Monday, 9 May 2011

Is this the greenest Government?

It is difficult to see what the current Coalition has done which can be called "Green". In fact they seem to be busy cancelling or cutting back on a number of green intiatives. See Jonathon Porritt's report

Thursday, 28 April 2011

AV or not AV? That is the question.

Is the Alternative Vote system easy or confusing? Well voters just need to number their preferences in priority order. So first choice 1, if they want a second choice 2 and if they want a third choice 3 and so on.

Is it fairer? The idea is to have over 50% of voters having voted for the eventual winner. This means the winner should be closer to views of the majority of people. With the current system it is all too easy for the winner to represent a large minority rather than the majority of voters.

More info on AV at

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Vote Green

I am standing as a Green Party candidate in the Central Bedfordshire elections on 5th May 2011. This is because I believe they are the only political party which is really serious about our long term future. The others are more interested in short term policies which will give them access to power but which lead to boom and bust and long term chronic problems. One example of this dear to my heart being the looming energy crisis as existing nuclear and coal power stations literally run out of steam, with no clear policy on how they are to be replaced with a sustainable alternative.

Locally I am keen to see more emphasis on job creation - building on the opportunities we have here in Bedfordshire for developing the low carbon economy. This includes energy efficiency, renewables, waste reduction and recycling. Our local colleges and Universities are leading in these areas and we also have some fantastic examples of local companies creating sustainable profits and jobs from this crucial sector.

For more info on the Green Party see the current election broadcast at

Monday, 25 April 2011

Job seekers in Westoning and Tingrith

"Youth on Dole in Leafy Villages" - Front page news for the Times and Citizen Thursday April 21st in the Mid Beds version. The GMB Union provided figures highlighting a large percentage of job seekers (57.1%) being aged 18 to 24 in Westoning and Tingrith, whereas in Flitton, Greenfield and Pulloxhill the proportion is 15%. The statistics an be found on the Nomis Official Labour Market Statistics website

The high percentage is alarming, however the actual numbers are less so. A dozen 18 to 24 year olds in March 2011 are signed on for jobseekers allowance out of of around 238 (this population statistic is from 2009) 18 to 24 year olds in Westoning and Tingrith. The point being made in the paper is that there are 12 jobseekers aged between 18 and 24 out of 21 jobseekers in total. But the total jobseekers are 1.3% of the working population. These are small numbers by National (3.8%) or even Mid Beds (2%)standards.

However looking deeper into the statistics it can be seen there is a steady upwards trend in total jobseekers starting in mid 2009 with a doubling of jobseekers in the period after compared with the year or two before. This can also be seen in the statistics for Flitton, Greenfield and Pulloxhill, where incidentally the numbers are almost identical with 19 jobseekers (1.2% of the working population). Over the same period the percentage of job seekers who are aged between 18 and 24 fluctuates considerably month on month but seems to be on average around 40% in Westoning and Tingrith and around 20% in Flitton, Greenfield and Pulloxhill.

So what can be concluded from all this? Well firstly there does seem to be an issue with youth unemployment in Westoning and Tingrith at least when compared with other wards in Central Beds - for example Flitton, Greenfield and Pulloxhill. Secondly it is clear that unemployment whilst not at national levels is on the increase locally and looking back over recent statistics it does seem to be increasing more quickly.

Why is this and what can done? It is difficult to work out why Westoning youth should be hardest hit. Transport may be an issue although I can vouch that public transport is much worse in Flitton, Greenfield and Pulloxhill. Perhaps the issue is more to do with the very local economy in Flitwick where there are also high percentages of youth jobseekers. Education or lack of the right kind of education may also be an issue but again it is difficult see why that would affect Westoning and not Flitton as both areas are in the same school system.

Given the recession perhaps it is no surprise that unemployment is on the increase, but why is it happening more quickly here? Perhaps one answer is that we have had it good in the past with minimal levels of people claiming jobseekers allowance, so any increase becomes significant. However it may also be that we are too dependent on the sectors of the economy which did well previously but which are now hardest hit by this recession. In which case what is needed is a more balanced local economy and one which is more sustainable - without boom and bust!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Final week

It has been a hectic final week before the local election. A part from all the canvassing and leafleting a number other things have happened this week.

Firstly the solar photovoltaic panels are finally being installed on Greenfield School roof. They should be working by the end of the week. I am now planning a community event to give everyone the opportunity to see them and learn more about them, probably in the first week of July.

I attended a meeting between the Parish Council and Highways on Monday to confirm the details for traffic calming at the bottom of Pulloxhill Road and High Street Greenfield on the approaches to the school. We should be seeing two roundabouts at the end of Mill Lane and the end of Pulloxhill Road with other "tabletop" type traffic calming following on after consultation.

On Tuesday I had a meeting with the planning department regarding a possible new school to determine criteria for acceptable sites. This follows on from a recent Governors meeting where a new school was discussed with the new Director of Children's Services at Central Bedfordshire Council.

On Tuesday evening I had a meeting with RATS (see earlier blog) to review investigations and actions which have been taken over the last couple of years to find a solution to the lorry problem in Greenfield. One of the main stumbling blocks has been discovering that whilst the original planning permission for Pulloxhill Industrial Estate in 1986 did limit the hours of operation of the site this was lifted in 1987 by a supplementary planning application. I am now asking Highways to investigate whether night time restrictions for loading and unloading can be imposed on top of the 7.5 tonne limit. Note the 7.5 tonne limit only applies to through traffic and not to lorries loading or unloading at the Industrial Estate.

Feedback from canvassing has been interesting with many people indicating that they will vote. With many keen to vote on local issues we are finding a lot of support. The backlash against the main political parties seems to be affecting the voting intentions for the Euro election with some voters even saying they will vote Green or UKIP i.e anyone other that the main three parties.

Friday, 29 May 2009

FATCRAG Hustings

I attended the Flitwick At The Crossroads Action Group meet the candidates meeting last night. All the parties were represented with candidates for Flitwick West and Flitwick East. There was much debate about the proposed Town Centre Development which has had a number of false starts and a lot of disappointment was expressed regarding the ineffective consultation that has gone on so far.

My view was that Flitwick needs to be aiming a bit higher than the current focus on what can be got out of Tesco. What is needed is a vision for the whole town. I think that Flitwick should put itself forward to become a true "Eco-Town". I was dead against the so called "Eco-Town" proposed for the green fields of the Marston Vale. It makes much more sense to upgrade the eco performance of existing housing, installing more insulation and solar panels for example. This would create local jobs. It would also attract extra Government and other funding. The environment is an area where increasingly funding and investment is being targeted.

Leighton Buzzard has been successful with the help of Beds CC in securing £1 Million for becoming a "Cycle Town" resulting in a number of initiatives to increase cycling in the town. I worked to get funding for Flitton and Greenfield for a major Carbon reduction project and whilst we were aiming again for £1 Million we did at least secure £50,000 for solar panels on the school, and now have the momentum to look for further projects in the villages.

Such an approach for Flitwick could begin to address the traffic congestion by securing funding for cycleways and better public transport. It could secure funding for improving existing buildings and houses. It could create local jobs. It would inform the debate about new developments. It would not be dependent on the likes of Tescos. Above all it would give people a new pride in the Town.

Saturday, 16 May 2009