23 Oct 2014

Vote Green, Get Green #2

As expected, more silly nonsense from Labour in recent ward newsletters about our votes in council meetings. Is there any chance they could try defending their own activities rather than spewing out contrived rubbish about me voting "with the Tories".

It's a shame we have to waste peoples' time refuting this guff but here is our response as published in our latest ward newsletter:

"Some residents have asked about the smears in recent Labour party material concerning how Pat Cleary votes in the council chamber. It’s very simple. Greens always vote on principle and in the best interests of the residents we represent.
  • If that means voting to help save a special school like Lyndale then that is clearly the right thing to do.
  • If it means opposing the choice of mayor given the years of scandal under his leadership of the council then so be it.
  • If it means highlighting Labour’s failure to support residents affected by the bedroom tax then we are proud to do so.
The Green Party’s commitment to a fairer society – peace, equality and a safe environment - is based on principles the Labour party abandoned years ago. The sad fact is it is Labour that has sold out to the Tory austerity agenda where corporate interests come first, wages are squeezed and crucial public services are privatised.

And that is something Greens will continue to oppose and, yes, vote against."

21 Oct 2014

Austerity can't end soon enough

Last night's council meeting included one of those silly motions from the Tories slagging off Labour for "warped financial decisions" and a poorly thought through proposal on the council's consultancy spend. If the motion had stuck to the issue of consultancy expenditure which is clearly worthy of debate and further scrutiny it would have had merit. However, its descent into blatant political posturing is something that turns almost everybody off, including me.

This motion wasn't debated, only voted on. It seemed to surprise the Labour side that I voted with them and against the motion but I thought it worth briefly explaining why:

Firstly, I believe it is the case that at least some consultants commissioned by Wirral Council are paid a daily rate, sometimes in excess of £500 per day. So I don’t believe that the limit of £50,000 pounds in this motion has been properly thought through.

But more fundamentally, for the Conservative group to advise anybody about “warped financial decisions” would be hilarious if it weren’t so tragic.

The austerity embraced with such relish by the Conservative –led government represents the most warped financial decision of our lifetime. The fall out is all around us. From the explosion in food banks, poverty pay, zero hours contracts, not to mention the Tories complete failure to eradicate the budget deficit as promised. Their bogus recovery is based on debt-fuelled bubbles in the property and financial markets while millions depend on precarious jobs with falling real wages. Savage welfare cuts sit beside ever expanding executive pay and a corporate sector that takes tax avoidance for granted.

This week we learned from the End Child Poverty campaign that 43% of children in Birkenhead and Tranmere now live in poverty. The warped financial decisions that impose austerity on these families is a shocking indictment of the malign impacts of the coalition government. Austerity is not inevitable. It has to end and it can’t end soon enough.

20 Oct 2014

HS2 should be scrapped not extended

Tonight's council meeting includes a motion supporting the "20 miles more" campaign to link Liverpool to the proposed HS2 railway line. However, when it comes to HS2 we don’t’ need 20 miles more we need 200 miles less.

The government’s own estimate of the costs of HS2 currently stand at £50 billion. That is just the financial cost and excludes numerous other costs including destruction of housing, green belt and agricultural land, disruption to local communities and damage to at least 10 sites of special scientific interest.

Moreover, £50 billion can be far better spent upgrading existing rail infrastructure, removing bottlenecks and improving intra regional links including the proposal for high speed rail linking Liverpool to Hull.

Green MEP Jean Lambert shows her opposition to HS2
HS2 will undoubtedly in my view further entrench the lopsided nature of our economy by concentrating jobs and investment in London and the South East.

Of course, it is not just the Green Party that opposes HS2. To quote Frank Field MP during the debate on HS2 in parliament earlier this year:

HS2 would negate all other major programmes. It would prevent a new route from being built from Liverpool to Hull to Newcastle.

"Further to this, I question whether HS2 will go beyond Birmingham. I totally reject the view that HS2 will take jobs and influence from London to the North: it’s much more likely to suck even more resources to the London axis.

"That’s the reason why I’m voting against the HS2 Bill today

These are also some of the reasons I’ll be voting against this motion.

On devolution the grey parties just don't get it

With reference to tonight's council motion on devolving more powers to local authorities.

I very much support the principle of devolution and the concept that power should flow upwards from the people rather than downwards from an over-centralised state.

However, if the Scottish referendum taught us anything it is not just that people want more power devolved but that they have been left feeling unrepresented and neglected by government policies and politics in general.

In pleading to the government for more devolution this motion ignores a key factor exposed by the massive Yes vote in Scotland. People do not want the government telling us what powers we can and cannot have. They expect government to start listening. They expect what the Green Party is calling for – a peoples constitutional convention with a broad remit encompassing meaningful electoral reform, votes for 16 year olds, a written constitution and, yes, greater powers for local and regional government. But, devolving power on its own is nowhere near sufficient and must be accompanied by fundamental reforms to local and regional government, something this motion fails to address.

13 Oct 2014

Is there space for cycling in Wirral?

Just looking at the latest road casualty stats for Wirral and they make very uncomfortable reading for the various authorities tasked with reducing carnage on the road.

2013 saw a big increase in casualties (+27%). All of that increase was accounted for by vulnerable road users – pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
The stand out figure for me is cyclist casualties and not just because a bicycle is my main mode of transport. That does give me a very real insight and I know from first hand experience that provision for cyclists in Wirral is absolutely dire. Nowhere more so than in Birkenhead where there is virtually no specialist provision to encourage cycling and reduce the number of casualties.

Whilst it is pleasing to see modest growth in the number of recorded journeys by bicycle, it is incredibly frustrating that the number of casualties is also rising:

  • Figures for reported killed or seriously injured cyclists in Wirral rose by 32% last year.
  • These casualties have doubled in less than a decade
  • Casualties have risen in five of the past six years
  • Over the same period, casualty stats for car occupants are down by 69%

It’s obviously wonderful that fewer individuals and families are suffering the trauma of road casualties. However, overwhelmingly this is as a result of improvements in vehicle standards and tougher action on drink driving. In the meantime, far too little attention has been paid to vulnerable road users like cyclists. It is absolutely no surprise to me that, with the increase in cycling, we are seeing more cyclists injured.

I was the first Wirral councillor to sign up to the CTCs Space for Cycling campaign which has the thoroughly reasonable aim of creating conditions where anyone can cycle anywhere.

Only 10 others have followed suit which leaves 55 councillors who need to reflect on why only 1.6% of journeys to work in Wirral are by bicycle. Thousands of journeys in Wirral every day could be switched from car to bicycle creating a healthier population, a cleaner environment and reducing our dependence on imported fossil fuels.

That won’t happen until most adults feel that cycling is safe and that won’t happen until Wirral creates space for cycling.


8 Oct 2014

First fly-tipping cases, the results are in

In many years of campaigning in Birkenhead and Tranmere its fair to say that no issue has annoyed residents more than fly-tipping. In particular, the failure to prosecute offenders has been a source of immense frustration.

Its fair to say the Green Party has successfully highlighted this and forced it up the political agenda. Our campaigning and electoral success have been major factors in forcing the council to devote more resources to tackling this issue.

Yesterday I attended Birkenhead Magistrates Court to listen in on the first cases arising out of the alleyway dumping programme. These all involved cases where evidence has been collected and fixed penalty notices of £75 issued. The failure to pay these penalties has led in turn to court action.

In total, five cases were up before the court, two in Birkenhead and one each in Tranmere, New Ferry and Wallasey.

Four of the five accused did not appear in court and were fined £225 each with an additional £175 in costs and a £22 victim surcharge which is used to fund victim services. That's a total fine of £422.

In the remaining case, the accused pleaded guilty by post and was fined £150 plus £175 in costs and a £22 victim surcharge.

These sums will now be pursued through the court system.

I was especially pleased that the court acknowledged my presence as an indication of the impact that fly-tipping has on the community. I was the only councillor to attend.

Enforcement can never be the full answer to fly-tipping but I am pleased that years of campaigning has led to the first significant efforts to prosecute what is extremely anti-social behaviour.

I very much hope that this will encourage individuals to think twice and manage their waste appropriately. That is surely a better option than risking a hefty fine and a criminal record.

The next batch of cases are due in a few weeks time and I anticipate more in the future.

So well done to everyone who has worked on bringing these cases to a successful conclusion.
Hopefully, this will feed through to a significant reduction in cases of fly-tipping and we can all enjoy a cleaner environment.

1 Oct 2014

More hot air from UKIP

Paul Nuttall's tirade against wind energy is further proof that UKIP never let facts get in the way of a bad argument. The reality is that, despite mixed messages from government, renewable energy is rising strongly in the UK and will continue to do so as costs fall further while fossil fuel prices inevitably rise. UK wind power generation rose by 38% last year and half of Scotland's electricity consumption now comes from renewables.

The sad fact is that the ultra free market economic policies promoted by UKIP simply cannot cope with the reality of climate change. Far easier for them to portray climate change as a myth than question their own misguided policies and accept that the state has a crucial role to play in securing a future based on clean and affordable energy for all.

The Green Party promotes investment in energy efficiency to keep bills down and tackle fuel poverty. We support renewables to generate long term employment, tackle climate change and reduce our dependence on imported energy.