Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bring The Railways Back Into Public Ownership


Grace Onions and me outside East Croydon Station on 5th January

On the morning the increased rail fares kicked in, local Greens leafleted outside* a couple of railway stations in the borough to promote our, 'Bring The Railways Back Into Public Ownership' campaign. This was part of a national campaign. There is distinction between public ownership and re-nationalised. I personally, don't won't to see the railways go back to the old days of a state owned model and would like to see users and employees of Southern railways, for example, also being the owners - much like a cooperative - where the profits are reinvested back in to the service not into shareholders pockets or even state owned companies of our European neighbours (as they are now).

*I got in to a spot of bother when I was leafleting right beside the florist in front of East Croydon station. Two security officials approached me and asked me if I had a license. I apologised and leafleted outside the Visitor Centre.

The full press release is here. I picked up the leaflets from Tom Chance the day before and he got some coverage here.

From Croydon Guardian

Green Candidate for Croydon South, Peter Underwood was quoted in the above article and Inside Croydon covered it here.

When launching her Private Members Bill to bring the railways into public hands, Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
"At the moment our train network is run on a profit-making model that’s great for shareholders but terrible for passengers.  We have to put up with overcrowded trains, unreliable services, and some of the highest fares in Europe. Since privatisation, the cost of train travel has risen by 23% in real terms, and the drain on the public purse has more than doubled.
“The irony is that some of the biggest profiters are the state-owned rail companies of our European neighbours. Taxpayers’ money that should be reinvested into services is ending up in the hands of overseas shareholders. By taking back individual franchises when they expire, the Government could save over £1 billion a year every year.
“It’s time to end this rip-off and bring our railways back into public ownership.”
Caroline has also been gathering signatures at Brighton station for a formal 

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Letter to Croydon South MP

My Christmas message to my MP, Sir Richard Ottaway (Conservative, Croydon South) sent the old fashioned way, in the post last week.
Dear Sir Richard,

This year I really don’t feel like Christmas. I can’t bear the thought of being part if it. But I am socially obliged have grin and bear it, even to pretend I enjoy it, counting the minutes for this hypocritical feast to be over. The reason is that friends have emailed me two recent documents:
1) Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England,
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The report of the All-Party. Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom
And:
2) An Evidence Review for the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom. Compiled and written by Andrew Forsey, Secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom.
Document 2) is a summary of the evidence from which the conclusions and recommendations of document 1) are drawn. The findings in these reports are horrifying. The UK is still one of the richest countries on Earth and yet thousands of people, through no fault of their own and a great many in work, have to undergo the regular humiliation of asking for emergency food in charitable food banks. The reports make absolutely clear that in general the cause is poverty and living conditions caused by poverty. On page 8 of “Feeding Britain” is the statement:
“Let us therefore begin by stating the blindingly obvious. An individual is in danger of going hungry when they do not have enough money to buy enough food as their body requires. There are people in this very position right now in this country.”
When people who are already poor are suddenly deprived of regular income, e.g. though unemployment or other reasons why they have to rely on the benefits system, they have no reserves and they immediately experience acute hardship. The rock-solid evidence collected for these reports shows that delays in benefits processing some by design, some though incompetence and inefficiency, compounded by a capricious and arbitrarily administered sanctions system, are a major contributor to the large scale increase of hunger in this country.
I know that I have been very lucky. Every day of my life (and I am now 65) I have known where my next meal is coming from. But I was not born in this country and reading some of the evidence collected for these reports, I am reminded of what my parents lived though in 1944 – 45 in the Nazi occupied Netherlands: families reduced to having nothing, without heat, light and food in their home; people scavenging through refuse to try to find some thing edible, and so on. About 4.5 million people were affected
But this is the UK in 2014, a rich country, and now literally the same things are now happening here to many people. A number of submissions to the reports outlined how people had become so hungry that they resort, though sheer desperation, to stealing essential goods or scavenging through bins and skips behind food outlets, including parents and children. Others stated that families cannot cook the food they collect from a food bank when they get home because they have no cash to put in the pay as you go utility meters. The number of officially recorded medical primary and secondary diagnoses of malnutrition in England has risen from 3,161 in 2008 -2009 to 5,499 last year.
On page 17 the Report’s summary of evidence states “ (The) data would indicate that the number of people in this country who are at risk of going hungry may be in the region of four million.” I.e. hunger is beginning to affect people here on a similar scale as the early stages of the 1944-45 Dutch famine. The difference is of course that here the hungry are a minority, dispersed amongst the well-fed majority.
How could this possibly have come about? This country has easily enough food and other resources to enable everybody to have an adequate minimum standard of nutrition and generally adequate living conditions. We know from the thousands of volunteers who donate their time to run food banks and the millions of people who make donations to them that the British people are generally caring and compassionate by nature and didn’t want this to happen.
I also know that you and your government have been in power for almost five years and decided to let this situation develop without doing anything about it and callously and irresponsibly refused to collect the data and to compile the statistic on hunger in this country, so that this had to be done through private initiatives. You have adopted policies, as the reports make abundantly clear, which made the situation worse, and for ideological reasons even refused European Union aid to help the hungry.
In the spring of 1945 my country was not so fussy when very low flying RAF bombers– who couldn’t be sure that they would not be shot at - dropped British emergency food aid and saved many thousands of lives. We were just grateful and still are to this day. When I was young I have seen perfectly normal, sane and balanced men and women break down and burst into tears when they had cause to relive memories of those events. This is one of the things hunger can do to people.
There is no objective reason why anybody should go hungry in this country. I really don’t get it. Why do you hate the poor, the vulnerable, those who are badly paid in insecure jobs, those exploited by landlords so that they don’t have enough to live on, those unreasonably persecuted by sanctions and inadequate and delayed benefit payments, the unemployed, those who genuinely cannot work, and all their children? What have they ever done to you? Please explain it to me. Why do you hate these people so much?

Yours sincerely,

Tom Voƻte




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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A night out with the stars




A good while back a got a call from a Croydon Guardian reporter saying that I had been nominated for the Croydon Guardian Croydon Champions Community Champion award. The reporter told me that a friend had nominated me, primarily for my efforts in trying to stop the incinerator. The reporter basically asked me to sell myself, not something I find easy to do.

The sales pitch appeared in the Croydon Guardian a couple of weeks later. Then about a month ago, I was advised by email I was one of the three finalists for the Community Champion award. This came as a surprise because the stop the incinerator campaign can be quite political at times. However, I think my other bits of community campaigning added weight to my nomination. I was sent two tickets to the ceremony at the Hilton Hotel.

The awards are now in their 13th year which gives an indication of how they have become a major annual event. I went along with my dad. When I got there I recognised one or two faces including Robert Gibson from Save Upper Norwood Library. He was there as a nominee for Team Of The Year. Robbie and I had an opportunity to have a good catch up on our respective campaigns after the ceremony.

The winner of the Community Champion award was one of the first to be announced. The format was that the guest who opened the envelope,in our case Nick Hitchens, Assistant Editor of the Croydon Guardian, announced the Highly Commended award and then the winner. Nick announced Fred Wallis first as Highly Commended. Mr Wallis was influential in stopping Purley Swimming Pool from closure. Therefore, the winner was either Fatima Koroma or yours truly. When an audio was played of each of the nominees, I immediately felt that Fatima should win. She founded Croydon Foodbank and works there everyday.

Three finalists for Community Champion on screen (my dad in the foreground)

My heart started beating fast as the announcement was about to be made for the winner. To my relief Fatima won! Everyone on my table turned to offer me commiserations. It was all a bit surreal, it felt like being at the OSCARS!! I didn't feel unlucky at all. I was honoured and humbled to be on the shortlist. Fatima is a deserved winner and I genuinely would have felt embarrassed if I had won. We exchanged messages via twitter afterwards.

The night progressed with one amazing trio of unsung heroes after another vying for their respective award. A wheelchair bound man sitting on the same table as me won the Sporting Champion award. Ten years ago this bus driver was left paralysed after being brutally assaulted on his bus at West Croydon. He has rebuilt his life, and become national disabled champion and then world disabled champion at lawn bowls! He was in tears when he won. I felt my eyes start to fill with tears on his and other stories of bravery.

At the end of the night we were presented with a commemorative booklet with all the results. My dad spotted my face on the inside back cover among all the other Commended. 



To quote Nick Hitchens, who wrote an introduction on the inside cover of the booklet:

Greatness should not be measured in the number of boutique shops in the High Street or flashy skyscrapers punctuating the skyline, bus also by the character of the people who live here.

Well done Croydon Guardian! A full list of winners is here
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Monday, December 01, 2014

OFCOM reply re excluding Greens from TV Debates



A fairly considered response to my enquiry. In the letter the Complaints Analyst refers to the 'major parties', I've looked these up. Presently, in Great Britain the 'major parties' are defined as the Conservative Party, Labour Party and Liberal Democrats. Evidently, regulation needs to catch up with public opinion,

I was pleased to see that the Green Party is not giving up on the TV debates, indicating a claim may be pursued. Interestingly, the Green Party solicitor is Leigh Day. I had approached Leigh Day a couple weeks back to act as my new solicitors for the incinerator judicial review. They advised me they just didn't have the capacity to take on my case, not surprising when the prospect of litigation regarding Green party exclusion from the TV Debates is looming.
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Saturday, November 22, 2014

Meet the Croydon candidates On Saturday 29th November


Picture from the 2005 General Election stall in the town centre.

Just to let everyone now, all three prospective parliamentary candidates, Esther Sutton, Peter Underwood and yours truly, will be in Croydon on Saturday 29th November. Come and meet us.

Our Green Party stall will be located in approximately in the same position (outside the main whitgift entrance on North End from 10am onwards) as the picture above, although Levi's Store is now a mobile phone shop!

Look forward to seeing you there.

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

Incinerator contract.



Quite a bit of discussion on twitter recently regarding the incinerator contract between the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) and Viridor. Earlier this year I received this redacted version. Quoting the council officer who supplied it to me, " it is large" but hopefully interested observers can view it now.

DROPBOX Link is here

PDF-Archive link is here :
pdf document: Project Agreement front end reacted version.pdf
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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Where's your moratorium now?

The current edition of Croydon Guardian has photo of mine in Viewfinder:


Viewfinder is on the letters page. On this page is a letter from Nia (The Lois Project). She writes about Broad Green being "choked with the amount of flats being built." This got me thinking again about the response I received at Public Question Time earlier this month:
From Mr Shasha Khan 
Councillor Alison Butler  
Cabinet Member for Homes and Regeneration  
Question No. 
PQ058-14 

At the Broad Green hustings, for the 2014 council elections, Labour panellist,
Councillor Stuart Collins, said that he had been calling for a moratorium on new development in the London Road/Broad Green area. Now that Labour control the council, is a moratorium on new development in place in this area? 
Reply 

The new administration is committed to the regeneration of the London Road/Broad Green area. As local planning authority the Council are required in law to consider any scheme on its individual merits in line with the London Plan and the Croydon Local Plan and any other material planning considerations.

Green Party candidate Pravina Ellis and Cllr Stuart Collins
Picture taken at the Broad Green hustings just days before the local elections which Labour won

I find a good way to let off steam about politicians seemingly saying one thing but doing another is to write a letter. I've just sent this to the Croydon Guardian:

22.10.14

Dear Editor

I completely agree with The Lois Project [Residents should be consulted over plans for more buildings], West Croydon, Broad Green in particular is being overdeveloped at an astonishing pace, with little thought for the quality of life for those living here.

Interestingly, Broad Green Labour councillor Stuart Collins is not oblivious to the situation. At the Broad Green hustings, just before the May local elections, he advised those present that he had been calling on the Conservative administration to impose a “moratorium” on all new development in Broad Green until an infrastructure review had been carried out. Everyone in the room supported him.

Now that Labour controls the council, surely we can look forward to a moratorium on Broad Green development? I am afraid not. At a recent Croydon Council Public Question Time I asked about the moratorium, and the response was “the new administration is committed to the regeneration of the Broad Green area.” For “regeneration” read overdevelopment.

Those attending that Broad Green hustings have a right to feel disappointed with Councillor Collins.

Yours sincerely

Shasha Khan

Green Party PPC for Croydon North

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Press release going out today - Parliamentary candidates announced.

Croydon Green Party Announces Prospective Parliamentary Candidates

22 October 2014

Today, Croydon Green Party declared that Shasha Khan, Esther Sutton, and Peter Underwood have been selected to stand as Prospective Parliamentary Candidates (PPCs) in Croydon North, Croydon Central and Croydon South respectively.
The Green Party’s share in opinion polls has been rising steadily and is currently polling 8 per cent nationally (1), one per cent more than the Lib Dems. In what has been described as the #greensurge, membership is presently increasing by 1000 per week. In the local elections earlier this year Greens fielded a full slate of 70 candidates across the borough polling well over 20,000 votes.

Shasha Khan – Croydon North
Shasha has lived in the constituency since 1982, He is 42 and married with one daughter He has a Politics and Economics degree from University of Wolverhampton. Over the years he has worked as youth worker, Diverse London Ambassador and presently, he is a hotelier. He is the co-coordinator of the Croydon Green Party.
He has been involved in multiple local campaigns for many years. In particular the Stop The Incinerator campaign, Friends of Thornton Heath Recreation Ground (which he founded) and Croydon Save Our Schools.
Shasha Khan said, “The General Election in 2015 will be the fourth time I'll be standing in Croydon North (2). The track record I have of serving, protecting and improving the community I live in is a good indicator to what people can expect if they elect me as their MP.”

Esther Sutton – Croydon Central
Award winning (3) local businesswoman Esther Sutton, 41, has lived in Croydon nearly all her life. She lives in the constituency and coincidentally is a former classmate of Sarah Jones the Labour PPC (4). She is a single mother of two and both her children are at Croydon schools.
In 2013 Esther's ability to inspire and enrich the lives of others was recognised by a national newspaper.(5)
Through her involvement with Croydon Old Town Business Association, Croydon Portas Pilot project, Croydon Pubwatch and Croydon BID she is well known in the business community.
She was involved in the recent “Are You Safe?” anti-domestic abuse campaign in Croydon and is on the Local Alcohol Action Area steering group. In 2013
Esther Sutton said, “I believe The Green Party is the only real alternative, and the only party with robust policies on social justice and the environment. I am looking forward to spreading the word, attracting votes as I go, to win this marginal seat.”

Peter Underwood – Croydon South
Campaigner Peter Underwood ,43, has lived in the constituency for over 12 years. He currently works as the Warden of South Norwood Country Park, helping local primary schools and residents to appreciate the natural world on their doorstep.
Peter moved to London after university and he spent a number of years working in the civil service: initially in the Benefits Agency, then DWP policy and parliamentary teams before moving over to renewable energy policy in DECC.
He is the current chair Croydon Friends of the Earth and a committee member of both the Friends of Littleheath Woods and the Selsdon Residents Association.

Peter Underwood said, I am very pleased to be selected by local Green Party members as a candidate for the General Election. Voters in Croydon South are being ignored by the other parties - they assume that people will just vote the same way that they always have. I believe that people are looking for a change and the Green Party provides a positive and sensible set of polices for the future. I hope that the people of Croydon South will help make history by electing me as one of the new Green Party MPs at the upcoming election.”

Ends

Notes:

  1. 2005, 2010 and 2012 (By election)
  2. CAMRA awards and Best Bar None (2009)
  3. Old Palace School for Girls (http://www.oldpalace.croydon.sch.uk)



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FAIR IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR