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Could the Stroud formula could rescue Broken Britain? Or will tribalism rule?

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For years Stroud District Council has been led by a cooperative alliance of the Labour, Green and Liberal Democrat parties – a ‘rainbow alliance’ (below).

Last May. Gloucestershire County Council’s agenda and minutes post recorded that Cllr Lesley Williams and Cllr Rachel Smith advised that the Labour and Green members had formed a political group called the Labour and Green Cooperative Alliance.  They explained that under the arrangement the Labour and Green members would work cooperatively but would continue to look at issues on an individual basis.

Professor John Curtice summarised the electoral maths: almost half the nation voted for broadly progressive parties in 2015 (49% backed Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP or Plaid Cymru, while 51% chose the Tories or Ukip). He considers the impact of a coalition with even one ‘minor party’.

Labour MP Clive Lewis and Green MP Caroline Lucas noted that in the 2017 general election more than 40 local alliances were formed, where almost exclusively Greens put the national interest before that of their party.

It had a huge impact on the vote – more than doubling the average swing away from the Tories.

 

They pointed out the challenges we face:

  • markets that are too free
  • a state that can be too remote,
  • a democracy that still leaves so many voices unheard
  • and climate change on a scale our people and our planet simply can’t cope with. 

Continuing: “It will take a politics that is social, liberal and green to overcome these challenges. No single party or movement has all the answers. We are going to have to learn to cooperate as well as compete to build the society of which we dream. And we are going to have to recognise that the future is not a two-party system but one in which smaller parties grow – both in influence and in their electoral representation”.

They point out that the millions of young people who voted live in a world of social media in which their identities and allegiances are permanently in flux. They like and they share. They flock to one idea, group or party and then another. A politics that is purposeful but also responsive, open and collaborative is needed.

The case for an alliance between ‘progressive’ parties, has been described by Simon Jenkins (above right) as unanswerable:

“In 2015, 49% of voters went for broadly progressive parties, including Labour, the Lib Dems and nationalists. But at elections they fight each other as rivals. As a result, 40 to 50 seats that might have gone to a single left-wing candidate went Tory.

Then, as now, Westminster tribalism won. Machismo required Labour “to contest every seat in the land”. That is apparently more important than denying the Tories a strong majority – let alone winning elections.

MPs Lewis and Lucas end:

“We are from different parties and different political traditions – and we celebrate that because, while we share so much, we can learn much more from each other. If we work together there is nothing progressives can’t achieve.

“The limits of the old politics are there for everyone to see – the limitlessness of the new we are just starting to explore.

Information sought:

People on the mailing list of this website are drawn from many areas of Britain and visitors come from several countries (opposite: eleven in May), the overwhelming majority from America.

British readers, expats and other well-informed readers are asked to send, via comments, any other examples of an effective co-operative alliance within councils and parliaments.

 

 

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Stroud District Council: serving or dictating?

Gerb Gerbrands, founded a flourishing farmers’ market with Clare Honeyfield (Made In Stroud shop) in 1999 (more here).

In 2010 it was selected as the Best Food Market in the BBC Food and Farming Awards. Earlier this year it won the Farm And Retail Markets Association’s Farmers’ Market of the Year award jointly with Surbiton market in London.

Stroud District Council has shocked and angered stallholders, shopkeepers and the market’s customers by announcing that it was putting the contract to run the award-winning market out to tender after 14 successful years.

stroud petitionThe Stroud News and Journal reports that around 2,000 shoppers signed petition calling on Stroud District Council to reconsider its decision. Visitors to the market queued on Saturday to sign the petition.

The farmers’ market is widely viewed as essential to the town centre’s economic wellbeing. A bookstore owner warned of a ‘devastating effect’ on the town centre if the farmers’ market falls into the wrong hands, while another trader believes the tender process could spell the death of the High Street.

Vice-chairman of Stroud Chamber of Commerce Ron Cree, who owns R&R Books in Nelson Street, said: ““We already know that Gerb is up to it and it would be hard to envisage anyone else running it. It won farmers market of the year last year so what could possibly be done to make it any better.

We know best

A spokesman for SDC: “Councils are under increasing financial pressure to get the best value for money for our tax payers and the tender process will ensure that the market continues to be of a high quality and delivers good value for the public as we recognise its importance to local people and the local economy”.

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Javelin Park 2: Gloucestershire County Council’s PFI incinerator deal with Urbaser Balfour Beatty: case officer removed & consultants brought in

 

PCU has recorded Gloucestershire County Council’s desire to build a £500 million Urbaser Balfour Beatty Energy from Waste incinerator at Javelin Park in Haresfield. It is reported that 103 incinerator sites were licensed in 2010, that in 2011 DEFRA had 20 more applications from large power companies and that a large number of government advisers are involved in the expensive and remunerative incinerator PFI deals.

Highlighting growing concerns that there will be too many incinerators in the UK by 2015 and that they will severely hamper recycling, Cheltenham MP Martin Horwood tabled Early Day Motion 383, . . . to read on click here.

Opposition to this plan by residents, opposition groups and local authorities has been well documented in the Stroud News & Journal by journalist Chris Warne.

Update: the council removes the case officer from the Javelin Park application and brings in a team of consultants – at taxpayers’ expense

GCG says that this – done without informing a lead member of its planning committee – is perfectly normal practice, but the SNJ’s editorial comment is: “There is a school of management that keeps on asking the same question until the right answer appears”.

Geoff Wheeler, the leader of Stroud District Council, has now instructed officers to write to Eric Pickles at the Department for Communities and Local Government, asking him to ‘call in’ the plans as he did with the Kings Lynn incinerator application in August.

GCG’s Lib-Dems, supported by the Labour Group, have separately called in the bid for extra scrutiny but the County Council hopes to determine the application in the New Year.

SouthWest Business reported last Friday that planning experts at Stroud District Council have warned that the £500million scheme to build a waste-to-energy plant at Javelin Park, supported by Gloucestershire County Council and incinerator firm Urbaser Balfour Beatty, could be thrown out by a Government inspector because of the impact it could have on the environment.

Irregularities in procedure

Stroud’s Councillor Marjoram points out irregularities in procedure: the council selected a contractor for the construction before planning permission had been granted, signing a contract with a penalty clause which will charge them £15 million if they renege on the agreement or don’t get planning permission.

Apply the precautionary principle

Ian Richens, spokesman for the campaigning group GlosVAIN, grimly reminds all that in the 1970s asbestos was similarly presented as posing no danger to health and adds:

“Let us not make the same mistake again”.#

 

NOTE:

United Kingdom Without Incineration Network

UKWIN has nearly 100 groups campaigning for sustainable waste management and against waste incineration. They say that the incineration of household waste:

  • depresses recycling and wastes resources,
  • releases greenhouse gases, and is
  • often forced through against strong public opposition.
  • create toxic emissions and hazardous ash, and therefore pose significant health risks.

Electoral reaction: in Kings Lynn, Labour’s Alex Kempe won a county council seat from the Conservatives.  Their majority of 272 at the last election was transformed into a 400 majority for Labour.  Ms Kemp said that the issue of the proposed incinerator had a major bearing on the outcome. The County Council’s decision to award a contract for the construction of an incinerator has been ‘called in’ – there will be a full public inquiry in January 2013.