11 Mar 2009

Incinerator campaign takes to streets of Gloucester

Yesterday I joined Green party members from across the County and Ricky Knight, the number one on the Green Party list for the European Election in the South-West, to collect signatures for the Friends of the Earth petition against a monster incinerator near Stonehouse.

Photo: Some of the campaigners in Gloucester joining Ricky in green

Ricky then spoke at a lively public meeting in the evening in the function room at The Bell in Southgate asking: ‘Are all Politicians the Same?’ Euro candidate Ricky Knight said: "It was great to come again to Gloucester and share my enthusiasm for Green party policies to deal with the threats of climate change and global recession. Now more than ever we need these policies to be translated into actions. We have a real chance here in the South West to elect a Green Euro-MP on 4th June."

Ricky Knight, who has given up his job as a teacher for the last 30 years to campaign 24/7 to get elected, said: "I've found my natural home in the Green Party. The SW can be a hub for green energy creating green jobs. The very fact that a monster incinerator for Gloucestershire's waste is even being considered shows how out of touch some politicians are with issues of sustainability. There are much better ways of dealing with our waste and we need to be investing in these for ourselves and future generations."

You can see more of the press release I sent out here with quotes from me and others. It was particularly good to meet up with Ricky again - I was forwarded an article in his local Devon paper that shows how inspiring he is - a privilege to have as our Green party candidate - and indeed one on whom future generations will need to depend on. So please think about voting for him on 4th June.

Retiring teacher set to devote time to politics

A TEACHER with a passion for languages and the environment is retiring from the classroom — so he can fight in a European election campaign. Ricky Knight, 59, from Bishops Tawton, spent his last day at Pilton Community College on Friday last week, where he planted a Rowan tree to commemorate his 24 years at the school.

After spending the past three decades devoted to teaching — and just as he was starting to teach some of the grandchildren of pupils he taught in the 1980s — he has decided to devote his energies to politics, as a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament.
Mr Knight, who is a Barnstaple town councillor, was surrounded by pupils from his Year 8 tutor group, some with tears in their eyes, who told the Journal he was "funny", "brilliant" and "always had a smile on his face".

He was born in Fremington and brought up in Barnstaple, Bishops Tawton and Croyde before he graduated with a degree in European Studies from the University of East Anglia. He took a postgraduate teaching qualification in Bristol in 1979 and took his first teaching job at Braunton in 1980 before joining Pilton in 1985.

He said it had been a "privilege and pleasure" to work as a teacher for 29 years and he looked back with fondness on numerous exchange trips to Germany as well as his involvement in extra-curricular activities such as rugby and music.
"I've seen many changes in education over the years," he said. "And the job doesn't get any easier, but it remains rewarding. For every kid that gives you a hard time, there are 30 who give you a wonderful time. Kids have changed over the years; they are much more self-confident and questioning and they are a lot more difficult to motivate. They expect a lot more from teachers."

He was delighted the school had won "specialist language status" and had started teaching Latin, Greek, Arabic, Japanese, Mandarin, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Russian.
But Mr Knight, who has long been an environmental campaigner, will not be putting his feet up.

For the next few months he will based at a Green Party HQ in Bristol where he will be fighting an election campaign to become a member of the European Parliament (MEP). He is well-known to people who follow local affairs in North Devon for his vocal support for wind farms and his stance against the Iraq war, not to mention his views on many subjects related to the environment.
Pilton headteacher Mark Juby said Mr Knight was an "icon" of the school, before adding: "

He has been an inspiration. He had amazing energy and knows his children really well and has really moved the school on in terms of language. He is irreplaceable."


Joe said...

Really, Phil, I can't believe you're both using the phrase 'monster incinerator'. Way to employ the politics of fear. "Are all politicians the same?"?, Yes, especially the Green ones. It's like you live in a different world from the rest of us.

Tell me one thing to convince me otherwise. Tell me how involved Fair Shares Stroud is in the community. It can't be any less than FS is in Gloucester but no-one seems to want to talk about the scheme. Is it as popular in reality as the Stroud blog?

Philip Booth said...

They are monsters in size and in terms of what they need to be fed - and in terms of cost and perhaps even in terms of their impact on the environment - see the one in Hampshire on my blog here:

Is such a line really creating fear? If it is then that is not healthy - fear as I've said many times on this blog disempowers - but I hope we also give hope that the alternatives to an incinerator are possible and likely if we all call loudly....

... the reality is that to choose one of these huge (is that a better word - not so descriptive) incinerators would be a serious mistake.

Indeed it is hard to tell the truth about stuff like climate change and it's impacts without creating fear - I am scared - the challenge is to be able to digest those scary realities and then see that there is also hope.

Greens have been the ones calling for more rational discussions - take for example around dioxin fears etc - others have tried to play on that. Similarly we have tried to make clear in all our press releases that a decision about incinerators has not been made - we welcome that Tories are keeping the options open and have said so many times unlike some others campaigning.

And what is this different world you mention? As Porritt said last night at the launch of the Euros:

"We've been proved right on every major issue over the last 20 years or more. We're facing a total meltdown of the global economy, and climate change is running away with us – and nobody’s doing very much about it. So in terms of voting Green: if not now, when exactly? And if not you, why not?"

Not sure what the reference to Fair Shares is?

Joe said...

The best description of any structure would be one that can be justified. If it's a 'huge' incinerator, then 'huge' compared to what? Certainly, 'monster' is an emotive phrase, compared with 'impractical', 'not the best of options', or even 'politically skewed decision'. I take that kind of language seriously, rather than viewing it as scare mongering. And there's no mention of the decision not being made yet in that article.

Turning to Porritt, the problem with adopting a pessimistic agenda is that you do tend to get 'proven right' with time. I'm not saying the Greens are wrong to concentrate on the ills of the world, just that it's a lot easier to point out how things are going wrong than come up with practical ways to make them right. I could see for the last ten years or so that we were heading for bad times economically, but I'm not arrogant enough to think that I had any solution. If there is a solution, it will be found by everbody accepting that they aren't absolute authorities on everything, and not by saying 'I told you so'.

That paragraph about Fair Shares was self-explanatory. Fair Shares, based at the City Works, Alfred Street, Gloucester, has a website that hasn't been updated for four years (it still says the scheme is six years old, and they had a tenth anniversary bash over a year ago which wasn't worth an update either, apparently). Unlike the previous time/unit scheme, Gloucester LETS, which attracted healthy grassroots support for a few years, FS is secretive about what services it's 'hundreds' of members can provide, when Gloucester LETS sent out a directory (hand delivered if possible) with services, names and telephone numbers. Gloucester LETS had no funding, and had to charge members a subscription, while FS gets enough funding from somewhere to offer membership for free, and even afford to run a mini-bus and an office, but still has a lower profile than a Rycroft Bail Hostel resident. Jonathon Porritt, the 'patron' of Fair Shares, nevertheless says that it looks like 'the cavalry arriving just in time'.

The reference is that if Green politicians were as blunt about what was working and what wasn't, I would expect them to offer up an honest opinion about how well Fair Shares was doing in their view. Everything I've seen in Gloucester suggests that the scheme there has become nothing more than a gravy train for a select few, an extension of the 'no council worker gets left behind' job management ethic. I want to know if Fair Shares in Stroud is as engaged with the community as the North Cotswold group seems to be, working with the National Trust on an initiative to encourage volunteers. If it isn't, will the environment/economy conscious people that Stroud undoubtedly has admit publicly that something needs fixing, and look into it?

Oh, and PS, I haven't seen anything in the blog about the recycling rate in Stroud thing yet. Most people seem to think it's more important that stuff isn't going to landfill, so I'm wondering how the target is set, to make their record 'bad'?

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for comment - in fact spoke to someone locally yesterday who had just joined Fair Shares and it sounds like it is working well - I will ask further as I have no direct knowledge of the scheme - it is certainly one of the ways of helping ride any recession/crisis - you will no doubt be aware that similar schemes like local currencies were critical in previous recessions - a topic for another blog soon as Stroud is soon to launch a local currency.

As for incinerator Ricky specifically made sure that the journalists who interviewed him quoted him saying he welcomed that no decision had yet been taken and that options were open - as you will see from the press coverage those quotes were put in the Citizen on that occasion and on the previous one when we were at Javelin Park - however Greens will not give up the pressure on opposing a large, monster, huge incinerator or whatever you want to call it.

As for a huge part of the answers re recession, climate change and rising fuel prices download the Green New Deal - www.glosgreenparty.org.uk - sadly we are getting instead a Brown new deal that is hardly green at all. It is tedious and frustrating to say the least to be calling for this stuff for so many years - and depressing - it is hard to get the right balance of saying how it really is and instilling enough hope and feelings of responsibility that folk can act.

You are right that there are no absolute authorities but often democracy works best when decisions are made with full knowledge close to where they have an impact - sadly recent Governments have centralised powers so that we are now the most centralised Western power.

Something coming on recycling rate coming soon to blog - you may have seen Green party comment on it in press - basically press were seeking a good story where Greens agree that it was bad etc - however our response was that in fact Stroud are doing all the right things compared to other Councils but are not going far enough. As for the rates and how they are calculated they are a nonsense and I applaud the local Tory administration for doing what is right rather than going along with them - have written in past on this but no time at mo to look out blog item....must dash work to go to...

Joe said...

I hope you do ask further about Fair Shares, Phil, because I have strong doubts about how well it is working in my area, especially when even it's 'patron' won't comment.

I have, as it happens, managed to persuade the appointed (by GAVCA) community worker tasked with helping to set up the Barton & Tredworth Neighbourhood Parnership that it would be a good idea to engage with Fair Shares. I think every other partnership, as well as other organisations including schools, should do the same. Of course, I have an ulterior purpose in doing so, in that if Lawrence Hughes' FS really is 100% mouth and an indecent lack of trousers, this initiative will prove it. However, if it reveals instead that there is a membership who really are eager to offer their skills to the community, that would be great.

I note that if one looks carefully, as with the front page story in (or should that 'on' if it's the front page?) January 28th's Stroud News & Journal, people do oppose 'the possibility of a large-scale incinerator'. Labour, of course, aren't that circumspect, but that's what local election campaigns are all about.

I had to ask Stan Waddington again about prospects for public consultation on the waste plan, and my query was relayed to Katherine Webb. Here is her response, with my reply:

In a message dated 31/03/2009 16:07:29 GMT Daylight Time, Katherine.Webb@gloucestershire.gov.uk writes:
Dear Mr Kilker,

Cllr Waddington has asked me to respond to your recent email. Consultation on issues relating to how the county council will dispose of Gloucestershire's household residual waste in the future was carried out over 6 weeks. It included a questionnaire sent to 4,000 local residents and over 750 stakeholders. Twenty-one focus groups were also held across the county, attended by over 200 local people, organisation and groups including GFOTE.

Mary Newton's comments regarding 27 days is relating to the time potential bidders had to submit a pre qualification questionnaire (PQQ). This is the first part of the procurement process. It does not deal with technologies or sites, but is just concerned with the technical, legal and financial standing of the bidders to asses their capability of delivering the contract. Mary Newton has misinterpreted this process and has concluded that the county council is requesting bidders to come forward with their full solutions by the PQQ deadline. In reality, the county council will be requesting outline solutions in May. Those making it through this part will then be asked to submit detailed solutions in September. No decisions will be made until 2011. Further consultation will then be carried out when the specifics of location and technology have been finalised as part of the planning process.

best wishes

Katherine Webb
Residual Waste Communications Officer
Waste Management
Environment Directorate
Gloucestershire County Council
Shire Hall, Gloucester, GL1 2TH


I think I sounded a little tart with my last reply to Stan Waddington, although it *was* the case that he hadn't answered my question about consultation. I've been channeling GFOEN's views on this, as best I understand them, to the county council, because I suspected a lack of willingness on their part to engage in discussion, and I wanted to be able to go back to them and say '*this* is how they answer that'.

That being said, I've read about the six week consultation, but neither saw not heard anything of it when it was happening (unless that 'Great Gloucestershire Debate' forum to discuss waste was part of it, and I remember precious little about incineration?). I'm not sure many residents will agree that any of the people consulted genuinely came down in favour of an incinerator. If they really did conclude that it was a viable option (and I'm not completely against it myself), their reasoning has to be clearly outlined for the nay-sayers. Otherwise, the 'dumping' aspersions will contine, and no-one will be happy to hear that we've supposedly *already* 'had our say' in this selection process.

Chees, Joe K

(oops, guess I said 'chees')

Question is, does the council *really* think the public have had their shot at expressing themselves, and that's it?

Philip Booth said...

Thanks for comprehensive reply and useful clarification from Stan. I had very real concerns about the way the consultation was run - see an earlier comment here re nearest Parishes missing out:

However I am confident now that their views have been at least logged. Having said that the consultation did not in my view really look at the issue of incinerators properly.

And on the issue of how waste is calculated I spoke at Stroud Scrutiny meeting last week applauding Stroud for their refusal to take green waste - see some of that here:

I have started some enquiries re Fair Shares but would welcome more specific concerns you may have - if you prefer do please email to:

Joe said...

That would be my biggest concern, the one expressed above, that Fair Shares, in Gloucester at least, practises a measure of confidentiality that LETS never did. The absence of a sense of community is striking for this old LETS member, and it doesn't help that they have resources we could only dream of, and they let them go to waste. Check out the site sometime, and you'll see a page that says FS is six years old. The January before last saw them celebrating their tenth anniversary. That's how far back they last updated their web pages, which look as if they were designed for a secondary school project.

If Stroud FS has a different philosophy, great. I remember that Stroud and Gloucester LETS used to trade, though, and if the Fair Shares schemes are going to do the same, Gloucester's will have to start being a lot more open.

Philip Booth said...

I have had contact with the local Fair Shares scheme and they note that they are aware their website is out of date and that there are many spelling and other errors. They are in the process of getting one of their members to update it and hope it will be ready soon. They suggest going to their umbrella group's website Time Banking UK until the Fair Shares one is ready: www.timebanking.org

I also have heard very glowing reports from members in Gloucester Fair Shares - particularly their work with some vulnerable people - I have also been alerted to a Gloucester video training scheme with people with learning disabilities which you can see on: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rL6jEfzXHOk

It is also worth bearing in mind that coordinators only have a few hours a week paid time to organise.

Joker said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Philip Booth said...

I am not happy about accusations being made about others so have removed the comment above - however I print the remaining part of the comment below:

Come on now, Phil, four years to update a web site (and it hasn't happened yet), that doesn't sound like the 'cavalry arriving just in time' at all.

I've see that video, I picked up a DVD at the birthday party last year (there wasn't time to do much else, I went there straight from picking up the kids from school, and the party was already started)...paragraph deleted...why have I been busting my buns trying to get the embryonic Barton and Tredworth Neighbourhood Partnership participatory status with Fair Shares?

There aren't cracks in this system, there are gaping fissures. How about some newspaper articles about Fair Shares successes, because when I Google, there's no sign of Fair Shares in the media..?

I think these are issues you need to take up directly with Fair Shares in Gloucester. It is good to see the website of the Barton and Tredworth Neighbourhood Partnership
- and great that you are seeking to promote Fair Shares - I hope you are successful as I do think this can be a v useful way forward for communities - especially in times of economic hardship.

Joker said...

Did I not mention that a flurry of emails between me and Mr Hughes accomplished nothing? The Community Involvement Worker for the Partnership was supposed to have contacted FS over three weeks ago, but since there is never any feedback on these matters, it is impossible to know if anything is being done. It's just as likely that my suggestion was metaphorically screwed into a ball and tossed straight in the bin. And you have given me no reason to think that, in Gloucester or Stroud at least, anyone is really trying to present FS to the public as a salve for current economic straits.

Maybe I should ask Porritt, Anita Roddick, Edgar Cahn, and Hilary Armstrong if they think time banking is really all it could be? I suspect none of them, apart from Cahn and maybe Porritt, would know what I was talking about...