Stop Theresa rubbishing our country

Dear Theresa. I think this rubbish belongs to you.

Yes, I am blaming you for the two bin bags of rubbish I collected in about 10 minutes this afternoon from the banks of the Lugg, an SSSI on the outskirts of Hereford. I was watched by a crowd of young people enjoying a barbecue, swimming, and dropping more litter – although one did stop to help me, whom I thanked.

We are all responsible for our own actions of course. But I am blaming your policies for making littering and environmental degradation a lot worse than it needs to be. Let me explain.

Firstly, you impose a boring, irrelevant-to-the-21st-century, stress-inducing curriculum on schools that crowds out everything that matters, anything that builds relationships or confidence, and anything that is fun: care for the planet, teamwork, people skills, responsibility. We can blame parents if we like but we have little power over what happens in the home. We – or rather you – do however have power over what happens in the classroom – a huge part of our young peoples’ lives. And your education secretaries have made schools into exam factories. Schools need the time and space to teach our young people to love their local and global environment, and each other. You are making this very difficult. Shame on you.

Secondly, and related to this, exam results are held as the be all and end all of achievement. This is wrong. It priorities a personal ability to remember facts over multi-purpose skills, plus attitudes such as kindness, generosity, encouragement and just doing your best. It makes a huge number of our young people feel like failures. With no stake in society, and heading towards low paid jobs which don’t stimulate them, or the dole, they don’t care. These are not bad kids. They are not actively vandalising anything. They don’t understand the consequences of what they are doing. Perhaps no-one has bothered to tell them. Your car crash of an education policy is part of this.

Thirdly, schools have already had their budgets cut in real terms, and this is going to get massively worse if you win this election. My own local school is facing a 9% budget cut which is the money needed for two teachers, in a school with only 8 to start with. As a safety centre manager until 2015, I noticed schools were increasingly finding it hard to fund the £5 per head to pay for a visit during the coalition years – to learn exactly about this kind of thing. It is worse now. Schools I worked with as Regional Manager for a Community Interest Company in 2015-16 were finding it hard to pay for our enterprise programmes, despite saying ‘this is exactly what our children need’, because they were having to lay off support and teaching staff. If you measure schools by a narrow academic curriculum, and slash their funding, it stands to reason they will only be able to deliver that narrow academic curriculum. All the things that we tell our kids are important are dropped. The things most parents look for in a school – the ethos, how happy the students are, extra curricular activities, pastoral care and careers advice. It’s not just exam results. The budget cuts you are imposing are doing real damage, just to fund tax cuts for your rich friends. That’s immoral. It’s not even ‘conservative’. And it hurts our young people.

Fourthly, you have utterly failed to tackle the environment crisis, which is why, in my humble view, there is such a crying need for an effective Green Party. The sheer volume of plastic waste in particular is a scandal, and my two bags today were full of it. This plastic is polluting our countryside and our water. At current rates the oceans will have more plastic in them than fish by 2050. I know there are no easy answers, but a government obsessed by the incompetent and self-inflicted wound that is Brexit, tax cuts for millionaires and selling off public services to their mates is unable to give the environment the top priority it deserves. You know – environment – that’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat – in case anyone thought this was a minority interest. This is your rubbish, Theresa, because the idea of throwaway plastic should be something we see as dated as fox hunting. Oh, yeah, that too. You’re too busy with utterly the wrong priorities.

So, this is your rubbish. How on earth anyone thinks you and your gang of liars (£350 million for the NHS?) are conserving anything is beyond me. I see myself as a patriot too, and you are trashing everything I love about my country: our schools, hospitals, libraries, streets, and environment – our civic pride basically – as well as our international standing. And our young people feel disenfranchised and cynical. They are poorly educated for the 21st century, not through bad teachers, but through appallingly bad government. Littering the banks of the beautiful Lugg river doesn’t mean they are bad kids. They have massive potential which your Victorian workhouse education system fails to recognise. But it is a symptom of a much bigger challenge. Your government, and its twisted and immoral ‘power-to-the-strong’ ideology, continues to let young people down. If we fail to invest in our young, we threaten all our futures.

Best wishes for your retirement,

Rob

On Brexit…

Dr Ellie Chowns, our candidate for North Herefordshire writes…

I campaigned for Remain on the streets of Ledbury and Hereford last year, and I believe that Brexit is a serious mistake.  It will cause many years of disruption to our economy, will limit opportunities for our children and young people, and is highly likely to undermine vital environmental and social protections.

Brexit was sold to the British people under false pretences.  Theresa May is now steering us rapidly onto the rocks of a hard Brexit, following someone else’s map, with her only concern being keeping herself at the wheel – no matter what the consequences for the country.  Meanwhile the vast majority of Conservative and Labour MPs have fallen into line (against their previous better judgment), citing ‘the will of the people’ when the truth is the country is split down the middle.

Greens believe that a hard Brexit would be immensely damaging, and is in no-one’s interest.  We will be campaigning vigorously over the coming two years to ensure that any Brexit deal includes a guarantee against erosion of social and environmental protections.  We also believe that the British people should have a say on the final deal: we are calling for another referendum in 2019 on the terms of the final deal negotiated by the government – with one option being to reverse Article 50 and stay in the EU.

If Brexit goes ahead, there may be one silver lining for Greens, and for Herefordshire – the opportunity to reform agricultural subsidies.  UK farmers currently get over £3 billion per year via the EU; in fact, subsidies make up more than half of farmers’ incomes.  Greens agree that the agriculture sector deserves public financial support – but it should be conditional on farmers contributing to public goods, rather than simply payment for owning land.  We would change the system so that subsidies would instead pay farmers for positive actions such as enhancing soil and water quality, protecting wildlife, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving animal welfare, managing flood risks, creating decent jobs (including encouraging new entrants to farming and horticulture), and producing healthy and affordable food.

Pollution levels in Lugg at unacceptable levels and agencies complacent

Green Party Councillors have asked Herefordshire Council to look into pollution levels in the Upper Lugg river, where average levels of phosphates are seven times the limits set by the Environment Agency.

‘This is incredibly worrying,’ said Felicity Norman. ‘Such a serious breach of acceptable pollution levels could have a massive impact on future development and tourism, not to mention river ecology.’

She has written to the Chair of the Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee suggesting that the Environment Agency, Natural England and local authorities are complacent. She has asked that these organisations, along with the Wye and Usk Foundation, the Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and other expert groups, are brought together with the Council to devise an urgent action plan.

Councillor Norman has also raised concerns about intensive livestock units and how they are monitored. She thinks that the management of waste and cleaning operations may be part of the problem.

Councillor Norman has already raised the risk to the Council’s future plans should the pollution not be tackled and reduced, asking that the river be put on the Council’s At Risk register.

She has already raised the issue on several occasions but nothing is yet being done.(2)

Leader of the Green Group Cllr. Jenny Bartlett added: ‘The data shows that phosphate levels are way too high. This should be of concern to anyone with a tourism business and anyone who wants to protect our precious countryside. We will continue to press for the Council to take this issue seriously.’