Saturday, 26 January 2013

And the PFI chickens come home to roost

Our local NHS Trust is facing the alternatives of bankruptcy or slashing services because of the enormous debt caused by our brand new PFI hospital:

The hospital, which was only opened in September 2011, already had too few beds when opened to cope with local demand. Add to that the lack of bus services to the new hospital in the middle of the countryside and the old Kent and Sussex hospital standing empty (and soon derelict) in the town centre and therefore much more convenient for patients and you have a typical Conservative disaster. Apparently we are all supposed to have cars and be able to drive to our ‘local’ hospital when ill or injured. How dare we require a decent bus service.

The Green Party has been flagging up for years that PFI is too expensive. It’s a no-brainer. Private finance is riskier than public debt so it costs more. Add to that civil servants not conversant with commercial sharp practices and you get PFI contracts which enrich the private sector at the expense of the public sector.

See more on Green Party policies on the NHS at:

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Robin Hood rides again

 On 22nd January, the Council of the European Union authorised 11 EU member countries to adopt a financial transaction tax - otherwise known as the Robin Hood Tax on which the Green Party has campaigned enthusiastically.

Only four countries abstained in the vote in Council and guess what – one of them was the UK.

Together the 11 countries represent around 2/3 of EU Gross Domestic Product. They include France and Germany, two of the biggest economies in the EU.

The tax will cover bonds, shares and derivatives and will finally mean that the financial sector makes a proper contribution to public finances and overcoming the costs of the current financial crisis – just not in the UK

Perhaps we need to ask David Cameron why the UK refuses to cooperate with this fair tax which could do more towards helping alleviate the recession and its effects than any other single measure. 

The EU cooperation is still open to Member States to join – so it’s not too late for the UK to change its mind.

Monday, 21 January 2013

How to get more people on their bikes

A local resident has criticised the Greens for wanting people to cycle claiming that our transport policies are regressive. Apparently, he is happy for the UK to continue to top the obesity league in Europe and enjoy the dubious distinction of being near the bottom of the league when it comes to cycling – along with Bulgaria, Malta and Cyprus. We cycle less than any of our European neighbours – only 2% of British children ride to school compared to 40% in Denmark. Only 2.2% of the population use cycling as their main means of transport.

Cycling reduces emissions, eases congestion and is good for our health. Holland and Denmark lead the way with road schemes which promote and encourage cycling – and the figures prove their success. The Dutch are even going to heat their cycle lanes this winter to reduce accidents with heat stored underground during the summer.

Perhaps South Eastern Trains could take some lessons from the Dutch on how to keep their trains running on the third rail this winter!

Common features in Holland and Denmark are segregated schemes where cyclists have their own continuous cycle lanes with physical separation from road traffic by a kerb or other barrier and protection at junctions. Evidence shows that improved infrastructure is needed to increase take up of cycling.

To quote the mayor of Bogotรก, Columbia, “a cycle path that is not safe for an eight year old is not a cycle path.”

Saturday, 19 January 2013

How to make the High Street live again

Although the recession is exacerbating the demise of the traditional town centre High Street it is not the cause of that decline – just part of a long term trend. Private research has shown that the decline started with supermarkets and out of town retail parks then shopping malls followed by online shopping

I now live in a small town overshadowed by the much larger town centre of a neighbouring town. We have no greengrocer, no bookshop selling new books, no music shop (even the second hand records and CDs shop has now closed) nowhere (not even the supermarkets) to buy haberdashery

What are the solutions?  Ealing town centre team considers that fashion shops attract a diverse customer base. Ealing shop keepers quote a Gym, Morrisons and Marks and Spencers as attracting additional customers when they opened up. The chain stores can be part of the solution if a sensible balance is retained. Given enough diversity, their presence can generate additional customers for the small independents too

High Street rents are still rising despite the recession and the business rate is about to be increased by 2.6%. The British Retail Consortium argues that business rates play a major part in the demise of retail

Greedy commercial landlords are also part of what is killing our High Streets. They claim to be charging a ‘commercial rent’ How is it a commercial rent if it means that new shops are forced to close down as soon as their one year ‘sweet heart deal’ on the rent expires and the shop then stays empty – until the next short term sweet heart deal tenant viz the much appreciated greengrocer we had shortly in Tonbridge High Street.

There are solutions, but it needs political will and strong supportive town centre management.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

It's snowing

In order to hang up the washing today I had to first scrape the frozen snow off the washing line. So far we have had a very mild winter – even for this country – but now as it gets colder spare a thought for those in fuel poverty. 

Even better sign up to the petition being publicised by Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion    This sends you through to a draft email to your MP asking them to sign EDM 47. The Early Day Motion calls on the government to use the money it makes from carbon taxes to properly fund a nationwide efficiency programme.

We are still one of the richest economies in the world with, generally, mild winters. Yet we have the annual scandal of more people dying of the cold then countries with far colder winters e.g. the Scandinavian countries. The main difference: poor building standards in the UK; high standards of insulation in Scandinavia. Using the carbon tax income to further reduce our production of carbon by insulating more homes is an elegant solution. Send you MP an email today.