Archive for May, 2017

May 28, 2017

Medway Green candidates pledge support for #WASPI

Green candidates were among General Election candidates at a recent Medway WASPI meeting pledging their support.

Below is also a letter (sent to the Medway Messenger but unfortunately not published) from our Membership Liaison Officer, Marilyn Stone, who is also a “waspi” which provides further details and explains what is at stake.

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Sonia Hyner, Green candidate for Rochester and Strood with WASPI pledge, Marilyn on her left

Many thanks “Medway WASPI” (Women Against State Pension Inequality) for organising a meeting with the prospective Medway parliamentary candidates.  I was born in 1953 and am now inspired to be more “waspi”.  Thanks also to the Green and Labour candidates who signed a pledge giving their support.   It was noted that Kelly Tolhurst, Conservative candidate, claimed to have not been invited, though the organisers there insisted the email invitation had gone out to all candidates.

WASPI highlights how unfairly women born in the 1950s were treated regarding changes to their State Pension. I urge all who are or who know women in this age group to listen to WASPI’s concerns (waspi.co.uk) and become involved.

WASPI agree that men and women’s retirement ages needed to be equalised. However, WASPI do not agree with the speed and scale of changes. DWP incompetence has led to some women having as little as one year’s notice of up to six years increase to their state pension age!  Recommendations of 10 to 15 years as being fair notice to allow women to plan and adjust have been ignored.

Women are suffering real financial hardships, finding themselves needing to seek employment at 60. Having been a union member I was aware of the changes but the time scale has not enabled me to do anything about the financial loss of approximately £26000 that I personally experienced.

I will be writing to Kelly Tolhurst to ask if she will pledge her support.

Marilyn Stone

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May 28, 2017

Green party candidates slam unfair treatment of older people

adult-social-careGreen Party candidates, Sonia Hyner and Clive Gregory, have been highly critical of measures proposed by the Tory Party to pay for social care which they claim are a tax on illness.

The Tory Manifesto says that older people requiring care in their own homes would have to meet the costs out of the equity tied up in their homes but would be allowed to keep the first £100,000. This is a change from current arrangements in which the cut-off was lower at £23,250 but did not include the value of people’s homes.  Under the new proposal home owners would be able to continue living in their homes until the end of their lives at which point the social care payments and premiums owed to equity insurance companies would become payable.  As a result of public reaction, the Conservative party changed this policy on Monday, four days after it was included in their manifesto, to include a cap on how much individuals would pay in social care, but have not stated the level of the cap.

Sonia Hyner, Green Party candidate for Rochester and Strood, says:
“The Tories are really hitting vulnerable older people this time round.  These unfair proposals mean that those who are fortunate enough to live to a ripe old age without needing social care don’t have to pay anything into the system and get to pass on their homes to their children or grandchildren. However this is denied to others who need social care as the result of disabilities which could be the result of a stroke or having developed dementia. It is basically a tax on illness.  The panic induced change on Monday to include a cap on the amount paid offers no guarantee that people’s homes will be safe from this unfair policy.

“A much fairer way of contributing to the costs of social care would be one which spreads the risk such as an increase in inheritance tax or progressive taxation.  The NHS contains the principles of sharing costs across the population so that no one has to fear financial penalties from being ill and the same principles should be applied to social care.  The Green Party would ensure that social care for the over 65s is provided free at the point of delivery just like the NHS”.

Clive Gregory, Green Party candidate for Gillingham and Rainham, adds:
“This proposal is yet another in a long line of asset grabs by the financial and global corporate sectors facilitated by Tory and Tory led governments and the Blair led Labour government.  Whether it is selling off our public services, PFIs, bailing out the banks or arranging private financial “help” which will take away the modest assets we have worked for all our lives; they all end up with us having to work harder for less.  The only beneficiaries of these proposals would be the banks and equity firms”.

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May 26, 2017

Tory cuts obsession threatens our future by Bernard Hyde, Green candidate for Chatham and Aylesford

sure start demoThe threatened closures of Sure Start Centres in Medway are part of a political strategy that has been threatening our social support systems since 2010 when the Tory-led Coalition Government came into power.   It was at that point that the Tories decided that it was “fair” to inflict the debts caused by the bailout of unscrupulous banks following the financial crisis on the rest of us, and in particular the poorest and most vulnerable in our society [1], by starting a programme of continuing cuts which have attacked our social security and public services.

The argument by the Coalition Government was that it was unfair to inflict this debt on future generations.  Putting aside that the current Government has actually grown the level of debt it inherited [2], this misses the fact that the size of public debt is only one aspect that will determine the potential of our children’s and grandchildren’s adult lives.  The condition of public infrastructure, hospitals, schools, housing, transport, social care, social support services and the natural environment our children and grandchildren will inherit will all have a huge impact on the quality of their lives. There is little advantage to having low public debt if you will not be able to be treated when you are sick, housed when you are homeless, or if the natural environment which supports your very existence has been destroyed beyond saving.

We inherit the planet from our parents, but we also borrow it from our children. It is our duty to act in an intelligent, mature and compassionate way towards those around us and those who come after us.

Bernard Hyde
Green Party candidate for Chatham and Aylesford

NOTES:
[1] http://www.social-policy.org.uk/downloads/idow.pdf (p8)

[2] https://fullfact.org/economy/labour-and-conservative-records-national-debt/

 

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May 25, 2017

Don’t vote for a return to cruelty! By Clive Gregory

P1050398I was extremely concerned to learn that the Tories will be attempting to bring back fox hunting if they get back into power.  Particularly stomach churning was our wanabee PM happily remarking that she is in favour of this incredibly cruel pursuit.

The difference of opinion between those that want the ban on fox hunting to be lifted and those that insist it must be retained suggests that there are two distinct groups of human.  Most people cannot imagine the deliberate killing, as a means of deriving pleasure, of any living creature, human or animal. Indeed eighty-four per cent of the public are against fox hunting and want the ban retained [1].

However, some people when, for example, driving their cars will deliberately speed up if say, a pigeon is seen in the middle of the road, targeting it with the purpose of running it over – killing it and then driving off elated and laughing.  Others will stop three lanes of traffic so a family of geese can cross safely.

Fox hunting seems to me to split humans into these two groups and my opposition stems partly from the obvious fact that those who take part derive pleasure from the killing of a living animal. The fact that the fox is literally disemboweled and torn limb from limb simply makes this ‘celebration’ of the kill the more sickening.

Fox hunting is an abomination dressed up as tradition, enjoyed only by a monied few. It is worrying that Theresa May, who often promises to represent the interests of every person in this country if re-elected, remains a shockingly staunch advocate [2].

The Green Party, in contrast, has a long history of standing up for the protection of animals.  Our Animal Manifesto [3] pledges to strengthen and extend the Hunting Act and we will fight tooth and nail to ensure this barbaric practice remains illegal.

Clive Gregory
Green Party parliamentary candidate for Gillingham and Rainham

May 25, 2017

Meet Bernard Hyde, Green Party candidate for Chatham and Aylesford

Chartered Architect

Email: bernard.hyde@greenparty.org.uk

Bernard HydeThe Green Party stands for ‘the common good’. Three simple words that have a real and particular meaning for creating a sustainable future in which people and the environment that support them matter most. I am honoured to stand for the Green Party in the forthcoming general election for the Chatham and Aylesford Constituency.

I have enjoyed living and working in Medway for nearly seventeen years. I am a grandfather, keen gardener and self-employed chartered architect and town planner specialising in energy efficient buildings, both locally and overseas. The maxim of my architectural practice is ‘work with nature and nature will work for you’.

Many plants and animals have died out because their natural habitat has been destroyed. Frequently these habitats have been destroyed by human activity.  We must stop this happening.  Unlike other species we are able to determine our future and choose to make intelligent use of our natural resources.

The choices we make have to be for everyone and everything, because everyone and everything matter, they are all integral and all have an essential contribution to make to the well-being and future of our planet which is also our one and only habitat.

In Government policy making, everyone should count equally and everyone should have equal opportunity to make their unique contribution to society. Policies need to look to a future spanning decades and centuries, not related to short-term gain but a future shared and enjoyed by everyone.

The physical resources of the world in which we live are finite and we have already used up substantial quantities of them. We inherit the planet from our parents, but we also borrow it from our children. It is our duty to act in an intelligent, mature and compassionate way towards those around us and those who come after us.

Although our resources are finite, our potential to create innovative solutions to a myriad of problems is infinite. Every single person has a role to play and has potential to contribute to a better future. Educational opportunities must therefore be equal for all, healthcare must be equal for all, housing must be available to all. How else can everyone contribute unless they have reached their potential in mind, body and well-being.

Our country has a rich tradition of inventiveness and creativity. In the past this has been the product of a minority of educated and privileged people. How much further and faster might we progress to a sustainable future if we harness the efforts, energies skills and gifts of everyone.

There are already new ideas and developments emerging in every field that could help shape a truly sustainable future for everyone. These need to become our common place, common sense, common knowledge that will be our building blocks to a sustainable future.

Chatham has a proud tradition of skill, knowledge and dedication to the greater good. It is now a seat of learning in every respect from toddlers to retired adults with the potential to achieve great things, not just for the Chatham & Aylesford constituency, but for Medway and surrounding areas as a whole, nationally and globally.

The Green Party has responded to the consultation for the Medway Local Plan with a vision for the future of this area. If elected, I would work to ensure that this vision becomes a reality.

May 21, 2017

Medway Greens respond to Council’s Homelessness Prevention Strategy

Please find below a letter by one of our officers, Sean Shirley-Smith regarding Medway Council’s response to homelessness which was published in the Medway Messenger recently.

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In responding to Medway Council’s Homelessness Prevention Strategy consultation which closed last Friday the Medway Greens have expressed disappointment in the measures proposed to make access to housing “fairer”. These appear very limited and fail to respond to the lack of social housing in Medway despite the shortfall being the biggest in the country (1).

A couple of years ago approximately ten thousand people in the Band C category on the Social Housing waiting list were simply removed due to lack of social housing in Medway with the claim that they were not in enough need.  My family was among that group of people despite reaching the top five of the bidding process numerous times just before we were removed.   We also experienced difficulty in applying for a house on the list as every time a house becomes available there are on average 40 to 50 applicants.   The current consultation document declares the private sector to be “increasingly important” but fails to acknowledge that the reason for this is the distinct lack of Local Authority control over housing.

The document does acknowledge that although housing benefit covers the cost of social housing, it leaves those renting homes from private landlords with a shortfall.  However, it is unclear how the Council proposes to respond to this.  Medway Green Party are concerned that people on very low incomes who are forced to rent from private landlords may have to go without other essentials, like food, to pay their rent or are otherwise at risk of becoming homeless.

While there is a welcome strategy to prevent homelessness before it occurs, it is unclear how well the various groups tasked with providing support are resourced.  The plan also lacks any exploration of alternative options for providing additional housing such as bringing empty homes back into use and supporting the idea of Community Land Trusts which help local people to build their own homes. It would be useful to know how much is spent on temporary accommodation and whether these resources could be diverted into providing accommodation of a more stable nature. It would also be useful to know what is meant by privately provided “affordable” housing as accommodation branded as such is often not truly affordable to those on low incomes.

Yours,

Sean Shirley-Smith
Medway Green Party Officer

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ENDS

NOTES:

1] Taken from Housing Summary Measures Analysis, Office for National Statistics, 2016 – chapter 17

“In 2015, the 3 areas with the largest shortfall in social housing were Medway, Fylde and Isle of Wight (236% of social housing stock, 145% and 125% respectively). This means that the social housing shortfall in Medway was more than double the social housing stock for Medway in 2015”.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/housing/articles/housingsummarymeasuresanalysis/2015#social-housing-stock

May 20, 2017

Greens put the environment at the heart of their General Election campaign

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Last week saw the launch of the Greens’ “Environment Manifesto” which includes plans for a new Environmental Protection Act [1].   This would seek to protect the natural world following the EU referendum decision by creating a new UK environmental regulator and court and enshrining in UK law all the existing EU environmental legislation.

It would also establish “a right for every person in the UK to have access to a healthy and safe natural green space, promoting good mental health, physical exercise and building community”.

Medway’s own natural environment is threatened by the scale of development proposed in the Council’s local plan, which has at its centre the proposed building of nearly 30,000 homes. [2] Every development option proposed in the Council’s consultation document is likely to impact on countryside and wildlife.  In particular all options suggest development eventually taking place at Lodge Hill, near Hoo, an area which includes a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Sonia Hyner, Green Party candidate for the Rochester and Strood constituency which includes Lodge Hill, says:

“An Environmental Protection Act is vital to protect our environment and wildlife following Brexit.  It would give statutory protection to SSSIs like Lodge Hill which supports the largest number of breeding nightingales (an endangered species) in the UK and areas of green belt land.  While we recognise the need for additional housing in Medway, we are disputing the requirement for as many new homes as are currently being proposed.  We are also concerned that they will not be the right kind of homes, sustainable in design and affordable to local people. We must not risk destroying our local natural environment needlessly. We must fight to protect it for ourselves, our children and future generations as well as for our wildlife, 60 per cent of which are in long term decline.

“The threatened development at Lodge Hill was high on the agenda in previous elections and the issue has yet to be resolved. Whilst we have been consistent in our opposition to development there, we would urge other Rochester and Strood candidates to communicate their positions during this election on both this issue and the future of environmental protections in general so voters can be clear what they are voting for.

“Many plants and animals have died out because their natural habitat has been destroyed as a result of poor choices and distorted priorities.   We must not let this happen here in Medway. The Green Party is the only political party to put the environment at the heart of all of its policies.”

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NOTES:

[1]  https://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/05/11/caroline-lucas-announces-green-party’s-environment-promises/

 

[2] http://www.medway.gov.uk/planningandbuilding/planningpolicy/localplan-futuremedway.aspx

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May 17, 2017

Meet Clive Gregory – Green candidate for Gillingham and Rainham

Previously Green PPC for Rochester and Strood in 2014 by-election and 2015 GE

Email: clivegregory@medwaygreenparty.com

CliveGregoryMain1I have lived on the Hoo peninsular for 25 years and am a freelance musician (bass) and sound engineer. I own a locally based PA/sound services and hire business – Clive Sound.  I also have a company that publishes music tuition books. Alongside this I am a part-time carer for my parents, a responsibility I share with my sister.

My career has allowed me to meet and work with people from all walks of life, from those that regard themselves to be at the top of the hierarchy to those that struggle daily to survive and everything in between.  I’m politically opposed to hierarchy and elitism and believe that everybody deserves equal respect and opportunity.  The individual, as a creative force, bound together with all other individuals to create a fair and just society should be the focus of those elected to represent us.

We live in a world where politicians are to some extent controlled and manipulated by powerful forces that are not elected, nor have any respect for democracy and the rights of the majority of the population.  Big banks and mega corporations, many of whom have budgets greater than some countries, control much of the real power of the world.  They ruthlessly use weapons such as debt, deceit, control of the media and very probably influence where military intervention and de-stabilisation occur.  It is no surprise to note that these same controlling forces do not care for our world and the environment in which we live.

There needs to be a quantum shift in the way we vote and run our politics and financial systems.

This requires a voting system that delivers a parliament that represents the political makeup of voting intentions – proportional representation and a chance for real democracy.

An end to revolving door politics where government ministers and MPs can use their political careers to gain access to excessively highly paid jobs with businesses that have benefited from policies created by those same politicians.  Yes an end to political corruption.

A renewal of the nation’s commitment to the NHS: private companies already control too much of the NHS services but the rundown of the NHS is a deliberate act by politicians controlled and influences by big business.

A complete overhaul of the financial system and an end to commercial banks creating 97% of all money that comes into the economy, so allowing them to control our money supply and rendering parliament powerless in controlling the direction of the nation.

A living wage, not just a minimum wage that needs to be topped up by the taxpayer in the form of benefits subsidising companies and allowing these same companies to keep employees in a permanent state of fear and uncertainty through zero hours contracts and low pay.

The world needs to stop burning fossil fuels and instead embrace renewable energy technologies and our government, rather than taxing renewable initiatives, should be putting massive investment and belief in the UK’s ability to lead the way in these technologies and techniques.  The current administration seem to want the exact opposite, allowing other nations to lead the way whilst taxing and punishing those businesses that want to use renewable energy.

Fracking should be opposed and indeed banned as an approach.  It is not only highly destructive but it’s actually not economically viable – although unscrupulous companies realise that they can exploit governments lack of expertise and make high profits in the short term leaving the nation to pick up the pieces of, quite literally, a fractured land.

Social housing needs to be expanded massively – not high profit buildings that will probably never be lived in.  This social housing also needs to embrace new technologies that allow people to create all the energy they need through renewable energy techniques and high insulation standards.  If profit is the sole motivation for house building then nothing will be achieved.

Housing and other infrastructure expansion should be carefully controlled to ensure that development is non destructive.  We’ve already destroyed too much of our natural land area.  Locally this is represented by a need for housing but where our natural resource – including the Hoo peninsula – needs to be protected.  It is not acceptable for local politicians to even consider construction on a SSSI.  The local council should also be rejecting government plans to build more houses than the area can support.  Medway is already one of the most densely populated areas in Kent and is close to its maximum capacity, so the target of 30,000 new homes should be revised.

May 13, 2017

Cancel Trident and pay for the NHS instead say Medway Greens

nhsMedway Green Party’s three election candidates are calling for a shift in priorities towards greater investment in the NHS and away from privatisation.  This includes a reiteration of the Green Party’s ‘bold’ pledge to scrap the Trident nuclear weapons programme [1] and divert the estimated £204bn [2] cost to the NHS.

Sonia Hyner, Green Party candidate for Rochester and Strood, says:

“The Green party would rather focus on saving lives.  This means cancelling the multi-billion pound nuclear monstrosity that is Trident and adopting real measures to improve everybody’s health and well-being.  It is about having the right priorities.  That is why we are calling for the money which the other parties would waste on Trident to be spent on our NHS instead”.

Medway Green Party is also seeking to draw local people’s attention to the upcoming consultation on local health services which will be carried out in June. The Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Plan (‘STP’) [3] contains measures to redistribute funds from hospital to community care within a context of £22 billion in cuts to NHS funding nationally [4].

Bernard Hyde, Green Party candidate for Chatham and Aylesford comments:

“While we agree that improvements in our community services are long overdue this should not be at the expense of hospital care.  Rather than robbing Peter to pay Paul, we should be making greater investment into both community services and hospital care”.

According to Clive Gregory, Green Party candidate for Gillingham and Rainham, the proposed changes are part of a package of privatisation of the NHS.  Clive says that “as social care services are largely privately run, the recommendations in the STPs are likely to mean even more public funds being siphoned into boosting the profits of private companies rather than being spent directly on care.  This is on top of the disastrous PFIs which have brought the NHS to its knees and ongoing outsourcing.  Our NHS was once the flagship healthcare system of the world.  Sadly, the bankers and the greed of the corporate world seek to regain control of all of our public services.  This needs to be stopped before it is too late and we have no NHS left”.

The Green Party remains committed to the NHS Reinstatement Bill, and to the repeal of the Health and Social Care Act 2012 which forced a commercialised model on the NHS in England. [5] The Green Party would also deliver free social care for the over 65s in line with the recommendations of the Barker report. [6]

NOTES:
[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/theresa-may-nuclear-first-strike-war-green-party-fanatics-jeremy-corbyn-jonathan-bartley-a7700071.html

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/may/12/replacing-trident-will-cost-at-least-205-billion-campaign-for-nuclear-disarmament

[3] https://www.medway.nhs.uk/downloads/STP/20161021%20Kent%20and%20Medway%20STP%20Draft%20Plan.pdf

[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/secret-plan-22billion-nhs-cuts-9299803

[5] http://www.nhsbill2015.org/our-supporters/

[6] https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/files/manifesto/Green_Party_2015_General_Election_Manifesto_Searchable.pdf (p22)

 

 

May 12, 2017

Meet Sonia Hyner – Green Party candidate for Rochester and Strood

Sonia’s email: c/o medwaygreenparty@googlemail.com

Sonia Hyner 2017 intraArts

My career background is in social care and support. I worked for Citizens Advice for 21 years, seven of those in Medway, actively supporting members of the public to alleviate poverty and secure housing.  I then retrained to teach English to adults at Further Education College.

I have been politically active for a number of years and took part in the London march in 2003, against the war in Iraq. I have attended many anti-discrimination protests on racism and homophobia and was part of the march that took place in the by-election in 2014 when the people of Rochester united to prevent Britain First from entering our towns.

As an active peace and climate change campaigner, in recent years my beliefs have been further enhanced by embracing Green politics.

As we re-evaluate our relationship with the EU and the rest of the world I believe the Green Party has a vital role in effecting the change we need including the promotion of a Green economy that looks at sustainability in terms of local economies producing goods for their own communities, thus becoming more resilient as well as reducing our Carbon footprint.

Our health and public services are very much in the spotlight, particularly as the Kent and Medway Sustainability Transformation Plan is shortly to go to consultation.  We must ensure that our health and social care services are not threatened by the plans.  We also need to work harder to match local skills to jobs.  We are suffering from a lack of trained GPs locally, and other healthcare workers.  In the meantime we need to value the vital contribution of healthcare workers from abroad who are propping up our services.  Ultimately I am an advocate of taking back control of our public services, such as the NHS and railways, by placing them fully into public hands.

In order to increase our skill levels, young people need to be given the opportunity to train without being burdened with long term debt and we would support the abolition of tuition fees alongside other ways of supporting young people such as allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote so that they can decide their own futures.

Lack of truly affordable housing is also of great concern. The Medway Green Party have recently sent an extensive response to the consultation on Medway Council’s Local Plan which will map out Medway’s future until 2035 and we are keen to highlight our approach.  We need to ensure that valuable natural land isn’t given over to private developments that no one can afford locally. National politics contributes to the lack of housing as the Tories sell off Council homes and refuse any funding which would allow the Council’s to build any more. We also have an issue with rising homelessness locally a result of national policies which have cut access to housing and social support.

For a truly secure future, we also need to think very carefully about the government’s promotion of fracking and nuclear power plants and warheads and I embrace the Green Party’s work in peacefully campaigning to highlight the dangers.

I value political organisation that encourages partnership working with other like-minded political and interest groups, embraces diversity and encourages participation from minorities.

The Green Party wishes to effect change for the common good.  I am looking forward to telling the people of Rochester and Strood about our brand of Green politics and how things could be better for them.