30 Jul 2015

Immigrants! That's right; I am appalled

If you have clicked on this article because you are hoping to find in me some kindred spirit who also is appalled at the immigration issue in Calais. Well you are absolutely right. I am appalled at the way so many people in the media, and wider public, are reacting to the situation.

Reports have cited nearly 3,000 people are at the camp in Calais and described some of the terrible journeys they have taken from war torn and desperate countries in to the hands of kidnappers and gangs to meet only xenophobia from Britain and France.

If we decided to grant space in our country for these 3000 people it would equate to a 0.005% increase in the population. What difference would this really make? Very little to the lives of you and I (my reader sat comfortably in Britain) but to these bold people who have fought against the odds? It would change their entire world.

No matter how high we build the fences, no matter how much money is spent on security, no matter how many police and soldiers are drafted in, they will keep coming. Why? Because it is worth it. We cannot even begin to understand the situation from our perspective of British socialisation.

 For too long have the countries of the west benefited from a state of affairs which has pillaged other countries through war and exploited an imbalanced global free market which sees that we are the winners whilst ensuring that there are definite losers.

Now there are people across the world looking to our country and saying “I want a bit of that”. Yet we are jealously guarding our spoils and sneering at the desperate attempts of ‘migrants’ who are leaping on to lorries and trains. Our own Prime Minister and described these people as a ‘swarm’. Equating the lives of real people with an insect infestation that must be wiped away.

The greatest thing that we could do to ensure the security of our borders is begin to give back to the parts of the world from which we have taken for too long. We need compassion. We need to hold our government to account. We need to focus spending on aid. We need to move away from wars for resources or from conflicts in lands where the situation is far too complex for us to understand the implications of our meddling. We need to talk. Most of all we need a little remorse.

23 Jul 2015

Fracking U-Turn

In my blog of 1st July celebrating Lancashire's rejection of fracking, I did mention that we should look out for the Government finding ways to promote fracking however much against the will of the people.

Its latest attempt is to renege on its promise not to drill on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and National Parks.

In January 2015 measures passed by MPs included a ban of fracking in sites of scientific interest and groundwater source protection zones, which analysts said could rule out 40 percent of the UK land offered by the government for shale gas exploration. But following amendments, Energy and Climate Change Minister Amber Rudd told MPs it would be impractical to guarantee a fracking ban in some rural areas.

Now the government is sneakily proposing that drilling can take place under these wildlife protection areas as long as the rig is outside. Remember, drilling can already take place under our houses without the house owners' permission. The government is also proposing that fracking can take place under water deposits from which our drinking water is extracted.

I have just signed the Greenpeace petition to Amber Rudd, the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change asking her to keep the promise made in January. 

Having welcomed the new regulations in January, Green MP Caroline Lucas said ministers were “doing the dirty work of the fracking companies for them.”

See the Guardian Article.

21 Jul 2015

Thank you to the 124 progressives

The bill which will see disgraceful cuts to welfare has been passed in its first reading in the House of Commons.

Yesterday I wrote about the need for progressives to work together and the simmering resistance against neoliberal, austerity is building. Unfortunately, we have now discovered that the parliamentary Labour Party on the whole are not progressive and are not prepared to stand up for the young, poor or vulnerable. Having said that, the 48 Labour MPs who boldly opposed the party whip are to commended for doing so.

Of particular note was the Labour MP, John McDonnell who explained;
"I would swim through vomit to vote against this bill and listening to some of the nauseating speeches tonight I think we might have to. Poverty in my constituency is not a lifestyle choice, it is imposed upon people.We hear lots about how high the welfare bill is, let's understand why that's the case.The housing benefit bill is so high because for generations we've failed to build council houses, we've failed to control rents, we've done nothing about the 300,000 properties that stand empty in this country."

I wanted to write this quick post for my part to say thank you to the 124 MPs who agree with Mr McDonnell and did oppose this atrocious bill. We now have a clear idea of who the progressives are in parliament and can see from which ranks we could see productive, positive alliances growing.

Who was in the 124 progressive MPs yesterday?

48 Labour MPs
55 SNP
8 Liberal Democrats
3 Plaid Cymru
1 Green

You can find out how your MP voted at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/

20 Jul 2015

Happiness and Wellbeing

A poll of 145,000 people has decided we’re a pretty miserable nation. We came 44th out of 145 countries worldwide for wellbeing, in a poll conducted by experts Gallup-Healthways.

The report interviewed 145,000 people and ranked them for several measurements of wellbeing, such as physical health, social relationships and community involvement.
The report says, “The countries doing ‘best’ aren’t the wealthiest - they’re ones where people feel at peaceand where its population felt they were ‘thriving’ ”.

Notably, Afghanistan, where UK & US forces have spent years fighting the Taliban and Al Khaida at a cost of thousands of lives and billions of pounds, is the unhappiest country. That certainly questions the value of our intervention, for both them and us.

The epidemiologists who authored “Spirit Level” provided all the evidence anyone could need to back up this poll’s findings. But the “happiness” question is one we have to raise constantly. As UK citizens we are asked to embrace “punching above our weight” and “being more competitive” as our self-interested national and internationalist view. At home individuals, by embracing the “shop 'til we drop” mantra, are to simultaneously feed the great growth god and feel better about themselves. I’m amazed we managed to come 44th.

When people are really challenged as to what is most important to them, it is usually health and family security. We are all challenged to find a way to build on that instinct to combat the cruelty of neo-liberal, anti-austerity policies and replace them with some that both recognise and extend the reach of what we all really value.

Guest Blogger: Gerald Hartley

A simmering resistance, a building movement

What a couple of weeks it has been. Even by Tory standards the weather of late has been very Tory. First we had the budget designed to make poor people poorer and rich people richer. Then we had the attempt to repeal the fox hunting ban by the back door; fox hunting is a blood sport which is the reserve of deranged elitists. Finally we have had the announcement of legislation to permanently alter the way trade unions operate and set back workers rights by around 100 years.

In addition to this George Osborne decided to basically ignore the issue of climate change in his budget, gave greater fiscal support oil companies and sort to incentivise ‘fracking’ whilst at the same time hampering the green energy movement by absurdly removing the Climate Change Levy exemption from renewable electricity.

To get a flavour of what our own local Tory is fighting for on some of the points briefly mentioned above;

In our Stroud District -   Neil Carmichael MP has voted;

 against paying higher benefits for people unable to work through illness or disability,

in favour of bedroom tax,

against benefits rising to meet cost of living,

 in favour of a reduction in welfare spending,

against a scheme to create guaranteed jobs for young people who been long term unemployed,

against a tax on bankers bonuses

against a mansion tax

in favour of reducing corporation tax

Neil Carmichael MP has stated that he will vote in favour of fox hunting.

                                 Neil Carmichael MP has a poor voting record when it comes to the environment.
When I sit down to write these blogs I want to be positive and constructive. But I am, like many of you I am sure, finding it hard to be positive right now. My MP is essentially the very antithesis of what I believe in and my government even more so.

Every morning when I come down to my kitchen and make a cup of tea, I switch on the radio as my preferred method of getting the news as I get my baby ready for the day or get ready for work. Increasingly though I am finding that my finger hovers over the preset button for Radio 4 and is tending to tap the Planet Rock preset as I say to myself ‘do you know what? I just don’t want to know today’. Of course this could just be that I am getting fed up with the today programme!

Progressives must work together

Before the budget was announced I attended a meeting of Stroud Against the Cuts. Stroud Against the Cuts brings together progressive groups from across Stroud and Gloucestershire who, despite whatever other differences, are united in their opposition to austerity.

When the election result was announced in May Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavillion, said the following;

“…we must move forward today. While the campaign for electoral reform gathers momentum, those of us wanting to see a fairer, more compassionate and progressive politics must find new ways of working together, a new way to do politics – and put that in to practice now”

This is the thing that gives me hope now; the simmering resistance that is turning in to a movement. It is a movement that questions this neoliberal austerity ideology and outright calls for something different, something more hopeful, something less damning.

It is no longer just a utopian fantasy but something eminent economists such Tim Jackson have put in to sound theory. We can create a world in which we redefine prosperity away from our ability to consume goods and amass economic wealth. We can redefine prosperity in terms of happiness, wellbeing and living within the means of this planet that we call home. We don’t have another one to fall back on after all.

The Labour Party

Following Osborne’s despicable budget it is time for the Labour Party to stand up and truly be the main opposition party. Not just opposition for the sake of it no; but because the very fabric of what makes our society great is at risk. Childhoods, retirements, working lives, already desperate lives are at risk.

I hope that the Labour Party will reach out and grasp the hand of Caroline Lucas, and will also stand up to the offer put forward by the 20 year SNP MP, Mhairi Black (youngest MP in 300 years) in her, already very famous, inspirational maiden speech;

“Now, yes we will have political differences, yes in other parliaments we may be opposing parties, but within this chamber we are not. No matter how much I may wish it, the SNP is not the sole opposition to this Government, but nor is the Labour party. It is together with all the parties on these benches that we must form an opposition, and in order to be affective we must oppose not abstain. So I reach out a genuine hand of friendship which I can only hope will be taken. Let us come together, let us be that opposition, let us be that signpost of a better society. Ultimately people are needing a voice, people are needing help, let’s give them it.”

It appears now that scores of Labour MPs are set to join Caroline Lucas in opposing the welfare cuts proposed by the Tories. It is shame that Labour MPs have to do this in defiance of the Labour leadership, but it their true opposition and defence of those who need it most is very welcome all the same.

Progressives must work together, form an opposition both locally and nationally and not allow this government to continue to ideologically dismantle all that makes our country great. The situation is already so very desperate and there has only been a Conservative majority government in power for 2 months. Imagine the horror of a Tory party unopposed for 5 years… if you dare.

19 Jul 2015

Guest blog from 'Save Grange Fields'

Here we have a guest blog from Teresa Vance (pictured) of Save Grange Fields AONB Group - an important local campaign group seeking to protect a key site in the Stroud Valleys. There is still time to act and send in an objection. While Ruscombe Green has supported campaigns against development on Grange Fields and indeed other greenfield sites, the views in this blog are not necessarily Green party views.
According to recent reports, in the six years between 2006 and 2012, 540000 acres of green space in the UK was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing. This is an area of about 870 square miles which has been lost to urbanisation in a very short time.  This has had the most impact on the South East of the country, but what happens there tends to spread around the UK, and the effect is indeed spreading. I also recently discovered that apparently in 2011 the EU set a target for its members to reduce “land take” (i.e. building on green land) to zero by 2050. It is unclear how, with this present rate of development, this will happen in the UK.
More development applications are being granted nationally than in the past, and this may be due to the financial incentives for councils, so what can we do to prevent this happening on green field sites? National Planning Policy (NPPF) is clear that local authorities should have regard to the character and beauty of the countryside, and extra protection is in place for areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and national parks. Developers tend to use the “sustainable development” clause in the NPPF, to try to justify their development of green land by citing nebulous green credentials, which it’s hard for local authorities to argue against. There needs to be better legislation to support our communities against this type of development.

A few weeks ago, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) published a report entitled “Getting Houses Built” (http://www.cpre.org.uk/resources/housing-and-planning/housing/item/3976-getting-houses-built), which discusses how best to build the required housing without compromising our green spaces. It considers the way in which land is bought by development companies and secreted in a “land bank” and then houses are built and drip-fed onto the market in a way which keeps demand and therefore prices high. This serves the share-holders well, but not the people in this country who are so desperate for housing. Nor does it advantage the communities who enjoy their local green spaces  There are several proposals made in this document about how to improve things, and all are achievable with changes in policy. One of the suggestions is that local authorities should be given more of a role in acquiring land by changing the rules on compulsory purchases, and making sure that those who sit on land without developing it are penalised in some way. This would mean that the system would be changed so that the supply of housing is not supressed. Hopefully then, things would slowly start to change and perhaps there would be better design and more custom builds by smaller companies. Overall, there would be much more transparency in the development process. 

Click 'read more ' to see more

15 Jul 2015

Making the most of the wind and sun in Cornwall

My husband and I have just returned from a winderful holiday in Cornwall. No, that is not a typo, just a description of the windy conditions we experienced. People on our campsite were complaining about the wind which seemed to be insistent on trying to blow our tents away.  But then someone said - 'Look around you'.  Yes, we were surrounded by wind turbines making efficient use of the blowy conditions.

I always know when we reach Cornwall as you see turbines of all different sizes gracefully turning round. Usually just single ones, but sometimes in groups.

Cornwall and Devon are also leading the way in solar farms. According to an article in the Western Morning News dated 16th Feb 2015

'most of the development of solar farms in England has been in the South West, with figures from CPRE suggesting, by last May, there were 98 schemes installed or in planning in Cornwall, 83 in Devon, 61 in Somerset, 30 in Dorset and 42 in Wiltshire.'
I did say to my husband, 'I wonder if Cornwall is self-sufficient in energy?'. On returning home I googled this and found an article by Bob Egerton, Cornwall Councillor which says that as of May 2015
'Over a year as a whole, Cornwall's wind turbines and solar farms can generate approximately 21% of Cornwall's electricity demand. When the latest solar farms under construction come online, that percentage will rise to about 25%.'

13 Jul 2015

We were awarded 5th Best Green Blogger 2015! Thanks!

We were delighted to learn that Ruscombe Green was awarded by GreenMatch, the title of UK’s fifth best ‘Green Blogger’. We wanted to thank local press like the Standard (see article) and Stroud News (see online article here) for covering the story.

Big thanks to all who made it possible.

8 Jul 2015

A budget for working people…wink wink

George Osborne must be having a good old chuckle about that one right now. News outlets, led by the increasingly biased BBC, have lapped up the description of the ‘budget for working people’.


‘A budget for working people’

A budget for rich people; the Tories have raised the inheritance tax threshold which the IFS have explained will benefit wealthy families. Osborne has also given tax cuts to corporations.

If you are a poor working person they will make it look like they have given you more money by introducing a ‘living wage’, but that will not actually make up what you have lost in housing benefit and tax credits.

Tax credits will now only be paid for the first two children meaning the Tories are punishing children born in to already poor families by making sure they have even less.

Despite the housing crisis affecting thousands of working people, there will be fewer affordable homes built.

‘Higher wage, lower tax, lower welfare’

A higher wage? See my below point about ‘living wage’.

Lower welfare yes, cut straight from the poor and the young.  Maintenance grants to be scrapped meaning that poorer students who want to go to university will be left with even more debt if they dare to take on the burden of trying to better their position this way.

Cuts to tax credits, cuts to housing benefit, no access to benefits for 18 -21 year olds. All supposedly to encourage people to work and not live on welfare; whilst ignoring that there are obviously not 1.86 million job vacancies out there for all of the people currently unemployed.

What will happen to all of these people for whom there are no jobs?

And lower tax. Tax is not necessarily the evil thing it is made out to be and of course pays for the kinds of vital services that make our society great, such as the NHS.

Overall, lower tax will be benefitting the already better off. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t off the back off cruel cuts from the poor.

‘A living wage’

£7.20 by April 2016 and £9 by 2020… as soon as I heard this statement and the figures I thought; £7.20 was the living wage the last time I heard many of the left calling for it as a minimum for people to survive. But then that was a long time ago. Even with my limited economic understanding I knew straight away that this wouldn’t be the case anymore.
In London currently the living wage would need to be £9.15, outside London it would need to be £7.85.

In addition, one of the most irritating points about this Tory plan is George Osborne’s defence of the tax credit cuts with his insistence that employers should pay more and that the tax payer shouldn’t need to top up wages. This is absolutely correct. Employers should be made to pay a decent wage. But this is not going to happen. Osborne’s plans for his so-called ‘living wage’, which have already been criticised by business leaders that don’t want to pay, don’t go far enough.

In order to be real ‘living wage’ then, when the cuts to welfare are taken in to account, the amount would need to be around £11.65 per hour.

‘Britain needs a pay rise’

Well no. MP’s need a pay rise apparently; they’ll be getting an 11% pay rise. Public sector pay will be frozen at 1% meaning that as the cost of living goes up they will have a drop in income. But then they only provide vital services that the Tories are rich enough to avoid having to use, so why would they care?

Of course they should care as no one is safe from the cuts because of the unimaginable damage that they will do to our society.

Benefit Cap lowered to £20,000

The benefit cap is the limit to the total amount of money that a person would be able to receive in benefits. Osborne has lowered this cap to £20,000 because he says it is not fair that someone out of work should earn more than those in work. This is a perfect explanation to ensure greater divisions in society and encourage greater hatred for the poor. It doesn't consider individual needs or family size.

As Caroline Lucas MP explained today, the benefit cap will see a further 40,000 children plunged in to poverty.

Caroline Lucas went on;

“The welfare cuts announced today will plunge thousands of people in poverty, and cause families to be evicted from their homes

So how does the wealthy Work and Pensions Secretary, Ian Duncan Smith, react to a budget that glosses over the incredible harm to poor and vulnerable people with a false ‘living wage’ promise?


Even if you think, in some way, that these cuts are necessary, you must be thinking the same as me; couldn’t they have at least contained themselves a little?

4 Jul 2015

Stroud Against the cuts Budget Demo 8th July

On Thursday 2nd July Stroud Against the Cuts held a meeting at the Old Town Hall in Stroud to discuss ‘after the election what do we do next?’

After the election what do we do next? This is the question that for me has been banging around in my head for last 2 months. It seems unbelievable to me that we are living in a Britain that is governed by a Tory majority after the 5 years that we have just been through.

This morning the press is alive with discussion of how in the ‘emergency budget’ on  July 8th, the day when he will announce £12.5bn cuts to welfare and hit the very poorest,  George Osborne will  in the next breath raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1million; a move that the Institute for Fiscal Studies have stated will ‘most likely benefit high income and wealthier households’.

It is unjust. It is immoral. It is crushing to my world view. I like to believe the best of people and I like to believe that generally people are good and try to do the right thing.
I don’t need to write here about the injustice and explain it to you. If you are feeling anything like I am this morning, you won’t be able to read any more words than I can write for being consumed with anger.

So what next?

You can join the many different people who will be standing with, and as, Stroud Against the Cuts on Wednesday 8th July, 12:30pm – 1:30pm, outside the now closed Millets store on Stroud High Street.

You don’t need to be affiliated to any group. The only thing you need is a passionate opposition to austerity.

1 Jul 2015

Government Tactics

Further to my blog of 22 June, most people will have heard the great news that Lancashire councillors voted against giving Cuadrilla planning permission to frack. This was an impressive example of people power. However, the cynic in me says - look out for a government announcement in some way curtailing local council democratic rights to decide on fracking applications. I say this because straight after the general election the government carried out a very low key consultation about not consulting local residents before letting fracking companies carry out exploratory drilling.  Also that there not should be site specific environmental assessments, but just general guidelines.

Fracking is being actively promoted by the tories.  Onshore wind power is not, so the government has just announced that wind farms cannot go ahead if the local people are against it. According to the BBC website:

'Some of the business leaders are baffled why ministers will give local people a unique veto over wind turbines, when they cannot veto shale gas fracking or even a nuclear power station on their doorstep.' 
New onshore wind farms will also be excluded from a subsidy scheme from 1 April 2016, a year earlier than expected.

Friends of the Earth's renewable energy campaigner Alasdair Cameron said:

"While the government rolls out the red carpet for fracking, they're pulling the rug out from under onshore wind."
The Green Party is against fracking and for local communities having their own wind turbines. Party leader Natalie Bennett said
“Going ahead with fracking will always have its dangers, but to begin drilling without a proper environmental audit is simply reckless, and shows what little regard ministers have for the natural environment of this country." See the full statement.

27 Jun 2015

No one is safe from the cuts

No-one is safe from the cuts and we need to stop them for the sake of all of us. At the bottom of this blog I have put a few links and bits of information which explain how you can get involved locally to help put an end to austerity.
Saturday 20th June was my son’s first birthday party and a jolly good day it was too; plenty of cake, toys and little ones having a load of fun. As I proudly held my first born and he heard the lyrics of ‘happy birthday’ for the first time, coming from a room filled with our friends and family I quite rightly noted to myself that life could not get any better. I hope for so much for my little boy in his future but top of the list is that he knows that his mummy and daddy love him and do the absolute best they can.
There is another reason Saturday 20th June will stick out in my memory though and that is because it will be they day I was unable to join 250,000 protestors who marched through London calling on the government to ‘End Austerity Now’. Although I doubt they missed me and I wouldn’t have changed my day for anything; but my friend Greg in the Cheltenham Green Party has a picture of himself at the march with Caroline Lucas that I shall be forever jealous of.

 Cheltenham Green Party and Caroline Lucas MP

No one is safe from the cuts
As I was enviously scanning other pictures from the day, whilst recovering from the fatigue of too much cake and soft play, I came across a picture that for me emphasised the greatest point about the protest; no one is safe from the cuts.

The picture shows a protestor with a placard that reads ‘save the police pensions’ and a Police Officer amicably waving to back to him. I am quite sure that there are plenty of people out there, as I have described before, who believe that austerity is necessary and that the only people really hit are those who really should be out fending for themselves but choose not to be.

Since 2010 we have lost 400,000 jobs in the public sector and can expect to lose a further 500,000 in the next 5 years. As David Walker explained in the Guardian, we don’t really know what affect this will have on the country, and the cuts to police are a very good example to pick on because it is so hard to understand crime statistics. The police don’t just respond to crime either, in fact that the National Audit Office has said that crime makes up only 22% of emergency and priority incidents. The NAO also stated that although crime stats show that crime rates have gone down, some crimes are not recorded;

“they do not include all types of crime; forces face increases in more complex risks and threats such as cyber crime and child sexual exploitation, which have historically been under-reported”

The politics of austerity is short-term politics which, although it might in some ways look good on the books now, doesn’t take in to account the wider and longer lasting implications.

Feeling the ripples

Putting aside for now the terrible woes of the street homeless, elderly and disabled and many others who are bearing the brunt of austerity, I want to continue this idea that no one is safe from the cuts.

I am from a working class background, but because I was lucky enough to have a mum who constantly pushed me to excel, I have a degree and have had some good jobs that have paid OK and that I have enjoyed.

However a change in circumstances recently with work has meant that my wife and I have had to start looking at other options we might have.

So we have considered the welfare state in the form of tax credits which looked to be able to provide us with some relief. Having both paid in well since we’ve been able to work, my wife and I felt this would be using the welfare system in a so-called ‘appropriate way’.

Cue the Tory government with their plans for £12bn cuts to welfare.

Just two days after the End Austerity Now protest, despite his own rhetoric, Cameron has begun manoeuvres against British working people. It now seems very clear that Cameron intends to make cuts to tax credits among other benefits for working people including housing benefit.

Was it people claiming tax credits and housing benefit that caused the economic downturn? No actually it was an irresponsible and greedy financial sector.

Cameron has said that reducing the welfare budget will tackle the “causes of stalled social mobility”.

Now I am quite aware that I am by no means among the worst hit by austerity and I am unlikely to be. But my own situation has obviously brought home to me some of the harsh reality of what this government is doing and how they are deepening the poverty trap.

‘Social mobility’ refers to the ability of an individual or family to move out of their position in society; to move out of the social class in other words and ‘better themselves’. Typically, in order to do this you would need to increase your ability to earn, and increase your earnings. So if you got a better paid job and received training you would be likely to achieve this. Your children would benefit from access to greater resources in the home and increased experiences and life chances.

So the question is, given that Cameron’s plans take money from people, leave them impoverished and without options; how the hell do they enable social mobility?

Who’s in the poverty trap?

Very few people are not touched directly by poverty; 3 in 5 UK households experience income poverty for at least one year and there are 13.5 million people (23% of the population) living in poverty in the UK. Combine this with revelations in the last few days that the number children living in poverty is on the increase and it is clear that we are in drastic times.

Aside from considering the moral implications of leaving so many people to suffer we need to come back to that point ‘we don’t know what the other consequences and ripple effects are’.

Effects of poverty

What are some of the further effects of poverty on a country? Often we believe that poverty only impacts the unlucky individual who doesn’t have money in their pocket; but that is not the full picture. Poverty has far wider implications for society:

  • ·         Increase in crime
  • ·         Negative impact on health
  • ·         Increase in alcohol and substance misuse
  • ·         Division and tension in society based on inequality
  • ·         Increase in terrorism
  • ·         Increase in anti-social behaviour
  • ·         Women disproportionately hit by poverty
  • ·         Negative impact on the environment
  • ·         Stagnating economy

Poverty will affect us all whether we experience it directly or not.

Poverty and class are not just about money

As a sociologist this is a point that really interests me and one that I am going to explore further in a future post.

Poverty is not just about money. Plenty of university students from middle class backgrounds will have little money but they will not experience the long term effect of living in poverty as someone who struggles to feed their family will. It is because of their future prospects and because of the support they have around them.

That is similar to my experience and I know that I am lucky. Although things are tight now for my family, we are unlikely to experience homelessness or starvation.

An increasing amount of people in our country are unable to say the same.

Even if you have money in your pocket and food in your belly though the effects of poverty will still impact on you. We cannot ignore our human interconnection for much longer.

On Saturday 20th June 250,000 people took to the streets of London and many more up and down the country did the same; they cried out that they understood our collective responsibility and made a clear demand of the government; austerity must end now.

What can you do to put an end to austerity?
On Monday 29th June you could the Bristol People’s Assembly as they consider what action to take in the lead up to the governments ‘emergency budget’ https://www.facebook.com/events/454045744782111/

On Thursday 2nd July you can join Stroud Against the Cuts as they decide what action they can take next https://www.facebook.com/events/851728144880544/

You can join the Green Party; the Green Party opposes austerity and wants to see real change for the greater good https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

The next Stroud Green Party meeting is 28th July at Star Anise café, Stroud, come and find out how you can be involved http://stroud.greenparty.org.uk/get-involved.html

26 Jun 2015

It is the Right Thing to do

'It is the right thing to do'. In my head I can hear David Cameron saying this phrase with that feigned look of sincerity which he adopts. What he really means is not that it is the correct, moral thing to do, but the 'right wing' thing to do.

He wants to renegotiate Britain's membership with the EU as he does not want to give our national rights away.  And yet he is quite happy for businesses we as a country/tax-payers own, to be sold to foreign private companies or even foreign state companies often at knock-down rates. He is also happy to support the Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership (TTIP) which will subjugate the rights of countries to those of corporations if their profits are adversely affected.

Here is an extract from his conference speech October 2014: ''Companies are coming from all over the world to invest and create jobs here. That’s not happened by accident. It’s because they see a Government rolling out the red carpet for them, cutting their red tape, cutting their taxes.'

He is also happy for foreign investors to buy up property in London making the capital too expensive for the English to live in and driving house prices up all over the UK.

It is muted that migrant health workers on whom the NHS and thus we depend, will be sent home after 6 years if they are not earning £35,000 per year.  This shows how removed this government is from the reality of life for most people - how many people earn that much?

Today I have read in the newspaper that the UK is opting out of the European plan to help 60,000 migrants. Surely the right, moral thing to do would be for the UK to take in our fair share, especially as we helped to cause the situations in Afganistan, Iraq, Libya and elsewhere. But no, the right wing thing to do is to turn one's back as it is not profitable.

The Tories are all for short term gain.  The government is going to sell off the last 30% of the Royal Mail when it is against our national interest to do so - just watch how deliveries to rural areas will decline. The government is also going to start selling off RBS shares to its friends at a loss to the tax-payer who kept the bank afloat.  Where is the national interest in that?

So rich immigrants or foreign companies owning our property and businesses and turning away those in need = right.

Immigrants desperately needing help or those benefiting our NHS and nationalised industries owned by the tax payer = bad.

Rant over for today at least!

25 Jun 2015

The Answer to Climate Change is in the Rocks !

Just wanted to share this news by Gloscan member Fred Miller of their action a few days ago - love the art they created! And makes a change from all those messages at that site of 'Jamie For Suzie' and 'Lucy loves Jim'.....mind those are nice too...I like seeing all that love! Anyhow here's his news he's also sent to local press....

On this year’s Midsummer's Day, members of local environmental group - Gloucestershire Climate Action Network (GLOSCAN) - wrote a message with rocks at Selsley Common near Stroud. The temporary art work was made with limestone rocks in an old quarry. 

"It is a well known venue for spontaneous writing and artwork using this natural material. We fully expect these words to be re-arranged next week into other words and shapes!" said Fred Miller, one of the 'stone writers' .

The message was directed at world leaders, asking them to: 'Leave the Carbon in the Rocks', referring to the need for humans to cease the burning of fossil fuels. Gloscan member, Vaughan Webber explained: “Crucial inter-governmental climate talks are ongoing this year, on which our future depends. Awareness of the issue needs to rise to this momentous occasion. "

The climate art work also depicted wind turbines, fossils and bicycles. Fred Miller explained that, " The very limestone in this old quarry is part of the world's carbon cycle, having formed from shells and corals in tropical lagoons 170 million years ago. It is a lovely rock to work with, and there is a view of the beautiful Severn Vale landscape from up here, which would all be threatened by climate change.

"The carbon that exists in coal, oil and gas needs to stay in the ground, rather than become carbon dioxide gas in the air, when it is burned. This is because CO2 gas traps heat in the atmosphere and is leading to dangerous global warming."

"But tackling climate change is not just a problem. It is also an opportunity to address modern health issues. The alternatives to fossil fuel use have this week been flagged up by the Lancet Commission on Health and Climate Change, because they offer answers to many of today's health problems, through lower pollution, more exercise and better diets."

24 Jun 2015

Guest blog: catchment wide water management

Anett Szabo & Gabriella Kovacs of Water21
Here is a guest blog from Julian Jones and the team at Water 21. It is worth noting that it was a talk by Julian that inspired local people in Ruscombe to establish and action group that spent many years successfully gaining improvements to our sewage system and waterways. Stroud is now working on catchment wide water-management solutions. You can also see 4 films made by Water21 here. Anyway here is the blog:

Report from the Commission of Inquiry into flood resilience of the future

In autumn 2014, Parliament conducted a public inquiry into delivering future flood resilience to the country. This included taking evidence from industry, various Government agencies, and local authorities.

The report seeks to set out the challenges facing local communities, and calls on both national and local government to demonstrate a greater sense of leadership, recommending a strategy which can help to provide some practical answers to these challenges. Disappointingly the Environment Agency failed both to appear before the inquiry or provide it with any written evidence.

Photo above: Dispersing flood storage for a 1/75 year storm across a steep Gloucestershire catchment

Water21's contribution based on their work in Stroud can be found highlighted on page 26 of Parliamentary Report, ‘Living With Water’:

The need for catchment wide water management

Julian Jones of Water21 (a not-for-profit organisation that works with landowners and communities to develop sustainable protection against flood, drought, and public health risks in the community) gave evidence on the need for catchment wide water management.

Catchment wide management plans are seen as an essential tool in increasing water resilience in the built environment. The aim of catchment wide plans is to reduce the downstream maximum water height of a flood (the flood peak) or to delay the arrival of the flood peak downstream, increasing the time available to prepare for floods. These aims are achieved by restricting the progress of water through a catchment. This can be done by storing water using and maintaining the capacity of, ponds, ditches, embanked reservoirs, channels or land; and increasing soil infiltration, potentially reducing surface runoff. As well as aiding with flood risk mitigation, such an approach provides a balanced opportunity for addressing water resource pressures, which are important as supply abstractions are to become more constrained in the future at the same time as demand for water will increase.

Water 21 devised the UK’s first empirical catchment flood planning methodology in 2008, and applied this to a notional 1 in 75 year storm event, finding that this could be stored with land owner agreement several times over within a very steep catchment in Gloucestershire. If an empirical approach were applied to the development of catchment plans, not only flood control, but multiple objectives could be met, ranging from public health, to drought control, and reduced water charges. What is missing is the overarching catchment planning and facilitation by a favourable regulatory requirement.

I suggest that a means to allocate responsibility for managing rainwater according to land ownership and tenure is devised, and appropriate practice facilitated through the structures and the professions, be set in place by the Flood and Water Management Act, to be overseen by the local authorities including public health as an aspect of their normal planning obligations.

This (water) deficit demonstrates the need for a long term strategic view by Government on water supply, as managing our catchments and utilising our surface water more effectively could significantly reduce (or remove) this deficit.

The full APPG report may be downloaded here : http://www.water21.org.uk/2001/living-with-water/