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Saturday, 25 April 2015

Essex Highways Should Keep Their Hands off Our Pedestrian Crossings

You may have seen the article in the Gazette on Thursday (April 23rd) regarding plans by Essex Highways, led by Conservative Councillor Rodney Bass, to close two pedestrian crossings. One is at the top of North Hill between Pat Molloy's Irish bar and Chewton Rose estate agents. The other (the closure of which has been formally rubber stamped) is between the same estate agents and Coral betting shop.
These plans make no sense whatsoever. Anyone who knows this area of town will be well aware that nearby is Colchester Sixth Form College, where I teach History and which has approximately 3000 students. Both crossings are regularly used by the students as they pour out of college at lunchtime or at the end of the college day. In addition they are regularly used by the residents of Balkerne Gardens sheltered housing accommodation.
Like the recent plans to mess around with the Cymbeline Way pedestrian crossing, this all smacks of decisions being made by people who not only don't use their feet to travel around Colchester town centre but also have conducted no basic research into the needs and requirements of nearby educational institutions or senior citizens. It is gambling with people's safety in a reckless and slapdash manner.
Essex County Council argue that the plans are part of the recent new Park and Ride scheme and that they would allow buses quicker access to the High Street. I have no problem with the intention here, indeed I totally support the need to make public transport more attractive. So does the Green Party, which is why we favour a return to proper bus regulation and major investment into bus services. However removing pedestrian crossings in key locations is not the right way to go about it. They are there for a reason and the last thing we need is an accident because people are still cutting across at those points.
Yes I want students and senior citizens to get a more efficient bus service but not if it leads to them being knocked down by one!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Green Party Open Meeting : Inequality : Monday April 13th

The next open meeting of Colchester Green Party is tomorrow (Monday April 13th) and the topic is 'Inequality'. There will be a presentation by Colchester Green Party Political Education Officer Howard Metler, followed by a discussion. All welcome. The time is 7.30pm - 9pm and the venue is the New Inn pub, Chapel Street South.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Vote Green For Jobs and Our Countryside

Vote Green for jobs. The Green Party aims to create up to a million new jobs in climate change related initiatives. This includes specific plans for £45bn investment in home insulation, creating around 100,000 jobs, and £25bn in renewable energy.

Vote Green for our countryside. I keep being asked where the Green Party would build the 500,000 new council homes which we aim to provide. The answer is on brownfield sites. There are over 66,000 hectares of brownfield sites in England alone and the government itself estimates that this could provide room for 1.5 million new homes. Within central London the figures are even higher. The point is clear, we do not need to concrete over the countryside to address the need for more social housing.

The Secret Culling of Seals in the UK

The Tuesday April 7th edition of the Daily Mirror featured a shocking article about the secret culling of seals which goes on in the UK every year, yet has had hardly any media exposure. There has been much publicity over the years regarding the brutal seal culls which take place in Canada and a range of other countries however few people seem to know that it goes on here at home. Despite the fact that seals are supposedly 'protected' in the UK, hundreds are shot every year. In Scotland alone 205 were killed in 2014 and this year the government has authorised the deaths of up to 859-662 grey seals and 197 common seals.
The simple fact is that their so-called protected status is a joke. A loophole in the law allows seals to be killed if they 'threaten fisheries' which basically means the farmed salmon industry and other farmed fish such as trout. This does not mean that the seals are being culled in order to conserve wild fish. It means that they are being killed in order to defend artificial fish farms which are springing up all over the coast to meet consumer demand for, in particular, farmed salmon. This is not a conservation exercise it is a base profit driven one. Moreover in Scotland farmers and waterways managers need a licence to cull seals and they have to stick to quotas and record the numbers killed. But no such requirement exists for the rest of the UK. Therefore in England and Wales seals are a 'protected species' which have no protection. Nice.

The way in which the seals are culled in the UK can be particularly cruel as the licence in Scotland allows seals to be shot all year round, including during the breeding season. A request to ban culling during the breeding season was turned down by the SNP led Scottish government. In the rest of the UK they can also b e shot all year round. This means that when the mothers are shot the weaning pups slowly starve to death. A spokesman for the Sea Shepherd UK campaign group said:

"Typically every year over 300 seals are declared as having been shot. We are convinced that the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have put the number at 2000 grey and common seals shot annually around Scotland's coast".

It is clear that Nicola Sturgeon's SNP has failed completely to protect seals in Scotland and that the situation in the rest of the UK is even worse. While I'd be reluctant to support an organised boycott of farmed salmon except as a last resort, this may well ultimately be something which we need to consider and which the Green Parties of England & Wales and Scotland can take the lead in.

Some music: Tom Robinson Band "Up Against the Wall"

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Change the Tune - Green Party 2015 Election Broadcast

Nuclear Insanity

The Conservatives want to spend £100 billion replacing Trident, the UK's nuclear weapons system. Despite their attacks on Ed Miliband over the issue, Labour (and the Lib Dems) want to do the same. Its odd isn't it. We have no more money for our schools and colleges. No money to expand our healthcare provision. Absolutely no money for the poor. Yet we can suddenly, as if by magic, put our hands on £100 billion to renew a pointless weapons system that could never be used. It could never be used because, as members of NATO (which the three main parties want to keep us in) we could never use Trident without US permission. The US have enough nukes to obliterate the world several times over and would not need the support of us in such a situation. Therefore Trident is pointless. It is like piling up £100 billion in notes in Castle Park and having a huge bonfire while charging Joe Public an entrance fee to watch.


We could employ 120,000 new nurses and build 30 new hospitals. 

We could scrap student tuition fees for 30 years saving students from £27,000 of debt.

We could employ 100,000 more teachers.

We could fully fund all A&E services in hospitals for 40 years.

We could quadruple our annual investment in renewable energy.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Grill the Greens : Public Meeting Saturday April 11th

Please join us this coming  Saturday April 11th, 2.30pm-4.30pm, Colchester Town Hall  for  a chance to hear the Green Party's policies for Colchester, Witham and Harwich.

There will be a brief panel discussion followed by a question-and-answer session from the floor with our local Green candidates:

Mark Goacher 

Party Parliamentary Candidate for Colchester

Cllr. James Abbott

Party Parliamentary Candidate for Witham

Co-ordinator of Essex Green Party

National Green Party Spokesperson on Science and Technology

Chris Flossman

Party Parliamentary Candidate for Harwich & North Essex

Andrew Canessa

Local borough elections candidate for Castle Ward

This is a great chance to ask awkward questions and find out exactly what the Green Party stands for.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Colchester Needs Investment in Health and Policing Not Cuts To Them

I nearly choked on my coffee last week when I read in the East Anglian that Colchester General Hospital plans to axe 240 full-time jobs by this time next year. The hospital was rated as “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission in January this year.According to the East Anglian article an email has been sent to the 3,400 members of staff at the hospital in which Chief Executive Dr Lucy Moore said the trust faced financial difficulties. Dr Moore apparently said only non-clinical roles were expected to be lost and compulsory redundancies “could not be ruled out” but would be “few in number”.
Assuming that the article is correct, it highlights how outrageous the situation is in Colchester with regard to over development and lack of infrastructure investment to cope with it. It doesn't require a degree to work out that building thousands of new houses and sucking thousands of new people into Colchester and then CUTTING hospital jobs is crazy. I honestly despair. In particular I despair that our elected representatives are not shouting from the rooftops how mad this situation is and that we cannot take the 30,000 extra homes that are planned for us without a corresponding increase in healthcare provision. If I was elected as MP it would be one of the first things that I will raise in the House of Commons
But this is just one aspect of the current barmy situation which Colchester is in . According to the 2001 census, Colchester town's population was 104,390. By the time of the 2011 census it was 121,859. That is an increase of over 17,000 in just ten years. By now it will be even higher. Yet have we received a level of investment in our NHS, transport systems and police services to match this massive population increase? Have we hell. Central government now expect Colchester to take 1000 new homes per year with a main target of 30,000.
A recent article in the Gazette pointed out that Colchester's violent crime rate per capita is now higher than that of inner city Birmingham and Liverpool. Yet in a recent TV appearance with Jeremy Paxman, PM David Cameron admitted to a live audience that if the Conservatives win the general election then cuts to police funding will continue.
Therefore Colchester is expected to put up with thousands more people, thousands more cars but with cuts to NHS provision, inadequate investment in our police services and a continued lack of investment in more school places.
The situation is frankly bonkers and unfortunately none of our elected politicians are challenging this level of expansion. Moreover, while they all like to talk about us needing more infrastructure investment, their record on delivering it is minimal. 
The Green Party is committed to a massive investment programme in our public services to match any expansion. We will use the £80 billion saved by not renewing the Trident missile system to pay for this. In addition we will preserve our green spaces and challenge the mad drive for expansion and growth at all costs which is the root cause of the problems. Only the Green Party is serious about challenging the mess that Colchester is in at the moment.