I’ve been asking some pointed questions about the council’s recent budget consultation. In particular, I’m frustrated that there was no consultation on the capital budget. This is where Hfds Council currently has quite a lot of ‘wiggle room’, given that it recently made nearly £50m from selling off the farms. Only half that money has so far been allocated, so what is the Cabinet planning to do with the rest? I believe local residents should have a real say in this decision. This is a once-in-a-generation windfall, so we should think REALLY CAREFULLY about how to spend it, and the Cabinet should consult local people on what the priorities should be. I don’t think enough people understand the opportunities and risks here – the council has not communicated openly about this at all.
You can read my full response to the budget consultation process here.
I’ve also asked the Council Leader, (Jonathan Lester) and the Cabinet Member for Finance (Nigel Shaw) for answers to five questions I asked them at the full council meeting a couple of weeks ago:
1. Why was virtually no information given to residents about the capital budget in the recent consultation process? 2. When will residents (and councillors) be consulted on the capital budget? 3. Why were councillors’ suggestions for improvements to the consultation design (such as the inclusion of open-ended questions), made at the budget consultation briefing in July, ignored – even though assurance was given to us at the time that they would be acted upon? 4. Will the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance commit to giving councillors much more opportunity to feed into consultation design in future? 5. Will the Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance commit to giving residents much more opportunity to participate in the budgeting process in future?
Apart from the Greens, all political parties say economic growth is essential. And many Councils, like Herefordshire, list economic growth among their key objectives.
What do we mean by economic growth? If we mean an end to poverty and inequality – a fairer share of wealth for everyone, then good. If we simply mean people buying more and more stuff they don’t need and can’t afford, definitely not.
In my view, the economic model we are being sold cannot deliver true prosperity, emotional wellbeing, equality and long-term security. It treats natural resources as expendable and disposable. It mortgages the future and threatens our descendants with poorer lives. Under the gig economy, people are treated as economic units to be exploited.
Pushing economic growth without considering the timescale is dumb. Is growing the economy meant to stop at some point or continue forever? Is endless growth possible? A finite planet with limited resources surely cannot support a growing population with ever-higher levels of consumption – however fast technology develops.
Expectation of endless economic growth is the key driving force behind our over-exploitation of natural resources. Measuring prosperity by consumption (GDP) perpetuates this economic system and threatens to make our planet uninhabitable.
The green movement is often accused of being unrealistic and impractical, but what is absolutely unrealistic is clinging to the out-dated and unthinking belief that we can go on expanding on a finite planet without consequences.
Global warming could be the nudge we need to re-think our approach – if we can get past the denial and wishful thinking about clean technologies. We can’t possibly run our high-consuming energy-intensive society on renewable energy alone without making other significant changes. We have to divest from over-consumption – not just from fossil fuels.
Securing our long-term future requires us to move away from the consumption-obsessed growth-based, values of global capitalism. This is a huge challenge, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that tinkering with business-as-usual will be enough. There are no proven models out there that we absolutely know will work. But that shouldn’t stop us exploring the possibilities.
MR A W Johnson, leader of Herefordshire Council writes about the need for a Hereford bypass (letters column July 13 ) citing as reasons, future traffic management and opening up the space for 6,500 houses and businesses which must be built by 2030.
He goes on to assert: “Our future depends entirely on growing the economy and income.”
This is a startling claim and I think it’s increasingly untrue.
A desirable future for the people of Herefordshire is definitely possible. But it depends on a whole host of things and unlimited economic growth will ruin everything that’s unique about it.
Since the mid 20th century the world economy has grown by more than five times. However, over recent decades expectations of further growth have created enormous levels of consumer debt. And now growth is increasingly stalled by hard physical limits such as depletion of resources, environmental devastation, financial crises, mountains of debt and the rapidly deteriorating net energy of oil.
Our future, Mr Johnson, does not depend on the fantasy of an ever-growing economy. Our future depends on us clearly seeing the reality of our situation, moving away from growth in consumption and towards improvements in the quality of life.
Herefordshire is a wonderful county, we can thrive, we can create something better. Growth is over – what about “prosperity without growth”.
Join us for a Big Green Conversation about the research on economic inequality and its effects on people and society, as shown in Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book “The Spirit Level – why equality is better for everyone”. We’ll be exploring the connections between inequality, over-use of resources, and climate change – and thinking about what we can do to change things for the better. All welcome on Wednesday 31st May 2017, 7 for 7.30pm at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford. Please note that this is the event originally scheduled for 24th May but which has been moved due to a BBC Hereford & Worcester election hustings at Left Bank on the 24th.
Big Green Conversations are held monthly at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Hereford, usually on the 4th Wednesday. They are an informal, relaxed and sociable event to which all are welcome.
Oxfam’s shop in Eign Gate is definitely closing at the end of April, Hereford Greens have been told after lobbying for it to be relocated instead.
Regional Manager Jo Mattinsley told us: ‘It is always a difficult decision to close shops but one we must undertake to ensure we deliver the funds required for Oxfam’s programmes. We must continue to hold ourselves to account when spending Oxfam’s money and the cost of taking on new shop leases and associated costs are significant. We have clear criteria which we apply to every shop when we come to renew a lease and unfortunately in this case, the risk to taking a new lease was too high both on our current location and others situated within Hereford.
I am sorry I can’t deliver a more positive outcome for Hereford Eign Gate but delighted we will continue to trade in the bookshop. There we are also very grateful of attracting a great loyalty base and will be able to transfer our Fair trade offer to.’
We are clearly disappointed, but will of course continue to support the Bookshop and urge others to do so. We would also like to see a more proactive policy of supporting shops to continue in the city centre. Had this closure been more widely known earlier it would have been more likely that something positive could have been done about it.
You might have thought that there was no one left on a trolley in a hospital corridor. That our social care system wasn’t on its knees. That climate change wasn’t a crisis that threatens our very future or that there was no air pollution epidemic linked to the deaths of tens of thousands.
This budget should have been an emergency intervention to end the chaos in health and social care and address the air pollution emergency, but instead it’s another resounding failure from a Government that’s got no ideas beyond an obsession with scaling back the state. With our NHS in peril and social care in crisis, this Budget was a chance for the Government to take a stand for the public services upon which we all rely. Instead they continue to push ahead with planned corporation tax cuts, and their handout to high earners, while unveiling woefully inadequate funding changes for the NHS and social care.
This budget is another climate failure – with the Chancellor failing to mention climate change even once in his speech. Rather than reversing the solar tax hike or ploughing money into renewables, the Government seems hell bent on drilling for more gas and oil in the North Sea, and handing further cash to the motor lobby with the fuel duty freeze. Britain should be leading the world in climate change technology and green jobs, but instead we’re lagging behind and laying the foundations for another dash for gas.
Green Councillors are challenging Conservative leaders on Herefordshire Council not to cut Leominster adrift in their plans. Green Party Councillor Jenny Bartlett spoke out at a Council meeting saying: ‘The Council’s economic plan is Hereford-centric. They have got the balance completely wrong. Job creation is only happening in Hereford.’
‘New developments in the city include an Enterprise Zone, Business Quarter, University plans, Urban Village, Football Club development and a new River Quarter’ said Cllr. Bartlett, ‘but what about Leominster?’
Members of the Herefordshire Market Towns Forum gave the Conservative Cabinet Member for Economic Development a roasting at a recent meeting. Forum Chair, Green Councillor Felicity Norman said: ‘Our members were dismayed by the lack of consultation, and the clear favouritism being shown to Hereford. We are calling for proper recognition to be given to our market towns, small businesses, and farming, food and drinks industries.’
Come along for an upbeat evening workshop exploring the realities behind austerity on Wednesday 18th January at 7.30pm.
This session will be presented by Charles Grimes of Positive Money, and is the first of the new year’s Politics & Ethics evenings at De Koffie Pot from our friends at Herefordshire Green Network.
Every Wednesday evening you will find sociable, participatory workshops going on upstairs at De Koffie Pot. There’s a chance to develop your political understanding with Talk Shop (first Wednesday), a challenge to political assumptions with Momentum (second Wednesday), a growing movement for social and environmental justice through political processes with the Green Party (fourth Wednesdays). And on the third Wednesday of every month Herefordshire Green Network will offer inspiration via practical and issue based workshops on a range of local and national environmental concerns.
Come along for 7.30, bring friends, network, find out more… everyone welcome
Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader and MP for Brighton Pavillion, has accused the Government of ‘shirking its responsibilities’ after today’s Autumn Statement.
Lucas accused the Government of having ‘deeply skewed priorities’. She said:
“Britain is drifting towards the stormy and unchartered waters of brexit with ministers refusing to reveal the route, or properly adjust the sails according to the headwinds. We needed an Autumn statement which rose to the challenges of the day, but we see a government shirking its responsibilities, lacking any moral compass and leaving us dangerously exposed to both economic shocks and climate change.
“This Autumn statement shows a Government with deeply skewed priorities. At a time of uncertainty they are continuing with plans to give a tax cut to corporations and the highest earners – while our NHS is strapped for cash and local services are under immense strain. We could save billions by scrapping the plans to cut corporate tax and raising the threshold for the highest earners – and we could plough that money into our ailing NHS – but the Government has refused to change course.
Lucas slammed the Chancellor for failing ‘even mention climate change’ in his speech. She said:
“With Trump’s election this could have been a moment for Britain to become a world-leader in the fight against catastrophic climate change but, instead, we see little evidence of a commitment to facing up to the greatest challenge of our times. Indeed, it is shameful that the Chancellor failed to even mention climate change in his speech. By caving into the motor lobby and freezing fuel duty again for the seventh year in a row the Government has made a mockery of the fact that it is the hottest year on record and condemned us to more carbon emissions and deadly pollution.”
“A Government with a genuinely bold vision could have used this Autumn statement to ensure that the economy is future facing on everything from the risks of a potential Brexit to the threats posed by climate change and growing inequality. Instead we have 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. A serious response to the situation we’re in could, for example, have included a nationwide insulation scheme to keep people warm in their homes, cut bills and create jobs in every community. Or the Conservatives could have scrapped their plan to hand cash to corporations and high earners and instead give the NHS the funding it so desperately needs.”