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News from Kent Greens

Recent news from Kent Green Party. For older items visit our news blog. For a selection of our recent letters to the press, visit our letters page here.

Kent Greens Urge KCC To Do More To Help County's Vulnerable
Tue, 22 Apr 2014
Kent Greens have called on KCC to open the purse strings and do more for the county's most vulnerable people. A large portion of the Council's emergency fund to help low-income families remains unspent and Green Party KCC councillor, Martin Whybrow, is seeking assurances that the surplus will be rolled over at the end of this month and ring-fenced for its original intended purpose.

Councillor Whybrow explains: "We know that the number of people experiencing severe hardship has increased, with the government's attack on benefits being a major cause, along with the rising cost of living. A system that fails to release funds for those that need it most looks to be fundamentally flawed, so there needs to be a reappraisal of eligibility criteria and we also have to make sure that KCC does not divert any remaining funds for other purposes."

The Kent Support and Assistance Service (KSAS) was established by KCC on 1 April 2013 following the introduction of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which transferred the management of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) Social Fund and Community Care Grants to 150 local authorities across England.

The devolved funding is used to help people on low income manage during crisis situations, such as helping when gas and electricity have been cut off, providing cash for food, the purchase of cookers, furniture or clothes. However, instead of providing cash, KSAS generally provides vouchers and help in kind to people facing economic difficulties.

For Kent, there were two grants provided from the DWP comprising an Administration Funding Grant of 605,142 and a Programme Funding grant of 2,863,798. This total funding grant amounts to 3,468,940 for the current financial year (from 1stApril 2013).

By 21st January 2014, almost 10 months into the financial year, KSAS had only spent 939,991 of this budget, with the rest unspent. At this point, 22,401 enquiries had been received seeking advice, support and assistance. From these enquiries, 6,702 applications for goods and services had been made, resulting in 4,028 households being granted an award. The total number of awards was 7,415 as often households will have more than one award in a single application e.g. a single application may request food, energy and clothing.

To put this into context, there were more than 20,000 cases of people being offered help in a crisis in the final year of the Community Care Grant and Social Fund (1). 

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, said: "The money allocated to KSAS is not ring-fenced and any underspends at the end of the financial year can be used for other purposes. The scheme needs to be better publicised and we want assurances that the large amount that will be left at the end of April will be added to the funding for 2014/15."

Councillor Whybrow is also concerned about the criteria. "It is clear that many on benefits are now the victims of unwarranted sanctioning, typically with little or no warning, and this can cause immediate hardship. I know from talking to people in this situation and from voluntary groups that work with the vulnerable, there is amazement that at the moment when help is most needed, these people are seldom deemed eligible for KSAS, with the official explanation being that this would be, in the words of KCC, undermining the work of the DWP."

 Ends

FURTHER INFORMATION:  Councillor Ian Driver, Tel: 07866 588767, or Martin Whybrow on 07787 124794

Promoted by Stuart Jeffery for Kent Green Party, 82 Buckland Road, Maidstone ME16 0SD

KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

 Notes

The breakdown of the number and costs of the goods and services that have provided to residents under KSAS to 21st January is:

 Year to 21/1                    Food            Energy        Equipment     Travel          Cash    Total awards

Number of awards           3,658           2,172          1,471           18              96            7,415

Spend                           309,545        102,571     519,695    1,059      7,121  939,991

Value of awards by district:

Ashford                        9.30%
Canterbury                  7.12%
Dartford                       5.90%
Dover                          8.86%
Gravesham                 7.61%
Maidstone                    8.50%
Sevenoaks                  1.96%
Shepway                     9.51%
Swale                          13.87%
Thanet                          20.29%
Tonbridge & Malling    3.75%
Tunbridge Wells          3.35%

 1. See spreadsheet attached to this e-mail. Figures produced by the Guardian. See http://www.theguardian.com/politics/datablog/2014/apr/20/the-crisis-in-local-welfare-assistance-explained
In addition, KSAS supported 47 individuals who were evacuated from their homes in the Yalding and East Farleigh areas due to flooding.

Green Party Urgent Action to Tackle Kent's "Killer Pollution"
Fri, 18 Apr 2014
Kent Greens are  calling on KCC to take urgent action to tackle the county's "killer pollution" problem.

According to a major report published  by Public Health England (PHE) last week, 25,000 people, aged 25 or over, died from  cardiovascular and respiratory causes  linked to long-term exposure to air pollution in 2010 (1). Kent has the highest rate of air pollution related deaths in South East England at 745. Neighbouring Surrey had 527 deaths, East Sussex 294, West Sussex 429, and Hampshire 294(2).

Out of the 12 Kent District Councils, Thanet had  90 air pollution related deaths, the largest number in the county. Canterbury was in second place at 81. The lowest numbers of air pollution related deaths  were in Ashford with 50 and Tunbridge Wells with 46 (3).

Thanet Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver,  said "Too many people are dying prematurely because of airborne pollution produced by  cars and industry. This pollution is also a cause of respiratory illness amongst children and young people and is a major contributor to climate change. KCC needs to urgently review this unacceptable situation and review and strengthen its strategies to reduce airborne pollution and premature deaths across the county".

"Thanet and the other Kent councils should all  be investing more money in the development of better cycling facilities, the promotion of walking and the improvement and expansion of affordable public transport. There should also be an major increase in roadside vehicle emission testing to catch and fine  polluters".
The PHE research  was published several days after a report commissioned by Green Party MEP, Keith Taylor, revealed that almost  42,000 Kent school students attend schools located within 150 metres of busy roads (roads with more than 10,000 vehicle movements per day), placing  their cardiovascular and respiratory health at  high levels of risk (4).

Ends
Notes

Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014. http://www.hpa.org.uk/webc/HPAwebFile/HPAweb_C/1317141074607
See above report
Figures extracted from 1.Estimating Local Mortality Burdens associated with Particulate Air Pollution, Public Health England April 2014.



District Attributable  deaths

Ashford 50

Canterbury 81

Dartford 54

Dover 61

Gravesham 52

Maidstone 75

Sevenoaks 57

Shepway 58

Swale  68

Thanet 90

Tonbridge and Malling 53

Tunbridge Wells 46

TOTAL 745

 Keith launches air pollution report in Canterbury http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2014/04/09/keith-launches-air-pollution-report-in-canterbury/

Pathetic: New data shows KCC has done nothing to increase cycling
Sun, 30 Mar 2014
Pathetic, is how the Kent's Green County Councillor has described cycling to work rates across the country. Figures released last week[1] show that cycling to work has fallen in every area of Kent since 2001.

Martin Whybrow, Green Party Kent County Councillor for Hythe, said : "The proportion of people cycling to work has fallen by a fifth over the past 10 years, from a previously paltry 2.0% to a pathetic 1.6% in Kent. This contrasts with rises in London of up to 7.6%.

"Furthermore, cycling to work has fallen in every area across Kent which simply shows that Kent County Council has done nothing to promote one of the most sustainable forms of transport.

"With air pollution at dangerous levels in the county, including a smog this month which prompted warnings for people to stay indoors, real action is urgently needed to increase cycling across the county."

Far from meeting road casualty targets, the number of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured on Kent's roads has been increasing of late[2].

"This is an extremely car-centric council that gives scant consideration to cycling. There is no concerted effort to improve safety and thereby encourage more cycling," concludes Cllr Whybrow.

1. http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/publications/re-reference-tables.html?edition=tcm%3A77-353510

Kent Greens Call for Abolition of County Council
Mon, 03 Mar 2014
The Green Party is calling for the abolition of Kent County Council and its replacement by six unitary councils based on the following groupings.

    Thanet and  Dover (population 245,500)
    Canterbury and Swale (population 287,000)
    Shepway and Ashford (population 226,000)
    Maidstone Tonbridge and  Malling (population 289,000)
    Dartford and Gravesham (population 199,000)
    Sevenoaks, and Tunbridge Wells (population 230,000)

Existing Medway unitary council with a population 264,000 will remain unchanged.

 The new unitary authorities  would provide education, social care, highways, planning, housing, refuse collection and many other services to populations of between 200,000 - 300,000 people.

Chair of Kent Green Party and Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Maidstone and the Weald, Stuart Jeffrey said "the existing county council is too large and unwieldy. It lacks any real connection and accountability to the people it serves. Local government should, by definition, be based as close to its electors as possible, rather than being inaccessible to most of Kent's residents.

Smaller unitary councils will bring together areas  of  Kent which are already closely  connected and share many common issues. They will also bring together residents, staff and politicians with an expert understanding of the areas covered by the new councils. This would place them in a stronger  position to develop  more effective policies and strategies than the current Maidstone based system".

Green Party Thanet District Councillor Ian Driver said, "In  East Kent many of the District Councils are already working closely together. They have  successfully  shared Housing, Human Resources, IT,  Revenues, Benefits and  Audit services for several years, so why not include KCC services as well?

I believe that the new unitary councils should be elected by proportional representation so that smaller parties and independent candidates can  be represented giving a more balanced and inclusive approach to decision making. The new councils should be managed by committee systems to prevent power being concentrated into the hands of a tiny handful of cabinet members and they should be underpinned and supported by a strong system of parish and town councils which will ensure community accountability".

The establishment of unitary authorities will form part of the Kent Green Party's manifesto for the 2015 council elections.