Thursday, July 28, 2011

Is this democracy in action?



I took my father to Public Questions at the Council (18.07.11.) At the end of the 15 minute session, Mr A I Khan observed, "That's it. All done. You ask your valid question and you get a rubbish reply - well done, thank you very much, you live in a democracy."

Pertinent questions covering Planning Applications, David Lean Cinema and libraries were asked from the public gallery, and each one received a reply......a bunch of words strung into a couple of sentences......just that.

My supplementary question to the above reply was as follows:

"Thank you Councillor Thomas for your reply. Last week my colleagues and I in the Green Party demonstrated outside the Public Hearing for the South London Waste Plan in Merton. I have a copy of the Plan here [waves plan at councillors]. It has ninety four pages. There are also hundreds of pages of appendages. My question is this: Given the profound implications for health, future budgets and the environment, how many councillors have actually read the Plan. And, if you have not read the Plan, who has read the Plan to ensure the views and concerns of the people and communities in Croydon are being represented?"

Councillor Thomas' rejoinder was was just as non-nonsensical and meaningless as the others that preceded it. I can't remember it exactly but it was along the lines of:

"I think Mr Khan already knows my reply. We are the middle of a process and we can't say or do anything that will jeopardise this until the process has run its course."

Sigh.
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Video from the SLWP Public Hearing demo


A great video of the demo by Ross Hemingway.
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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Letter on squatting

Ross had a letter published in the Croydon Guardian recently. It was in response to AM Steve O'Connell's attack on squatting....see here.
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Monday, July 25, 2011

Coverage on other web sites and blogs

Two fantastic new Croydon Green Party blogs are now warping through cyberspace, going further into the darkest corners of the universe that is..... Croydon. Check out A Croydon Green and CR7Green

We've had quite a bit of coverage on other blogs and web sites:

Inside Croydon has posted a piece on the incinerator. Inside Croydon is well known for posting an insightful digest of Croydon life. More waste and incinerator comment from the Croydon Green Party can be found on East London Lines and Mark Metcalf (freelance journalist)


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Sunday, July 24, 2011

SLWP Hearings in Merton.

The Council Chamber - Merton Civic Centre*
Inspector Cook talks to Sutton Green Party's Jim Duffy during a recess.


Most commentators covering the appearance of The Murdochs before the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee viewed their questioning of the media mogul as nothing more than a light grilling. At approximately the same time of this momentous example of democracy in action in the mother of all parliaments [the best democracy money can buy] Inspector Brian Cook – appointed by the Secretary State to examine the soundness of the South London Waste Plan – was also questioning a select number of individuals and institutions. Both he and the Select Committee were playing a crucial part in the accountability element of our democracy.

If one compares the standard of questioning carried out by the parliamentarians in the Select Committee with Inspector Cook’s examination of the Plan, then the MPs morph into Inspector Morse-like investigators, and Inspector Cook comes across as an Inspector Jacques Clouseau type figure, fairly affable but restricted in competence. It should be made clear that Inspector Brian Cook is not bumbling or clueless, moreover the powers available to him restrain his prowess to the point where he is sadly, just part of process.

For example on the first day of the Hearing, he relayed to Duncan Clarke, the current Project Manager for the South London Waste Partnership [please read on to find out what happened his predecessor] the concerns that Croydon Friends of the Earth had about the lack of engagement and innovation in the consultation itself. To which Mr Clarke replied the South London Waste Partnership (the councils of Merton, Kingston, Sutton and Croydon) had exceeded statutory regulation: three months in length instead of six weeks.

On the final day the Inspector Cook presided over syntax changes to the Plan itself: the word ‘can’ inserted here, the odd spelling correction there. Inspector Cook will now review the Plan again, along with the substantial number of changes, not a number of substantial changes, something Inspector Cook was keen to point out when, during his closing remarks, his words came out the wrong way round.

Inspector Cook will now review the full Plan over the next few weeks before giving his final observations.

Emma Smyth was the previous Project Manager of the South London Waste Partnership. She toured Neighbourhood Partnerships explaining what the Plan entailed back in 2009. She even accepted an invitation to make a presentation to our local Green Party. On the first day I noticed that one of the ‘name cards’ identifying who was scheduled to speak had the name Emma Smyth. She was speaking on behalf of the waste company SITA. She is clearly available for hire. I must remember to ask the Chair of the Stop The Incinerator campaign how much money is in the coffers.

*Another interesting observation is the layout of the council chamber itself. The seating was semi-circular in style, much like the European Parliament, whereas Croydon's council chamber is House of Commons style and thus adversarial in its nature. Ironically, Merton is an NOC leading to more consensual politics. Maybe Croydon needs to alter its seating....??
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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Local Guardian coverage of the Incinerator demo


There was some excellent demo coverage amongst the Guardian group of newspapers that cover the South London Waste Partnership (Merton, Kingston, Sutton and Croydon), including a front page pictorial splash in the Wimbledon Guardian. The online version also includes video.
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Still unsure what they hope to build?

If you have read the 94 pages that make up the South London Waste Plan 'Proposed Submission'
then I salute you! Interestingly.......

.............Page 50 of the plans says:

4.83 The issuing of a permit marks the first stage of the Environment Agency's (EA) regulation of an incinerator.The EA then continually assesses the plant operations and its environmental performance. This will include the continuous and periodic monitoring of emissions by the operator, check monitoringby the EA and frequent plant inspections.

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Saturday, July 09, 2011

Mr Cook - Stop the Burn

08.07.11

Press Release immediate

MR. COOK – STOP THE BURN

On 12th July Senior Planning Inspector, Brian Cook, appointed by the Secretary of State, will examine the soundness of the South London Waste Plan (SLWP). The examination, which is in the form of public hearings, will be held at Merton Civic Centre (1). They are scheduled to last one week. Disappointingly, groups opposing the SLWP proposals to build one or more incinerators within the four boroughs (Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton) have not been invited, nor given sufficient opportunity (2) to address the inspector at the hearings.

The Stop The Incinerator campaign (3) group will hold a demonstration outside the venue at 9am on the first day of proceedings (12th July) with the aim of making the inspector aware that there is resistance to the SLWP proposals.

Commenting on the latest developments, Secretary of the Stop the Incinerator campaign, Shasha Khan said:

“The Inspector has the power to throw out the South London Waste Plan. However, the omens are not good when worried residents are not being asked to make oral submissions. Inspector Cook could reassure campaigners and allow all groups to contribute to the Waste Plan but instead these Public Hearings have the feel of a kangaroo court. One just has to see the number of waste contractors scheduled to speak. (4)

“When challenged to rule out incineration, the South London Waste Partnership (5) claims it is ‘technology neutral’, yet this position is now out of date because in May this year, after the plan was published, the Health Protection Agency stated that it plans to study health risks from incinerators(6).”

“Incineration is bad for our health, bad for the environment and bad for our pockets. We’re calling on Mr. Cook to Stop The Burn.”

Ends

Notes:

(1) The Hearing Sessions for the Examination will commence at 09.30 on Tuesday 12 July 2011, in The Council Chamber at the Civic Centre, Morden, Surrey, SM4 5DX. It is currently intended that all the Hearing sessions will take place there. The Hearing sessions will end on Tuesday 19 July 2011.

(2) http://croydongreens.blogspot.com/2011/07/evidence-of-slwp-stitch-up.html

(3) http://stoptheincinerator.co.uk/

(4) see attached timetable

(5) The four boroughs Sutton, Croydon, Kingston and Merton

(6)http://www.edp24.co.uk/news/environment/incinerator_health_risk_study_welcomed_by_king_s_lynn_campaigners_1_880848 Studies show wards that are downwind from incinerators have higher infant mortality rates.


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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Evidence of SLWP 'stitch up'??

On 28th June, following repeated requests to speak at the SLWP Public Hearings, Friends of the Earth and Croydon Green Party received the email below. It should be made clear, that Stop the Incinerator (STI) campaigners presumed that documents and responses submitted to the first two stages of the consultation would be made available to the Inspector, hence submissions were not made to the latest stage, nor, in the case of Croydon FoE, a request to participate in the oral examination was proffered.

The bottom line is this: WE ARE ALL WORKING PEOPLE. WE LIVE IN A COUNTRY WHICH HAS THE LONGEST WORKING HOURS IN EUROPE. I personally didn't get a chance to open this email until 11am on Wednesday morning (29th June - day of deadline - which was consequently missed), and had no spare time to review every guidance note and regulation to ensure we jumped through every hoop and crawled through every hole to respond in a way which was deemed acceptable by the Inspector. Moreover, the vast majority in the STI campaign felt that responding to the latest stage implied that the previous stages were legitimate and not engineered to result in a desired outcome.

I was told by the Programme Officer that the Inspector is "independent". If Mr Cook is indeed independent, why does he not 'call in' one of the environmental groups that object to the plan to hear their point of view??

Dear Mr S**** and Mr Khan,

Further to my response to your email of 20 June, I have now discussed your request with the Inspector following his return from leave and he has asked me to respond, as below:

The Councils have made available the statement of consultation at the Regulation 25 stage (Doc SLWP1.4) so, in general terms, the Inspector is aware of the comments made. However, the Plan preparation process assumes that the Plan published at Regulation 27 stage includes the changes that the Councils consider appropriate following consideration of those consultation responses. If a representor remains unhappy with the content of the Plan the onus is on them to make a further representation at the Regulation 28 stage since it is these that the Inspector considers in detail during his examination of the Plan. Croydon Green Party made no comments at that stage and therefore has no right now to appear at the Hearing sessions (please see s20 of the 2004 Act).


Mr S**** did make a number of comments on behalf of certain members of Croydon FoE but specifically stated that he did not wish to participate in the oral examination of the Plan. It seems to the Inspector that most, if not all, of these comments relate to the Councils' procurement process for the municipal waste management contract rather than the Plan itself. He specifically said that he would be unable to consider these (please see para 6.4 of Document ED3-the Guidance Notes).


The Inspector is nevertheless happy to hear contributions from anyone who can assist him in his examination of the Plan. However, in fairness to other participants, and particularly the Councils, who are preparing for the Hearing sessions, it is important to know why you think the submitted Plan is unsound and how you wish to see it changed in order that it becomes sound. You will therefore need to explain these two points to the Inspector via the Programme Officer not later than
16.00 on Wednesday 29 June and indicate which session(s) you wish to attend to pursue these points. If the Inspector considers that you should be invited to participate, you will need to submit any further statement that you may wish to make, prepared in accordance with the Guidance set out in ED3, to the Programme Officer not later than 16.00 on Friday 1 July.


I appreciate that these are very tight timescales but I have already invited you to submit such statements and have heard no more from you. There is no need to add to the representations already received from Croydon FoE if you do not wish to do so but you will need to take into account the comments of the Inspector set out above. Please note that in the interests of fairness to all other participants there can be no extension to the timescales set out.



Yours sincerely,




PROGRAMME OFFICER



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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Bin Collections


The tide is turning: After an initial spate of alarmist letters in the local paper - prompted by the local Labour leader - a series of letters welcoming the introduction of fortnightly bin collections, coupled with weekly food waste collections, have appeared in the local papers. Green Party member, Jim Clugston, had one printed in the Croydon Advertiser.

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Friday, July 01, 2011

Ambiguous Newman and Balls



Dear Editor,

Like me, many will have found it incredibly rich to read Labour councillor Tony Newman’s letter on Tory tactics to privatise the NHS, libraries and care homes [Your Say - 8th June Our bins, health….]. Readers will know that Labour started the ball rolling towards NHS privatisation, and Labour councils across the country are selling care homes too. In addition, we must not forget it is Labour that has paved the way for Royal Mail privatisation, something Margaret Thatcher never dared contemplate.

The organisation Political Compass shows us that there is very little to differentiate the main three parties in their quest to sell off what is publicly owned.

Yours sincerely

Shasha Khan

Croydon Green Party

Its been fascinating [well maybe not fascinating] watching how Labour politicians both locally and nationally are ambiguously displaying traditional Labour values in their communications to appease rank and file Labourites, whilst trying not to appear pro-trade union/anti-privatisation to the wider general public.

Above is a letter I sent both to the Croydon Advertiser and Croydon Guardian. Local Labour leader Councillor Tony Newman roll-called services due for privatisation, but took care not to be critical of the policy of privatisation itself, just the respective consultations relating to the actual services. I wanted to make it clear to readers who might be taken in by this tactic.

Nationally, Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls MP is doing the same thing by condemning the ConDems for their appalling negotiating methods but stopping short of backing union demands. In fact Balls has gone as far as to say striking Trade Unions are falling into a trap, ambiguously calling on Unions not to use their democratic right to withhold their labour. Evidence of Labour's cool support for public sector workers and their concerns over changes to their pensions can be seen in the pitiful number of Labour MP's supporting John McDonnell's EDM.

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FAIR IS WORTH FIGHTING FOR