February 1, 2017

Please Help Save Lodge Hill and Stop a Damaging Precedent for all of England’s Protected Places

Lovely video of a nightingale singing to show us all what we could lose. Please support this campaign.

Fighting for Hope's Blog

Once again Medway Council is trying to destroy Lodge Hill, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and one of the last strongholds for nightingales in the UK. The nightingale population has dropped by 90% in only 50 years. The decline of the species is so alarming that nightingales are listed amongst our most threatened birds on the UK Red List.

Please help save Lodge Hill, other SSSIs and the nightingales by taking part in the RSPB’s campaign action. Thank you.

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January 25, 2017

Theresa May’s Brexit Gamble

(Published Medway Messenger letters page 20/1/17)

Theresa May’s Brexit speech on Tuesday (January 17) offered a terrifying glimpse into the future. Deserting the Single Market and Customs Union is nothing short of reckless. These changes will damage both the Medway Towns and the entire country. British businesses, small and large, will lose access to a market of 500m customers and we will all be forced to forfeit the environmental and social protections that come with the Single Market.

It’s unclear whether our economy can withstand this level of turmoil. We have no idea what the outcome of the negotiations will be. The Prime Minister appears to be ignoring the long list of risks and chasing a hard Brexit, all because she is desperate to end free movement – something which benefits the UK and EU nationals alike.

This is a monumental gamble to take with our country’s future. No matter how we voted in the EU referendum, all of us have a responsibility to stop Theresa May throwing the UK off the Brexit cliff edge without a proper plan to deal with the consequences.

Steve Dyke, Co-ordinator, Medway Green Party

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Medway Greens call for homelessness prevention plan

Finally, following the sad deaths of two homeless people over the Christmas period.  We sent the following letter to the Medway Messenger urging action from both our councillors and MPs to prevent further tragedies. A shortened version was published on the letters page on 6/1/17. Our campaign to prevent street homelessness is ongoing so there will be more from us on this issue over the coming months.

Medway Greens call for homelessness prevention plan

I write to offer my condolences to those who knew the two homeless individuals who died over the Christmas period and also to call for an urgent action plan to prevent similar tragedies.

Though we do not fully know the circumstances that led to these deaths, and whether they could have been prevented, I think we can all agree that it is unacceptable that they happened on a cold pavement instead of in a warm bed. I would urge a full investigation to identify any shortfalls in local services and for them to be corrected urgently. Indeed, as called for in the Medway Messenger comment (30/12) there should be cross-party co-operation on seeking a solution to street homelessness.

However, it has to be said that it is not good enough for our Conservative councillors to simply blame non-action on lack of resources, as Councillor Doe did on BBC South East, when it is their political party that is directly responsible for Local Authority cuts!  The Conservative Party is also directly responsible for cuts in the living standards of the most vulnerable, such as the planned £30 a week cut to disability support (ESA) which our local Tory MPs voted for. [1] We have been told by one of our members (a volunteer who directly supports the homeless in Medway) that there is a family of three people, all with disabilities, living in a car! Surely a further cut in disability support will make this situation more likely. How can we expect vulnerable people to live on less and less and still manage to pay their rents?

Although there are many reasons why individuals end up homeless, we have been told that deterioration in mental health services is a major contributing factor for local homeless people. The Government must act to ensure this service is adequately resourced.

It is the responsibility of our Councillors to formulate a local plan to prevent street homelessness, and the responsibility of our MPs to raise all of these issues in parliament and reverse the trend that is removing supportive lifelines from the most vulnerable. Otherwise we fear there will be more tragic deaths on the streets of the Medway Towns.

Steve Dyke
Co-ordinator
Medway Green Party

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/esa-wrag-disability-benefit-cut-disabled-mps-vote-tories-iain-duncan-smith-a6918556.html

 

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Party People 2017 Predictions

All those who regularly contribute to Medway Messsenger’s Party People column were asked to make their predictions for 2017 which were subsequently published online.  Here is Steve’s contribution:

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Given how unpredictable events in 2016 turned out to be, it is virtually impossible to make reliable predictions about 2017! However I offer a few thoughts.

The decision to leave the EU will dominate UK political life for the immediate future. I hope that the team charged with negotiating our withdrawal will remember that the leave campaign was won by only a narrow margin, and that nearly half of those who voted actually wanted to stay. I also hope that the Great Repeal Bill, which will transfer existing EU law into domestic law, will be used by our Government as a foundation on which to build even greater protection for nature and the environment, not as an excuse to reduce it.

I believe that the pressure for electoral reform will continue to grow next year. I would like to think that the Government will at last realise how unfair the existing voting system is for both local and national elections. It would be great if progress could be made in 2017 towards the introduction of a system of truly proportional representation.

Most importantly, next year I hope to see our Government take real action to address climate change. Reinstating support for solar energy and other renewables would be a start

On a lighter note, I would like to predict that Gillingham FC will finally gain promotion to the Championship. I also remain hopeful that Medway punk folk legends the Singing Loins will reform and go on to conquer the world of music…

 

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Party People column

Next is a Christmas Party People column written by Steve and published in the Medway Messenger on 23rd December.

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The year 2016 has not been the best for those who believe in progressive politics. As the year ends there are many things that are going wrong and need fixing, locally and nationally: shortfalls in funding for social care and the NHS, welfare cuts, dangerous levels of air pollution, struggling transport infrastructure, lack of affordable homes, growing income inequality, our relationship with Europe, climate change – the list is long and getting longer.

However despite political developments over the year I remain convinced that many people in Medway share the Green Party’s concern for social justice and environmental protection.

It is said that Christmas is a time of hope and so I want to use this last Green Party People column of 2016 to mention just two of my personal hopes for 2017.

First, I would like to see both local and national government taking action to resolve the problem of homelessness. Through focus on the issue by the Medway Messenger and local campaign groups and the amazing work on the ground of selfless groups of volunteers, homelessness in the Medway Towns is now very much on the local agenda. We must keep it there and with much cold weather still to come our Council should act urgently to protect and help these vulnerable people within our community.

Second, while the Referendum did not give the result that many people wanted, it may actually give the UK an opportunity to improve things for nature and the environment. The retention of existing EU legislation in this area should be regarded as the foundation on which to build even greater protection. The Earth is the only planet we have to live on and we must start to truly value and look after it.

I wish everybody a happy, peaceful Christmas.

January 23, 2017

New Year catch-up – Medway Air Quality/NICE guidelines

We were asked by the Medway Messenger in early December to comment on a report that Chatham supposedly had the lowest air pollution in the country!   And also to comment on the NICE guidelines on improving air quality. Here are our comments:

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While it is interesting to hear that Chatham has been reported to top a list for lowest pollution levels, it does not reflect our understanding of the situation on the ground. We assume that ‘Chatham’ has been used as that is where the Defra monitoring site is, but we think the Medway Towns as a whole need to be considered.

Figures provided by ONS [1] show that Medway did indeed have lower than average C02 levels of 4.2 per capita overall in 2013, though that was by no means the lowest, Croydon for instance was recorded as 3.9 per capita.

A per capita measurement does allow comparison between towns with differing population levels but much caution is needed. Areas with thriving industrial and commercial centres demonstrate much higher CO2 levels, so a low score could be due to a struggling local economy rather than be a result of successful environmental strategies. It is also possible that the average is skewed by extremely high levels of CO2 in industrial areas.  Additionally, fuel poverty could contribute to lower domestic consumption, reducing CO2 levels.

This list should not be used to encourage businesses to relocate to Medway while disregarding the overall need for a reduction in the UK’s CO2 emissions. CO2 doesn’t recognise government boundaries whether local or national. The impact on climate change will be the same wherever the business is located.

It is also important to remember that CO2 emissions do not represent the whole picture when it comes to air pollution. Medway continues to exceed EU levels for nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which has been identified as having various significant adverse health effects, particularly on the respiratory system. This is predominantly caused by transport, in particular heavy goods vehicles, buses and congested traffic.

There is an acknowledged problem with NO2 levels at various sites in the Medway Towns. In their ‘Air Quality Action Plan 2015’, Medway Council admitted that air quality monitoring and modelling had indicated that the Government’s air quality objectives for Nitrogen Dioxide were not met. This means that many properties in Chatham, Gillingham and elsewhere are directly affected by poor air quality.  People in Medway living with such air pollution issues on a daily basis would surely be surprised by the area’s ranking on this list.

[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-local-authority-and-regional-carbon-dioxide-emissions-national-statistics-2005-2013

 

NICE Guidelines on air pollution

Medway Green Party welcomes the NICE consultation on draft guidance for tackling road traffic-related air pollution.

Poor air quality is a real problem in parts of the Medway Towns and people are dying early because of it. We are therefore pleased to see NICE advocating action on this issue.

Their call for improvements to walking and cycling infrastructure is good as these methods of travel should be given a higher priority than at present. People should be able to regard walking and cycling as safe, convenient and pleasant choices for local journeys.

However we do notice the lack of recommendations for public transport.  In order to improve the quality of life for many people in Medway we must reinvigorate our public transport systems across both urban and rural areas. We need to reduce the amount of traffic on the roads and integrated, affordable and reliable public transport will help achieve that.

We hope that NICE will include recommendations for public transport in their final report. We do recognise that improvements to infrastructure are expensive, so national Government should commit to providing adequate funding for local councils to implement the guidance.

January 23, 2017

New Year article catch-up – Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity

We have been a bit too busy to update the blog over the Christmas/New Year period but that doesn’t mean that there haven’t been Medway Green Party things happening.   So we are having a catch-up of posting recent letters, comments and column articles.  First off our letter in response to the budget published in the Medway Messenger letters page on 2/12/16.

Autumn Statement was a missed opportunity

Chancellor Philip Hammond had the opportunity in the Autumn Statement to close the lid on the coffin of austerity and breathe new life in to our ailing economy. He had the chance to invest in the many social needs in the Medway Towns and across the country, and start the green transition that climate change demands. That opportunity was spectacularly missed.Rather than spell out a vision for a positive future for Britain after Brexit, Hammond has merely outlined Conservatives’ intention to take us further down the well-worn path to further failure.

The Chancellor last week refused to change course from the destructive austerity policies of the previous Chancellor, which have made inequality dramatically worse and removed social safety nets. We could save billions by scrapping plans to cut corporate tax and raise the threshold for the highest earners – and we could plough that money into our ailing NHS. But the Government has continued to protect the interests of the best off over the many.

Tackling catastrophic climate change is the greatest challenge of our times and it is shameful that the Chancellor failed to even mention climate change in his speech. A serious response to the situation we’re in could have included a nationwide insulation scheme to keep people warm in their homes, cut bills and create jobs in every community. Yet what we have is more of the same – a backwards looking budget that fails to wage war on poverty and fails to grasp the realities of an uncertain world and the limited resources in it.

 

 

 

 

January 9, 2017

How to get the public excited about recycling

Increasing UK resource recovery and the use of recycled materials could contribute to UK success outside the EU

Inside track

Fotolia_60981742_M.jpgThis post first appeared on BusinessGreen.

The inconsistency of recycling systems is back on top of the resource policy agenda. Two years after the Circular Economy Task Force highlighted the extent of the opportunity for increased efficiencies and revenues in improving England’s disjointed approach to household recycling, WRAP has launched its Framework for greater consistency.

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December 10, 2016

What if goodwill to all wasn’t only for Christmas #stopfundinghate

November 20, 2016

Urgent – Please help the Medway homeless

Below is a letter published in the Medway Messenger recently which both commented on the recent Rainham Central by-election and called on the Council to do more to help people faced with homelessness in Medway.

Sadly eviction is due to go ahead of the camp on Gillingham Lines tomorrow at 10 am.  This camp was organised by one of our members who is asking whether anyone who is available can go along and support the five homeless people who remain in the camp.

The people who are homeless will not just go away because the  camp is evicted. They deserve our support and we need to urge our Council to do more to help.

*****

I write on behalf of George Meegan to thank all those who voted for him in the recent Council by-election in Rainham Central, but also to push for both recently appointed and existing Medway Councillors to urgently respond to a growing local problem, that of street homelessness.

The Green Party result in the by-election held last Thursday was not as good as hoped but may reflect that, unlike other parties, we were not out vigorously campaigning in the area in the lead up to the election, a decision made, in part, because of the sad circumstances surrounding the by-election.

Unfortunately, no Councillors were present at a public meeting held earlier on the day of the count to discuss how we can best help homeless people in Medway. In fact, one local resident (one of our members) who with a few of her friends has been independently providing support and organising camps for the homeless across Medway, has written to Rainham Central Councillor and Gillingham and Rainham MP Rehman Chishti on several occasions pleading for help and is yet to even receive a response!

We are told that there is a lot of work going on on the ground with various agencies doing their best to provide and find homes but that progress is slow, particularly as there are two to three new homeless people, in Gillingham alone, every week. It is an added concern that with the new benefits cap coming in this week, there will be a lot more people in this position before Christmas, including families.

We would therefore urge all our elected Councillors to now turn their minds to providing urgent support for people who find themselves homeless and to work as vigorously at addressing this problem as they do towards winning by-elections. Local people can help by checking the “Medway Help for Homeless” Facebook page to see if they are able to donate any of the clothing, sleeping bags, quilts or camping equipment needed urgently.

Yours,

Steve Dyke
Medway Green Party co-ordinator