1 May 2016

Update on Oldbury

Just got some notes from Angela Paine who attended the Oldbury SSG on Wednesday 27 April regarding the nuclear plant. Here are her comments:

Small mercy number one  - Oldbury have finally finished trucking radwaste to the railhead at Berkley and thence through Cheltenham and numerous other cities to Sellafield.
 

Small mercy number two  - The last Magnox nuke has shut down.

When asked whether Wylfa was still going ahead we were told that Horizon is still committed but Horizon and EDF are running in parallel, though Hinkley is running to a different time frame from Horizon - whether faster or slower was not specified (they mean Horizon is intended to  be after Hinkley).


Oldbury are still talking about building a new nuke beside the old one, but it’s no longer imminent. They are now talking about building work maybe, possibly starting in ten years time. My guess is that EDF is holding up Hinkley, which is holding up Wylfa, which is holding up Oldbury.

Points to be concerned about: The NDA are about to start a ‘mentoring scheme’, pairing Small and Medium-sized Enterprises with larger organisations to share skills, experience and contacts with the aim of helping small and medium enterprises to navigate through the maze of nuclear decommissioning opportunities. All UK-based small and medium enterprises are eligible to apply, regardless of industrial background. So there is a very real prospect of radwaste being spread out all over the country in ways that cannot be monitored. The government is trying to make nuclear more popular by sharing out the proceeds from dealing with the low and intermediate level waste. In view of the fact that they classify the graphite cores of the old reactors as low level waste I think there is serious cause for concern.


The NDA has published an updated overview of Higher Activity Waste containing details about where waste arises and how it is being dealt with....weblink: Waste overview


Meanwhile see Molly Scott Cato MEP and her comments in Friday's Independent about Belguim planning to give everyone in their country iodine tablets due to increased likelihood of a nuclear disaster - perhaps creating a completely false sense of security for some? http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/belgium-to-give-iodine-pills-to-entire-country-in-case-of-nuclear-fallout-radiation-terrorist-attack-a7006651.html 

And here's 30th Anniversary video of Chernobyl here.


23 Apr 2016

Ruscombe Brook update

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Cllr Jonathan Edmunds
Here is an article (which appeared in The Warbler) by Cllr. Jonathan Edmunds (SDC Ward member for Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe):
The topic of flood mitigation is very topical at the moment after record rains in December brought chaos and heartache to the north of the country and Scotland. Residents of Stroud have shared that plight in the past after the misery of the 2007 floods, but people remained resilient and got together to try and minimise the risk of this happening in the future.
It was back in 2006 that the Ruscombe Brook Action Group was formed to tackle raw sewage repeatedly getting into our brook. Working with Severn Trent and others the group have been able to get parts of the sewage system replaced and relined so that no further incidents have occurred to this date.
Cartoon by local artist, Russ
One of the huge successes from that group needs highlighting. The group, have over the years worked with other flood prevention groups in the area and key figures like Councillor Sarah Lunnon, to develop a plan to reduce flooding in the wider catchment area. After a considerable amount of work by residents, a pilot project by the Environment agency, The Severn and Wye Regional Flood and Coastal Committee (RFCC), Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) and Stroud District Council (SDC) was established in 2011 and SDC was able to secure a project officer Chris Utley to lead the project.
The project has gone back to nature to tackle floods and help wildlife on the streams of the Stroud Valleys. Instead of spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on concrete and steel structures, it has been using trees and other natural features to reduce the risk of flooding in the area. Working with local land owners and key partners such as the National Trust and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust, over 60 natural flood defence structures have been built in the headwaters of the Slad Brook and Painswick Stream. The scheme, known as the Rural Sustainable Drainage Systen (RSuds), is being funded by the Severn Wye Regional Flood and Coastal Committee and aim is to reduce flood risk, improve water quality and restore wildlife. This excellent project can be viewed at http://stroudcommunity.tv/rural-sustainable-drainage/ or at www.stroud.gov.uk/rsuds and followed on twitter @Stroud_RSuDS.
While this approach will not end flooding, it will significantly reduce the likelihood of flooding at sites that have seen it here in Stroud in the past and I would say that this work has been pivotal in reducing the risk of seeing the scenes witnessed in Stroud in 2007 this winter. I will continue to work with colleagues to ensure that this project is continued to be supported and extended into more catchments of the Frome catchment.

14 Apr 2016

Proof of Tory Support for Glyphosate

 Further to my last post,  I received a press release from Tory MEP for the South West, Julie Girling whose aim is to fight the 'needless farm ban':

' Julie Girling is leading Britain's Conservative MEPs in fighting moves to ban an important herbicide.
 She said: "Farmers need this product to protect arable fields and horticulture crops. It is also needed where there are large hard surfaces - airports for example - to tackle damaging weeds."
Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority have researched the substance thoroughly and found that glyphosate poses no unacceptable risk when used appropriately and is unlikely to pose a hazard to humans.Based on that advice, the EU Commission is proposing to renew authorisation, which is due to expire on June 30. However, MEPs on the Environment Committee passed a resolution objecting to the approval of glyphosate, leading to this week's vote of the full parliament.Mrs Girling said:"This product has been used for years and we are not going to stand by and watch over-zealous MEPs from the Left slip through a ban in the face of the science.

"This is a decision for member state experts. Parliament should let them get on with things. As MEPs we should support evidence based policy making. "In this case some anti-farmer MEPs are straying outside their remit and leaving the public open to higher food prices and scarcity issues"
 "We will not let them get away with it. We'll support fairness for farmers and consumers."

The US Center of Food Safety strongly disagrees with the European Food Safety Authority assessment.
'EFSA relied heavily on the glyphosate assessment conducted by German pesticide regulators, which was based on egregious violations of accepted standards for interpreting studies.  For instance, faulty statistical methods were used to reject clear evidence that glyphosate causes cancer in experimental animals.'

THE VOTE on 13th April

The Press release said:
 Given concerns about the carcinogenicity and endocrine disruptive properties of the herbicide glyphosate, used in many farm and garden applications, the EU Commission should renew its marketing approval for just 7 years, instead of 15, and for professional uses only, Parliament says in a resolution voted on Wednesday. MEPs call for an independent review and the publication of all the scientific evidence that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used to assess glyphosate.
Glyphosate should not be approved for use in or close to public parks, public playgrounds and public gardens, they add.
National experts sitting in the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (Phytopharmaceuticals Section) will vote to adopt or reject the Commission proposal by qualified majority in May. If there is no such majority, it will be up to the European Commission to decide.

Green MEP for the South West, Molly Scott Cato, is against the continued use of glyphosate.

11 Apr 2016

EU and the Environment

The Green Party is campaigning to stay in Europe, but with reforms. One of the reasons for remaining in the EU is the Environment. 

It’s only by working with our European neighbours that we can tackle the big issues like climate change, protect wildlife and reduce pollution. Thanks to EU rules, our beaches are cleaner, our air cleaner and our dirtiest power stations are being shut down. The UK government though, is always wanting to support corporations rather than people and their well being.

A current example is the use of glyphosate - a widely used weedkiller that the World Health Organisation has found is probably carcinogenic.

On 8 March Italy joined France, Sweden and the Netherlands in opposing a new 15-year licence for glyphosate at an EU meeting which had been expected to rubber stamp its reapproval. This chemical is a core ingredient in Monsanto's $5bn-a-year Roundup brand. If no new arrangement is found then the licence for glyphosate will expire at the end of June. Monsanto is furious.

True to form, however, the UK Government (not UK Green MEPS) is supporting the use of glyphosate. The European Parliament is about to vote on a resolution that would support a ban on glyphosate.

The campaign group SumOfUs is organising a petition to tell MEPS that they are accountable to us, not Monsanto.

Keep an eye out and see what happens. The EU may offer us protection. If we are outside of the EU, the UK government would definitely not.

See the Guardian article.

9 Apr 2016

#GrownUpPolitics - Green Party 2016 Party Election Broadcast

Following the success of spoof boy band video 'Change the Tune' last year, the Green Party has released ‘The not so secret life of 5 year-old politicians’, a satirical election broadcast designed to shake up British politics. The broadcast positions the Green Party as the only true alternative to the establishment parties, who offer more of the same childish Punch and Judy politics.

In the daring broadcast, child actors playing British politicians are shown squabbling and infighting in amusing ‘playground politics’ scenarios. In one scene, Tory leadership hopeful Boris Johnson is seen lording it over his rivals from the top of the climbing frame and promising to flush Chancellor George Osborne’s “long term-economic plan” down the toilet. In another comical scene, front-benchers trade petty insults at a raucous Prime Minister’s Questions in the school gym.

Greens believe that politics isn't something that should be done to the public - instead politicians should work alongside people to tackle shared problems. The broadcast reinforces the party’s commitment to “stand up to protect our NHS and ensure that the quality of your health care is never determined by what’s in your wallet” and “do everything it can to empower people: redistributing influence so it’s no longer in the hands of the privileged few.”

The film was directed by Neil Harris via Smuggler London Limited, on behalf of Creature of London who created the film, their third film for the Green Party. ‘Change the Tune’, the Greens’ boy band spoof video went viral on the internet.

8 Apr 2016

Talking Rubbish - Friday 29th April,  2.15pm.

Chaired by Jonathon Porritt in Cheltenham

A high-level policy seminar on waste and the circular economy

The University of Gloucestershire - Park Campus The Park, Cheltenham GL50 2RH

Local campaigners have spent years trying to communicate to Gloucestershire County Council that there are better alternatives to incineration. This is a great opportunity to alert both decision makers and commercial players to the significance of the R4C alternative in the context of wider developments in the UK and beyond - and make sure they understand the serious local implications for the Javelin Park project before construction starts.
 
Speakers are:
  • Prestigious environmental consultancy Eunomia
  • Circular economy experts Resource Futures
  • Community R4C
Topics to be covered will include:
  •  long-term implications of today's waste decisions
  •  regulatory developments towards a circular economy
  •  how councils can move up the waste hierarchy
  • how community engagement can help
  •  whether incineration creates a barrier
If you would like to register to attend, you will find the details here:

https://talkingrubbish.eventbrite.com

4 Apr 2016

Don't believe everything you read on the EU campaign

Yesterday I listened to a recent More or Less programme on the radio. It discussed a post that has been doing the Facebook rounds about EU regulations for selling cabbages that were 26,911 words long. 


Apparently this comparison of length has been around for at least half a century and an example had been found from America after World War 2: The US government regulations on the sale of cabbage: 26,911 words. The list has also featured the government of France specifying the price of duck eggs, a British one referring to "shell eggs," and an American one (from 1953) about fresh fruits. All were supposedly of a very similar length.

The More or Less programme interviewed a cabbage grower in England who said there were currently no EU directives specifically for cabbages - there had been one in 2006, 3720 words long dealing with sizes, but this was repealed in 2009.  There is a 24,000 word long document dealing with how to get the best out of your crop, but that is a UK Red Tractor Assured Produce Standard and nothing to do with the EU.


So beware the use of statistics. Governments and administrative bodies have a history of being criticised for unnecessary bureaucracy and spending.  The EU may have some cumbersome processes, but so does the UK and other countries.

27 Mar 2016

Academy plans are wrong


Schools and parents face a chronic teacher shortage, a lack of school places ion some areas, chaos around curriculum changes and primary tests and an ongoing funding crisis. Yet instead of tackling those there comes a massive a top-down reorganisation of education....one not even mentioned in the Conservative manifesto.

In Gloucestershire, the county council still runs six of the 39 secondary schools and 206 of the 247 primary schools. The secondary schools are: Archway, Maidenhill, Lakers, Pittville, Barnwood Park, and Rednock Schools. However if these plans go-ahead all these schools will be run by Academy trusts, receiving their funding directly from the government.

Locally in response to the Government's announcement there has been a Green/Labour initiative to write a letter - many added their names to the letter below that has appeared in local papers along with a demonstration in Stroud - see for example SNJ report here. This is just the start of the campaign. Here is the letter:

We, the undersigned, are writing to express our profound concern at the Conservative Government’s plans to force all schools to become an academy and thereby abolish any local-government accountability in our schooling system. This measure threatens our democratic right to choose to send our children to local-government administered schools if we so wish. 

It threatens the education of our children in non-academy schools, as governors and teachers will now have to spend years on bureaucracy and red tape, instead of single-mindedly focussing on supporting all pupils to succeed. It threatens the very existence of our smallest schools as they won’t be able to meet the financial criteria of academy status and will be forced to close. It threatens the integrity of the entire state education system as we will end up with fragmentation, with no local oversight, and our taxation going to academy chains’ shareholder profit instead of into solving the teacher recruitment crisis. Is this the first step on the road to privatisation?

Our local MP Neil Carmichael is Chair of the Parliamentary Education Committee. We call upon him publicly to tell his constituents what his position is on this abuse of our democratic system for what appear to be ideological motives that have nothing to do with educational quality or our children’s well-being.

We also call upon all concerned citizens to write to the Prime Minister, the Education Secretary and your local MPs to express your total rejection of this outrageous attack on local democracy.

Richard House, Doina Cornell, John Marjoram; Skeena Rathor, Stroud


As we've seen in the latest news Nicky Morgan is recklessly ploughing ahead with this policy which Neil Carmichael has welcomed. She faced laughs and jeers at the Teachers Union conference. Many communities and schools have categorically said they do not want to convert to an academy; there is no evidence that academies are raising standards. Indeed lots to say they are not working...

The government’s academy programme seems to be about destroying parental involvement and local accountability. As Peter Wilby writes: School freedom he said: 'is nothing less than an outright lie'. Power will be shifted away from councillors, local authority governors and parent governors, and heads will have their autonomy removed. Instead, very well-paid chief executives will make the decisions for us all.

I cannot help fear that this is also about opening the door to privatisation. It is a top-down “reform,” just like we have seen in the NHS, and similarly being introduced at a time of significant other real challenges. This is not the way forward.

See Stroud Life here or Gazette here for signatures to our letter.

There's a poll online here (it's embedded in the middle of the report):
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/teachers-to-march-on-westminster-to-protest-against-forced-academies-a6944431.html

24 Mar 2016

Denied by BBC, Green Party launches own Party Political Broadcast campaign

The Green Party has launched a campaign to make an unofficial Party Political Broadcast (PPB) to ensure the Green voice is not silenced from political debate.
Earlier this year the BBC denied the Green Party a PPB. Over the course of extended correspondence, the Green Party appealed the initial decision to allocate three PPBs to the Liberal Democrats and UKIP each, and none to the Greens. The decision came despite more than 25,000 people signing a petition calling for the BBC to include the Greens. The Green Party contends that the public broadcaster’s decision does not fully consider and recognise the pattern and direction of electoral support in England and thereby fails both the electorate and our democracy.

Amelia Womack, Green Party deputy leader who, alongside deputy leader Shahrar Ali, handed in an appeal letter to the BBC Trust, said:

“The BBC’s decision means over a million people will not be given the opportunity to hear from the party they voted for last May in a PPB in 2016. It means we are the only party with an MP that is not being given the chance to be heard on national television in England. You don’t need to be a Green to think that’s unfair.

“Despite the knock-back, the Green Party is determined to roll with the punches. With your help we will make the PPB they didn’t want you to see.”

Ali said:

“The Green Party is committed to ending business-as-usual Westminster politics and delivering the real change for the common good that people desperately want and our planet desperately needs - that’s why we will do all we can to continue to make sure people are able to hear and share our values and policies.

“By helping fund this PPB you can contribute towards a broadened political debate. Ahead of this May’s elections, the Greens stand on a fresh, distinctive platform. We are the only party that places environmental sustainability at the heart of everything we do; we are united in opposing Trident; and only the Greens are presenting a viable alternative to our stuttering economic system which is insecurely grounded on unequal pay and long hours.”

In their upcoming - and separate - Party Election Broadcast (PEB), the Green Party will ensure that the Greens' voice is heard ahead of the London Assembly, Mayoral and local elections in May 2016. 


See the trailer.

14 Mar 2016

The EU Referendum Question

I am writing this on the day the Green Party launches its GREENS FOR A BETTER EUROPE campaign.

The Green Party believes that Europe could be a much better force for good if there are various reforms.  But how much will the voters be able to qualify their answer in the referendum? It would seem not at all.

According to the Guardian the referendum question is:
 “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” 
Voters can choose between two responses:

    Remain a member of the European Union.
    Leave the European Union.

The somewhat wordy question is designed to avoid any confusion if, for example, voters do not know whether the UK is already a member of the EU. It also avoids the positive connotations of a “yes” answer. The Electoral Commission was criticised by some experts for allowing a yes/no question in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

Nowhere can we say that we would like to stay in, but seek various reforms.
Nowhere does it say that we dis/believe David Cameron got a good deal for the UK or that we support his views of Europe.
Nowhere does it say what the alternative will be.

There are 5 main alternatives according to the Economist:
  • to join the European Economic Area, a solution adopted by all but one of the European Free-Trade Association (EFTA) states that did not join the EU. But the EEA now consists of just one small country, Norway, and two tiddlers, Iceland and Liechtenstein
  • to try to emulate Switzerland, the remaining EFTA country. It is not in the EEA but instead has a string of over 20 major and 100 minor bilateral agreements with the EU
  • to seek to establish a customs union with the EU, as Turkey has done, or at least to strike a deep and comprehensive free-trade agreement
  • simply to rely on normal World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules for access to the EU market
  • preferred by most Eurosceptics, is to negotiate a special deal for Britain alone that retains free trade with the EU but avoids the disadvantages of the other models, but it would be extremly hard or even impossible to negotiate this in an atmosphere, post-Brexit, that would hardly be a warm 
 So without declaring what the alternative will be, the Referendum question falls far short of clarity.


7 Mar 2016

Stay or leave?

 At the last Cotswold Green Party meetng on 20th February it was unanimously decided that we would campaign to stay in the EU although, as with the rest of the Green Party, for vastly different reasons to David Cameron.

Over a few blogs I am going to give my views on the Europe situation for what its worth and would love others to chip in with their ideas so as to engender a good debate.

Firstly - why on earth are we having this referendum anyway? It was something David Cameron promised in the run-up to the last general election when he felt the conservatives were losing ground to UKIP and he needed to placate some tory right wingers. So a political decision and nothing to do with being in the interests of the country.
 

Secondly - David Cameron has said that he has negotiated a better deal so that Britain retains its sovereignty. Yet  -
  • He willingly lets our big companies be sold to foreign enterprises eg Cadburys to Kraft
  • Lets what remains of our steel industry (although admittedly already in foreign ownership) fall foul to cheap Chinese imports
  • He sells off our utilities and doesn't mind if water companies are owned by foreigners even though infrastructure is at the heart of our country
  • He can surrender energy independence to China and France (nuclear power) while cutting subsidies to home grown sustainable energy companies
  • He encourages NHS contracts go to overseas companies
  • He sits by while London is treated as an investment centre for foreign millionaires, raising the price of property so that British people cannot afford to live there.

Would anyone like to comment on these 2 points? Just click in the Comment Button.

18 Feb 2016

TTIP - Hidden News

I recently got an email from the campaigning organisation SumOfUs about an event that I cannot find reported in the British main stream press.

Basically in early February German judges dealt a blow to EU-US free trade agreement talks after declaring a proposed arbitration court illegal.
I googled this and found this article .
 'The European Commission last September proposed setting up an investment tribunal court that would allow firms to challenge government decisions as part of its larger Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Critics says the new court, which is intended to replace a much loathed investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, will pressure governments into clawing back consumer protection rights and environmental standards in favour of corporate interest.

Earlier this week, the German Association of Magistrates, a Berlin-based judicial umbrella organisation, said it "sees neither a legal basis nor a need for such a court".'

I googled some more and found an article on theecologist.org .'The proposed new court would: have no legal basis; supplant the sovereignty of member states; and usurp the role of national courts.'

The TTIP talks, which have been largely held in secret since 2013, aim to remove non-tariff barriers to trade. The 12th round of talks will be held in Brussels on 22 February.

More of us need to wake up to what is going on behind closed doors. As this blog has said before, we must use social media to spread awareness as major newspaper players see TTIP as a good thing. TTIP will affect all of us adversely.

17 Feb 2016

Stroud Supports Junior Doctors

Here is Philip Booth talking to James Beecher of Stroud Against The Cuts and Cllr Sarah Lunnon (Green Party) after Saturdays’ demonstration of support for junior doctors. The demo saw members of the public and Green and Labour District councillors join the march and listen to speakers. See this 2minute film: http://stroudcommunity.tv/junior-doctors/

Plus there is a link to a second film with James talking about next steps for the campaign locally.

16 Feb 2016

Community R4C in Stroud

On Saturday I met Jojo Mehta who was with Community R4C in Stroud High Street talking to folk about their hopes for dealing with our waste. Here's a minute film updating on that and the incinerator: http://stroudcommunity.tv/community-r4c/

15 Feb 2016

Fundraising Art Auction for Refugee Aid Stroud

An exhibition and auction of artwork kindly donated from local artists in aid of Refugee Aid Stroud. Buy some affordable art and your money will go a long way to help the current humanitarian crisis. This amazing live art auction will take place  on 27th February 2016 at 6pm in the Old Millets Shop, 20 High Street, Stroud. See 2 min film with details at: http://stroudcommunity.tv/auction-refugee/