Budget fails to address today’s challenges

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.

The time is now. Join us to stand for the Common Good.

Leominster left in cold by Tory economic plan

Jenny Bartlett – Elections Officer (North) – Contact Jenny

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.’

Chancellor’s statement has nothing to say on climate change emergency

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.”

Could Hereford’s M&S close?

The Hereford Times is reporting that Hereford Marks and Spencer could be closing after the high street retailer announced it is going to close 30 of its larger stores.

National newspapers have quoted experts at the Local Data Company, who have compiled a list of areas that it thinks are vulnerable. Hereford’s branch in High Town, which sells clothes, homeware and food, is included in this list but this has not been confirmed by M&S.

Read the full report at Hereford Times.

Building a Better Britain

The new Green Co-Leaders set out their priorities for the next two years and explain how Greens do politics differently.

Wherever we go in Britain – from Brighton to Birmingham, Durham to Dulwich – we see the same picture. The country is in a crisis. From a creaking health service and environmental chaos to a crumbling politics and a broken economy – we live in an age of insecurity. The Conservative Party Conference was a real low point, with a Prime Minister attempting to put on sheep’s clothing while preaching the politics of the wolf pack. In the face of all that’s wrong in Britain, the Tory leadership’s main messages appeared to be that migrants were to blame and that we need to go back to the failed education system of the 1970s.

In recent weeks, it’s fair to say that the Labour Party has attempted to shift onto our territory by joining us in calling for a ban on fracking – and rolling out a pledge for the same £10 minimum wage we had in our manifesto. Of course, huge differences still exist – from Labour’s support of both nuclear power and weapons, to their leadership’s failure to support a fair voting system, their wavering on airport expansion and their reluctance to oppose the government’s reckless ‘hard Brexit’. But, overall, the change of direction is extremely welcome, particularly because it gives us space to put forward the truly bold Green policies that unite our party, and are so desperately needed in Britain.

The truth is that this country is at a fork in the road. The politics of anger and despair are knocking at the door, and people are clamouring for something new. That’s where we come in.

Take, for a start, the state of our economy. We are a rich nation plagued by poverty – with millions of people living paycheck to paycheck, without any real job security. We work all of the hours in the day, yet wages have stagnated for a decade now. We can do better than this. That’s why the Green Party goes beyond calling for wage increases and pay ratios within firms – and looks to a future where people can work less and know that a genuine safety net exists to support them when they’re not working. Our long-standing policy of a basic income – a universal payment to everyone in Britain – is gaining traction precisely because the economy is failing to deliver for so many people. It shouldn’t be radical to say that everyone deserves time with their friends and family, or enough money to live on.

Then there’s our environment – the lens through which we see every issue. Climate change is accelerating and our most precious species face being wiped out. We’ve known for a long time that the situation is critical, but now it’s getting desperate. Both the government and opposition talk the good talk when it comes to climate change – but their actions fall short of what’s needed. Laying down new tarmac for airports, ploughing billions of our money into Hinkley Point and ripping through the countryside with HS2 send us in entirely the wrong direction and are applauded by both Conservative and Labour MPs. The recent decision on fracking was the latest in a long line of backwards steps from a Conservative cabinet seemingly hell-bent on driving us off the climate cliff.

This is about the kind of Britain we want to build – and whether we want to invest our resources in oversized, overpriced projects and starting a whole new fossil fuel industry in this country or the clean renewable technologies of the future. We can build a better country – but that means saying ‘no’ to twentieth-century solutions to twenty- first-century problems, locking fossil fuels in the ground and embracing a real energy democracy.

And then there is the state of our democracy. It’s utterly dysfunctional. We have a government elected by less than a quarter of those eligible to vote and a Prime Minster who has never won a general election. The House of Lords is unelected and unaccountable to anyone. The EU referendum showed that people across the country come out to vote when they know it means something, but we can’t hand back control to the people unless we radically reform a Parliament that systematically locks them out.

Britain is a tough place to live for many people at the moment, but perhaps those facing the worst time are people who have come here from other countries. The mood is toxic and the streets feel unsafe for many migrants and for many others who feel scapegoated by this government for its policy failure. The rhetoric from the government and, sadly, some in the Labour Party too has only inflamed an already tense atmosphere. As Greens, we’ve always welcomed people who come here to make a life – it’s a big part of what makes this country what it is. That’s why we’re fighting to keep free movement within Europe, and pushing the government to take in more refugees and give local authorities the resources they need to welcome them. Ultimately, in the face of rising division across our continent we need to be building bridges, not walls.

The challenges we face – as a country, as a party and just as people trying to make sense of all that’s happening around us, are immense. But we’re resolute that we won’t let this time be de ned by those who want us to be a smaller, more closed country.

We’re proud to be leading this party at this most defining moment in history – we know how much it matters. Thank you for being part of this movement – without you, none of what we do would be possible.

This article was originally published in Green World.