Letters January to September 2011

Are we really a force for good in the world?

SIR - You wrote in your comment with reference to 9/11 that "wars to root out terrorists look like wars between different religions and cultures" (Worcester News, September 9).

We are repeatedly told that ‘our' motives for interfering in the Middle East are fundamentally benign - oil and the arms trade are rarely mentioned. Terrorism is what the enemy does, and whenever ‘we' commit a crime, it is generally referred to as "an error of judgement" or "a mistake"'.

It may seem comforting to assure ourselves that ‘we' are always a force for good in the world, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (29th September 2011) 

Yet again it is the vulnerable who suffer

SIR - A recent government report ‘Bus Services after the Spending Review' reveals that local authority cuts to transport budgets have seen the young, old and disabled hit hardest. The cross-party committee also criticised the lack of consultation undertaken before councils reduced subsidised services or raised fares. The select committee report should be a wake-up call to government and councils that are cutting the funding for local bus services.

Vulnerable people, especially the young, the old, the disabled and the poor, will be the hardest hit by the withdrawal of bus services. These people depend on bus services in order to access jobs, shops, education and healthcare, and are precisely the people that the Government should be looking out for, rather than making their lives more difficult.

The coalition is failing to fulfil its pledge to provide better value for money in public transport, with prices set to rise above the rate of inflation, and further loss of services expected. In contrast, the Green Party would spend £1.5 billion subsidising existing public transportto make fares up to 10 per cent cheaper, and £30 billion over the Parliament on investing in a better system. This will have the effect of strengthening communities, reducing crime, improving the health of the population and reducing traffic fatalities. It would also create 160,000 jobs.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (6th September 2011) 

We cannot continue to arm dictators

SIR - Caroline Lucas is the Green Party's first MP and comes originally from Malvern.

Earlier this month she was the primary sponsor of a government Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for an end to the sale of weapons and military equipment to all authoritarian regimes.

The EDM was tabled to coincide with the Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEi) exhibition taking place in London last week.

David Cameron positioned himself at the forefront of the effort to support the Libyan uprising, yet last year the UK issued more than £200 million worth of equipment requiring export licences to the country, providing Colonel Gaddafi with resources, including tear gas, crowd control equipment and ammunition for wall and door-breaching projectile launchers.

If we are truly committed to upholding human rights in the region, then we must urgently review our role in the international arms trade - and stop selling arms to repressive regimes.

We cannot continue to arm dictators who abuse their own citizens and then try to claim the moral high ground when addressing the conflicts that those same arms have helped to perpetuate.

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (22nd September 2011) 

We need reform of banks before 2019

SIR - One of the causes of the 2007/2008 credit crunch, the bail-out of the banks, the drop in our living standards and the cuts to our jobs and services is that the banks and other city institutions were not properly regulated and were operating like casinos with high street money.

Faced with these massive problems the Government seems content to leave the reform of the banks until 2019.

It is now three to four years since the start of credit crunch - for the Government to wait another eight years it is simply being complacent. The Government seems more interested in reforming (privatising) the NHS and other public services than reforming the banks.

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (21st September 2011) 

Relative poverty in Britain is still an issue

SIR - I must take issue with John Phillpott's comments in the Worcester News (August 27) when he writes that "there is no longer any deprivation in Britain".

While it is true that Britain has almost no absolute poverty, as seen in places such as the Horn of Africa, relative poverty in Britain is still an issue if we want to create a fair society. According to data published by the Department of Work and Pensions, severe low income and material deprivation occurs where income is less than 50 per cent of average income.

The Government's own figures show that five per cent or 700,000 children are growing up on less than £13 a person a day. This £13 a day needs to cover food, transport, shoes, clothes, school trips, broken household items and household bills such as electricity, gas and water bills.

With government cuts affecting the most vulnerable disproportionately and now rising unemployment we can expect relative poverty to increase under the Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition.

The Green Party believes that to reduce poverty we need to reduce unemployment. Instead of cuts we need to invest in hundreds of thousands of real jobs providing vital services and building up the nation's infrastructure.

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (31st August 2011) 

Academy opponents have my full support

SIR - I would like to express my admiration and support for parents and staff at Perry Wood Primary School in Worcester for their opposition to the school becoming a ‘sponsored' academy (Worcester News, July 12).

The Government would like to see private companies running our schools, even though their main interest is profit, not our children's education. Indeed, all the talk about raised standards and freedom is a distraction from the real issue: making money. This Government wants to privatise our schools, our NHS, and even our criminal justice system, and all for the benefit of chief executives and shareholders - not us.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (2nd August 2011) 

There's no compelling case for cuts agenda

SIR - The Government has failed to make a compelling case for its cuts agenda. It says it needs to reduce the deficit but it is clear that the cuts are intended to be permanent and that many of its policies have nothing to do with costcutting. Indeed, the Government is using the financial crisis created by the banks as an excuse to dismantle the welfare state.

On the same day as the pensions strike last month multi-national companies were given details of an £840 million tax break on their overseas profits. The current Government continues to demonstrate its commitment to making the rich richer while making the rest of us poorer. Thankfully, as was shown at the end of last month, people are working together for an alternative.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (12th July 2011) 

The Archbishop is entitled to have say

SIR - The reaction from politicians and seemingly most of the mainstream media to the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent comments on Government cutbacks is as disappointing as it is predictable. What exactly is wrong about a prominent church figure voicing concern for the poorer and weaker in society?

As the journalist Victoria Coren said: "Dr Rowan Williams is totally entitled to speak for those who feel unrepresented.

"That seems to be a Christian thing to do. The vitriol aimed at the Archbishop suggests he hit a nerve. A lot of people feel we did not vote for this."

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (15th June 2011) 

We can't depend on fossil fuels

SIR - John Phillpott's article (Worcester News, June 4) tries to dismiss wind turbines.
The Green Party wants significant reductions in our overall energy consumption, but sees them as part of the future renewable energy mix, along with solar, hydro, geothermal, tidal and wave power. We cannot depend indefinitely on nuclear power and fossil fuels. Our oil and gas increasingly comes from unstable parts of the world and supplies will ultimately run out. Moreover, burning them is helping to drive damaging climate change that threatens future generations over many hundreds of years.

Every wind farm should be considered by the planning process to address issues of noise disturbance, visual impact and wildlife protection.

However, modern turbines are much quieter than they used to be. Some may see turbines as a blot on the landscape, but I am among the many who find them not unattractive.

Organisations such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds recognise climate change threatens our wildlife and support the UK renewable energy targets, helping the industry to site wind farms appropriately.

There is no magic bullet to our energy predicament, but we cannot afford the luxury of ignoring the potential of wind on our draughty island.

John Phillpott's hot air is no substitute!

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (9th June 2011) 

It's simple, there just aren't enough jobs

SIR - The Government labels benefit claimants as "workshy" and the media calls them "scroungers".
However, there is clear evidence that there are not enough jobs - only 450,000 vacancies yet nearly 2.5 million unemployed.

The Government is making £18 million cuts in welfare, yet £25 billion in tax is avoided by extremely wealthy individuals and big business.

It has also been revealed recently that David Cameron spent £680,000 of taxpayers' money renovating Downing Street in the year that the Government has inflicted the biggest ever spending cuts across the public sector.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (2nd June 2011) 

We support EU, but it does need reforming

SIR - Re John Phillpott's Saturday feature ‘Do all our struggles mean so little now?' (Worcester News, May 21).
Yes, the Green Party supports our country being in the European Union but we believe it must be reformed to be more democratic and people centred.

We believe in Europe, but not in a European superstate.

We want to foster cooperation on issues of common interest, not establish international institutions for their own sake.

Accordingly, we are critical of many of the objectives built in to the EU treaties and of the EU institutions and how they work.

We believe many things done and decided in Europe might better be done by member states or by regions.

So while we are members of the EU we will work for its fundamental reform.

Finally, I can assure John that the eating of lentils is not essential to being a member of the Green Party.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (31st May 2011) 

Come on, let's oppose all these cutbacks

SIR - If the ‘Big Society' is as big as David Cameron says it is, why does he have to keep pointing it out?
Is it because he knows very well that the majority of us realise that it is a cover for cuts and privatisation?

The author Philip Pullman has spoken of a greedy ghost that haunts the boardrooms and council chambers and committee rooms from which the world is run these days.

This greedy ghost is market fundamentalism, and it is corrupting our public services, which in the words of Mr Pullman "used to be free of the commercial pressure to win or to lose, to survive or to die, which is the very essence of the religion of the market".

I agree with Mr Pullman that "little by little we're waking up to the truth about the market fanatics and their creed", but how many of us in Worcester are prepared to do something with the truth?

How many of us are prepared to oppose cuts and privatisation that may do terrible damage to the fabric of everything decent and humane.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (30th May 2011) 

It doesn't have to be this way...

SIR - Councillor Francis Lankester suggests that people who point out that the banks were bailed out with £1.4 trillion of public money are "apologists for the recently departed Labour government" (Worcester News, October 30). Let's point it out again: the banks were bailed out with £1.4 trillion of public money.

The bank levy proposed by the Government in its comprehensive spending review will only claw back £2.5 billion a year. The banks will be paying out far more than that in bonuses this year. Benefit cuts of £7 billion were announced while Vodafone was let off its £6 billion tax bill. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, calculates that UK corporations fail to pay £12 billion a year in taxes they legally owe, while the rich avoid or evade up to £120 billion.

It is clearer every day that the people of this country have been colossally scammed. The bankers who crashed the economy are richer than ever, on our cash.

The Prime Minister, who promised us before the election "we're not talking about swingeing cuts" has imposed the worst cuts since the 1920s. It doesn't have to be this way - if enough of us act to stop it.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (13th November 2010) 

Every little helps - but this isn't really enough

SIR - It was reported that Tesco has agreed to lease St Peter's village hall in Worcester to the parish for another 10 years - far less than the 50 years it was hoped for (Worcester News, May 2).
I could not agree more with Councillor Roger Knight's view that "it's not really giving much back to the community"

and his belief that "a more community-focused decision" ought to have been made.

Is this what the Government's ‘Big Society' looks like? The country being run by big business in the interests of big business?

The Green Party wants to help build a society that is based on the needs of local communities, not big businesses more interested in profits than people.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (13th May 2011) 

Go on, be brave, green issues are not a luxury

SIR - Many people say that politics is boring, that they are powerless and that political parties are all the same.
The Green Party has a positive vision for the future.

Some will tell you that green issues are a luxury in times of economic hardship. Wrong.

Green policies are essential if we are to create a sustainable and fair economy.

Our vision is of a fairer society that meets everyone's needs, an economy working with nature rather than against it.

We are commited to building a more equal society with higher incomes for pensioners rather than bonuses for bankers.

We believe in quieter, cleaner, safer streets; stronger local communities and the space for children to play and learn.

We would like healthier, safer, better food and the quality time to appreciate it. We treasure the natural world, our surrounding countryside and the remaining forests.

This dream is achievable but it requires political courage - and popular democratic backing for that courage.

Only the Greens want to see the back of rampant inequality, deregulation and laissez-faire.

Only the Greens have understood the lessons of the financial crisis and know what to do about it.

Only the Green Party has a vision for Britain that will see a better quality of life for everyone.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (30th April 2011) 

Our country is being run for big businesses

SIR - The Government claims it wants to reshape public services. In reality that means getting rid of at least 750,000 public sector jobs.

Also, existing benefit cuts mean that 18 million households will be at least £1,000 worse off each year.

Cuts in child tax credits starting next month will see half-a-million lose some £440 a year.

George Osborne points to the bank levy as tackling the rich. The levy is just 0.07 per cent on their profits - less than they pay out in bonuses.

It is becoming more and more obvious by the day that the Government is reshaping the country in the interests of big business.

People are not robots that the rich can simply use to make profits.

We can stand together and resist the Government's drive to make us pay for a crisis we didn't create.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (29th April 2011) 

AV argument has so much going for it

SIR - Local politicians and NO2AV are spreading plenty of untruths about the Alternative Vote system, such as that it will cost millions to administer.
Labour and the Lib Dems both elect their leaders by AV. Since the 1960s, when the Conservatives started to elect their leaders, they have used either AV or a close cousin.

Had they used first-past-the-post in their last contest, the leader of the Conservative party would not be David Cameron; it would be David Davis.

There is an argument that certain politicians don't want AV because it will make them work harder to win their seats. They will have to win more support right across their constituencies and will no longer be able to pretend that only their party has all the answers.

Parties will have to be more positive about each other and be honest about where they agree so as not to alienate potential preferences of their rival party's voters.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (26th April 2011) 

Greens are opposed to nuclear power

SIR - In campaigns for the local elections across England, the Greens are the only countrywide political party opposed to nuclear power.
Nuclear power will not help meet our short or medium-term carbon reduction targets to prevent the risk of runaway climate change.

In the UK, nuclear power provides less than four per cent of our energy. We don't run our cars on nuclear power, and we don't heat our homes with nuclear power. Housing and transport together comprise 48 per cent of the UK's total carbon emissions.

If we were to make a serious investment in energy efficiency, properly capitalise a Green Investment Bank that would be allowed to lend immediately, put billions into, for example, a street-by-street insulation programme, or really invest in renewables, we wouldn't need nuclear.

Nuclear power carries inherent risks, and is particularly vulnerable to the potentially deadly combination of human error, design failure, and natural disaster.

The nuclear industry is engaged in a massive fightback, trying to present itself as a safe clean energy of the future.

Fukushima reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (21st April 2011) 

£1 trillion on arms trade? It's just wrong

SIR - Within the past year the UK has been selling tear gas, ammunition and firearms to Bahrain and Libya.
As UK weapons were being used against civilians in Libya, the Government was promoting more weapons sales in the Middle East.

Each year more than £1 trillion is spent across the world on the arms trade - this would be more than enough to lift one billion of the world's population out of poverty.

Instead of cashing in on the arms trade and propping up corrupt despots, the Government should be using our best engineering talent to build a sustainable, technology-driven, low carbon future.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (19th April 2011) 

Greens have a full house for election

SIR - The Worcester Green Party has again managed to put out a full slate of quality candidates for the local elections.
Not all of the three establishment ‘grey' parties were able to find enough support to field the full 11 candidates. As Mike Smithson writes in his political blog: "One of the best indicators of party organisation in an area is the number of council candidates they are able to field."

If the Labour party had won the general election last year they were also committed to making deep cuts to jobs and services.

With a full slate of 11 good candidates in Worcester, only the Green Party can now stand up to the ideologically-driven Conservative/Lib Dem coalition cuts.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (18th April 2011) 

Coalition policy is not the only way

SIR - If the coalition Government continues its cuts agenda the only ‘spinoff' will be lucrative contracts for private sector businesses as they cherrypick over the wreckage of public services.
It will replace democratic public sector accountability with privatised monopolies which will have a licence to print money to pay the bonuses of overpaid executives. We don't have to accept this and now is the time to show the Government that there is an alternative route; an alternative that promotes investment in public services and jobs in our communities.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (15th April 2011) 

The NHS is here to serve the people

SIR - The coalition Government's chaotic proposals for restructuring the NHS are opposed by many health professionals and will encourage privatisation by the back door.
The Conservatives and Lib Dems had no mandate from the electorate for this root and branch reform, which will introduce the profit motive into the NHS. The Green Party believes that the NHS should serve people, not private companies and shareholders.

Our party leader Caroline Lucas, who won our first parliamentary seat despite the problematic first-pastthe- post voting system, said: "We need to protect and improve the National Health Service and we need to stop it being used as a vehicle for private profit. We believe the public wants this too."

ROBERT WILKINS, Worcester Green Party (14th April 2011) 

It's simple, stick to your principles

SIR - The coalition Government is determined to privatise the NHS.
They want to change it so that making money is more of a priority than providing the best care possible.

Meanwhile, Labour is unable to mount a principled defence of a genuinely national health service, since, when they were in power, they welcomed in private healthcare providers and saddled the NHS with huge debts through private finance initiatives (PFI).

Across the board, Labour simply cannot oppose coalition plans without laying themselves open to the charge of hypocrisy.

Academies? A Labour idea.

Selling off Royal Mail? A Labour idea.

Even the programme of cuts in public services is something Labour admits they would have done, had they won last May.

Politics does not have to be a straight choice between power and principles.

In the Green Party we have stuck to what we believe in and, against all the odds, we won our first parliamentary seat last year. It shows that if you tell the truth and offer people something better, the public will respond.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (13th April 2011) 

The TUC-run demo was not a joke

SIR - Francis Lankester is correct to highlight Labour's hypocrisy regarding government cuts (Worcester News, April 2).
Labour is in favour of the majority of the cuts, with the slight difference between them and the Conservatives being that they want the cuts to happen more slowly.

However, he is wrong to say that "the TUC-run demo in London was both a joke and an insult".

I would challenge him to say that to mothers and their children who travelled hundreds of miles to say that they don't want their local Sure Start centre to close.

Yet again Mr Lankester puts forward the myth that the deficit has been caused by public sector over-spending.

The Labour government, backed by all the main parties, handed £1.4 trillion to the bankers to maintain profits and to rescue the financial system.

People's anger should be directed at the Con-Dem Government, which is telling us that we must pay the price for the bankers' mess through closed hospitals, fewer college courses, hundreds of thousands of job losses, slashed living standards and a future of unemployment or deadend jobs for many young people.

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (12th April 2011) 

Labour is not the only party against the cuts

SIR - Councillor [Alan] Amos ought to be praised for speaking out against cuts to local jobs and services as well as speaking out against costly and immoral acts abroad (Worcester News, March 17).
However, I must challenge his assertion, made in his letter (Worcester News, March 28), that Labour is "the only political party campaigning against the unnecessary cuts causing [bus] fares to rise".

Members of the Green Party attended the anticuts march and rally in Worcester on February 12, and in a recent Green Party newsletter I said that I will campaign for pensioners to be provided with proper free bus passes without the petty restrictions that currently exist.

More than 130 bus services could be cut by Worcestershire County Council.

I, and others in the Green Party, will continue to work with councillors such as Alan Amos in order to prevent local people losing services that they rely on.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (1st April 2011) 

We must end £41bn tax evasion scandal

SIR - Caroline Lucas, of Malvern, Green Party leader and MP for Brighton Pavilion has tabled a new Tax and Financial Transparency Bill in the House of Commons to tackle the UK's billion-pound tax evasion scandal.
The Bill aims to close the loophole where about 500,000 companies have disappeared from the system resulting in £16 billion being lost from the Exchequer.

Some of these companies may well have genuinely gone bankrupt but many are disappearing to evade their tax liabilities only to be resurrected as new companies in the following tax year.

Tax havens and ‘offshoring' company headquarters also allows big businesses to avoid paying a further £25 billion each year.

That's a total of £41 billion.

Collecting the tax we are due is surely a better alternative to the financial deficit than cuts to welfare, the environment and people's jobs?

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (31st March 2011) 

We care about cuts and the environment

SIR - In Steve Davis's letter (Worcester News, February 28) he wrote that "the Greens seem pretty unconcerned about the environment" and said that the Worcester Green Party website is "largely devoted to protesting about government spending cuts".

The fact is that the cuts threaten to cause a lot of harm in Worcester and the Green Party has been at the centre of efforts to urge the Government to change its course, which is based on ideology not necessity.

I believe that if the Greens devoted themselves to speaking about the environment, Mr Davis would criticise us for that us well, so it seems to be a case of ‘you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't'.

The Green Party is concerned about both the environment and the cuts.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (28th March 2011) 

Profit? Patients must come first

SIR - Dr Mark Porter, the chairman of the British Medical Association's hospital consultants committee, has said that the NHS's ability to provide a comprehensive and universal service could be lost because of health secretary Andrew Lansley's plan to force hospitals to compete with independent, profit-driven providers for patients.
Opening up NHS care in England to any willing provider could also lead to local hospitals closing down and patients being denied care by private providers because they cost too much to treat.

This Government is more interested in generating profit for company bosses and shareholders than providing quality services for people.

Is this what Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters voted for?

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (24th March 2011) 

We want social and environmental justice

SIR - Reference the letter from Steve Davis (Worcester News, February 28), which asks if the Green Party is more concerned with opposing government cuts or protecting the environment.
The Green Party rejects false choices between the economy and the environment - we want both.

The Greens are the party fighting for both environmental and social justice. Looking out for people means creating a sustainable planet.

We believe that the best way to make a sustainable planet is to create a fairer world.

In the last general election our main campaign theme was to create proper jobs in industries that would create the infrastructure for the future in the socalled Green New Deal.

We reject the cuts being imposed on ordinary people following the financial crisis caused by greedy and irresponsible bankers.

Steve Davis also raises the issue of housebuilding on green belt land. In general we don't support the expansion of houses into the green belt.

We do support building on brown field sites and we would also like to see more of the estimated 300,000 empty houses across Britain being brought back on to the market.

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (15th March 2011) 

The greenest ever? You must be joking

SIR - RIP the greenest ever government? Last week saw the Worcestershire County Council planning committee give the goahead to a private finance initiative (PFI) funded incinerator to be built in Hartlebury.
The incinerator will take waste from both Herefordshire and Worcestershire and is being sold as a way of getting rid of our waste and generating ‘green' electricity.

The problem is that we will now be locked into an inflexible 25-year contract with the private sector.

Burning the waste will remove the incentive to increase the amount of recycling we do, valuable resources will now just go up in smoke. According to Friends of the Earth, generating electricity from this waste produces between 33 per cent and 79 per cent more CO2 than standard gas-fired power stations.

The alternative would have been to further increase our recycling rates, to gradually tighten the rules on product packaging and design to make more things recyclable and to invest in new processes such as anaerobic digesters for converting biodegradable waste into a useful nonfossil derived fuel.

The Conservative/Lib Dem coalition promise to be the greenest government ever now lies in shreds.

LOUIS STEPHEN, Worcester Green Party (8th March 2011) 

We don't need more broken promises

SIR - In the Worcester News (February 12) Harry Turner, chairman of Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, said that "some frontline jobs may go".
David Cameron has said that if any Cabinet minister told him that cuts will involve front line reductions, they would be "sent back to their department to go away and think again".

As reported in the Worcester News (February 14), people marched and rallied in Worcester city centre to oppose cuts to local jobs and services.

We need a new economic strategy based on public investment, job creation and tax justice - not broken promises from politicians.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (1st March 2011) 

Don't destroy the volunteer sector

SIR - The Worcester News reported on January 31 that the Droitwich-based Worcestershire Council for Voluntary Youth Services has had to scrap its ‘vinvolved' team from March 31 after the Office for Civil Society removed funding, leading to the loss of four jobs and opportunities for 16 to 25- year-olds in Worcestershire.
An outgoing charity leader has warned thatDavid Cameron's ‘Big Society' is being undermined by government spending cuts, which are in danger of "destroying" the Community Service Volunteers (CSV), Britain's largest volunteering charity.

Dame Elisabeth Hoodless was reported as saying: "There are other ways of saving money without destroying the volunteer army. Once you close a library there is nowhere for a volunteer to help... I think it's the job of national government to coordinate services across the nation and make sure they happen."

The Green Party agrees, and it believes that instead of cutting jobs and services, the government should be investing in them.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (28th February 2011) 

Asset sell-off won't end economic crisis

SIR - In the Green Party we believe there is an economic crisis, and it is unprecedented, but it has nothing to do with the budget deficit and cannot be resolved by shutting schools, hospitals and selling the forests. We also believe that there are much graver problems facing humanity such as erratic climate catastrophes (flooding, hurricanes and the like) and losing the tropical rainforests.
The UK Government debt as a fraction of GDP is seventh in the G8, so the sense of shock over public expenses is PR, made up to scare us into letting the coalition sell the State to enrich big business - very little of which will be British.

What we need in Worcester is an operational public sector, and a thriving local economy, which we won't get if we sell off the schools and libraries to global firms.

JUSTIN KIRBY, Worcester Green Party (28th February 2011) 

Schools should be trusted with money

SIR - The Green Party has always spoken in favour of greater freedom for schools to decide how they are run.
However, this does not and must not mean putting the running of the school into the hands of a private sponsor who may know nothing or very little about education, and taking the power away from parents and teachers who have little representation on the governing body.

Regarding selection at academies such as Tudor Grange in Worcester, how will we know if improvements at the school in the future are not purely due to the selection of more able pupils?

What is the current cross-section of pupils like? Will a greater proportion of less able pupils be excluded?

With the proposals of up to 25 per cent cuts across local authorities inevitably affecting frontline staff including teachers, we could be facing the situation of having new buildings without the teachers to go in them.

Money should be given directly to schools trusting them to know the best way to spend it to improve education.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (23rd February 2011) 

Join our march against the cutbacks tomorrow

SIR - The letter by Steve Davis (Worcester News, January 26) was critical of the Green Party, claiming that we are were more concerned about government cuts than about the environment.
This was despite the fact that the letter he was responding to was about the plans to sell off our forests.

The Green Party, however, is more than just an environmental party.

The size and speed of the proposed cuts will damage all aspects of our society. It is our duty to speak out against these cuts, while offering alternative solutions to reduce the deficit.

It is for this reason that I will be joining the planned march through Worcester tomorrow to demonstrate that there are alternatives to these massive cuts.

I hope as many people as possible, including Steve Davis, will join me.

Visit worcesteragainstthecuts.org.uk for more information.

MATTHEW JENKINS, Worcester Green Party (11th February 2011) 

Mr Walker, you're wrong about VAT

SIR - In early January Robin Walker MP wrote in the Worcester Standard: "The VAT rise is one of those things which is very painful but unfortunately necessary.
Studies have shown this tax to be progressive and I think it will prove that way."

Professor David Blanchflower contradicts Mr Walker's claims.

He said: "VAT is a regressive tax. The millionaires in Cabinet will not become homeless or become depressed because of worries about paying the bills.

"The poor, the weak, children, single mothers and the disabled are going to pay a big price for this coalition's doctrinaire attack on them.

"Rising unemployment and inequality make people unhappy."

The current Government is fond of repeatedly saying that what it is doing is necessary, but the fact is that they are making choices that do not need to be made - choices that will harm many ordinary people.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (9th February 2011) 

A home-grown energy policy is way forward

SIR - George Osborne would like us to think that the economic crisis is purely due to previous governments spending too much.
Something he says very little about is the unsustainable trade deficit of coal, oil and gas.

Ten years ago we had a £7 billion fuel surplus - more recently this turned into a deficit just as big, and soon it will be a few billion more in deficit every year.

Fair enough, you might say, we'll just buy it in. Since we need dollars to buy the fuel we have to sell sterling. It seems that the only things anyone wants to buy sterling for nowadays are arms and financial wizardry.

Perhaps this is the real reason why governments refrain from disciplining the bankers with any more than a slapped wrist.

We import our energy and TVs, even our food and clothing. Exposing ourselves to foreign exchange risk will continue to devalue the pound, driving inflation.

At a time when global supplies of oil, coal and gas are dropping this will drive the cost of imports even higher.

It makes much more sense for the UK to develop a sustainable home-grown energy policy based on our own resources such as tides, rivers, wind and the sun instead of importing energy from the dwindling and increasingly volatile world market.

It is ironic that when Mrs Thatcher embarked on a similar cutting programme to Mr Osborne, she had a whopping trade surplus of North Sea gas to lean on.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (28th January 2011) 

Here is an idea to raise another £3.9bn

SIR - At stake everywhere is who will pay the costs of the financial crisis.
So far, the answer has been unequivocal: it will not be those who triggered the meltdown, but the wider populations who had nothing whatever to do with it.

It's hardly surprising that student protesters are demanding to know why, if George Osborne can find £7 billion to protect Irish and British banks, the coalition can find no alternative to cutting university funding by 80 per cent.

The Conservatives such as Councillor Francis Lankester (Worcester News, December 18) continue to defend their 80 per cent cut in university funding, the tripling of tuition fees, and the cutting of education maintenance allowance, which enables young people from less well-off backgrounds to have the chance of a decent education.

They believe that these decisions are "fair". The Green Party disagrees and believes that higher education should be properly funded. For example, a small tax on the top four per cent biggest companies in this country would raise £3.9 billion and mean that we can scrap tuition fees.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (19th January 2011)

Let's stop sell-off of our forests

SIR - The latest dogmadriven plan of the coalition Government is a proposed sale of many of our national forests, currently managed by the Forestry Commission. If it were to go ahead, this would represent an unprecedented private sector land grab and would be the largest change of land ownership since the Second World War.

In its early years, inappropriate conifer planting by the Forestry Commission blighted some landscapes and destroyed some of our native woodlands.

Recently, however, the commission has been setting high standards of sustainable forest management.

It receives a government subsidy, but more than pays for this through timber sales and from the environmental and amenity benefits it provides.

The commission actively welcomes visitors to Wyre Forest, Forest of Dean and elsewhere.

It also has an excellent track record in wildlife conservation, while its education rangers help children understand the importance of trees in our lives. It is unlikely such things would matter to private owners, intent on quick profit.

If we value our publicly-owned forests, now is the time to speak out against this assetstripping of our natural heritage.

ROBERT WILKINS, Worcester Green Party (18th January 2011) 

Alternatives to the massive cash cuts

SIR - Councillor Francis Lankester wrote that the banks cannot possibly be blamed for the deficit (Worcester News, December 9).
The financial crisis was not, as certain local councillors and the British government would have it, caused by profligate governments and public debt, which only ballooned to fill the gap left by market failure.

There are alternatives to tackling the deficit other than massive cuts to local jobs and services: tax profits from major banks so we can fund local services as well as creating jobs; introduce a 0.005 per cent tax on international currency transactions, which would raise £100 billion a year; close tax loopholes and claim back the £120 billion in tax that is evaded and uncollected each year; save £100 billion by not renewing Trident. Indeed, these are alternatives proposed by the Green Party.

The main parties would rather see ordinary people pay for a crisis they did not create.

NEIL LAURENSON, Worcester Green Party (15th January 2011) 

Look at Ireland to see where we are heading

SIR - The Conservatives, with Lib Dem support, are busily dismantling and/or privatising Britain's public services.
They are hell-bent on completing the worst work of Thatcher and Blair.

It seems that everything from education to air-sea rescue has to suffer.

Reducing our public services is not an inevitable response to the financial deficit.

It is clear that similar austerity measures in Ireland have merely pushed their economy to the point of bankruptcy.

But the coalition doesn't want to see this, because these are exactly the socially-destructive boom and bust policies that a Conservative government would pursue anyway.

The Tories would simply not dream of increasing taxes for the very wealthiest or cracking down on the multi-billion pound annual tax avoidance/evasion scandals.

But what of Labour? They struggle to hold the Government to account as they went into the last election also promising to cut jobs and services and are now in a policy vacuum as they try to work out which popularist policies to now adopt.

The Green Party maintains a consistent position that protects jobs and services, while providing a free education (including university) for all and creating a long-term sustainable people-centred economy.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party(1st January 2011)

Green Party Meetings

Come along to our monthly meeting to discuss our plans for Worcester and Worcestershire. Our next meeting starts at 7.30pm on Wednesday 24th January in the upstairs room at The Cricketers on Angel Street. It would be great to see some new people.

For more information, contact Louis via email or telephone 01905 359 509.