Letters May to December 2010

Students are an inspiration to us

SIR - While there's billions of pounds for bankers and war, ordinary people suffer cuts, unemployment and hardship.

The wealthy say that unless we accept their demands then they will bring the economy crashing down. We say that it's time to build a society where human need comes first.

The students are an inspiration to everyone fighting back but we cannot leave them to fight alone. Whether in education, health, transport, housing, the councils, manufacturing or the arts, we need to fight together to stop all the cuts the Con-Dems want.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (3rd December 2010)


Incinerator plan will hit recycling efforts

SIR - The proposed incinerator in Hartlebury will be fed from the waste we create right here in the city of Worcester.

Instead of blindly trucking our rubbish out to Hartlebury for incineration, we, as residents of Worcester, must take responsibility for our own waste.

We could all recycle more of our household rubbish but it is incumbent on the local councils to facilitate this by continuing to promote recycling and allowing more items to be recycled, including aluminium foil and food wastes.

There is still much we can do to increase recycling rates - for example many council flats currently do not even have segregated recycling bins.

The incinerator will cost millions of pounds under ‘private finance initiative' where the council is locked into a 25-year contract to feed the incinerator with waste.

Having spent so much on the incinerator there will be immense pressure to burn as much as possible.

How can this do anything but undermine efforts to increase recycling?

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (1st December 2010) 

£1 in every £7 will disappear...

SIR - In Brighton, where Malvern-born Caroline Lucas won the Green party's first parliamentary seat despite the unfair first-past-the-post system, the council faces even deeper service cuts and more job losses next year than expected.

What the Chancellor didn't tell the House as the cheering coalition MPs celebrated these cuts, was that for local authorities such as Brighton and Hove, it would double the original figures for the next financial year.

That means £1 in every £7 will disappear. This will lead to even greater reductions in services to vulnerable people and more public sector workers in the swelling dole queue.

If only the Con-Dem Government would abandon these cuts, which are fuelled by dogma and beyond necessity.

Instead, it should create jobs by investing in public spending programmes to build more social housing and schools, for example, and insulate every home in the country.

It should also scrap Trident immediately and impose meaningful taxes on bankers and the City of London.

The poor and vulnerable should not have to pay for their greed and stupidity.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party 

Council staff are given tough deal

SIR - Worcestershire County Council staff are to be told that they must work fewer hours and be paid less so that £60 million cuts can be made (Worcester News, November 3).

The council's chief executive Trish Haines earns a salary band ranging from £167,977 to £183,725 a year.

Councillor Adrian Hardman thinks that "we pay Trish a fair salary".

The unfairness and audacity is truly staggering.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green party (16th November 2010) 

I can't believe we're cutting school sport

SIR - I completely agree with your editorial (Worcester News, November 5) in which you expressed disbelief that the Con-Dem government is cutting the Schools Sports Partnerships despite the fact that Britain is hosting the 2012 Olympics.

At a time when we are facing a national obesity crisis in young people, costing the NHS billions, many local pupils will now lose the opportunity to try out and take part in sport.

Worcester MP Robin Walker attended the recent Sportsability event at Perdiswell Leisure Centre and said: "I strongly support competitive sports for our schools." But how can this be true when the Government he supports is cutting the Schools Sports Partnerships?

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (15th November 2010) 

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) 

University education must be open to all

SIR - Alasdair Wood, chairman of Worcester Liberal Democrats, wrote in a letter (Worcester News, October 18) that he believes that "education should be open for all and not dictated by our background". He went on to write that "the current system at least means everyone pays the same and so admission is decided from knowledge and potential... the future system would be one where potential is blocked because of finance".

I completely agree with Mr Wood's views. University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Lord Browne's recommendations, if enacted, represent the final nail in the coffin for affordable higher education. His proposals will price the next generation out of education."

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat cabinet member, has said that universities and colleges should be allowed to go to the wall - like banks that fail. But the banks weren't left to go to the wall - they were bailed out by the Government. Everybody capable of completing higher level education should be able to do so regardless of financial backing.

Blocking those capable not only short-changes them but also the institutions that are dependent on their skills.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green party (9th November 2010) 

We must invest in green technology

SIR - It was recently reported that Robin Walker MP has urged the coalition Government to prove its promises on green energy are not full of hot air.

Indeed, if the Government is serious about climate change and economic recovery, it should be investing heavily in green technology and reducing Britain's reliance on oil - exactly what the Green party proposes.

However, the coalition Government is allowing rail companies to increase their fares, so more people will choose to drive their cars, and it has cut investment in industries involved in producing wind turbines.

Investment in low-carbon energy and green businesses will lie at the heart of Britain's economic recovery - reducing the deficit in ways that undermine sustainable growth is simply self-defeating. It's a shame that David Cameron and Nick Clegg don't appear to realise this.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (8th November 2010) 

Fair access to an education is a right

SIR - All of the old parties are in a mess when it comes to university tuition fees.

The Labour party introduced them. The Conservatives originally proposed scrapping them, but they now want to double university fees. Nick Clegg publicly pledged during the general election campaign that he would vote against any increase in tuition fees - in the most cynical of U-turns his party are now backing the Conservative government to double the cost of attending university. The Green party is sticking to its principles - fair access to an education is a right.

Every student should be able to attend university without incurring a massive debt. The most progressive solution is to remove all tuition fees for all UK citizens with the money being recouped through a fair tax system - even if higher earners have to pay more.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (19th October 2010) 

Mr Osborne, you're being hypocritical

SIR - Chancellor George Osborne has announced a crackdown on benefit cheats, comparing them to muggers robbing taxpayers of their hard-earned money.

The Green party, too, would not condone fraud, but his hypocrisy regarding theft is truly staggering.

Mr Osborne ‘flipped' the designation of his official second home from his London residence to his constituency home after taking out a £450,000 mortgage on the property.

After his election he designated the London house his ‘second home' with the Commons authorities, even though it was his main residence, so that he could claim the mortgage interest payments on his expenses.

Fraud in the benefit and tax credit system is estimated to cost the taxpayer about £1.5 billion a year; £120 billion of tax goes uncollected each year.

But instead of chasing millionaires for the tax they owe, Mr Osborne (a millionaire himself) would rather target the poor.

If he wants to get rid of benefit cheats he should repay the mortgage interest or resign.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (27th October 2010) 

I don't see a change in Whitehall attitude

SIR - Alasdair Wood, chairman of Worcester Liberal Democrats, wrote that "the Lib Dems have brought a different attitude to Whitehall" (Letters, September 20).

Meanwhile, Richard Grayson, a former Lib Dem policy director and parliamentary candidate, has said that "it was pretty clear that when the vast majority of our votes are anti-Conservative we're facing a backlash for putting the Conservatives in. Unless the public is clear that the Government is doing things that the Lib Dems are opposing, they will just come to the conclusion that we do whatever the Tories tell us."

By supporting such huge cuts in public spending the Lib Dems are not bringing a different attitude to Whitehall - they support the Tory cuts and they support the devastating consequences that these cuts will have on communities around the country.

In contrast, the Green Party would half the deficit within four years by scrapping Trident and increasing the amount of tax paid by high earners while creating a million new jobs building a low carbon infrastructure in the railways, home insulation and renewable energy.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (6th October 2010 ) 

Again, why are we in Afghanistan?

SIR - The situation in Afghanistan, for both its people and the invading Nato armies, continues to deteriorate. This year is already the worst year for death tolls and violence since the war began.

The gap between our elected representatives and the public they are meant to serve was obvious in a recent parliamentary vote, when all but 16 MPs either voted for the war to continue or didn't bother to turn up.

Both of the party leaders are equally committed to continuing the war and maintaining the fiction that it is keeping Britain safe, a view clearly rejected by three-quarters of the British public, who say all British troops should be withdrawn immediately or soon.

The current annual cost of the war is five times what the Government plans to save by cutting £1 billion a year from universal child benefits and about three times the cuts in housing benefit for the poor.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (25th October 2010) 

Deficit must be cut more slowly

SIR - The coalition Government has been accused of being ideologically obsessed with shrinking the size of the state whatever the social costs. While they maintain that the current and future cuts are unavoidable; there is no alternative, they say. Who is right? We need to be challenging the Government to prove that the damage these cuts will inevitably do to society are justified, while offering viable alternatives.

A clear alternative is to cut the deficit much more slowly. Another is to alter the balance of deficit reduction, away from cuts and towards raising more money through a fairer tax system and reducing tax avoidance. Another is through investing in areas that badly need it and that create jobs, such as the Green New Deal.

Rather than a zeal for cuts, we need a zeal for fairness and a better way of coping with the current economic situation.

Matthew Jenkins, Worcester Green Party (25th September 2010) 

Is Mrs Haines doing everything she can?

SIR - Worcestershire County Council's chief executive Trish Haines will not be taking the voluntary pay cut recommended by local government secretary Eric Pickles. Mrs Haines is contracted on a salary band ranging from £167,977 to £183,725 a year.

Earlier this year it was announced that Worcestershire County Council would have to make "inevitable" cuts totalling £45 million. The Government claims that in this recession/depression "we are all in this together", but is Mrs Haines able to say that she is doing her bit?

The truth is that the cuts are not inevitable. The mess we're in was caused by irresponsible and greedy bankers who have since been bailed out with public money. The past two years have been cynically rewritten. The blame for the irresponsibility of the banks and private sector has now somehow been transferred on to those providing our vital public services.

It's time that the Government, Worcestershire County Council and Trish Haines recognised that.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (23rd October 2010) 

Healthcare cuts are driven by ideology

SIR - The Government is desperate to reduce expense by making drastic cuts in healthcare provision and privatising services wherever they can get away with it. In contrast, the Green Party leader Caroline Lucas says: "We believe it's wrong that hospitals and health centres are treated like businesses rather than vital public services.

"We want to see an end to money being wasted on botched PFI and privatisation schemes. We will oppose cuts and closures in the NHS and protect the jobs of public sector workers."

What the Government may be doing is hoping that the private sector will be able to do the job for less. But private enterprise will only take on work for which it can earn a profit, making it cost more, not less. It's cuts driven by ideology not common sense, and don't think Labour would do things differently. It wasn't so long ago when they were in power, and they were also committed to introducing a competitive market into the NHS. Do we really want to have American-style hospitals where there is only treatment for those who can afford it?

Justin Kirby, Worcester Green Party (15th October 2010) 

We're a recruiting sergeant for Taliban

SIR - I applaud your comment on September 21 entitled ‘Our troops must come home now'. It is something that Stop the War Coalition has been saying since September 21, 2001, when it was formed at a meeting in London attended by 2,000 people.

No power has ever successfully taken and held Afghanistan with their own troops (eg, the Russians in the 1980s). US and British troops have been engaged in warfare which has seen many innocent Afghan civilians die.

Similarly, in Pakistan, US forces have been bombing innocent Pakistanis with their unmanned drones - acting as recruiting sergeants for the Pakistani Taliban as a result. Instead of reducing the threat of terrorism, the ongoing conflict is acting as a recruiting sergeant for the Taliban.

There will not be peace in Afghanistan while there are British and US troops there. The troop presence is making the situation worse and making Britain a target for terrorist attack.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (1st October 2010) 

Trade unions have huge role to play

SIR - Jim Evans asks in his letter published in the Worcester News (September 16) when I and Peter Nielsen will "have the courage to face the truth". Speaking only for myself, I was not aware that it is true that "the global capitalists of Wall Street" encourage mass immigration "because they know it sabotages the trade unions", or that the demands of "millions of needy immigrants have contributed to making our welfare system unaffordable in the longer term".

In response to Mr Evans' comments, I will simply express my opinion that trade unions will be hugely important in the campaign to defend jobs and services against government cuts.

I also believe that the welfare system is not unaffordable and that immigrants are not leeching from the system on a mass scale as various right-wing newspapers repeatedly claim.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (28th September 2010) 

Government is not being so clever

SIR - In your editorial (September 14) you wrote that the Government is employing a clever tactic by saying that it wants to work in partnership with the unions. Unfortunately, this tactic is likely to remain as words, and won't translate into any actual cooperation with the unions.

The Tories, supported by the Lib Dems, have clearly spotted their opportunity to shrink the State and privatise just about everything in sight. This is about benefiting investors and shareholders - ie the few - at the expense of the majority. Things are going to get very ugly indeed unless the Con-Dems change their economic plans and do what a democratic government is meant to do - act in the interests of the people.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (21st September 2010) 

Parliament is not doing its job

SIR - On September 9, Worcester MP Robin Walker and 309 other MPs voted in favour of continuing the war in Afghanistan. The latest poll shows that only seven per cent in Britain think the Taliban can be defeated and 72 per cent believe the troops should come home.

Paul Flynn MP, who spoke at a Stop the War public meeting in Worcester last year, said, "At the moment Parliament is not doing its job. The majority of the public would like to see the troops home before Christmas, and Parliament is not reflecting that.

"The Government and all the main politicians are in denial on this. They are divorced from reality."

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party 

More cuts mean more suffering

SIR - Terry James is correct when he says it seems that the banks are running the country (Letters, September 8). In your editorial the next day you wrote that it is inevitable that all public services will be cut.

Let's remember that it was banks not public services that caused the financial mess the country is in. While the British public will see their public services slashed, Bob Diamond at Barclays will now be on a package worth up to £11.5 million. A private sector disaster has turned into a public sector clean-up operation and the banks are free to go back to their old ways.

The Government wants to remove £60 billion from spending by 2014. As part of that, it announced a mere £6 billion of cuts within a fortnight of coming to power and yet even this relatively small amount is affecting core services, with reductions in support for unemployed people, cuts to free school meals and fewer affordable housing projects, among many others.

There has to be deep concern that with £6 billion of cuts already biting hard on core services, 10 times that will do irreparable damage.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party ( 15th September 2010) 

There's nothing new in this ‘new politics'

SIR - The Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg was recently extolling the virtues of social mobility in a children's centre in West London that the local Tory-run council is set to close. Clegg refused to say whether he backed the centre staying open - just after he had used it for a photo opportunity.

While the Lib Dems provide the Tories with a bit of liberal window dressing, in reality they are as enthusiastic as the Tories when it comes to slashing public services. The Con-Dem coalition claims to be about "new politics".

The reality is the very oldest politics of divide and rule - the most vulnerable in society suffering the most from the worst excesses of the cuts being driven through by George Osborne with his privileged background.

Freezing child benefit and abolishing the £190 health in pregnancy grant, for example, doesn't create jobs or support economic growth. It just takes money and support from women and children.

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

Don't just sit back and take the cuts

SIR - The Green party has major concerns with the Lib Dem/Conservative plans to repay the last government's massive debts.

The Republic of Ireland is about 12 months ahead of us in the economic cycle. They have made large public sector cuts which have caused a massive increase in unemployment that has actually been counter-productive due to lower tax receipts and increased welfare costs. The simple fact is that these Conservative cuts are ideologically driven.

The Green party also rejects the Labour party's proposals that create a consumer-led bubble that simultaneously increases personal debt and at the same time sows the seeds for the next recession.

There is another way. Reinvest in our country's infrastructure - invest in the railways, home insulation and renewable electricity generation to create a million new jobs and at the same time rebuild a sustainable and stable economy.

Just because the next general election could be up to five years away it does not mean that we have to just sit back and take the new government's cuts.

Do something - lobby your MP, join a union, support the many demonstrations planned when the cuts are announced in October.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (11th August 2010) 

Resist this creeping rise in faith schools

SIR - So the legislation to enable more state funded academy schools has been passed.

Academy schools opt out of local government controls, so instead of being open to all, far more restrictive admissions policies can be devised. This encourages separation between those of various religious beliefs and those with none. Should our children not all be taught together for the sake of community cohesion?

In the general election hustings I argued that we should be reducing, not increasing, religious control of our state schools. Caroline Lucas MP also argued in the House of Commons debate that there will be no requirement on academies to teach evolution, and the Government does not even appear to have plans to prevent the teaching of creationism in academies.

Our academic system needs to be based on science and facts. Morals and ethics quite rightly have a place in our schools to enable us to work and live together in harmony but we must resist the creeping rise in faith schools.

I vigorously defend the freedom to religious belief without persecution but the right place for teaching these matters is in our mosques and churches. 

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (3rd August 2010) 

Government is for the richest 10pc

SIR - David Paine wrote in the Worcester News, (July 9), that the Government has a "desire to find any way it can to bring the country's finances back in order".

It is not true that the Government is trying to find "any" way. Robin Walker MP told me that "it is the case that costs need to be reduced across the public services in order to allow us to deal with the fiscal deficit we have inherited".

However, as the leader of the Green Party Caroline Lucas MP has said: "Cuts are not an economic inevitability. They are an ideological choice. Politicians are forcing those on lower incomes, who depend on public services the most, to pay the highest price for the recent excesses of the bankers".

Not one person in this country voted for the present "coalition government". So every cut, every budget, every single piece of legislation that this "coalition government" proposes has no mandate from any single member of the electorate. This "government" is of the richest 10 per cent, for the richest 10 per cent.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (27th July 2010) 

Difficult times need change of direction

SIR - The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government says the public sector is required to make huge savings to pay for the last 13 years of Labour government.

Ordinary pensioners, students and hard-working families are being asked to pay for the bank bailouts while money is being wasted on the continuing war in Afghanistan and replacing Trident.

Difficult times require a change of direction. To avoid repeating the same old mistakes made by the three old parties we need the changes being advocated in parliament by Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP with the Green New Deal. The New Deal calls for a massive investment in things such as renewables and home insulation creating a million jobs, protecting public services and asking the better off to pay more through higher rate tax increases.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (12th July 2010) 

The only alternative is the Green Party

SIR - John Phillpott wrote that "the Labour Party ultimately became the non-Labour party and it is for this reason...that it is now nothing more than an outdated irrelevance". (Worcester News, June 19).

Indeed, 250,000 people have left the Labour Party since 1997 because of New Labour's attacks and betrayals. The root of the problem is the contradictions of a party that is supposed to represent workers within a system that is hostile to their interests.

There is a big group of Labour Party supporters that is clearly far to the left of the leadership, and many will stay inside the party, but the agenda within Labour is far too limited to meet the urgent tasks of building a real alternative capable of fighting the Tories. At this point I would disagree with Mr Phillpott by suggesting that the only real alternative - one that represents the interests of the majority of people in this country - is the Green Party.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester Green Party (26th June 2010) 

We know who won this argument

SIR - With university fees already at an eye-watering £3,225 a year, it's unacceptable for David Willetts to indicate that tuition fees may rise.

We are creating a generation of students who will have crushing debt levels for at least a decade after graduating. Education is a right that should be available to all, regardless of income.

If we had a fair and progressive taxation system then graduates who earn higher salaries would repay the cost of their education through higher taxes.

In late April, more than 400 Liberal Democrat candidates signed an NUS pledge to oppose tuition fee rises, while only 13 Conservative candidates did the same. It's clear who has won this argument within the coalition cabinet.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (26th June 2010) 

Stop spending cash on nuclear missiles

SIR - It is expected that on Monday the Government will announce more cuts in jobs and services in an attempt to redress the financial deficit.

Yet despite these cuts, in David Cameron's own words, being "unavoidably tough" and affecting "our whole way of life" we are continuing to waste about £100 billion on replacing our Trident nuclear missiles.

We cannot continue to lecture countries such as Iran on the implications of their nuclear programme while proceeding blindly with our own - a move which would be both hypocritical and dangerous.

Moreover, nuclear weapons remain a costly distraction from the real security threats we face, such as climate change. The billions being spent on Trident replacement could be much better spent on investing in developing the infrastructure and employment we need for a zero carbon economy, as well as protecting public services.

To use the money on a project that will make Britain and the world a far more dangerous place is politically irresponsible, morally bankrupt and economically obscene.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (12th June 2010) 

We need green energy grants

SIR - On Monday, May 24 the Tory/Lib Dem coalition announced their program of cuts had started. Does anybody remember the Tories or Lib Dems stating in their election campaigns they were going to cut grants to all new micro-generation schemes?

Micro-generation includes solar panels, small wind turbines, air and ground source heat pumps used in homes to save people money and cut carbon emissions.

These grants are needed to kick-start these new industries. Once a demand and market is created, production volumes increase and the economies of scale kick in, leading to lower costs as the technology becomes mainstream.

Short-term decision making has led to Britain being almost at the bottom of the European league table for renewable energy. Investment in these new low carbon technology industries would help us tackle climate change and create and sustain jobs right here in Worcester.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (31st May 2010) 

Cash for war, while cuts are imposed

SIR – Candidates who had for years been highly vocal and visible opponents of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and who had campaigned for Palestinian rights and against the replacement of Trident nuclear missiles – often bucked the national trend against the Labour Party, by getting re-elected with an increased share of the vote.

Among them are John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, who have often spoken at Stop the War events, and Jeremy Corbyn, who is an officer of Stop the War Coalition. Caroline Lucas – a long-time supporter of Stop the War and tireless campaigner for the Palestinian cause – triumphed to become the first Green Party MP.

She immediately gave notice that she will be determinedly anti-war when sitting in Parliament, campaigning, she says, "for withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan – that's a majority view among the British public".

Increasingly, the anti-war majority in this country will voice its opposition to an unjustified and unwinnable war, costing the lives of British soldiers and countless Afghans, wasting billions of pounds while the Government is at the same time imposing draconian cuts in public services as a result of the economic crisis.

Neil Laurenson, Worcester (22nd May 2010) 

Thank you to all who voted Green

SIR – Thank you to everyone in Worcester who voted Green in the local and general elections of May 6.

With nine candidates on the general election ballot paper and Worcester being a tight marginal seat our vote held up as well as can be expected.

I am pleased that despite the big parties domination of the media, the Green share of the vote in the city council elections actually went up.

The biggest prize of the night was for Caroline Lucas, a local girl from Malvern, who became the world’s first-ever Green MP to be elected with the first past the post electoral system – now that is an achievement.

Louis Stephen, Worcester Green Party (21st May 2010)

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 16th January in The Paul Pry pub (back room) on The Butts, WR1 3PA. It would be great to see some new people.

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