Sunday, December 30, 2012

Local Green Tracey Hague comments on the cuts

THE council wants to save £36 million over the next two years but has only labelled £3.7m of the proposals as cuts.

The Department of Adult Services, Health and Housing (DASHH) will be the hardest hit, with £11.149m of cuts and efficiencies.
Children’s  and family services are also affected, with £10.933m of savings and cutbacks.
Services which the council will cut between 2013 and 2015 include:
- Review and redesign of early intervention, family support and integrated youth services - £1.7m
- Axing two school improvement officers - £184,000
- Cut in care support budgets for older people, people with learning and physical disability and those with mental health problems - £150,000
- End Journeys youth service - £140,000
- Smaller contribution to Upper Norwood Joint Library - £114,000
- Reduction of council’s role in “facilitation of culture”, including reducing archive service to statutory minimum - £105,000
- Further reduction in payments to the voluntary sector - £80,000
- Reduction of funding for supplementary education, mentoring and community languages - £78,000
- Transfer or reduce 42 per cent of school crossing patrols - £42,000
- Reduction of tree planting and maintenance - £35,000
- Reduction of Safer Croydon Partnership Budget - £23,000
- Non maintenance (closure) of South Norwood Pitch & Putt - £20,000
- Removal of “under-used” football pitches - £12,000
- Less commissioning of domestic violence services - £20,000
- Reduction in park related costs (trees/sports equipment) - £10,000
- Reduced commissioning for youth counselling - £10,000

A little over half way into the current administration in Taberner House and it seems the Tories have lost the plot once again and sadly once again it’s the North of the borough and the environment which are losing out.
In the New Year residents face fines if they do not recycle (use their green and blue boxes), yet the locations for Christmas tree recycling number only 17 and many of the northern-most wards are not amongst them. Even my own ward in Addiscombe, where recycling rates are high, has lost its tree recycling point this year for some unknown reason. Looking at Your Croydon (available in libraries), there are even fewer recycling locations for Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) which number (wait for it) just 5 in a borough of 24 wards.
Does the council seriously expect people to drive their tree to a neighbouring ward? For those (like me) who do not have a car or who can no longer drive (like my mother), are we seriously expected to drag a tree to a neighbouring ward? Although I belong to Zipcar (a car club which rents out cars by the hour or day), a real tree would surely drop most of its needles in the car and necessitate a lengthy (& costly) cleaning process. So anyone in the wards of Bensham Manor, Selhurst, Thornton Heath, West Thornton, Woodside, in some central wards like Fairfield and Fieldway, and even some more affluent wards in the South (where recycling rates are usually higher) Croham and Sanderstead will have to make alternative arrangements. Some dedicated people may make the effort and drive their recycling to a civic amenity site, but it is questionable whether the emissions and costs would see a net benefit. You could always try and carry a tree on a bus (but I wouldn’t hold your breath for a driver allowing you aboard!); at least when you get to the amenity site’s gates the staff have to take the tree off you and take it to the green waste container. You could also store your tree at home but you’d have to wait until April for kerbside green waste collections to resume, or spend hours cutting the tree into small enough pieces to fit in your food waste bin! Of course the most likely action is that trees will be dumped, either in bin liners in wheelie bins (destined for landfill) or worse fly-tipped somewhere. At least if it’s fly-tipped on council land the council will have to pick up the tab, so the council will end up paying for their short-sightedness or inconsideration for us residents who suffer their ill-conceived decisions. The reality is that the clean-up costs will merely be passed on to us, and services will be cut even further to ‘balance the books’.
If anyone is of a mind to protest peacefully, the option of civil disobedience is open to you. Maybe the New Year will see a sudden forest of spruces appear on the lawns of the Taberner House. Gandhi would be proud and it might cheer the place up in these grim times. Conveniently they would then be in one place for collection for recycling.
People expect the Green Party to be concerned about the environment but we also care about people. The people in the North of Croydon have been short-changed for years in terms of council service delivery. The 2 party duopoly in the council chamber has gone on for too long. The Green Party would ensure that council services are truly universal and that no-one misses out, that efficiencies aren’t confused with cuts and that common sense prevails over short-termism. Unmaintained park equipment will need replacing sooner and we’ve seen plenty of that in recent years; ask anyone who has used the play area in South Norwood Country Park in the last 5 years. Cuts to tree services are also unwise as our green spaces are something we hold dear; they are the lungs of our borough and never have they been me needed when we’ve got several areas where we fail the air quality regulations (such as around Beddington where the incinerator is planned). Also why does it cost £12,000 to remove some football pitches? The turf will still need mowing, but why can’t they be left for people to use? With an obesity epidemic and worries about the disaffected youth turning to crime, do we really want to discourage people from using parks? It’s about time the residents of Croydon had a council which thinks beyond the next election and of what is the right thing to do for decades hence. The Iroquai in Northern America make decisions based on the consequences 7 generations hence; this is something we should all aspire to. We only have one planet, one pair of lungs each, but plenty of residents who work hard (paid or unpaid) and deserve better…oh and who have a vote.
Of course there is always the possibility that the Tory administration has resigned itself to lose in 2014. With ever more cuts facing us for years to come (they’ve only just started!), they’ve gone beyond trimming fat and are now severing limbs. We’re now at the stage of cutting back to the bare statutory minimum, so where do we/they go from here? At least the Tories can say “we didn’t increase council tax”. Personally I’d rather pay a bit extra to get the services we need, want and deserve. The Tories wouldn’t have given up on re-election already, would they? I know what I’ll be asking Santa for this Yuletide and it’s not red or blue, but green.

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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Does money talk?


A table and pie chart (scanned from the The Guardian newspaper's report) - depicting last years income/expenditure for four political parties, and the results on November 29th. Just goes to show how well we did to get 3.5 per cent - and thus avoid the ignominy of being classed as an 'other'.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review of the Croydon North by election

Review of the Croydon North by election in the style of one-day cricket match report.
Shortly after the last the votes were counted, Lea Goddard, Head of elections and civic services, asked the candidates and agents to join him in Room 7 at Lanfranc school. It was here that he privately announced the results. My polling was called first 855, and then Marisha Ray’s 860. HOWL! Just six runs/votes short of a spectacular result. We are all proud that under great pressure from a high profile Respect candidate, our vote held up and actually increased by 1.5%


One of the more demoralising aspects of the election is the vast quantities of cash the established Westminster parties can draw upon to win the game. Leaflets were used to rotate the strike, but the cuts and pulls that reached the boundary were the mini outbound call centres deployed by the big two, Undoubtedly, in a winter election, telecanvassing is an effective form of campaigning.  I think UKIP’s Winston Mckenzie spent a lot cash too. He even opened a shop.

UKIP shop in South Norwood

Also, one must forget the big hitters involved in this election. Both ‘Don’t get in to frenzy vote Winston Mckenzie’ and ‘The real deal Lee Jasper” are larger than life characters, and in such circumstances it was right to play with Green Knight stroke. In an interview with Croydon TV I mentioned this.

Arguably, the most effective form of campaigning should be an independent assessment of the candidates in a hustings environment, and that came in the form of the Croydon Advertiser report on the Croydon North Decides debate.  

We decided to turn it into a leaflet. 

Final leaflet

When an independent observer identifies the Green Knight as the candidate that “impressed the most”, we must tell as many voters as possible!! I believe that our vote could have been squeezed had it not been for this leaflet. After reading the article, Caroline Allen [IslingtonGreen Party] asked what was the circulation of the paper in Croydon North. I replied not enough. Locals rely on the free paper for news. The Advertiser costs 65p.
Choice of two:

At the Praise House hustings, Steve Reed got into a muddle when he was probed outside the off stump about his decision to cut youth services in Lambeth. Earlier at Croydon North Decides he played forward defensive, pointing to a cut in the government grant to local authorities. However, at Praise House he denied cutting jobs in youth services. He was accused of lying both at the event and on social media afterwards.

At the Potters House debate, a rather unusual question was directed at the panel: Have you been involved in any financial irregularities? At least, that was the gist of the question. The panel consisted of [in this order] me, Jasper, Stranack, Reed and Ray. We all answered no. Then the questioner rephrased and redirected the question towards Jasper. Understanding the premise,  Lee then gave an emotional response explaining how certain newspapers had hounded him to the levels where he was under great personal strain over allegations of financial wrongdoings. Essentially, Jasper picked the googly and played it back to the bowler.

Choice of three:

When Steve Reed won the Labour selection, against the wishes of the majority of the councillors in the constituency, I wondered how traditional Labour voters from the Afro-Caribbean and Muslim communities would react if they knew he was gay. Of course, this should have no bearing or relevance, but it is well known that homosexuals suffer persecution, and in some cases prosecution, in some countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Middle East.  

View from the panel @ The Potters House debate

At the PottersHouse debate Lee Jasper reminded the predominantly Afro-Caribeean  audience that he was a devout Christian, yet when the question of gay rights came up, Lee was asked to explain how equal rights could pad up alongside what the bible says. Jasper hit back with a typical passionate riposte, asserting that no form of discrimination should be tolerated, culminating in a call for the questioner to look at the panel before him, “Shasha is an Asian, I am black, Andy is disabled, Steve is gay and Marisha is a woman.” The moment he identified Steve as gay, the level of murmuring in the room was audible. I saw one woman ask the woman next to her, “Did he just say he was gay?”    
Running full pelt to the boundary to stop the ball going over the rope, Jasper fielded the ball and threw it back with such speed, he actually managed to run out Reed!
On the day of the election, many of us saw Respect posters on bus shelters, some very very near polling stations. If this didn’t constitute enough of a howler, what was worse was getting them removed. Apparently TFL had no real procedures in place to remove the posters speedily. Hence, some were up all day. 

Respect Poster on bus shelter

Brendan, our local party treasurer, pointed out during the campaign that what we needed was a bunch of out of work activists to knock on doors. We simply didn’t have that luxury. Nearly all of us in Team Green Knight were working. In short, I must thank everyone who put in the hours outside their working hours, at times in freezing conditions, especially Bernice Golberg, for being my agent for the umpteenth time, Liam Fretwell, Nick Barnett, Gordon Ross, Caroline Russell, Barry Buttigieg, Eillen Gale and of course Brendan Walsh.  
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Standing up for what matters