Monday, 29 June 2015

The government must act to end child poverty by bringing in a 'triple lock' for child benefits.

North Staffs Green Party has written to Chancellor George Osborne calling for him to introduce a 'triple lock' on Child Benefit and Child Tax Credit payments.

This would mean these benefits would rise in line with inflation or by no less than 2.5%, ending a situation created by the chancellor's decision in 2012 that these benefits would rise by just 1% over for the next three years where many families have struggled to pay for essential like food and heating.

The Sentinel recently reported that 44,100 children in Stoke-on-Trent, 9800 in Newcastle and 7200 in the Staffordshire Moorlands are currently living in poverty. Child poverty in Stoke stands at 27.8% of the population, compared to 23.3% for the West Midlands and a national average of 20.6%.

The city also faces serious deprivation related challenges in areas such as health, employment and skills, all of which have an impact on the life chances of children born in the area.

At the 2015 general election the Green Party ran on a manifesto promising to reform the benefits system, ending workfare and unjust benefits sanctions.

In the short term the party included in its manifesto plans to double Child Benefit,paying for this through raising tax and national insurance contributions for high earners. In the longer term the party advocates replacing the current benefits system with a 'guaranteed non means tested payment sufficient to cover basic needs' for everyone legally resident of the UK.

The letter has been written in support of the campaign for a 'triple lock' on Child Benefit led by End Child Poverty.

In a press statement made on 22nd May David Holmes CBE, Chair of End Child Poverty said:

“It is deeply worrying that parents are having to cut back on food, heating and other essentials that their children need in order to develop and thrive. The new Government needs to seize the opportunity in the Queen’s Speech to stop the rise in child poverty. During the election campaign David Cameron promised not to cut Child Benefit, now is the time for him to keep that pledge.”
“We think it is vital that child benefits keep pace with the cost of living and that the Government gives them the same protection as the state pension. This is an opportunity to be bold and to invest in our children’s future.”
In the letter sent to the Chancellor North Staffs Green Party Campaign Coordinator Adam Colclough writes:

'In relation to a city like Stoke-on-Trent, which faces considerable challenges relating to deprivation and where some 44,100 children live in poverty this would be hugely beneficial. Nationally such a change in policy would lift families out of poverty, contribute to improving school attainment and make a significant improvement to the health and well-being of the families concerned.'

He added that 'the evidence is all around us in cities like Stoke that austerity isn't working, in fact it is actively harming people who are trying their best to make a secure life for themselves and their families.'

It was, he said, 'time for the government to think again, to abandon the damaging assault on benefits it has engaged in for the past five years and for the Chancellor to listen to groups like End Child Poverty when writing the next budget.'


Sunday, 21 June 2015

Including a tame left winger does not make for a meaningful leadership contest.

The Labour Party has put forward its slate of candidates to be the next leader, it is not a mix to set the pulse of the membership racing.

In the starting gate are former ministers Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper; rising star Liz Kendall and veteran back bencher Jeremy Corbyn.

I'd like to say that the inclusion of Corbyn on a late wild-card is a sign of the Labour Party returning to its roots as a staring point on the road to finding a new relevance. At the very least you'd hope it meant the party was ready hear words like socialism used in polite company without reacting like a mob of Victorian spinsters who have caught sight of an unclothed piano leg.

Sadly its nothing of the sort, most of the thirty five signatures Corbyn secured to get his name on the ballot paper came from MPs who don't share his views and have no intention of voting for him. It is an unsubtle attempt to 'include' the remaining left leaning elements in the debate on the firm understanding that they are going to be resolutely ignored.

The sad truth about Jeremy Corbyn is that although a man of principle with reputation for being independent minded he is also a lifelong member of the awkward squad, the whips long ago gave up on the idea of his seeing the light and joining the project. Far from being a potential leader this latest adventure moves him one step closer to occupying the spot vacated by the late Tony Benn as the establishment's favourite tame radical.

It isn't hard to predict the outcome of the sorry little contest set to be played out at half empty meeting rooms across the country for the next few weeks, it will go like this.

Andy Burnham will make the early running and than fade away in the final furlong, done down by colleagues with scores to settle from his time as a minister. Yvette Coper will talk a good game about not buying wholesale the Tory interpretation of the mood of the electorate, she too will fall on the home stretch, the only difference being that some of the scores settles will relate to the less than tactful antics of her husband Ed Balls, who was cast into outer darkness at the election. This will leave the field clear for Liz Kendall, the candidate with the lease baggage to take the prize to the surprise of nobody at all.

Don't weep for her defeated opponents though, they'll all get seats in her shadow cabinet, the music will start again and everything will go on as before with the Labour Party steaming ahead into the night like a liner with an appointment with an iceberg it just can't break.

Does any of this matter? Probably a lot less than the boys and girls in the Westminster bubble would like to think.

Labour lost the election because it failed to connect with the public, a truth so obvious it should be set in stone. The big lie is that this is entirely due to the spectacular hash Ed Milliband made out of leading the party. Actually things started to go wrong a long time before that, things started to go wrong at the moment when they finally seemed to be going right.

From the moment Tony Blair became leader in 1994 he and the New Labour apparatus he created concentrated on the one thing they were unquestionably good at doing; winning elections. Unfortunately they did so to the exclusion of almost everything else.

The idea that a political party should stand for anything apart from whatever brings in the next positive headline and the associated tranche of votes became a dangerous heresy. New Labour may be dead; but its dreary mindset marches ever on.

You can find evidence of this written throughout Ed Milliband's tenure as leader, like to word 'disaster' written through a stick of rock. For the whole five years Labour were vocal about the things they didn't like, but painfully timid whenever it came to articulating a recognizable ideology.

They tended instead towards a fatuous assertion that their cuts would be somehow kinder than Tory ones, either that or they buried anything like an idea under layers of technical nonsense; remember predistribution?

The received wisdom is that because the Tories won it must follow that voters want more of what they've been offered over the past five years, more austerity, more cuts to public services and a speedy return to the good old days when greed was good. As is so often the case this is largely hokum; people voted for the status quo because they weren't offered an alternative they found credible.

Where they were, by the SNP north of the border they rejected the tired old parties and embraced something new. Plaid Cymru and the Greens also saw their respective voted grow, but in the latter case our outmoded voting system robbed them of the rewards their hard work deserved.

The truth is the entrepreneurs who are setting up the businesses that will power our new economy, the people who are doing interesting things in the arts and technology; who are thinking furthest out of the box in academia aren't flinty eyed old school capitalists. They're people with social consciences who care about the environment and believe that fairness is fundamental to having a society worth living in.

These are all things the political establishment with the Tories braying at the head of the pack dismiss as unaffordable sentimentality. Yet again they are far behind the curve, lost in a tangle of their own petty squabbles and unable to see that the wind has changed.

True leadership isn't about offering people more of the same, it is about swimming against the current and offering people what they're going to want tomorrow though they don't know it yet. It is about having the courage to do and say what you believe to be right, even if it gets you ridiculed in the short term.

The Labour Party, which still, undeservedly, has the support of many working people, needs a leader with those qualities. Sadly what its been given is a stale contest between three career politicians; who wins matters not a bit.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Local Green activists to join anti-austerity march in London.

Members of North Staffs Green Party will be joining over 50,000 trades unionists and anti austerity campaigners in a march through London tomorrow.

The Green Party is committed to working for a fairer society, creating a sustainable economy, ending austerity and restoring public services.

A spokesperson for the Peoples Assembly Against Austerity who are coordinating the march said: "June 20th will be an almighty show of strength. Everyone is welcome, and as always, it will be a family friendly event. The People's Assembly have secured an accessible route for the march, with both first aiders and trained stewards supervising and spread throughout the entire demonstration. Last year we saw 50,000 people from every section of society, young and old, march from the BBC to Parliament Square. This year, we aim to double those numbers, and with all our voices, send a clear and simple message to the new government: End Austerity Now!"

Party leader Natalie Bennett said that there had been “a huge upsurge in activism since the General Election on May 7th 2015. June 20th is the chance to bring that all together, to demonstrate on the streets the determination to get real change in Britain."

Natalie Bennett will be joined on the march by other senior party figures, each of whom has spoken about the importance of protesting against further austerity.

Sharar Ali, a deputy leader of the Green Party said:"Politics is about nothing if not about helping and protecting the most vulnerable in society. Not content to diminish the lives of the poorest in society, this government wants to widen inequality and deepen poverty still further. The Green Party will fight for the right of everybody to a decent quality of life."

Amelia Womack, also a deputy leader said:"This election proved that austerity isn't inevitable and that alternatives are possible. With an austerity government, we now need to come together across parties to show that we can influence politics from outside of Parliament as well as inside it. I'll be marching in the Green Bloc to fight for a fairer future for everyone."

Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion and the party's economics spokesperson said that the march was important because:"Voting for what you believe in isn't always enough - sometimes you have to take to the streets too."

A spokesperson for North Staffs Green Party said: “As a party we are committed to fighting the damaging and short sighted austerity measures put forward by the government, “adding that “since 2010 cuts to benefits and public services have had a disproportionate impact on the most vulnerable members of society, something we see evidence of on the streets of cities like Stoke-on-Trent every day.”

The spokesperson went on to say that the party would be “keeping the spirit of the march alive long after the event by asking tough questions of local politicians about how they are going to deal with the consequences of further spending cuts.”

The Green Bloc contingent of the march will be assembling at Cornhill (Royal Exchange) at 11.30.


Sunday, 14 June 2015

New regeneration boss must focus on reviving all six towns.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has announced (Sentinel 9th June) that it is looking to hire a regeneration and development manger for Hanley, the salary for this post could be up to £50,229.

The remit of the post will include working on projects including redeveloping the former bus station site, competing the ring road and encouraging more residential development in the town centre.

The new officer will also be tasked with 'refreshing' city centre development, something that has been beset with costly problems over the past couple of years.

North Staffs Green Party welcomes the intention of the council to reinvigorate the development of Hanley town centre, however it does so with some caution.

Firm management is needed to bring moribund projects such as redeveloping the former bus station to fruition, the party though questions the narrowness of the role's remit.

A spokesperson said, ' anyone appointed to such a senior role should be tasked with looking critically at the redevelopment and regeneration of all six towns.'

Adding that whilst the party recognised the 'importance of Hanley to the local economy as the city's main commercial centre' effective regeneration depended on 'all six towns being lifted up together.'

North Staffs Green Party believes that in order for everyone to benefit from regeneration there needs to be more of an emphasis on building social housing and bringing a greater diversity of businesses onto the high streets of towns like Stoke and Fenton that feel, with some justification, that they have been 'forgotten.'

Party Campaign Coordinator Adam Colclough said ' We will be looking closely at the proposals for regenerating all six towns put forward by the council and asking searching questions about, for example, the number of affordable homes included in any new residential developments.'

The Green Party, he said, 'backed the regeneration of all six towns' and wanted to see it 'carried forward in a way that builds communities where people want to live, work and put down roots for the long term; that can only be achieved if the process involves every community.'


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Police station closures will inevitably leave the public feeling less safe.

Staffordshire police have announced plans to cut the opening hours of police stations across the county, including those in Hanley and Longton in response to changes in the way the public use the service.

As a result there will now be no police stations open 24 hours a day in the whole of North Staffordshire.

They have also announced that the police stations in Stoke and Tunstall will be closed down, this will save £ 1 million in operating costs, with the possibility that up to £4 million could be generated if both sites are sold to developers.

Staffordshire Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Ellis told the Sentinel that while he recognised that 'people like the idea' of police stations being open around the clock 'policing budgets are reducing, as are the numbers of people using inquiry desks.'

Green Party activist Jan Zablocki said the closures were a 'powerful indicator of how deeply austerity impact on services upon which people depend.'

Mr Ellis said the police service had plans to set up police posts in Stoke and Tunstall to replace the closed stations, but did not give details of when this would happen or where the posts would be located.

North Staffs Green Party Campaigns Coordinator Adam Colclough said that it was 'worrying that two towns within our city are to lose their police stations.'

He said that the party welcomed the intention of the police service to maintain a presence in both towns, but drew attention to the problems experienced by members of the public trying to contact the police using the 101 telephone service in the past.

He added that 'whilst the way people interact with the police may have changed over the years the public still like to feel there is a defined location they can go to for help at any time of day.'

Closing police stations and restricting those that remain to opening to the public during 'office hours' risks, he said, 'creating a situation where against the intentions of its officers and leadership the police service becomes a less visible and more reactive organisation at odds with its tradition of being at the heart of the communities it serves.'

As a result, he concluded, 'there is a real risk of the public being left feeling less safe.'

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Stoke Greens elect a new Chair to at an exciting and challenging time.

At their monthly business meeting held at Hanley Fire Station last night North Staffs Green Party elected a new Chair and announced a number of key campaign priorities.

The change of Chair was brought about by the, work related, departure of Matt Maddocks who previously held the post.

Members elected Debbie Grainger to be the new Chair, she said that she was looking forward to taking over as Chair at what was an exciting and challenging time as the party looks to build on its strong performance in the recent elections.

Branch member and Keele student Andrea Grainger is to stand as a candidate to be the West Midlands delegate to the Green Party's regional committee.

Members also discussed plans for future campaigns. The party will be contesting seats in the Newcastle borough and Staffordshire County Council elections.

Party members will also be campaigning in the upcoming referendum of the UK's membership of the European Union and supporting the Green Party candidate in the London mayoral election.

Local Green Party members will also be organising a regular social event at the KPA Clubhouse on the campus of Keele University beginning in August.