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 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
Existing Medway unitary council with a population 264,000 will remain unchanged.
- 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)
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.
Kent Greens Condem Fracking Bribery
Thu, 16 Jan 2014
Today's Government announcement allowing local councils to retain 100% of business rates paid by fracking site operators, alongside industry proposals to pay local communities £100,000 lump sums and 1% of revenues for each drilling rig (1), have been condemned by the Kent Green Party as "fracking bribery".
Green Party Councillor and Parliamentary Candidate for Thanet South, Ian Driver, said: "The Government is preparing to hand out cash sweeteners and inducements in advance of the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licensing (PEDL) round, taking place later this year." In Kent only two sites, one to the west and one to the east of the county, are currently licensed for oil and gas exploration. But Driver warns that maps produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (2) show that "every last square inch of Kent's land will be brought under the PEDL licensing scheme", allowing companies such as Cuadrilla, notorious for its Balcombe drilling site, to purchase exploration rights anywhere in the county, providing they have the permission of the landowner." The Government predicts a strong interest in the licence sales, especially in the South East. In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Sevenoaks MP and Minister of State for Energy, Michael Fallon, said that significant reserves of shale gas are likely to be found "right across the South. We're talking about Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, into Kent" and that "households right across the South should prepare for gas fracking to begin in their areas (3)".Government reassurances that, if properly regulated, controversial fracking techniques can be carried out without danger are hotly disputed by Driver, who said: "There is strong and compelling evidence emerging from countries such as the USA and Australia, where fracking has been taking place for some time, that such procedures can never be carried out safely. "Even the Government's own Environmental Assessment highlights the dangers of fracking, including the astronomical demand for billions of cubic metres of water, much of which will become polluted by the extraction process, the danger to underground drinking water supplies (especially in Kent where 70% of drinking water comes from underground sources), the huge number of additional vehicle movements and congestion in the countryside, where many drilling rigs will be located, and the noise and atmospheric pollution associated with this process (4)." Despite the large financial incentives, Driver predicts strong opposition to the expansion of gas exploration and extraction in Kent. "In East Kent, exploration company Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd was recently forced, by overwhelming public opposition, to withdraw three planning applications for exploratory drilling at Guston, Shepherdswell and Tilmanstone (5). Planning authority Kent County Council was inundated by hundreds of objections from local residents and all four Parish Councils covering the proposed drilling sites voted to oppose the plans. "I expect to see many more examples of people power and community opposition developing across Kent and the rest of south-east England as the new licences are sold and planning applications to drill are submitted. Whatever the Government might say, and no matter how much they try to bribe local communities, most people don't want their villages and towns disrupted and devastated by fracking, or the security of their water supplies put at risk. It's too high a price to pay.
"The Green Party is the only national political party to oppose the extraction of shale and coal bed methane gas and the use of fracking processes. We will work with local communities across Kent to fight plans for drilling for gas."
Kent Greens Councillors for Sale at £99.99
Thu, 16 Jan 2014
During a week in which a poll revealed 46% of voters believe MPs are "on the take" (1), the Kent Green Party has accused the county's councillors of "pimping out their services and influence for £99.99 a go".
This hard-hitting allegation follows the adoption, by KCC, the 12 District and many of the county's 315 Town and Parish Councils, of the so-called Kent Code of Conduct for Members (2). The Code, which replaces rules set by the now defunct Standards Board for England, regulates the ethical behaviour of most of Kent's 2,500(3) plus councillors. Amongst other things, it allows them to accept gifts and hospitality up to the value of £100 without any need to make a declaration (4). This is a 400% increase on the Standards Board for England previous declaration limit of £25 for gifts and hospitality. Green Party Councillor, Ian Driver, who voted against Thanet Council's decision to adopt the controversial gifts and hospitality rules said: "It's morally wrong for County, District, Town or Parish Councillors to accept any form of payment or gift from constituents, businesses, lobbyists, or any other organisation. Permitting councillors to accept treats of up to £99.99 without any declaration sends out all the wrong messages. It's like saying that Kent's Councillors are free to pimp out their services and influence for £99.99 a go without anyone finding out. This ill-conceived Code is a charter for corruption which reinforces the impression that politicians have their snouts in the trough. It brings local government into serious disrepute."Driver's views are supported by the world's leading anti-corruption organisation, Transparency International, which in a recent report entitled "Corruption in UK Local Government: The Mounting Risks" said that ". . . without transparency about gifts and hospitality, there can be no serious scrutiny of an important channel through which individuals or interest groups might seek to corruptly influence members (5)." Said Driver "I call on the County, District, Town and Parish Councils to review their Codes of Conduct and introduce changes which prohibit councillors from receiving any gifts or hospitality from constituents, lobbyists or any other organisations. I encourage the people of Kent to lobby their Councillors to put an end to this charter for corruption."
Kent Greens Call Rethink on KCC Freedom Pass Changes
Sat, 14 Dec 2013
The Kent Green Party has called on KCC to rethink its plans to place a cap on the value of its young person's Freedom Pass.
In a report to be presented at Friday's (13th December) Environment, Highways and Waste Cabinet Committee meeting (1), it is proposed to limit the 11-16 year old Freedom Pass to journeys up to the value £350. The current Freedom Pass allows unlimited journeys within Kent.
The report also proposes the introduction of a new Freedom Pass for 16-20 year olds which will be limited to journeys up to the value of £250. Both passes will cost £100 to buy and when the limit is exhausted young people or their parents will have to top up the card by purchasing extra credit. The changes hope to save £7 million as part of KCC's drive to reduce its costs by £239 million over the next four years. Kent Green Party believes that such a drastic reduction in help for youngsters travelling to and from school and college is short-sighted, adding more traffic, noise and congestion on Kent's roads, and causing potential hardship for many families. It would like to see a more generous scheme, financed by cuts to other areas, such as new road building, a phased approach to the changes, and greater weighting than at present to aid those who most need help. Green Party County Councillor Martin Whybrow said: "I fully understand that KCC is under enormous budget constraints as a result of central government cuts and that the attractiveness of the existing Freedom Pass means it is extremely expensive for KCC. However, the proposed changes are a massive hit for Kent's youngsters and their families. They particularly discriminate against young people in rural areas who have to make longer journeys to school or college. Their credit will be used up much sooner than young people living in urban areas of Kent and their parents may have to find up to another £300 or £400 per year to pay for the additional credit. "It will also be another significant setback for Kent's poorest residents, already under great pressure from the government's attack on benefits. Some of our towns such as Canterbury, Dartford, Dover, Folkestone, Margate and Ramsgate have rates of child poverty of 20% and above (2). Forcing already hard pushed parents to pay additional travel costs will make their financial situation even worse. "We already know from a report on the impact of welfare benefit changes in Kent, which was suppressed by KCC leader, Paul Carter, last week, that a growing number of Kent families are struggling to make ends meet. Forcing many of these families to pay out additional school and college costs will cause incredible hardship for these families (3)."