Communities First Needs an Inspiration Injection

Pippa

I was a bit miffed to see that the Argus published part of this article today. Miffed because they chose to pick out the negative and made no attempt to point out the positive, the inspirational, the way useful way forward.

OK I should perhaps be happy enough that they printed something, but to put the record straight, here is the full press release for your perusal:

Pippa Bartolotti, Wales Green Party lead list candidate for South Wales East said “ Greens will put inspiration at the heart of Communities First. The imposed economic climate of austerity is impacting on all our poorer communities, and the staff at Communities First are fighting a battle of diminishing returns as relative poverty increases and job security declines.”

The initial aim of Communities First was to take the most deprived wards in Wales out of poverty, but 15 years later these wards are not just still in the same place on the list, many have moved in the wrong direction.

Pippa Bartolotti continued, “Communities First is first and foremost and anti-poverty scheme. The Conservative party would not understand the need for this, but Greens do.

“I’m in favour of a complete overhaul of Communities First. It is not well monitored, and in some places there is poor practice. It’s become too focused on ‘moving people towards employment’ and on individual pathways, and the postcode lottery removes many from being able to use the service. It has become a blunt instrument, and that needs to change.”

Resource waste has become embedded in the system. Tens of thousands of pounds are spent on private training companies that are inefficient. For example one course cost £600 per person for 5 days training. Communities First staff qualified themselves to train the same course, and it cost just £12 per person to deliver.

Bartolotti, who is also the Wales Green Party Candidate for Newport West added, “There is more to self-sufficient communities than low paid jobs. It’s time to inspire people with youth forums that aren’t tokenistic, and which are enabled to fight for cultural and social justice, allotment projects, community gardens, from seed to table projects, recycling/ up cycling projects, warmer homes projects and community art. Let’s put inspiration where it’s needed, right at the heart of Communities First.”

Caerleon College Under Threat

The Caerleon College site is now heavily under threat. The University will sell the site to the highest bidder, and that will ultimately mean maximising profits in the shape of crowded, cheap housing. This site should be an exemplar for sustainable architecture and high standards of carbon zero construction. I believe that this case should test the Well-Being of Future Generations Act. For example the building standards of new housebuilding should be very high – passivhaus or equivalent. The average house built in Wales today has a life of 30 years. That’s not good enough for the next generation. Also the green spaces should be legally protected from future building encroachment.

Caerleon is already overcrowded, and losing its identity as an historic place of interest as visitors are forced to walk through the worst pollution in Newport, along tiny pavements, as industrially laden lorries thunder past.

Slap-dash building on green spaces is to be avoided. Destruction of the 100 year old college building (which would be doubtless regretted in years to come) and for which there is already a demand to take the overflow from the Comprehensive school, would be a huge mistake.

400 or so houses will degrade the standard of living for current residents, and increase the already insupportable pollution. We need to set an example of clean sustainable development which decreases road use (re-open the train station) and provided zero carbon houses (building regulations are devolved) to take people out of fuel poverty and reduce carbon emissions. Good sized gardens and/or allotment spaces will help to make the site fit for the future. Retention of the Old College building will be paramount in giving the site a rooted history and focal point.

We have only until Friday to submit our feedback, so lets do it quickly http://www.caerleon.site/submit-feedback/

The UK cannot compete against a subsidised Chinese industry, and it shouldn’t have to.

The people of South Wales are in shock, their steel works in Port Talbot is a vital part of the Welsh economy, and it will close unless swift and meaningful action is taken by government . In Llanwern too there is a foreboding mood of uncertainty. There has been a gross (and maybe purposeful) failure of industrial planning stretching back to 2005 when the Harvard Business Review pointed out the correlation between rising Chinese state subsidies and the increasing export of steel.

Wales makes good quality steel, and we ask that British manufacturers buy their steel closer to home so that our jobs and communities can prosper as they should. We must campaign to make sure that new investors don’t profit at the expense of the workers.

The Financial Times has followed Tata’s strategy over the last year(s) and we are aware the Tata board have been seeking to “get out of steel” within the UK for some months. Port Talbot is a 1950s plant and whilst Tata have invested, those who have visited equivalent facilities on the continent e.g. TATA’s steel works in Holland refer to Port Talbot “as a bit of a dump”. The investment has not been coming to Wales as it should.

This crisis was completely foreseeable, and work on a new business model should have been well underway months ago. The fact that the Prime Minister and business secretary preferred to jet away at such a crucial time says it all about Tory UK industrial strategy.

The alleged losses of £1million a week have not been corroborated by any other sources. If true such losses pale to insignificance when compared to the £375billion raised to prop up the banks by means of the newly invented ‘Quantitative Easing’ vehicle.

The Tories have an unfinished job, started by the Thatcher government, to fully dismantle organised labour, as part of a sink or swim policy for manufacturing. This has been a disaster for larger projects where we see major engineering opportunities, in the UK, outsourced to France, Germany, Spain, Japan or China. We have the engineering talent, our universities and industries are world leaders in many fields, including the steel industry. A conservative government saved Rolls Royce in the 1970’s, and it returned to profitability.

We need to find intelligent solutions for the Welsh future and its economy. What the UK government could do:

1. Implement the EU 2014 Procurement Directive, which allows the Buyer to measure bids on Socio-Environment as well as economic (price factors). Steel could be legally preferred from Port Talbot under EU rules if the UK government had adopted this European policy.

2. Remove energy subsidies from fossil fuels and redirect the money into our core strategic manufacturing when needed. Energy subsides (whilst investing and developing Green energy alternatives) for strategic high energy users such as blast furnaces should be possible. Grants for increased energy efficiency measures should be available in any case.

3. Have a credible long term industrial strategy, especially for critical industries – Energy and Steel are just two. When knee jerk reaction is strategy, we know this country is in trouble.

4. Nationalise or subsidise, for the interim. Develop new Public/Private partnerships structures, for The Peoples’ Benefit. The market has obvious weaknesses in unrestrained global commodity prices – oil, steel, gas etc. The market may be very good for shareholders, it is not good for jobs, and it is certainly not good for critical industries.

Wales can continue to develop high quality products. South Wales is an early leader in coated strip steels and high quality steels (railways, cars, aerospace). Tata has been researching and developing extraordinary rolled steels e.g. solar cell coatings; even the UK has enough sun light to make this a huge market.

Above all, British products should be made with British steel. 589 new armoured vehicles for the Army are being built using steel from Sweden. The Westminster government has already let slip that steel for the fleet of Type 26 Frigates could be supplied from abroad with multi-billion pound contracts – denying South Wales industries the sort of vital business that could secure their futures.

The UK cannot compete against a subsidised Chinese industry, and it shouldn’t have to.

Pippa Bartolotti, Candidate for Newport West and Regional List Candidate for South East Wales.

My Speech at SWE Campaign launch March 11th 2016

The Wales Green Party stands for an agenda which puts the protection of people and planet above greed and corporatocracy. From equal pay to climate change to the plight of the honey bee, the common thread running through our manifesto is a commitment to developing strong communities, the need for social and environmental justice, and a pledge to take action to achieve this.

 

In the latest Welsh Barometer Poll, Greens are showing at 4% in SWE. This means with just over 2% more of the vote under the proportional system, you’ll be sending a Green from SWE to the Senedd.

 

Wherever Greens are elected, things get done. In Ireland, Scotland and across the European continent, Greens have been at the forefront of justice. From the banning of bee killing pesticides to the cap on bankers’ bonuses, Greens have been the frontline of successful ecological politics, and we are ready to bring that energy and commitment to Wales.

In the 5th richest economy in the world, poverty should not be tolerated. A succession of governments has barely made a dent in abolishing poverty in Wales.  Greens will use EU money for the purpose for which it is intended, and lift our poorest people out of poverty.

 

The Wales Green Party will put the well-being of future generations at the heart of our programme. We will reduce your fuel bills, cut pollution, and keep wealth in our local communities.

Greens know that we cannot afford to lose our biggest employers such as Tata Steel (1500 people)  Admiral Insurance (450 ), and PHS Group in Caerphilly (700 in Wales).  We will help them to innovate with energy efficient measures, funding for research and development, apprenticeships and reduced business rates.

 

In South Wales East, Greens support community groups, such as the United Valley’s Action Group, to end open cast coalmining and other polluting industries. We will increase monitoring of air pollution, and raise penalties for local councils who fail to deliver improvements – because cleaner air means healthier people, and healthier people reduce the cost to the NHS. It’s joined up thinking. It’s Green thinking.

 

Wales needs to build thousands of houses every year. If we build to carbon zero standards, fuel poverty will be the nightmare of the past. But housebuilding needs to be strategic and sensitive. In Caerphilly we are supporting local groups to save meadows for the sake of 600 houses. In Newport we support the Glan Lyn brownfield settlement for 4000 houses. We probably don’t need both. It’s about joined up thinking.

 

We will promote the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and work for the development of 2 further lagoons off the coast of Newport to bring in sustainable jobs and energy supplies. We have the tides, we have the manpower, and of course we need the energy. Low carbon energy is the future, and with cities in Texas, Germany and across the world going 100% renewable, we know it’s the way forward.

 

Greens will spend more on public transport such as the South East Wales metro. We will abandon construction of the overpriced M4 relief road and use that £1billion+ to enhance healthier travel options, such as safe cycling networks and pedestrian friendly routes.

 

We will continue to support free local transport for pensioners and extend free transport and bus passes to younger people to help form low carbon travel habits.

 

Lets face it. Wales is not going to meet its own binding carbon reduction targets if we do what we have always done. We have to invest, we have to be bold, and we have to join up our thinking.

 

Greens have heard the cries of hard pressed commuters whose wages are not going up whilst almost everything about them is. So we will reduce tolls on the Severn Bridge, and give concessions to drivers who live and work in the close vicinity, and who drive low emission vehicles.

 

And what about our Older People? I instigated the OPM to pave the way for a less – stressful older age. Simple, but important adjustments to our public spaces – such as covered places to sit and rest, and lots of public toilets. These things make the difference between a staying at home or having a life. The OPM manifesto is online right now. Developments such as Friars Walk do not properly cater for our fastest growing demographic, and the needs of older people should be actioned up front, at the planning stage.

 

Let us not forget that this day is the 5th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster, which created a toxic wasteland for humans and wildlife alike. A disaster still unfolding as attempts to contain the radioactive waters teeter on the brink of failure, and 22 million square meters of radioactive waste pile up in – would you believe – in black plastic bags, waiting for a miracle which will never happen. To suggest that a new generation of unproven, untested, and hopelessly expensive nuclear reactors is the way ahead for Hinkley C or Ynys Môn is a fallacy of the greatest magnitude. We have abundant resources for alternative energy and the means to create alternative employment. What is required is a coherent and credible strategy underpinned by a vision, which details the kind of society we want for the future, and not one which creates even more mountains of toxic waste.

 

Greens will eliminate tuition fees for Welsh students studying in Welsh universities. We will legislate for a truly proportional and fair voting system for the next Welsh local government election, and all other elections, and lower the voting age to 16. Importantly we will encourage NGOs, charities and trade unions to critically evaluate every speck of government policy.

 

Greens really have the edge on policy in this election. We have some big challenges too. But most of all we have the kind of candidates prepared to work hard at scrutinizing laws, with the imagination to think outside the box, and the guts to bring lasting and measurable change to Wales.

 

The Green Surge of 2015, together with previous election results, indicate we can get enough votes this time to win 3 regional seats, so if you want to dump rhetoric and see some action, vote Green on May 5th.

The 1% will never vote Green

This week I was invited to join a Labour group working for animal rights on Facebook, which I was glad to do. I explained I was a Green, and it was no problem for them either. We have the same aims and objectives when it comes to respecting the welfare of other sentient beings.

However, I have become increasingly tormented by the plethora of groups I have been invited to join on social media. These groups work right across the spectrum, many of them have a huge amount in common. Often I have thought ‘if only they would all get together’. By getting together they would unleash an immense volume for their cause.

The 1% are laughing at us. We vent our spleen on social media, share snippets of news and views, but achieve practically nothing. We waste inordinate amounts of time writing throw away comments on social media and email, instead of thinking through a workable strategy. The chatter has gone up, the wisdom is evaporating. Divided we fall, but divided we largely insist on being.

I doubt that many of the 1% are on facebook. They do not hear us, nor do they want to. Facebook is looking increasingly like a release valve for the disaffected, a wonderful tool for the 1%. It probably wouldn’t be too much of a challenge for Facebook software to discover the common ground and put all similar groups in touch with each other, but that sort of unity would be counterproductive to the aim of those who wish us to remain in little pieces, reverberating endlessly around the echo chamber of our own small worlds.

How will the 99% overcome the walls of their self-made enclosures ? The Occupy movement started something, but just like the Climate Camps of yesteryear, they largely dissolved into the fabric of everyday life. Maybe it was work, family, or simply the fact that they thought they had achieved something, and that something was enough.

Very few movements of this type achieved anything lasting. Greenham Common is a notable exception, where dedicated non-violent protest (without the internet) over 19 years, by thousands of indomitable women greatly contributed to the popular demand for disarmament that led to the signing of the INF Treaty in 1987 (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty) which mandated the removal of Cruise missiles from the site.

Politics is the way you live your life as well as the way you vote.

The question of how to rein in a dominant capitalist culture and its negative ecological effects is alive. The massive protest against the Iraq war, whist being a correct judgment on behalf of the people, was not, could not, change the decisions made by the political power. Had the protest continued for months or years, the outcome could well have been different – Daesh would probably not have been brought into existence, and the desperate refugees battling their way across Europe to safety may still be tucked up in their own warm beds.

The 99% may not achieve everything it sets out to achieve, but if we want change, we do have to pay – with our time, our energy and our courage. We have to break out of our little echo chambers and explore new ways of challenging the system. A one day street protest has never been enough. A vote could be.

The surest way to change a system is to get into the inside of it. That’s what Greens are doing. Voting a Green into any governing body ensures that there will be a voice to stand up for for the rights of people and planet. One Green voice can temper the excesses of the 1%. 3 Green voices will raise the level of the fight and start to change minds. 10 Green voices will change everything.

Greens in the Senedd at this election will be be the start of the change so many of the 99% long to see. Wales need to see a solid, definitive culture of hard decision-making and robust action to support jobs, welfare and pollution-free energy . You’ve seen what the others can do. Now is the time of the Greens.

 

 

Letter to the Planning Inspectorate Wales to Object to Opencast Mining at Nant Llesg

 

I would like to register my objection to the proposed works on Merthyr Common CCBC Planning Ref 13/0732/MIN on the following grounds:

Due consideration has not been given to the potential of renewable energy on this site, such as solar and wind energy, and their contribution to the Welsh economy and to the local community.

  1. The fencing off of Gelligaer Common will in effect ‘privatise’ a 478 hectare site of land which is held in common for public use
  2. Merthyr Tydfil has one of the poorest health profiles in Wales with a lower life expectancy than the national average. The creation of coal dust over a wide area such as is implied in the planning document will exacerbate many health problems
  3. Linked to the pursuit of sustainable development and the Well Being of Future Generations Bill is the need to combat climate change and minimize avoidable impacts. More coal on the market flies in the face of these principles
  4. Open cast coalmining will destroy the natural landscape and the habitats of wild birds, mammals and amphibians
  5. Historic site will be destroyed
  6. There will be an adverse visual impact from the air, the land, and to residents
  7. Destruction of the last aged peat bog in the area, providing sanctuary to a variety of fauna and flora
  8. The development of new fossil fuel extraction sites flies in the face of the COP 21 agreement to limit and reduce C02 emissions in order to keep planetary warming under 2 degrees C.

Yours faithfully,

Pippa Bartolotti

Greens Call for Urgent Action on Steel

News that more than 1000 jobs are to be lost in South Wales steelmaking is devastating for the local economy, the supply chain and the affected communities.

It is not just cheap labour, but massive government subsidies which are keeping the prices down, particularly on energy, which in Chinese terms means coal. These issues have been known since 2005 when the Harvard Business Review spotted a powerful statistical correlation between growing subsidies and growing exports in China.

Pippa Bartolotti, candidate for Newport West and the South East Wales Regional List said, “The Welsh government has had 11 years notice of these job losses, and now it pleads impotence. I call on Carwyn Jones to take action now to prevent future losses. The market will not solve the problem, changing state aid rules will.

“Cheap Chinese Steel has been flooding the UK market for some years now. This steel is being sold at a loss, and the Welsh government, together with the UK Government and the EU needs to step in urgently if we are not to lose steel-making capability in Wales.”

One thing which is not being discussed is the effect of steel making industries on pollution. If we buy steel from China we not only create the associated, and higher, pollution Chinese people have to suffer, we increase CO2 through the transportation of the product halfway round the world.

Pippa Bartolotti added, “This is why steel making needs to stay in Wales. It is less polluting, our standards our higher, and it is delivered locally. We must ask Welsh businesses to support Welsh steelmaking, and ask Welsh consumers to buy Welsh products. It will be cheaper in the long run as we ensure that 1000’s of jobs are saved and our communities remain intact.”

China produces as much steel as the rest of the world combined. As China’s growth slows, the excess steel that Chinese industry doesn’t need is being marketed overseas, filling Chinese coffers with desirable foreign currency.

What a Waste

Waste for recycling
Waste for recycling

In Newport we are recycling a mere 52% of our total waste. I guess that’s the easy 52% – representing the people who are willing to recycle that which can be easily recycled.

The question is: How do we get to recycle 100% of our waste?

To have a productive closed loop system and recycle everything we buy or make is the goal. After all, why are we manufacturing anything which is not recyclable? Manufacturing products or packaging which cannot be broken back to their natural forms, or which have no further use, is surely stacking up trouble, (or piles of rubbish) for the future.

Burn it, I hear you say! It turns out that that is not a good idea either. Burning plastics release poisonous fumes. The air we breathe is not in good shape because of traffic fumes and the burning of fuel such as oil or gas, so adding to that problem should rightly be out.

There has to be a plan to tackle that stubborn 48% of  waste, and I suggest the following:

  1. Ban non recyclable packaging, like polystyrene, by law. We can manage without
  2. Allow only biodegadable nappies and incontinence pads
  3. Encourage Welsh companies to manufacture compostable ‘plastic’ film
  4. Ban plastic bottles. San Francisco has already done this, why not Wales
  5. Quantify how many jobs we are helping to sustain and create through the recycling industries. E.g. our metals go to Tata Steel which supports 6000 jobs in S Wales
  6. Look at best practice across the world and use it. Germany recycles 87% of all waste through a bar code payment scheme. In Norway they recycle 93% of bottles in a cashback scheme
  7.  Make less waste! Estonian people make 50% less waste that we do. We have to ask ourselves why we buy so much that we don’t need or use.

It is entirely possible to waste less, and recycle more. We are supposed to be heading for a circular economy where everything we buy and use can be recycled. We can’t keep mining for more metals and plastics (oil) for ever. These things are a finite resource. And then there’s the pollution caused by burning them in incinerators together with the health impacts of the toxic fumes. If we truly care about leaving something tolerable for the next generation, we have to think about what happens to our waste when it leaves our home.

Pippa

N.B. The links shown are indicative. Often there are many types of these items available. Shop around!

 

It will only be a happy new year if the money drowns before we do

It’s very hard to wish you all a happy new year when so many are experiencing hardship. Whether you are trying to get muddy water out of what used to be your home, digging your children  out of the rubble of an air strike in Syria, fighting forest fires in drought ridden Spain, or contemplating the failed COP 21 agreement, I am thinking of you.

The climate has changed, but people haven’t. The anguish of the inhabitants of low lying lands has not made as much as a dent in the profit driven consumerist society we all help to feed. In Paris the agreement was marked by what it did not include. Missing was action on compensation for poor countries unable to invest in adjusting to low carbon technologies, missing was any measure at all to clarify the status of climate refugees, missing was any attempt to make fine words legally binding.

Continue reading It will only be a happy new year if the money drowns before we do

Wales Fair Trade Festival October 2015

Official-opening-Wales-Fair-Trade-fair[1]

Welcome everyone to the 9th Wales Fair Trade fair, and especially to David and Martha for inviting me to come and ‘do the honours’.

For years I have wondered, often aloud ‘what is the reasoning behind unfair trade’. What is the concept? Why do we punish and torture, people, animals and planet. Is it really because only money is god?

We all know about slavery and poverty. We all know too many are living below the bread line both here and abroad. We all know about suffering and malnutrition. Yet we are in a world of plenty. The cake is large, but cut so unfairly.

And there is another unfairness. When we buy potatoes (for example from Egypt ), we steal their water and poison the atmosphere with untold miles of polluting transport. In May last year Britain imported nearly 20,000 tonnes of cauliflower and broccoli, and in April we imported over 50,000 tonnes of potatoes.  Our livestock and dairy industry is heavily dependent on imported soybean for animal feed, taking food and water from hungry mouths in India and Africa.

When we buy goods from China and Bangladesh we are in effect outsourcing our own pollution, our own greenhouse gasses and our own toxic chemicals. The bleach from our jeans runs foul down the rivers of China. Yet it is all too easy to wash our hands in our own clean water and turn away from the harm our own consumerism creates.

Of course I know I am preaching to the converted here today, but when we build nuclear we are in effect outsourcing the radioactive waste to the next 10 generations or more. How are they supposed to deal with it? Will they even know what is in those dilapidated yellow canisters in 500 years time?

Too often, it seems, our culture is only interested in ourselves. Jam today. And like nuclear, climate change and poverty will impose huge costs on future generations, impacting heavily on migration, political stability, food and water scarcity. These are costs this generation shows no inclination to fix, for we have talked about poverty, suffering and climate change before.

These things will not change for as long as the god is money.

There is no justification for unfair trade, no justification for climate change, no justification for poverty.

Those of us who can pay a little more to ensure our food, our goods and our services are fairly traded should be happy to. Those of us who know about the suffering of animals in factory farms and testing laboratories, should not turn their face away. It is only we, ourselves, you and me, who can fix the problem.

Whether its people, or animals, or planet in the firing line, of one thing we can be sure: when money is god, ethics and morality become unaffordable.

So please everyone, open your pockets and your hearts today. There are wonderful things here to buy and to do, excellent speakers and fabulous music. Let us for one day rejoice in the bounty of being without harming, loving without hurting, and buying without spoiling.

In the words of Zacharia Tutu, father of Desmond, ‘Don’t raise your voice, improve your argument’. That is what we Greens, and all who share our concerns, must go out and do!