's bin to calculate the variable charge.

If you produce less waste, you pay less. If you recycle more, you pay less.

The BBC reports that "For the keenest recyclers, the total final bill for the year including the fixed charge can be as little as £70. For those who don't control their waste, it can climb to nearly £180."

Local government needs to use this kind of carrot to drastically up our recycling rate.

Right now, some of us are in a comfort zone: I put out my papers and use the glass recycling, and therefore, I'm doing all that I can ... When, in fact, we're consuming at the same rate, and we don't recycle plastics, and composting is not widespread.

Pub Trouble at The City Arms

This morning, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire was reporting the trouble at the City Arms on the bank holiday. Due to violent conduct, they had to close early. As well, last week, a man was beat up in front of the Coventry Building Society.

We need to ask some hard questions about the "night time" economy in Earlsdon.

- Cars on Friday and Saturday nights use Earlsdon High Street as a drag strip, and 80% of pedestrian deaths on Friday and Saturday nights in Britain are alcohol-related. We need police enforcement of safe driving on our streets on weekend evenings.

- We need an organised taxi rank with information on how much fares would be to other parts of Coventry, with proper lighting. Other cities (Cardiff, Brighton) have had pilot projects of taxi drivers distributing safe sex information and condoms.

- Fiona Measham, a criminologist at Lancaster University, spoke on Radio 4 last September about how the drinks industry has gradually increased the strength of drinks (as well as creating new beverages, like alcopops). Part of what is going on is a culture where people can ask for triple sambucas throughout the night, and the bar keeps serving them.

- I support a review of late licenses that Coventry has granted, at the earliest opportunity, in all cases where there is any evidence of the licenses leading to crime or disorder.

09 April 2007

A Sustainable Coventry

This link is to the 2006-2007 report to the city council (specifically, to Kevin Foster, cabinet member for City Services) from Chris Thomas, the council's Sustainable City Co-Ordinator.


"3.1.1 The Sustainability Team has continued to be understaffed for a number of reasons during 2006-2007, with one member of staff, rather than three. This has clearly resulted in a reduction in outputs, but colleagues in other Directorates have covered some key areas originally allocated to the Team."

" In the absence of an education officer in the Sustainable City Team, work with schools other than the sub-regional Coombe event has made little progress." The biennial "Indicators for a Sustainable City" report was due to be published during 2005-2006 and was postponed to 2006-2007. This has again been delayed due to the lack of staff resource.

This understaffing has occured for two years running (since 1st July 2005, to be exact).

If they lost two-thirds of their small business advice staff, would they just not rehire for two years? If the council lost two-thirds of their youth workers, whoops, let's not rehire for a few years? It's scandalous. Why?


"With regard to sustainable procurement, the City Council has achieved National Procurement Strategy milestones around procurement's relationship to social, economic, and environmental issues. This also includes considering how the Council will encourage a diverse and competitive supply market, including small firms, social enterprises, ethnic minority businesses and the voluntary and community sector."

I suppose my problem is with the phrase "will encourage", as opposed to "require." We need to require council departments to procure from local ethically-oriented small businesses.


" The newly appointed Sustainable Communities Officer will be spending an estimated one day per week (on average) on fair trade activities."

A city with 300 000 people must have more than one council employee putting only 20% of their time towards promoting fair trade activities.


"IP1 Produce a draft Climate Change Strategy for Coventry for further input and consultation from the wider community. The draft Strategy will include an action plan to tackle the causes and effects of climate change in the context of the Council as service provider and estate manager. Following community consultation, it will ultimately include actions relevant to all sectors and individuals."

The report states that the target to achieve this objective is June 2007, and that is only for a consultation draft. Bear in mind that the council signed the Nottingham Declaration on climate change in October 2006.

So, eight months for a draft strategy.

If we leave it to the "grey" parties at the Council House, how long until we have an implemented, muscular and effective strategy that affects all council activity across all council directorates?

The Campaign So Far

You can find a list of all the candidates for all 18 wards in Coventry here.

The number of BNP candidates is as I had feared. It's unclear where they will strongly campaign and where they will just be on the ballot.

We've distributed 60% of our leaflets for Earlsdon, and I've just been told that we're halfway in distributing our leaflets in Cheylesmore.

The Earlsdon Echo asks each candidate in Earlsdon and Whoberley to write up a 100-word summary of their platform, so I will need to do that sometime later in the week. As well, I'm hoping that a few venues will host all candidates meetings, so we can get our message out to even more people.

We're planning a few weekend stalls for the remainder of the campaign. Even if those fall through, you will see us out on Saturdays on Earlsdon High Street, talking with passersby.

Finally, I have a series of press releases to send out, on issues such as youth employment and training, Trident and being anti-war, plastic recycling, our attitude to democracy and a pledge to hold weekly surgeries, crime, community finance initiatives, cultural policy, and renewable energy being part of new housing/corporate developments.

07 April 2007

Green Candidates Across Coventry

In addition to our campaigns in Earlsdon and Cheylesmore, the Coventry Green Party is running in six other wards across Coventry for the 2007 elections.

Combining a message of environmentalism and social justice, we will highlight a number of issues:

- three years after Ken Taylor became council leader, we still lack a climate change strategy for Coventry; we need comprehensive action on climate change and carbon emission reduction
- being pro-peace and anti-war
- Coventry’s use of incineration and our lack of plastic kerbside recycling
- supporting the local economy (high street shops, small business, postal services)
- pushing for youth facilities and youth employment projects
- funding for English courses to help migrants, asylum seekers and refugees integrate into our community and access the services and support which they require

The Coventry Green Party’s candidates are:

Bablake – Gianluca Grimalda, 35, is a researcher at the University of Warwick’s Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation.

Binley and Willenhall – Cathy Wattebot is an active volunteer with her church, the Coventry Peace House, and the World Development Movement.

Cheylesmore – Bryn Tittle, 26, is an advocate at Grapevine, a charity that promotes equality for people with a learning disability. Bryn has started an election blog: cheylesmoregreens.blogspot.com

Earlsdon – Scott Redding, 34, ran last year in Earlsdon and received 16% of the vote. He works at WATCH, a charity that provides IT access, employment advice and youth training.

Foleshill – Penny Walker, 56, is one of the founding members of the Coventry Peace House, a housing co-operative and peace and environmental centre on Stoney Stanton Road.

Longford -- Natalia Grana, 29, is a full-time mom and a parent governor at Hillfields Nursery. Natalia is co-coordinator of Coventry Friends of the Earth.

Radford – Dan Finnan, 25, is the co-ordinator of the Hillz FM radio project in Hillfields.

Wainbody – Emma Biermann, 20, is a student in Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick. She is the national campaigns co-ordinator for the Young Greens (all party members who are 30 and younger, and student members of any age).

While we didn't plan it this way, our eight candidates have two interesting 50-50 splits:

- we have an equal number of male and female candidates. 23% of candidates in Coventry’s 2006 elections were women.
- we have an equal number of candidates under 30 and over 30 years old

Again, if you want to help our campaign, or want an A4 poster for your window, get in touch!

For more information, please call me on 07906 316 726, or email sgredding2003@yahoo.co.uk.

03 April 2007

Conservative Proposals for the Police

Yet another Conservative policy review has come out, but I'm finding it hard to figure out exactly what they mean.

This time it's about the police. The Conservatives talk about "bottom-up local accountability" and replacing "state control with social responsibility." But, when you look at what ideas they are floating (and they're uncosted and not party policy), they include:

More work [being] handed over to civilian staff and private firms in a bid to allow officers more time on the beat, it says, to the point of paying commercial security firms to guard crime scenes, hunt down people who jump bail, monitor "at risk" prisoners and carry out security checks.
More local accountability means more privatisation? Is "social responsibility" a synonym for privatisation for David Cameron?

The other police-related item in the news has been "Talking CCTV" and Coventry being one of the first cities to receive "Respect agenda" funding for it. What will happen is the following. Anti-social elements simply won't litter near the cameras with loudspeakers. They'll do it somewhere else. CCTV doesn't solve crime, it pushes crime away to other areas of the city. CCTV doesn't prevent crime, it just records it.

The logic of CCTV is that you need cameras everywhere, so that crime doesn't get pushed. This has led to Britain having 4.2 million CCTV cameras (20% of the world's total). Inevitably, we'll see demands for more and more loudspeakers linked to cameras, so I view this as a slippery slope.

It's a bit disturbing that they're linking publicity posters for the Talking CCTV to a competition by children, getting the next generation used to cameras observing them everywhere, that's it's natural for loudspeakers to tell people what to do in public.

02 April 2007

Campaign Launch for Cheylesmore

Bryn Tittle is our candidate in Cheylesmore. You can read his election blog here.

Bryn works for Grapevine, a charity that promotes equality for people with a learning disability. He's running against Kevin Foster, the city council cabinet member for the environment/city services.

Bryn's first post on his blog notes that:

One big issue is the planned incinerator. I will cover this in more detail in time but for now the important thing to note is that this huge, toxic, vastly expensive project is completely unnecessary and yet Councillor Foster defends it to the hilt ... Councillor Foster should have had recycling sorted and therefore know that the incinerator was completely unnecessary and yet he's pushing ahead with the kind of policy that should have gone out of the window 30 years ago.

Campaign Launch for Earlsdon

I'll be the candidate for the Coventry Green Party this year for Earlsdon. We received 16% of the vote last year (in 2 of the 8 polling stations, we averaged 25%), and we aim to build on that this year.

We have 7000 A4 leaflets ready, and eager election elves will soon be descending upon my house to help distribute leaflets. Since we're starting earlier than last year, we'll have 3 full weeks to canvass door-to-door and talk with you on the doorstep.

Engaging with people, and breaking down the idea that voting doesn't matter, or that politicians are all the same, will be key to our campaign. We need to be the alternative in Coventry to the mainstream "grey" parties, and as such, we're running in seven other wards this year.

Smoke Free Coventry

The smoking ban in pubs and restaurants comes into force in Wales today. Coventry will become smoke free for 1st July.

People shouldn't have to work where they are constantly exposed to carcinogens and carbon monoxide, through secondhand smoke.

What's more, polishing my crystal ball, it's going to be popular.

The Office of National Statistics did a survey in autumn 2005 on the move to smoke-free. They found that 22% of pub goers said they would go more often if smoking restrictions were in
place. Only 4% of pub goers would go less often. Personally, I'm going to go more to the Nursery Tavern in Chapelfields.

Going smoke free has become more popular in other countries after introduction. A year after Ireland's introduction of a smoke-free law, 98% surveyed in Ireland believed that workplaces were healthier because of the smoke-free law, including 94% of smokers. The same rise occured in New York and New Zealand.

Grants For Coventry Arts And Sports Groups

The city council is relaunching their small grants scheme for sports projects, arts projects and the organising of local events.

You can apply for grants of up to £1000 for sports and arts projects and up to £250 for "those wishing to organise events in their local community."

Your application needs to check one of the following four boxes:

- Extend access and increase participation
- Increase skill and creativity
- Create better opportunities for local people
- Increase volunteering opportunities for local people

01 April 2007

Concentrated Solar Power in Spain

Europe's first CSP plant (concentrated solar power) has opened in Spain. It's part of a set of Spanish solar power facilities that will generate 300MW of power by 2013, enough to cover the current consumption of 180 000 homes. The entire project will cost £815 million. So, two Wembley stadiums for 180 000 homes. Or, if you prefer 1/90th of the cost of the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent for clean power for 180 000 homes.