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Tag: local elections 2018

Ask Your Greens

Inspired by Portsmouth News’ ‘Letter of the Day’ encouraging voters to ask questions of their local council candidates, today’s blog post takes those same questions on air pollution, plastic recycling, rough sleeping and proportional representation and puts them to the Pompey Green Party local council candidates. 

Q: Where do you stand on pollution of the air, and what are your views on how to make our area clean air areas?

 

Mike Wines,
Fratton candidate:

Air pollution is the invisible killer in our city. If you walk down Kingston Road and Fratton Road or, indeed most of the all-too-many congested areas of Portsmouth and you can taste it and feel it in your nose and eyes.

In a recent article in The News, the current City Council leader announced plans to make Portsmouth “the Greenest City in the country”. This is interesting as they have yet to even produce their Air Quality Control Plan promised for last year Christmas 2017, let alone launch the e-petition Portsmouth Green Party along with other concerned groups under #LetPompeyBreathe submitted 2 weeks ago calling for the urgent production of said Air Quality Control Plan.

The introduction of “Boris bikes” is a welcome step but until the city has a clear network of safe and inviting cycleways cross the city it is but a gimmick.

At the same time as the Council want to turn us into the Greenest City, they are also working on plans for the Hard area to be a “little Manhattan” with the M275 entrance into the city inviting more and more cars. Does the word oxymoron come to mind?

For Portsmouth to truly be a green city we need:

  • A reduction in vehicles entering the city
  • A reduction/ban on diesel
  • A safe and clear cycle network and people to be encouraged to use it
  • More trees being planted and NOT cut down as at St James Hospital.
  • Our depleted green areas to be preserved.
  • An integrated public transport system using clean, green energy.

 

Ken Hawkins,
Copnor candidate:

Air pollution is one of the biggest health risks in the UK and nearly 100 people die prematurely every year because of small particulate pollution. Copnor Road is one of Portsmouth’s most congested roads, so I am a strong supporter of the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign to monitor and improve the city’s air quality.

Portsmouth City Council needs to urgently publish a draft Air Quality Action Plan for consultation. It has to give details on how air quality will be improved to safe levels and set specific targets and timeline.

I support the introduction of Clean Air Zones as they offer the fastest and most effective way to improve air quality across the city.

Tim Sheerman-Chase,
Central Southsea candidate:

Air pollution is a public health emergency and has been linked to a range of diseases, as well as shortened life expectancy. I’ve been involved with the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign which has focused on raising public awareness and holding the council to account. Portsmouth City Council needs to plan and implement effective solutions, which the current council has been reluctant to do.

One of the best ways to ensure air quality improves is a city-wide charging clean air zone, which levies a fee at the most polluting vehicles driving in the city. The money raised can go towards improving the walking and cycling routes, as well as better public transport. We also need to change our priorities in planning applications, moving away from car-centric housing and shopping developments, and towards a human-friendly urban environment. For more information, please visit the #LetPompeyBreathe blog and facebook pages.

Q: Regarding plastic – a very useful product but one that is being abused. Do you support the idea of the councils having a department in which this plastic could be recycled by using machinery that can grind the plastic into granules and then sold back to manufacturers?

Emma Murphy,
Hilsea candidate:

I heavily support the idea of the council having a department to recycle plastic and sell the material back to manufacturers as it would increase our recycling rate, provide jobs for the people of Portsmouth, and increase money for the council without raising taxes. Win-Win-Win.

Plastic waste is a blight on our beautiful landscape and something needs to be done, but I would also say that PCC needs to increase our recycling rate overall –Portsmouth has one of the lowest in the South East – by doing things like increasing what we can recycle at kerbside and put recycling bins in public spaces.

 

Duncan Robinson,
Nelson candidate:

I believe recycling in Portsmouth should be massively increased, to include food waste and carton collection.

In regards to the collected plastic, this should be recycled by using machinery that can grind the plastic into granules and then sold back to manufacturers, where there isn’t a more efficient recycling option. I also think that the use of single-use plastics should be stopped wherever possible.

 

bekkie KINGSLEY-SMITH,
st tHOMAS candidate:

It has become increasingly obvious in recent times how problematic plastic can be, with both mainstream and social media apparently recognising the issues it presents and the devastating damage it has on the planet, why has Portsmouth City Council not woken up to it yet? Ecologists have estimated that there will be no fish in the sea in a short 30 years, as sealife struggles to exist amongst overfishing and the tonnes of plastic that we empty into the oceans each year.

Increasingly frustrated by the perfectly recyclable contents of my green bin being rejected, I emailed PCC to query why I am still having to throw away roughly three-quarters of my recyclable plastic. I received no response. This is shockingly below par in comparison to other cities in the U.K. and needs to be addressed immediately.

As a seaside city, we should consider the ocean as an absolute priority. The idea of machinery that can grind up plastic and resell it to the manufacturers sounds like an efficient answer, this should both curb the number of plastics being produced from scratch and lessen the amount that would usually end up in landfill or wrapped around a defenceless creature’s throat.

Q: We have a problem with homeless sleeping rough in all our local areas. Should the councils be operating shelters and day centres to help these unfortunate people?

Stock Photo

Sarah Gilbert,
Charles Dickens candidate:

I am horrified by the increase in rough sleeping in the Portsmouth area.

I believe we need to ensure that not only are there sufficient hostel places in the short term but also that we look at long-term solutions to help people move into more settled accommodation with the necessary support. I do not believe that anyone should be left with nowhere to sleep.

 

Chris Jolley,
St Judes candidate:

Currently, it seems as though it is private organisations, individuals and charities that are making the real effort in trying to help those in dire need, with the current councils’ efforts lagging woefully behind.

Unfortunately, this seems to go all the way up to a Government level, but whilst we need an overall change in policy, we also need action much closer to the issues and this should undoubtedly be council led.

Tamara Groen,
Milton candidate:

Rough sleeping in Portsmouth has increased consistently over the past few years in a direct correlation to changes to the benefits system and cuts to essential local services such as mental health and domestic abuse support. In 2016, Portsmouth was one of the top 10 local authorities with the largest increase in the number of rough sleepers. This is unacceptable.

The council needs a proactive, person-centred approach to addressing the complex needs of those both experiencing and at risk of homelessness. The Green Party takes a “Housing First” approach which provides people experiencing homelessness with accommodation as quickly as possible – and then provides the services they need such as treatment for substance abuse and mental health issues.

To do this, we need an increase in council housing and to provide year-round shelter schemes, not just in the winter-time. Local charities and community groups have stepped in to assist rough sleepers in areas where the council is failing as those forced to sleep rough on the streets are often not considered a ‘priority’ according to the council criteria. Housing is a basic human right and I would push for an increase in council spending in this area.

Q: Would you support a form of proportional voting using any system that is fair but not the alternative vote which was soundly rejected during the Cameron-Clegg administration?

 

Bob Simmonds,
Baffins candidate:

There can be wisdom in crowds. Ask enough people with a wide experience of life and you may get a wiser decision.

Life is more complicated than Right vs Left. Politics needs to reflect this.

The First past the post system is simple and well established. For most of the past 100 years, it has ensured alternating Conservative and Labour governments. All other parties and political ideas are crowded out.

Proportional Representation (PR) along the lines of the Scottish and other regional elections would challenge this. It would give voice to a wider range of ideas and encourage representatives to work with each other and find a compromise rather than conflict. PR would also encourage more participation in politics and elections.
There should be no such thing as a ‘safe seat in Parliament’. There are too many of those at present, where it matters not who you vote for or whether you vote at all.

Every vote should count. Who could possibly be against that?

Menno Groen,
Eastney candidate:

The voting system we mostly use in the UK, first-past-the-post, often results in many of the votes being wasted, as well as complacent MPs in safe seats and disillusioned voters. Proportional representation would not only produce fairer and more balanced results, it also tends to produce higher turnouts.

The Green Party has long supported introducing proportional representation. As I’m originally from The Netherlands I’m very familiar with the Party List PR system, but I would support any fair and proportional system, such as the Single Transferable Vote (as used in Scotland’s local elections and Northern Ireland) or the Additional Member System (as used in Scotland’s parliamentary elections, Wales and the London Assembly).

First-past-the-post may have worked for the UK in the past, but fewer and fewer people are voting for the two largest parties and it is not fit for purpose anymore. Proportional representation, whichever system is ultimately selected, is the best way forward.

 

 

To find out more about the individual Green Party candidates, go to the Candidates page on the Portsmouth Green Party website.  And yes, for those eagle-eyed regular readers, candidates Emma and Tamara are also us, Emma and Tamara the Shades of Green blog writers. Busted! We decided to put ourselves out there.

And remember to tune in next week for the final instalment of Adulting Mondays, the election special where Tamara explains how to actually vote. Where is my local polling station? Do I need ID? Never fear, Tamara is here…on Monday!

Have you got any questions for the Green Party candidates? Or perhaps you have an experience of standing in an election. Let us know in the Comments section.

Local Government Demystified

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part series of Adulting Mondays where I (Tamara) attempt to demystify the upcoming May 3rd local election in Pompey. Today, I am exploring local council and councillors and what the flippin’ monkeys it is all about. So, prepare to be skooled, yo!

 Are you sitting comfortably? Then let us begin…

Welcome to Portsmouth…City Council

Portsmouth is a unitary authority which means Portsmouth City Council (PCC) is responsible for all local government services in Pompey. It basically does the jobs of-of a county council and a district council combined and is responsible for public services that affect our daily lives. Southampton is also another nearby example of a unitary authority.

Yes, Portsmouth is geographically in Hampshire but being a unitary authority is the reason you can’t use a Hampshire County Council library card in Pompey and vice versa. I’m looking at you Mr Rude Dude who aggressively shouted at a Central Library librarian because you couldn’t use your Hampshire library card to access the computers. Pssstt and boooo to you!

The different local services Portsmouth City Council deal with are numerous and include housing, recycling, waste collection and disposal, council tax billing and collection, environmental health, education, libraries and social services, to name but a few.

For example, do you have have a dodgy landlord? Rubbish not collected? Want more recycling facilities? Have a noisy neighbour? Tired of potholes on your route to work? Contact Portsmouth City Council and your three local ward councillors.

Here Be Wards (and Councillors)

‘What be wards?’, I hear you cry. Ok, lemme bruk bruk bruk it down for you:

The geographical area PCC cover is divided into two parliamentary constituencies: Portsmouth North (currently Conservative MP Penny Mordaunt) and Portsmouth South (currently Labour MP Stephen Morgan).

So, these two constituencies are each made up of seven electoral divisions known as wards. Nowt to do with hospitals! It is the role of local councillors to represent their ward and the interests of the people who live and work in that area.

To clarify – on a national government level, we vote for a local Members of Parliament (MP) who represent us and the constituency in Parliament. On a local government level, we vote for city councillors who represent us and our ward at the local council. It is this local level that I am focusing on in this series. (Shout out to all the League of Gentlemen fans who are now reading this in a creepy Tubbs voice.)

Anywho, in Pompey, we have 14 wards with three councillors representing each ward, with a total of 42 councillors (3 councillors in each of the 14 wards = 42. See – I can do smart!). Councillors can be independent or affiliated with a political party – totally up to them.

 

The Portsmouth North wards are Baffins, Copnor, Cosham, Drayton & Farlington, Hilsea, Nelson and Paulsgrove. The Portsmouth South wards are St Thomas, St Jude, Central Southsea, Eastney & Craneswater, Milton, Fratton and Charles Dickens.

 

The ward boundaries can seem pretty arbitrary, for example, I live in the Eastney and Craneswater ward but I live literally two steps from Milton market which is in the Milton ward. Therefore, I feel invested in both areas.

You can find out what ward you live in here and who your current councillors are here .

The four C’s… Council, Cabinet, Councillors and Candidates

Councillors are elected for a four-year term. The cycle of elections can seem a bit confusing but basically here in Portsmouth, a third of the councillors are elected every year over a four year cycle – with no elections in the fourth year.

At the moment PCC is a Conservative-run council as there are 20 Conservative councillors, 15 Liberal Democrat councillors, 2 Labour councillors, 2 UKIP councillors, 2 Independent councillors and one vacant seat. For the Conservatives to run this minority council, both the UKIP and Independent councillors lend them their votes. This effectively puts the Liberal Democrats in the Opposition.

The Full Council (all 42 councillors) elect the Leader of the Council (currently Conservative Donna Jones), and the Leader appoints the other members of the Cabinet – known as Executive councillors. Each cabinet member holds a separate portfolio or responsibility for a particular part of the council’s services, such as housing or education and is the spokesperson for that policy area or ‘portfolio’ they are responsible for. The Cabinet tends to be made up of the ruling political party – so for us in Portsmouth the Cabinet is currently made up of 9 Conservatives councillors. Scrutiny Committees are there to hold the Cabinet and Executive councillors to account and usually tend to be more politically-balanced and made up of non-executive backbench councillors.

Being a councillor is a pretty full-on commitment with tasks ranging from handling local constituents issues and concerns, dealing with casework and council business, developing council policy, working with council officers, scrutinising cabinet decisions and engaging with the community. Councillors are not paid a salary as such and many also have a regular day job, families and responsibilities outside of their role of councillor. They are paid a basic allowance of just over £10,000, travel and accommodation expenses and then extra for additional duties and special responsibilities such as being Leader of the Council, the Mayor or an Executive Cabinet member.

To find out who your local council candidates are for the upcoming election on May 3rd and to read their candidate statements: visit All About My Area. 

So, why not take five minutes to find out:

  • What ward you live in
  • Who your current local councillors are
  • Who your local councillor candidates are

And in considering who to vote for, why not contact your local councillor candidates to find out their opinions on issues that matter to you.  You can use this Portsmouth News  Letter of the Day ‘Ask candidates pertinent questions before you vote’ as inspiration.

Let us know in the Comments section if you have any questions about the local elections and council, and I will do my best!

Tune in next week for the final part of this series – How to Vote, yo!

#LET POMPEY BREATHE

 

As we welcome in the new year with all its possibilities, we also warmly welcome our first guest post written by Portsmouth Green Party Coordinator Mike Wines. As the Green candidate for Fratton ward in this year’s upcoming local council elections, Mike is spearheading the #LetPompeyBreathe joint initiative which addresses the city’s poor air quality and brings together local groups: Portsmouth Friends of the Earth, Milton Neighbourhood Forum and  Portsmouth Green Party.

 

Mike puts this global and national issue of air quality and outside air pollution firmly in local perspective as he discusses the effect of outside air pollution on Pompey residents health, the council’s 10-year Air Quality Strategy which was published last summer  and the follow-up Draft Air Quality Action Plan which is currently in the ‘scoping phase’ and is still not published and consulted on.

So without further ado, Mike, please take us back, waaaaay back to the summer of ‘17 and tell us – what’s the deal with air quality in Portsmouth?

 

Image of Portsmouth Green Party Coordinator and local council candidate Mike Wines campaigning for clean air.

Mike writes…

On 17 July 2017, Councillor Simon Bosher, Portsmouth City Council Cabinet Member for Traffic & Transportation, ‘stressed that he was approving the Air Quality Strategy report and he was awaiting the action plan which should be brought back in a timely way; he would expect a report back before Christmas.’  It’s in the minutes so it must be true.  Sadly he omitted to state which Christmas.  As we welcome in 2018 it would appear, despite the natural assumption, he didn’t mean 2017.

On 28 October 2017, I joined many others on a Clean Air Walk organised by our friends at Portsmouth Friends of The Earth.  The route took us along Fratton Road, Kingston Road and London Road Corridor, an area that breaches national targets with its high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2). The walk was aimed at highlighting the direct impact of traffic on local communities and our city’s air quality.  I found it sadly ironic that I was personally unable to complete the walk thanks to the actual lack of air quality in the city.

Image of Keith Taylor, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East region, being interviewed on Portsmouth’s illegal pollution levels.

Image of Keith Taylor, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East region, being interviewed on Portsmouth’s illegal pollution levels.

On 2 November 2017, SE Green MEP Keith Taylor and I met with representatives from Portsmouth City Council, Dr. Jason Horsley, Director of Public Health, and Richard Lee, Regulatory Service Manager and Air Quality Specialist to discuss the city’s poor air quality.  After the meeting, Keith stated that he welcomed the news that the upcoming Air Quality Action Plan will be put out for consultation. He went on to say “However, it is worrying that there is no timeline to do this. Every day that passes, is one too many for those vulnerable to dirty air. We need to urgently ensure the city is brought within legal pollution limits and made a safer place for pedestrians, cyclists, and children walking to school.”

Image of Keith Taylor, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East region, being interviewed on Portsmouth’s illegal pollution levels.

Image of Keith Taylor, the Green Party Member of the European Parliament for the South East region, being interviewed on Portsmouth’s illegal pollution levels.

I don’t know about you but, personally speaking, I am fed up with having streaming eyes and getting out of breath walking 10 minutes out of my front door.  I’d love to enjoy the markets on Palmerston Road and in the past I’d have happily taken the 20 minutes to walk down there.  My only option now is to drive down there and add to the problem. It would be nice also not to be an added burden on our overstretched NHS. (On a side note, click here to see Mike talking about his personal experience on how the lack of funding for the NHS and Care in the Community has impacted on his father’s deteriorating health. Ok, back to Mike’s post!)

To quote myself after the November meeting with MEP Keith Taylor and the Council representatives: “The city council’s Air Quality Action Strategy is wholly inadequate for the task as it stands. Unless the strategy is accompanied by a detailed plan to bring air pollution within safe levels, we are left with poor a prospect of Portsmouth being rid of its air pollution scourge. We need to see urgent solutions to address the traffic problem in the city. Not just to and from the tourist areas such as Gunwharf Quays, but the traffic problem across all areas of the city such as Fratton Road, Kingston Road, and London Road where residents live, work and learn.”

Councillor Bosher appeared to neglect to ask Father Christmas last year for the Action Plan.  Let’s hope he’s asked the 2018 Easter Bunny.

 

Thanks, Mike!

To find out more about the #LetPompeyBreathe campaign, visit:

 

But wait, there’s more! Why not go offline and learn more about Portsmouth’s air quality from an informed local resident whilst having a chat and a pint with like-minded individuals?  Check out Portsmouth Green Drinks upcoming  event this January 10th at The Kings Pub, 39 Albert Road, Portsmouth, PO5 2SE at 7.30pm.

From 8pm, Mike Dobson from Friends of Old Portsmouth Association will be speaking on ‘A Community Perspective on Air Quality’. He will talk about some of his findings in relation to Air Quality in the city.  

He will briefly explore:

  • the misreporting of estimated mortality from air pollution,
  • the limitations of the analysis of air pollution and flawed assessment of trends,
  • the lack of response to inputs on consultation,
  • the strange decision not to publicise that unnecessary engine idling is illegal, and
  • question if increasing active travel (walking and cycling) is a tool to improve air quality or a hoped-for outcome when/if air quality has improved.

Portsmouth Green Drinks is a great way of meeting others working in the environmental sector, or who are simply interested in environmental & sustainability issues and want to enjoy a relaxed evening in good company.

Portsmouth Green Drinks is part of the Green Drinks network, an international informal networking group on an environmental theme.