Green councillor achievements
Changing the way councils think
Here are just some of our Green Councillors' Achievements in the past couple of years.
Combating Climate Change
Green Councillors up and down the country are pushing their councils to recognise the Climate Emergency that we now face, as detailed by the report by the International Panel on Climate Change. by December 2018, motions had been passed by 10 Prinicapl Authorities including Stroud District,St Albans,Forest of Dean, Bristol and York, and also many town and parish councils recognising the urgent need to take action, committing to reducing the carbon footprint of the local authority and calling on the Government to do more. These Councils are now working on Action Plans detailing how they will implement these committments and, following the successful Green-led motion to the London Assembly, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has just published an Action Plan for London.
Supporting the most vulnarable in our communities
In December 2018 a scheme, championed by Green Councillor Maggie Allen, to prevent vulnerable care leavers from paying council tax up to the age of 25 ws agreed by Solihull Council. Coun Allen delivered a moving account of her own personal experience as a foster carer, reflecting on the story of an abused seven-year-old boy.
She said: “This is the story of just one looked after child. All stories are different, but the theme is the same. Neglect and abuse. These are children more vulnerable than our own. And many of them don’t have the emotional health to be independent at 18 and manage their own money. The sanctions available for council tax debt are severe, to exempt them until they are 25 is a small and affordable thing we can do to make things easier for them. Looked after children are our children and they are not to blame for their circumstances.”
Although Councillor Allen’s original motion was voted down by the Tories, a compromise was finally agreed which included a commitment to lobby the government to issue statutory guidance which will exempt all care leavers, nationally, from council tax up to age 25 and to call on the government to provide funding to compensate for the loss of council revenue arising from exemptions.
Ending dependence on polluting fossil fuel
Lancashire County Councillor Gina Dowding is encouraging the county’s £5bn pension fund to take into account ethical as well as financial factors and has persuaded it to sign up to the United Nations Charter Principles for Responsible Investment.
Kirklees's three Green Cllrs managed to get approved a groundbreaking provision that said any applications to drill for hydrocarbons (including fracking) in their district, would have to demonstrate as part of their planning application how they would have ‘net zero impact on climate change’. The justification for this policy is based on Government pronouncements supporting the Paris Climate Agreement.
Working with Labour and Lib Dem councillors as part of a "Rainbow Alliance", Stroud Greens have helped Stroud District Council to become the first Council in Europe to become carbon neutral in that carbon dioxide emissions from its operations have been outweighed by the reduction in emissions from energy efficiency measures and renewable energy installations it has put in place. Green Councillor Simon Pickering, chair of the committee, said: “This is a tremendous achievement, which has been delivered through a multi-pronged strategy focused on households, businesses and community buildings, as well as reducing the council’s own operational emissions. We have brought in over £36m investment into county allowing us to create jobs, cut heating bills and, of course, reduce carbon emissions. It’s been a win-win approach to tackling climate change, helping households and stimulating the local economy.
As part of keeping its own house in order, council buildings have seen significant solar panel arrays installed, lighting upgrades, and insulation and air tightness improvements. On top of these has been a programme of behavioural change encouraging staff to become more energy efficient. Village and community halls have also received funding to make them environmentally friendly and businesses across the district have also taken part in initiatives to help them reduce their emissions. However, the greatest contribution by far comes from the council’s work with households: through the Gloucestershire Warm and Well Partnership, advice and support to households on energy efficiency projects saved 2,468.6 tonnes of CO2 (75% of the carbon savings).
Greens are working to save City heritage
Green councillors in Sheffield have been working to save the Old Coroner’s Court on Nursery St, an attractive building opposite the Nursery St Pocket Park after a developer gave notice of his intention to demolish it in August 2018 and clear the land to build flats.
The issue has opened up the debate about the protection of what is left of the heritage in the city centre.
The court is an attractive and balanced building that lends a sense of calm to the area – no doubt something that was intended when family of the deceased had to attend the official courtroom of the coroner. However, it is not a listed building. When Green Councillor Douglas Johnson raised his concerns with council officers in the planning department and with heritage campaigners, he found out that the formal powers avalable to the council to protect heritage are very limited. So he then talked directly to the developer about his concerns and discussed the opportunities for a sensitive development of the area. As a result the developer agreed to withdraw his application to demolish the building and to have a fresh look at what could be done with the site.
The work with heritage campaigners has led to Green councillors asking the council to give further protection to the heritage of the Castlegate area, so that the forthcoming development there will preserve the remainder of the historic heart of the city.
Greens are protecting libraries
In July 2018 Reading Green Councillors supporting local resident campaigners, suceeded in challenging Labour's proposed cuts to library services with the result that Palmer Park Library will remain open to the public on Saturdays.
Commenting on Labour's u-turn on cutting weekend opening at Palmer Park library, Green Party councilor Rob White said: "Well done to the library anti-cuts campaigners, especially Dave McElroy – who handed in the over-600 signature petition to save Reading libraries. He spoke well about the importance of libraries. "Following pressure from the petition which Green Party councillors have been supporting I was pleased to see Labour change their mind and propose not cutting the Saturday morning opening of Palmer Park library. Unfortunately, the other cuts to libraries, which Greens oppose, remain – a reduction of almost 10 hours at Central, cutting evening opening at Palmer Park and shaving off a few hours at each of the other libraries. It was therefore a bittersweet evening, but we will keep working to prevent further cuts to libraries and build the hours back up."
Rainbow Alliance - changing the culture
Stroud Greens entered a five-year power sharing deal with Labour on their District Council between 2011 and 2016. This was renewed after 2016 elections. One of the conditions of the deal was to move to a committee system with key decision-making meetings to be in the evening. After the five years, the council's annual independent survey revealed the highest ever resident and business approval rating of the council services since records began 14 years ago. Stroud Greens have encouraged Conservative ("opposition") councillors into cross-party meetings with officers to discuss difficult decisions, ending previous habits of closed-door decisions by a single-party cabal followed by confrontational "show" meetings.
Recycling and promoting the circular economy
In 2016 Stroud Greens were instrumental in introducing a new food waste recycling scheme for households. In the first two weeks, 60 per cent more food waste than expected was collected. The waste food goes to an anaerobic digester (below) which turns it into methane for use in the national gas main while and the digestate is used for fertilizer on farmland. By 2018, the Council had cut the amount of waste is was sending to landfill by half.
Green councillors in Exeter gained unanimous support for a motion pledging Exeter City Council to become a ‘single-use plastic-free’ authority by the end of 2018.
According to recent research, eight million metric tonnes of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans each year, endangering marine life and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that by 2050 the weight of plastic in the oceans will exceed that of fish. There is also a growing understanding of the risks posed to human health by toxic chemicals present in plastics.
Councillors agreed to make Exeter City Council a ‘single-use plastic-free’ authority by the end of 2018, including an end to the purchase and procurement of SUPs through the ECC supply chain and ending the sale and provision of SUP products, such as bottles, cups, cutlery and drinking straws, in council buildings. The Council will also investigate the possibility of requiring pop - up food and drink vendors at council events to avoid SUPs as a condition of their contract.
The motion, proposed by Green Councillor Chris Musgrave, also commits the Council to work with tenants and operators in commercial properties owned by Exeter City Council to support the phasing out of SUP cups, bottles, cutlery and straws and re-usable and affordable food containers are available for sale in public markets and to work with festivals organisers to create policy in which single-use ‘disposable’ plastic cups are replaced at all city festivals with reusable or deposit scheme cups. The aim is that ultimately this will become a condition for obtaining a licence for large scale events.
Cllr Musgrave said: “Councils can play an important part in the fight against the eight million tonnes of plastic waste that end up in the world’s oceans each year. Exeter does well at recycling some plastics through its Materials and Reclamation Facility operation, but much plastic doesn’t get recycled, is totally unnecessary and hugely damaging to our environment. This motion gained cross-party support. We can now make Exeter single-use plastic free. We must do all we can to prevent our children inheriting a world where the weight of plastic in the oceans exceeds that of fish.”
Ending the use of toxic herbicide
In Brighton and Hove, Greens obtained an agreement with the ruling Labour council to end the use of Glyphosate – the weedkiller thought to cause cancer.
The three Green councillors on Lewes District council have persuaded the council to trial a pesticide free alternative and are running a campaign to push for a ban.
Glastonbury Greens managed to implement what is thought to be the country's first ban on chemical herbicides (for use on council owned areas). They introduced Foamstream, an eco-friendly herbicide as a replacement. You can see a video about it here
Cutting car dependency
In Suffolk in november 2018, the campaiginign group, Save our Meadows, which was set up and supported by Green County Councillor Robert Lindsday, has won a four year battle to stop a bypass being built over water meadows outside the market town of Sudbury. Councillor Lindsay said
"It is great news that Suffolk County Council have realised, at last, that the damage from a bypass built beautiful, tranquil countryside, used and loved by thousands of people, will far outweigh any supposed benefits. What is needed now is a fresh, holistic look at the transport situation in Sudbury. There are not enough buses linking Cornard with Sudbury, there is virtually no bus service to the health centre built on the north side of town and there are not enough buses linking towns people with the main employment centre on the east of town. A huge proportion of people driving to Sudbury are driving less than one mile distance. Using £10m as a seed fund, we could draw up a plan to make the town a beacon for walking and cycling and public transport. We should prioritise road space for bus lanes, cycle lanes and pedestrians, encouraging more people to leave their cars at home.”
Mid Suffolk District councilllor Rachel Eburne battled for six years to get super fast broadband for residents of her Suffolk village Haughley Green where many residents had internet services equivalent to dial up. The move importantly reduces car dependency for residents of villages by allowing them to work and shop from home.
Edinburgh Greens consistently backed schemes which improve walking and cycling in the city - and developed the first "towpath code" for the Union Canal.
Standing up for residents against the developer's bulldozers
Lambeth Greens joined residents of a sheltered housing block campaigning against the Labour-led council's plan to demolish it and sell the site to developers. As a result of the actions in Green councillor Scott Ainslie's ward, Labour shelved demolition plans for that block and other sheltered units in the borough.
The success of Lambeth Greens' sheltered housing campaign led to residents of other council-owned housing estates facing the bulldozer asking for Lambeth Green Party's help. Cllr Ainslie forced the council to publicly scrutinise its decision to demolish Cressingham Gardens - a large estate in Lambeth. This bought the residents time to build a legal case to seek and win a judicial review. Residents have overwhelmingly voted for a retro-fitted refurb and to stay in their homes. Labour, who nearly lost an important by-election to the Greens, appear to have backtracked on demolition plans.
Safer streets for people
York Greens secured the first 'trial' 20mph residential street in York that ultimately led to a citywide scheme. They also secured a 20mph limit outside two local schools in spite of it being on a trunk road. Stroud Greens have implemented area-wide 20mph limits across much of the town and further afield as well as introducing innovative traffic calming measures. In the London Borough of Lambeth, the Labour-led council introduced a borough-wide 20mph limit after years of Green campaining.
Putting green space and public access above developer profit
Before he was elected a councillor, Paul Woodhead at Cannock Chase Green Party launched a petition which gained over 11,000 signatures to stop the council selling off green spaces. This forced a debate at Full Council which resulted in a unanimous decision not to sell. Several community groups are now involved in the shaping of green spaces in their localities.
In the town of Frome, Somerset, Mendip District Council wanted to sell off an island of green space with a school on one side and houses on the other three. The three Green councillors led by Shane Collins persuaded the council to change its mind, instead leasing it back to the community for kids to play and parents to meet after school.
Community right to build
Stroud Greens, who co-administer the council, won the first 'Community Right to Build' order in the country which was approved for the town of Nailsworth, allowing a local Community land Trust to build 10 new affordable houses for rent which will not be subject to right to buy .
Worcester's two Greens devised a city plan with the other parties which highlights the need to enhance the City’s biodiversity and to source renewable energy. A biodiversity working group has been formed. They also secured a ban on the use of snares, which cause unneccessary pain to animals, on Council-owned land.
Click here for other Achievements 2010-16
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