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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.

Residents petition Kent County Council to Keep Kent Frack Free
Mon, 24 Nov 2014
The Government is offering for sale licenses for onshore oil and gas exploration across the whole of Kent1. The licenses would allow extraction of fossil fuels by controversial and environmentally damaging methods including fracking, and coal bed gasification. But local residents are calling on Kent County Council to protect the countryside by ensuring that no oil or gas exploration is permitted in Kent.
A petition organized by Tim Valentine, the Green Party's prospective parliamentary candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent at next year's general election, will be submitted to Kent County Council at County Hall, Maidstone on Tuesday 25th November. The petition, signed by more than 2,800 people, demands that the Council should not permit oil and gas exploration in Kent because the industrial development of the countryside cannot be sustainable. Under Council procedures petitions with over 2500 signatures trigger a debate by a KCC committee.
Tim Valentine said: "Development of shale gas and oil would industrialize the Garden of England, and increase heavy goods traffic on Kent's already-congested roads.  Production from wells is short-lived - so many wells must be drilled.  The industry uses massive quantities of clean drinking water but Kent's water supplies are already severely stressed. It would produce large quantities of polluted water which cannot be disposed of safely. Development of shale gas will cause planning blight, and reduce the value of people's homes. Instead of extracting more fossil fuels which damage our children's future, Kent County Council should be encouraging renewable energy to meet our present needs".
Martin Whybrow, Green Party councilor for Hythe, said: "This petition shows the huge concern among residents about this form of fossil fuel extraction. I do not feel that nearly enough consideration is being given to the strong evidence from around the globe that this is high risk. It is also clear that many experts feel it will have no impact on reducing residents' energy bills. I also worry that there will be no 'localism' in the decision-making, with this pro-fracking government ready to steamroller through the applications, cheered on by energy companies and business speculators."  
Notes:
1. New onshore licensing round opens https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-onshore-licensing-round-opens. A map of onshore licenses and prospective areas is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/map-of-onshore-licences-sea-areas-and-prospective-areas
2. It is planned to submit the petition at County Hall at 2pm on Tuesday 25th November.


BBC's by-election debate sparks new call for Green inclusion in General Election debate
Tue, 11 Nov 2014
In the wake of the BBC's broadcast of the debate with candidates in the Rochester and Stood by-election, which saw overwhelming opinion that Clive Gregory, the Green Party Candidate, had won the hearts and minds of viewers, Kent Greens have written again to the BBC to demand inclusion in next year's General Election Leaders' debate.

Over 200,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Greens to be in the televised leaders' debates next year. Recent polling has put the Green Party ahead of the Lib Dems.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party and Candidate for Canterbury, commented: "I have been in correspondence with the BBC over the past few weeks as exclusion from next year's debate is fundamentally undemocratic. In the wake of the response from last night's debate, I will be stepping up the pressure from Kent.

"Last night it became clear that being able to get our distinctive message across in a televised debate demonstrated to the public just how in tune our thinking is with theirs. The response of the audience, people on Twitter, and on the phone-in on Radio Kent afterwards overwhelmingly showed that Clive Gregory was the best candidate with the best ideas.

"The Green Party is soaring in the polls, regularly ahead of the Lib Dems, despite our low level of national media coverage.

"Being able to have a voice in politics is central to a democracy. Until our leader can take part in next year's debate, democracy will not be served."

Huge surge in Kent for Green Party membership
Tue, 28 Oct 2014
Kent Green Party Chair and candidate for Canterbury has welcomed a huge surge in Green Party membership in the county, including a single week in October which saw a 7% rise in just 7 days. The party membership in Kent has grown by almost 60% since January. Canterbury has seen a 36% rise in the past 3 months alone where the Greens achieved 18% of the vote in the city putting them in contention for the Parliamentary seat in 2015.

Across the UK membership has risen by 45%[1] and last week's Ashcroft Poll on General Election voting intention put the Greens ahead of the Lib Dems[2]. Across the UK, Green Party membership has reached 30,000.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Greens and Parliamentary Candidate for Canterbury: "While the national media focuses on and therefore drives the rise of UKIP, it is clear that the Green Party is rapidly growing and gaining support. This is despite that refusal of national media to give us a level playing field.

"Membership in Kent has rise steeply this year and is up almost 60% in nine months. In Canterbury we have seen a huge surge in the past three months alone, with membership rising by 36% since June.

"In Canterbury we achieved 18% of the vote in the EU election, far ahead of the Lib Dems, neck and neck with Labour and just behind the Tories and UKIP. This puts us in a great position to win our first parliamentary seat in Kent in 2015."

Notes:
1. http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/10/03/green-surge-membership-of-the-green-party-up-45-in-2014-alone/
2. http://greenparty.org.uk/news/2014/10/20/ashcroft-national-poll-green-party-polling-ahead-of-liberal-democrats/

KCC short-changing Kent's poorest residents
Fri, 24 Oct 2014
Kent Green Party is calling on Kent County Council (KCC) to honour its obligations to support the county's most vulnerable and impoverished residents. The council is threatening to take away money allocated for people in dire need and use this to cover overspending elsewhere.

When pressed on this issue by Green Party KCC member for Hythe, Martin Whybrow, at today's full council meeting, KCC's Cabinet Member for Finance and Procurement, John Simmonds, admitted that KCC would only consider rolling over the underspend on the council's Kent Support & Assistance Service (KSAS) if the authority as a whole achieved underspending of at least this amount.

KSAS provides support for people having serious difficulties managing their income or facing exceptional pressures because of an emergency or crisis. It provides essential home items such as groceries (for up to seven days), clothing, young child and baby food, milk and nappies, furniture, bedding, and electrical appliances plus help with utilities (gas and electric, for up to seven days) and emergency travel arrangements.

KSAS is funded by the Local Welfare Assistance Fund (LWAF), a budget allocated to local authorities since 2013 by central government to support people in urgent need. The fund was created under the 2012 Welfare Reform Act to replace Social Fund Community Care Grants and Crisis Loans, previously administered by the Department for Work and Pensions.

KCC is predicting an underspend on KSAS of 2.691 million and, as Councillor Whybrow has argued, this should be rolled over to extend the service for at least another year (it is unclear whether there will be any additional central government money to support the scheme beyond the current year). Some voluntary agencies in the county have been critical of KSAS, arguing that it has been hard to access and has placed too many obstacles on claimants, but KCC has previously stated that it has been cautious because of the uncertainty of future funding. Now it is proposing to take the predicted 2.691 million to prop up other departments that have not made their budget targets.

Councillor Whybrow says: "This money should clearly be ring-fenced for the purpose for which it was intended. But it is clear that KCC is eyeing up the fund as a means to cover shortfalls elsewhere. This is at a time when many people in Kent need help more than ever before, because of the increasing levels of inequality."


Links: KSAS http://www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/support-in-your-own-home/home-essentials-in-a-crisis