Recently on the website we posted an open letter from Kevin Lister to Gloucester and Cheltenham councillors regarding the economic and environmental mess that is Gloucestershire’s airport. It makes an interesting comparison with other news for Gloucestershire about how the county council has handled the incinerator project.
These are two different levels of local government, three different administrations, but comparable attitudes to public money, infrastructure and resources. We might also consider the GCC bid for millions to build a new road when there’s apparently no money to fill the potholes in the old ones.
The gist of these stories (the details are in the links if you want actual figures) is that an incredible amount of public money gets spent on projects that do not benefit the vast majority of us in any way. We don’t need an incinerator. We most especially don’t need one where insane amounts were paid for the land to build it on. GCC gambled on getting funding, and the gamble did not work out. We all pay, and we pay in terms of cash being ever tighter for essential services. That public money has gone into an airport – hardly an eco-friendly choice, and hardly of service to the majority - is also a travesty.
In the Green Party we are very clear that public money has to be spent for public benefit – not on vanity schemes, cloud castles or propping up the habits of the already affluent. We have to respect taxpayers, and recognise that politics is supposed to be about public service. That means really sitting down to scrutinise projects and budgets to see if they measure up to those standards. From Kevin Lister’s letter and reporting, it looks like many of the people making judgements about the airport had not read or understood the implications of what was happening there, and that’s just not good enough. Anyone in office has a duty to do better by the general public, and key to that duty is having as good an understanding as you can get of what’s going on.
It’s not exactly glamorous. Reading through the fine details of contracts and policy documents is frequently dull and often mentally taxing, but how do we make good decisions without all the facts?
One of the things I can say with pride about the local Greens is that we do the reading. We commented in detail on the local plan, we are responding to the minerals policy consultation at the moment. I end up reading all kinds of things to make sure we’re accurate on the media side – the chief medical officer’s report was a memorable one for me this year. I’ve read reports on Staverton airport. We do our homework. Voters and taxpayers (that’s all adults, one way or another) are entitled to expect as much.
We think Green administrations would have handled public money far better than these local councils have done. We’d like a chance to prove that. If you’d like an opportunity to see something a lot more diligent in operation, we’d value your vote.