20 Nov 2015

Historic moment as local plan adopted for Stroud district

Ruscombe Valley now better protected
At a meeting held last night at Ebley Mill, councillors adopted the Stroud District Local Plan, a strategic housing and employment plan which will shape the district’s future for decades to come. Stroud District is the first council in Gloucestershire to have an up-to-date local plan in place and will allow us to plan where development should take place rather than fight off speculative applications where it shouldn’t.

In recent years councils across the country have found it difficult to defend against large housing applications in areas they did not consider suitable, when they have not had a local plan in place. The Government knew this when they changed the rules around planning - effectively creating almost a free-for-all for developers. They knew over half of Councils don't have a Local Plan and due to the way the process is set up cannot speed them any quicker.

The Stroud District Local  Plan, which encourages at least 11,400 homes to be built over the 25-year period between 2006 and 2031, identifies how many homes should be built and their locations. The number includes over 7,700 homes which have already been built or have planning permission and 4,200 homes to be developed on sites identified in the plan.  On average, 470 homes need to be built each year over the next 16 years to accommodate the expected needs of the district. It also supports the development of 58 hectares of employment land over the plan period to meet local job forecasts and identifies a range of new sites to meet business needs. Again the framework for this is all set by Government.

Planning inspector, Steven Pratt, who approved the council’s plan before it was passed to councillors to adopt, confirmed that it showed a seven year supply of housing land, meaning that the council would be right to prevent further uncontrolled development in rural areas. He also supported the council’s strategy of concentrated growth in towns, which will see valuable infrastructure and community facilities accompany any major development.

The Green Party's Councillor Simon Pickering, chair of the Stroud District Council Environment Committee said: ‘Adoption of the plan is great news allowing us to plan effectively for future growth. The draft plan involved some difficult choices, meaning that not everyone was going to be happy with the outcome. Now that it has met the demands of the government and been approved it’s time to get behind it and make the best out of the housing and employment opportunities it will bring forth.”

Clearly there has been much compromise to make this happen - this is clearly not all what Greens have wanted! Do look back through this blog to see earlier reports and submissions as part of the Local Plan process. The locations and numbers of future housing development within the plan are as follows:

Location and Number of Homes

Hunts Grove Extension 750

North East Cam 450

Sharpness 300

Stroud Valleys 450

West of Stonehouse 1,350

Council Housing Programme 150

Dispersal / windfall 750

Total allocations and windfall 4,200

The Stroud District Local Plan can be viewed at www.stroud.gov.uk/localplan

8 Nov 2015

Join the demo against the incinerator contract

From GlosVAIN
Update 13th Nov: here is film of protest: http://stroudcommunity.tv/incinerator-protest/

Here's Jojo Mehta writing: "This coming Wednesday 11th November, Gloucestershire County Council's cabinet will be meeting to consider adjusting the incinerator contract with UBB - yes, the one we still haven't seen - to enable building to start earlier than anticipated, i.e. early spring 2016 rather than summer (Contrary to articles you may have read in the local press this has not already been decided upon).

"And here's the puzzling part: they are proposing to allocate £17 million "from revenue reserves" to the incinerator project upfront to get it built faster, bringing the total handed to UBB - before a spade is lifted - to over £30 million. The spin is that it will be cheaper in the long run. But hang on a minute - cheaper than what?  That same £17 million could (for example) have the Community R4C recycling plant up, running and processing so-called "residual" waste as a resource for further recycling and renewable fuel.  And at £10 million per annum cheaper than incineration"

This makes no sense. Are GCC cabinet trying to rush stuff before the Information Commissioner forces those redacted details into the light of day or what?

Please join me in emailing your county councillor (super simple - pop your postcode in here: https://www.writetothem.com/) and also the leader of the council, Mark Hawthorne (mark.hawthorne@gloucestershire.gov.uk)

Then me with 38 Degrees, GlosVAIN, Toxin Free citizens, Green Party members and concerned local residents in front of Shire Hall at 9.30am on Wednesday to express your concerns.

2 Nov 2015

Profit Hungry Companies Can Be Bested

Green Groups fighting to save our environment are often up against large corporations.  I came across a David and Goliath story today which I thought would spur on all those battling against the odds.

In June 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that naturally occurring DNA is not patentable. However, this has not stopped companies using legal threats to stop competitors from offering cheaper drugs or treatments or doing research in areas where they have been making mega-bucks.

US-based biotech Myriad Genetics is one such company. For many years it had a monopoly on testing for human BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes which are a good indicator of cancer risk. According to Breast Cancer Action in the US 'With nearly $9 million in monthly revenue from BRCA testing, anything to prolong their monopoly by even a few months is money well spent for Myriad.' Their poster below is ironic in the extreme.

In January 2015 it was reported that Myriad had finally stopped their quest to retain their monopoly on the BRCA genes. Myriad announced they’re settling or will settle with other companies offering genetic testing for BRCA mutations.

Meanwhile in Australia Yvonne D’Arcy took Myriad Genetics to court over its patent of the BRCA1 gene linked to breast and ovarian cancer. Amazingly she has just had Australia’s highest court rule that 'an isolated nucleic acid, coding for a BRCA1 protein, with specific variations from the norm that are indicative of susceptibility to breast cancer and ovarian cancer was not a “patentable invention”.'
Yvonne said: “I’m only a little person – but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” She said until the decision few people could afford testing “except for Angelina Jolie”, but the cost should now come down. “For all those people who do have the genetic footprint, it’s a win for them, because now they’re forewarned and forearmed.”

Funnily enough this recent development does not appear on the Myriad website  Instead we are offered sound bites like:
At Myriad, we’re leveraging our unique expertise in sequencing and analysis to better understand human disease. (unique expertise as they were threatening everone else with lawsuits)
At Myriad, our passion for patients drives everything we do – on the job and in the community.
For more infomation see:
The Guardian
Breast Cancer Action

25 Oct 2015

Green Party Leader in Randwick on Wednesday

Cllr Jonathan Edmunds
Update 3rd Nov: here is report of meeting: https://stroud.greenparty.org.uk/news/2015/11/02/natalie-bennett-incinerator-concerns/

Well folk may know that Natalie Bennett, Green Party Leader is talking in Stroud on Wednesday evening about electoral reform. See details in our earlier blog here: http://ruscombegreen.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/cross-party-meeting-on-electoral-reform.html

Now the good news is that she will be with local District Councillor Jonathan Edmunds and other local Green Party folk talking about the incinerator and it's impact on our local area. You are welcomed to join the group to talk more about this issue and the alternatives. Meet Wednesday 28th Oct 4.30pm Randwick Playing Fields.

You can also see the Plume Plotter showing how Randwick, Whiteshill and Ruscombe will be affected: http://stroudcommunity.tv/glos-incinerator-plume/

23 Oct 2015

A red or white poppy?

This time last year the commemorations around the centenary of the beginning of the First World War got me in quite a jam over how I felt about the red poppy. I have proudly purchased a red poppy every year that I can remember. I can remember one year pinning a red poppy to my primary school sweater and then keeping it in my pencil case come the end of November, where it stayed until the next November.

What really jarred with me last year was the idea of commemorating the start of the First World War. If we were going to go all out and have intensified national ceromonies I thought, wouldn’t it be better if we commemorated the end of the First World War? At least at the time the soldiers sent to fight in that war believed they were going to fight ‘the war to end all wars’. Because of that belief, seeing the end of the First World War must have been glorious; the end of all wars!

We now know that this was not the end of all wars. Even recently through Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 14 years we have had to watch our brothers and sisters come home in boxes. And what of the countless civilians lives that have been lost to war? Civilians now greatly outnumber the amount of soldiers who are killed in war.

Furthermore over this summer we have had the devastating affects of war made very apparent by the largest refugee crisis that we have seen since the Second World War; a direct result of the conflict in Syria (as already covered by this blog). The horrors in Syria have displaced half of the entire population of the country.

David Cameron and the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond along with many other politicians and high profile public figures will spend the next month or so boldly wearing a red poppy. They will at the same time continue to advocate and push for more bombing in Syria.

Last month our government welcomed one of the world’s biggest arms fairs to London as part of the government’s current campaign to boost its position as the world’s second largest distributer of arms. Attending the arms fair last month were authoritarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Azerbaijan .

Yet members of that government will still be seen ‘respectfully’ wearing their red poppies.
It is a complete affront to anyone who has lost a loved one through war and conflict, civilian or soldier.

When we wear a red poppy we say ‘we will remember them’. I fail to understand how you can ‘remember them’ if you advocate for war and deal in arms.

It seems to me that the red poppy and remembrance has been hijacked. Our grief and our sense of loss for the fallen have been exploited. Each Remembrance Day we are shown greater displays of military parades, marching bands and rousing poems of heartache. Guns fire. Silence falls. We remember them.

But we are not prompted to consider in our silence; why wasn’t the First World War ‘the war to end all wars’? Why are people still dying as a result of armed conflict? Why are we still packing off our sisters, brother, mother, fathers never to be seen again?

This is why, alongside my red poppy, I will be wearing a white poppy. I have read explanations of how the white is a symbol for peace, a statement that says ‘never again’. But actually, I believe that most people that wear a red poppy, as I have always done, wear a red poppy for exactly those reasons anyway.  Wearing a red poppy means remembrance and peace.

For me, wearing a white poppy is a tiny flame of defiance that says to our world leaders ‘I know what you have done’. Wearing a white poppy will hopefully prompt people to ask ‘why are you wearing a white poppy?’ and I will be able to explain what I have written here. It is important that we raise the profile of peace during Remembrance because that is the only way we can truly say ‘we will remember them’. The only way we will stop having casualties of war is to stop having wars.

I will wear my red poppy too out of respect for so many of those who draw comfort from seeing them pinned to people’s chest, who wish to remember those that they have loved and lost. I will wear it in remembrance for all of those killed in war and conflict.

I will wear my white poppy for peace. I will remember the words of Harry Patch, who was the last fighting Tommy;
"I felt then, as I feel now, that the politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves instead of organising nothing better than legalised mass murder." 

You can buy white poppies from http://stopwar.org.uk/shop/white-poppy-2

Remember that when you buy a red poppy that money goes towards supporting veterans and I would compel you, whatever colour poppy you decide to wear, to donate to the British Legion http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/story-behind-the-poppy-8?utm_expid=51730890-7.iYtKnQpLTO6fjUnTZeHP_w.7&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.co.uk%2F

Campaign continues - Hinkley Point C

The Stop Hinkley Campaign today declared the campaign against the proposals to build a new nuclear station at Hinkley Point C as far from over. See Stroud's Molly Scott Cato talking about new nuclear and why she didn't join celebrations of the Chinese President during his visit: http://stroudcommunity.tv/molly-chinese-president/

See Stop Hinkley's press release below.

All national newspapers have expressed disquiet about these proposals, and today one described the deal with China as “sheer folly”.  Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said “there is still every possibility that this reckless plan will be defeated. This will be the eighth time that EDF Energy has announced that a final investment decision is just around the corner. ”.

It is clear, as the Financial Times says that this week's statements on Hinkley Point do not amount to the final deal.
From Stop Hinkley campaign

“Jean-Bernard Levy, chairman of EDF, claims that hundreds of workers could be starting work on the construction of two new reactors at the site by the end of the year. But given the number of issues still to be resolved one has to wonder which year he is talking about,” said Pumfrey. “Levy’s claims were not repeated in the EDF press release, which instead listed a number of conditions we know will take one or more years to fulfil, so if work does resume this year it will only be on a very slow cosmetic basis.”

Much remains to be negotiated, and many significant hurdles still remain. These include:-

  • Flawed steel has been identified on the reactor pressure vessel and lid of an identical nuclear reactor being built in Flamanville in Normandy. This could take 12 – 24 months to resolve and no work could start at Hinkley Point until these safety issues are resolved in France.
  • Due to severe financial difficulties and huge levels of debt, the French Government has commenced a restructuring of EDF and Areva NP into a merged company. This will also take some considerable time to achieve, and is a major reason why the UK was so desperate to secure Chinese investment.
  • A legal challenge to the European Commission by the Austrian and Luxembourg Governments, and a group of Austrian and German renewable energy companies, over its approval of the UK – EDF state aid deal for Hinkley Point will take at least a year or more to resolve. If the courts find against the Commission the whole financing deal will be placed in jeopardy. Construction cannot seriously begin until the complete financing agreement is in place, and that cannot be signed before all legal challenges have been resolved
  • A reliability clause is likely within the contract. This will be linked in to the prior successful EPR operation being constructed at Flamanville-3 in France. This nuclear reactor project is now years behind schedule and billions over budget in being realised. EDF has asked for a formal three year delay in this project, being it will not be completed until at least 2020, 13 years after construction began.

    Meanwhile, the former director of strategy for David Cameron, Steve Hilton, has called the deal with China "one of the worst national humiliations". He said we should impose sanctions on China, rather than "rolling out the red carpet". To read more click more.

21 Oct 2015

The National Press

Having failed to get two Cotswold Green Pary press releases printed in our local paper - The Wilts and Glos Standard - I have been thinking about newspapers in general.  Indeed previous blogs on this site have centred on creating an alternative press and the power of the media.

I get my news from the Guardian and BBC websites and today at 9.00am the main headlines were as follows: 
The BBC website:
  • Assad in Surprise visit to Moscow
  • China to sign nuclear plant deal
  • Canada to withdraw jets from IS battle
  • Hosptials to get own savings targets
  • Term-time fines 'unworkable'
  • 70% in work scheme 'don't get jobs'
The Guardian website:
  • XI Jinping/Nuclear deal announcement anticipated on day 2 of state visit
  • Sugar tax could help solve Britain's obesity crisis, expert tells MPs
  • Number of London's 'working poor' surges 70% in 10 years
  • Naked 'tombstoning' advert for Hostelworld banned - as too dangerous
  • Refugee boats wash up at UK military base in Cyprus
  • Schools 'should be able to approve family holidays in term time'
  • Tax credit cuts: Lords forced to back down as Tory rebellion grows
  • Junior doctors/Seven in 10 to leave NHS if Hunt pushes through new contract
  • Fears of a Christmas Lego shortage
From these two sources I felt reasonably well informed on world and national news.

I wondered what readers of other news websites would have seen at the same time so turned to - 
The Sun website:
  • Singer George's rehab boost: Is he rake-in the Michael?
  • Schoolboy's 'lets get naughty' lies ruined my life, says mum
  • HeX Faxtor: 'Ghost' spooks Simon's team at haunted castle
  • Suspected serial killer appeared on TV show
  • Vaping burned a hole in my lungs
  • My skin turned black after I overdosed on tanning jabs
Only after all this do we get:
Term time holiday fines for parents treble to over 50,000
Desperate GPs refuse to take new patients
Hammond: Saudis won't lash grandad

So it seems the readers were advised of the dangers of tanning parlours and taking drugs, but not much else.

Next stop The Telegraph website:
  • Corbyn shakes the Queen's hand at state banquet, as UK seeks to secure £30bn Chinese Investment
  • 'So unfair': World Rugby has hung referee Craig Joubert 'out to dry'
  • Diamond Duchess meets Xi at the banquet - for Balmoral venison, and music by the Beatles
  • Back to the Future Day
  • Go teetotal to reduce dementia risks, NHS says
  • Hundreds of migrants arrive in boats at Cyprus RAF base
  • Worldwide Lego shortage
So a better coverage of news, but with a rightwing stance mocking Corbyn and no mention of topics embarrasing for the tories like tax credit cuts or junior doctors.
My last stop was the Daily Express website:
  •  Millions face threat to retirement income after calls to slash pension payouts
  •  Kate dazzles as she wears Queen Mother's old tiara to her first British State banquet
  •  Horror as Christian migrant 'brutally beaten with baton in refugee camp'
I was almost impressed by the third headline, but decided to look at the article behind it and discovered it was really an anti-muslim migrant post - 'A MIGRANT was allegedly beaten inside a refugee camp in a brutal attack – for converting to Christianity.The 24-year-old was beaten with a baton by an Afghan man, who declared his conversion was a "sin", according to police.'

So to conclude, I admit I only looked at the headlines and on most occasions did not read the actual articles, but no wonder the population is so ill-informed of what goes on in the world.

We need to change this so that people can vote for political parties and policies from a sound knowledge base. This is an area where the Green Party and other progressive organisations must make a breakthrough somehow.

19 Oct 2015

Cross-Party Meeting on Electoral Reform with Natalie Bennett

28th October, 7.30 Lansdown Hall, Stroud, GL5 1BB

Is the UK a democracy if its government was only voted for by 24 % of the population? Is it fair that 50% of votes in the 2015 general election went to losing candidates, giving their casters no say? Can it be considered right and just that the number of votes per MP elected was 3,881,129 for UKIP, but a mere 25,972 for the SNP?

On 28th October, Stroud Green Party will holding be a public meeting to discuss electoral reform: why we need it, what the options are, and what we can do to bring it about. The headline speaker will be Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, who has campaigned strongly for the introduction of a proportional voting system. Joining her will be Electoral Reform Society Council member Robert Telford, MyStroudMP general election candidate Richard Wilson and Labour County Councillor for Rodborough Brian Oosthuysen.

The meeting will take place from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at the Lansdown Hall in Stroud. All are welcome, of any party political affiliation or of none. Admission is free and refreshments will be available. For more information contact Kiera Jones, joint Internal Coordinator of Stroud Green Party (coordinator@stroud.greenparty.org.uk)

14 Oct 2015

Science Succumbs to Murdoch

On 18th September this blog featured an article entitled 'Write Your Own News'. The case for not trusting the media has just got a lot stronger.

I missed this news first time round, but I have discovered that The National Geographic Society has been bought by Rupert Murdoch's Fox media. See the Washington Post Article.

The National Geographic Society does incredibly important work on climate change -- from publishing groundbreaking stories to giving grants to scientists. But 73% of it is now owned by climate change denier, Rupert Murdoch. Fox Media has paid 725 million dollars for a deal which includes National Geographics' magazines, maps, books, TV channels and digital media platforms,

For 127 years The National Geographic was a respected nonprofit science magazine. Now, however, the new Fox-controlled company, National Geographic Partners, will be run for-profit, and it will answer to Murdoch’s shareholders -- via its board. Fox's CEO is Murdoch's son, James. Rupert Murdoch is well known for meddling with media content.

I have signed a petition to ask that a Public Editor is appointed to enforce editorial independence and represent the public, investigating complaints of editorial interference. Please sign this too.

8 Oct 2015

Single Use Plastic Bags

I don't get the plastic bag initiative which is supposed to help the environment by reducing litter which can be harmful to wildlife both on land and at sea, and cutting down on the use of plastic which comes from oil.

From Monday 5th October 2015 in England there is a 5p charge for single use plastic bags. But this only applies to supermarkets and large retailers with 250 or more employees. Smaller shops are exempt. So why does the charge not apply to all shops? Surely the aim should be to stop all single use plastic bags and to get people into the habit of taking durable shopping bags with them. The good old mantra of re-use first, reduce, recycle.

The Government hopes that the extra money the shops receive will be put to good causes. Many supermarkets have announced that charities will benefit. Why not follow the Northern Ireland route - in 2013 a 5p levy was introduced and the retailers pay the net proceeds of the levy to the Department of Environment at Stormont? This year 21 environmental groups that had their budgets slashed as part of government cutbacks received a share of a £1.25m fund raised by plastic bag charges. It makes sense that any money raised is used to improve the environment. Why is this not happening in England?

Also, why does the charge not cover any disposable bag as in other countries?  Paper bags are not necessarily made from sustainable sources.

Local Authorities have to enforce this regulation. I wonder how many cash-starved local councils will do this?

England is lagging behind other countries in this initiative. In 2002, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to ban thinner plastic bags altogether, after they were found to have choked local drainage systems during floods.

See the recent article on the BBC website and the older one on Northern Ireland.
See the Government Guidelines.

6 Oct 2015

New Cotswold Green Party

October 3rd 2015 saw the Founding Meeting of the Cotswold Green Party. Originally part of Stroud and District Green Party, the recent Green Surge saw membership numbers in the Cotswold District Council area soar to 115 - enough to form our own party and better represent the people and issues in the CDC area.

The elected officers come from Great Rissington, Cirencester, Fairford and Moreton-in-Marsh and so have good coverage of the large district and awareness of local issues.

After the offical business it was great to have Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West, give an inspiring talk on the EU - its drawbacks, but also its positive side of countries with different cultures and outlooks working together. A former Professor of Economics at Roehampton University, Molly is a member of the influential Economic & Monetary Affairs and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees in the European Parliament.

Molly also pointed out that with the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote in the South West, the Green Party is the main opposition to the divisive policies of the Conservative Government.

Watch This Space.

27 Sep 2015

The Refugee Crisis; the Stroud Coffee House Discussion

The dark, drizzly September evening didn’t put off around 100 supporters gathering in Stroud to answer a crucial question; what can we do about the refugee crisis?

On Wednesday 23rd September people from Stroud crammed in to the Imperial Hotel for a discussion organised by Amnesty International mid-counties and Stroud District Green Party, to answer that important question;

·         What is already being done in Gloucestershire?
·         What are the needs?
·         What can we do here in Stroud?
·         How can we change the rhetoric from ‘keep out’ to ‘welcome’?
·          What should we be demanding of our MP and the government?

Imperial Hotel, Stroud, crammed with supporters

How have we ended up with so many people seeking safety?

The evening kicked off with a lively and interesting discussion from Judith Large, Honorary Fellow at the Centre for Conflict Analysis Resolution, University of Kent, about how we have come to the current situation in which half of the Syrian population has become displaced. The desperate situation began with what was initially a popular uprising in Syria but soon spun in to an international issue because of a dictator who refused to budge from power; President Bashar al-Assad.

One of the most heard about results of the conflict in Syria are the significant advances and abuses carried out by the so called ‘Islamic State’ or ISIS. Since 2013 ISIS have made strong advances in Syria and Iraq and none of us strangers to the news of the various atrocities that they have inflicted.

From the outset the US have supported the Syrian rebels opposing President Assad, initially with food and supplies but then moving on to training and arming them. From 2014 a US-led coalition, of which the UK is a part, has been carrying out airstrikes against ISIS.

Between the brutality of the Assad regime, the barbarity of ISIS and the bombardment by the US-led coalition, Syrian civilians, regular folk like you and me, have become terrified for their lives. More than four million people have packed up and left in fear for their safety.

The question Judith Large left for those gathered in Stroud to wonder was; is the use of force really the answer to a problem caused by a use of force?

Climate change

An interesting point raised from the floor was the impact of climate change on the current refugee crisis.

The worst drought to strike the country in modern times had gripped Syria in the years leading up to uprising in 2011. Researchers were able to draw one of the strongest links yet between climate change and human conflict;

They cited studies that showed that the extreme dryness, combined with other factors, including misguided agricultural and water-use policies of the Syrian government, caused crop failures that led to the migration of as many as 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas. This in turn added to social stresses that eventually resulted in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.

Our government is taking an embarrassingly inadequate approach to the refugee crisis in general, as I will go on to explain, but this adds yet another dynamic to that woeful response. The Conservatives have taken a full scale assault against the climate at an extraordinary pace, killing off many of the existing green policies in the UK.

Stroud MP, Neil Carmichael has demonstrated a real ignorance for the environment during his time in office, voting against many measures and in support of fracking; as covered in this blog previously.

Action in Gloucestershire and Stroud

The swell of action from the people of Stroud has been astounding. An article in the Guardian on 5th September described how locals had offered to open up their homes to refugees. Stroud District Green Party played their part by writing an open letter calling for Stroud to take it’s fair share of refugees. The Stroud News and Journal reported how District councillors, John Marjoram and Martin Whiteside, County Councillor Sarah Lunnon, Stroud Town Mayor Kevin Cranston and Green MEP Molly Scott-Cato had used the letter to indicate that Stroud could take just 10 refugees to have a fair share of the 40,000 refugees which the EU will need to resettle over the next 2 years.

Some of the most impressive action locally has come from the facebook groups as Jeannie Etherton passionately explained to all of us assembled in Stroud on Wednesday. These groups have been very far from being ‘just a talking shop’ and have in fact been the main mechanism for local people to combine and coordinate their stunning efforts.

There are two main facebook groups that Jeannie discussed, the first being Stroud2Calais – Refugee Support which started as a group to get donations to ‘the Jungle’ in Calais but has moved to more widely supporting refugees entering Europe. They have now raised £2607 in one week to go to a fundraiser purchasing tents for refugees.

Jeannie explained how this group has joined up with the other incredible group Stroud Supporting Calais Refugees. Thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the kindly people of Stroud this group have collected an unimaginable amount of donations in to two large shipping containers to take to Calais; the collection has now ended because they simply cannot take any more donations.

Collecting the donations for these groups and raising the funds has taken an enormous amount of work and energy by local people volunteering their time and working tirelessly.

It is so terribly important that we do all that we can. Not only are the conditions in Calais ‘appalling’, as described by the charity Doctors of the World, but to make matters worse there have been reports that the French authorities have recently moved in with bulldozers and tear gas against the camp.

Judith Large 

Next to speak at the Coffee Discussion was Adele Owen from Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers or GARAS. Adele explained that GARAS work with people seeking asylum in Gloucestershire and how recently their work has been thrown in to the forefront of the public’s consciousness because of the current crisis.

The government have proposed that they will take the embarrassingly low amount of just 20,000 refugees over 5 years and Adele explained how this represents only 0.2% of those people who have left Syria. However refugees are still coming from many other countries, including Afghanistan (the setting for a previous military intervention from the West that you might remember).

Furthermore the plan from David Cameron is to help only those refugees still in Syria and not any of the people currently on the move or already in the awful conditions in Calais. This plan is very ill thought out and will not, as Cameron has argued, encourage people to keep away from the EU.

In the discussion it was noted how the government, some media and other sources appear to deliberately blur the language used when referring to the current situation by interchangeably using the words ‘immigrant’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’. The discussion raised how Neil Carmichael MP has seemed intent on muddying the waters in this way whilst towing the government line that they are doing enough and will not do any more to help.

GARAS are now working with Gloucester City Council and the County Council to arrange the all important programme of response to the current situation. It is crucial to have structures in place with health, social services and education to ensure that the people who come out of the crisis to our county get the best support that we can give.

Not a single seat left.

What next?

Once refugees start arriving in Gloucestershire, and hopefully Stroud, Adele Owens said that the current groundswell of support will be crucial in assisting individuals and families to settle. Help will be needed to prepare and kit out houses with basics such as TV’s and simple home comforts. There will be a continued need for donations and for donations of appropriate food.

People settling afresh here will need locals to help them get familiar with the area, to help with learning English and support with accessing local amenities and services.
We need to keep the movement going. We need to keep our hearts open.
Adele’s message was that we are all human first.

Local Amnesty International members explained that it was crucial for as many people as possible to continue to put pressure on the government to take adequate action, particularly by writing to your MP. You can write to Neil Carmichael, MP for Stroud District, by writing to;

           Neil Carmichael MP
House of Commons

You can also contact him through his website http://www.neilcarmichael.co.uk/contact

It would also be very good if you could send copies of letters/emails that you send to the local press to help raise the profile of the crisis locally.

Talk to your neighbour

In my opinion one of the simplest and yet boldest suggestions made at the evening event in Stroud was made by a woman standing near me in the throng of the discussion. It is my regret that I did not have the chance to get her name, so if you know her, or you are her, please let me know if she would like to be credited properly.

This woman passionately explained that one of the most important things that we can all do is to speak to our neighbours. We can challenge attitudes that we meet that might be misguided or else discriminatory. There is a lot of misinformation out there, as with blurring of the terms of ‘immigrant’ and ‘asylum seeker’ for a political purpose. There is a lot of hate out there with certain groups looking to capitalise on people’s fears of immigration.

We can counteract this by putting an alternative message out there, by painting the picture of what is really happening and by cutting through the myths and confusion; that we can afford, in every sense of the word, to do more.

Talk to your neighbour. With compassion and with love, show everyone you can that the most important thing to do in light of the current crisis is to open your heart.


I note that I have not really credited people directly and have probably unfairly skimmed over individuals and groups who have done awesome work locally. I apologise for this but suffer from the limitations of writing inbetween the normal hustle and bustle of life; which for me includes a very energetic 15 month old! Please post about anyone you think has been important in the comments and include any links that are relevant

25 Sep 2015

Green Party joy as Green MEP to speak at Founding Meeting of new Cotswold Green Party

Members of the newly-formed Cotswold Green Party will welcome Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP for the South West of England to their Founding Meeting at Ashcroft Church, Ashcroft Rd, Cirencester on 3rd October. She will be speaking on “The EU: its positive role and how to make it better” at 12:00 and members of the public are welcome to join the meeting then. A former Professor of Economics at Roehampton University, Molly is a member of the influential Economic & Monetary Affairs and Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committees in the European Parliament.

Andrew Maclean, from Great Rissington, chairman-designate of the new local Green Party said “We are very pleased to be welcoming Molly to our district, almost as pleased as we are to be celebrating the formation of the new Green Party for the Cotswolds. Our membership in the District has grown ten-fold over the last year and we look forward to bringing a distinctive, much-needed Green voice to political life in the area.”

The group will be holding monthly business meetings on Tuesday evenings in Northleach and special meetings in other towns throughout the District at other times.

Further info: Fran Johnson : tel 0792 121 1412

Websites Molly Scott Cato ; Green Party of England & Wales

24 Sep 2015

The financial cost of Oldbury and Wylfa’s Nuclear Power Stations

In the latest STAND newsletter there was the excellent article below making a compelling and detailed case for why the Advanced Boiling Water (ABW) reactors proposed for Oldbury and Wylfa are completely unaffordable. The article written by Dr David Toke, Reader in Energy Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations in the University of Aberdeen is reprinted with permission from STAND.

Before the article I just wanted to also publicise their film night on 29th September in Lydney - STAND are fortunate to have secured a visit to the Forest of the award winning documentary film maker Pradeep Indulkar. He will be there in person to show and talk about his two new films.

See more at: http://www.standagainstoldbury.org/

The financial cost of Oldbury and Wylfa’s Nuclear Power Stations by David Toke

"The ABW design has, let us say, a chequered history in terms of reliability. None of the four operational plants can so far, according to the World Nuclear Association (WNA) database, boast a capacity factor of more than 73 per cent, and two of them have capacity factors less than 45 per cent  - some wind power plant have capacity factors around this level, and they are supposed to be that way! A capacity factor is the amount a plant generates compared to the amount that would be generated if it was operating at full power all of the time. Nuclear power plans are costed on the basis that they will achieve capacity factors of 80-90 per cent. With a capacity factor of 45 per cent (plausible outcome based on experience) any nuclear power project comes out needing twice the power price to be an economic proposition!

"These ABWRs do not seem to be very cheap to build either. Currently three are under construction (according to 'wikipedia'); two in Japan, and one in China. The plant being built in China has been under construction since 1997, admittedly delayed by political controversy at times, but still an eye-wateringly long period. The reactor cost seems high even though interest charges will not, I guess, have been factored in, which will be a real killer for any nuclear project that has to be financed through the UK's proposed low carbon mechanism. So far no ABWR projects are being built in the west, with the reactor for one project initially planned in South Texas being cancelled last year. The costs had spiralled to a reported $14 billion for 1358 MW (wikipedia), a cost that compares broadly speaking, MW for MW, with the costs quoted for building Hinkley C.

"It is strange but I have not seen any of this reality about high reported construction costs, experience of delay, and uninspiring capacity factors appear in the press coverage so far. But these facts, as opposed to the press release fantasy, mean that discussions of what 'strike' price the UK Government might offer to achieve standard commercial rates of return seem irrelevant. The figures just go off the chart. Only government underwriting with a very blank cheque seems likely to ensure that these projects go ahead........and somehow getting the project passed EU state-aid rules, which is another perhaps not-so-minor issue.

"Again the question arises, why not instead invest in renewables and energy efficiency which have much more certain outcomes and cheaper costs?

Click read more to see the rest of this article

18 Sep 2015

Write your own news

This week has once again demonstrated how much of an agenda there is in the media. Only a matter of days in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and the press has stepped up the misinformation that it was forking out during the leadership campaign. This was identified by another article on this blog on 16th September.

We need to make a change in how we consume the news and current affairs and we need to write our own news.

Another Angry Voice - click image for link to article

What’s good about this week’s spin?

In some ways I think the spin this week has been useful because normally the slant of the right wing media is hard to identify. Thomas G Clark has dedicated a whole section of his phenomenal blog ‘Another Angry Voice’ to Political Myth Busting. AAV digs directly at the myths that are pedalled out by the right wing media. There are lies in there that many of us just take for granted as true which are skillfully dissected, for example;

·         The “maxed out national credit card” fallacy; through which we have all been made to think, incorrectly, of the national economy like a household budget
·         The spending cuts vs tax increases false dichotomy; in which we are told that the only two options available are to either have cuts in spending or rises in taxes
·         The unpatriotic left fallacy; as it says, it is something we have seen directed at Corbyn and his new Shadow Chancellor this week

So this week it has been refreshing if only in the sense that the spin and propaganda has been so obvious. Even Tory supporters, maybe even Mr Cameron himself, must have cringed at the anti-Corbyn video that the Tory press office put out at the beginning of the week. This video, if you didn’t catch it before it was taken down for copyright infringement, heavily edited to be made grainy, black and white with eerie music, stated that the new Labour leader was a threat to national security and had referred to Osama Bin Laden’s death as a tragedy.

Only it is not quite what he said.

I agree completely with Corbyn, and I think most people would ; that Bin Laden’s death actually was a tragedy. I remember TV footage of Americans celebrating in the street because Bin Laden had been assassinated and felt very uneasy. Cheering in the street about anyone’s death can’t be right. Although we might feel that revenge is sweet and certainly many of us wanted Bin Laden to pay for what he had done; should you have a death sentence without a trial? Dispense with public accountability? This is why we have established the systems we have in society; it is part of why we are proud to be British. You can’t just kill people; you can’t do to someone the act that you have condemned them for.

It is glaringly obvious that the media is swamped by right-wing bias. We have begun to ask “hang on a minute, whilst I look at this grainy horror spin-off rubbish, what am I missing?”

Well whilst we were listening to the various reports about how Corbyn had “snubbed the Queen” by not singing the national anthem, we were not paying attention as the government voted through £4.4bn in cuts to tax credits; a loss of around £1,300 to the poorest, working families even after any other measures like an increase in minimum wage.

What a kick to working people in Britain. Hang on! Didn’t the Tories say that Labour were now a threat to working people? That’s weird.

Write your own news!

It has been clear for some time that we need to find alternative sources of news, or at the very least, multiple sources of the news. But also, we need to create and participate in our own news.

This blog is not about supporting Jeremy Corbyn, but I wanted to use his treatment this week, which is the same that Green Party suffers often when it is thrown in to the media’s eye, to highlight the point. Also, Corbyn’s success highlights the importance of social media which Corbyn’s campaign team used to their enormous advantage creating an alternative narrative to the one put out by the mainstream press of the “radical left wing rebel”. For Corbyn’s team, social media and online campaigns got out the message that they wanted to get out. This is much like the success we saw with the #GreenSurge .

So take to facebook, litter your friends newsfeeds with things you care about, ‘hashtag’ the crap out of everything you hold dear on twitter, comment on and challenge ridiculous propaganda posts, write a blog, step out on a protest march, attend a Calais refugee coffee morning, change someone’s mind over the water cooler at work, read different newspapers.

What follows is not non-bias news or blog; it is simply what I would call an alternative to the mainstream narrative. But given that none of the following are bankrolled by billionaires who also happen to be mates with the Tory Prime Minister, they certainly feel more authentic. Try some of these and please suggest your own in the comments section;

Stroud Against the Cuts http://stroudagainstcuts.co.uk/
Molly Scott Cato MEP http://mollymep.org.uk/
Community R4C (alternative to the incinerator at Javelin Park, Gloucestershire) http://communityr4c.com/