Monday 15 December 2014

What does Barry Gardiner think of environmental cuts in his own backyard?

Guest blog by Scott Bartle, Green Party candidate for Brent North

In Brent Labour’s local election  manifesto contract they pledged “better cleaner, greener, healthier spaces’. As Barry Gardiner Labour MP for North Brent is the shadow minister for Natural Environment, Fisheries and Climate Change and signatory to this contract you might have thought he could explain to his local party why this pledge is important to keep. 

As a reminder on the 15th December the Brent Labour Cabinet will start to consider a set of proposals that includes: 

·         Closing Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre

·         No litter clearing on residential roads

·         No weekend litter service in parks

·         Deleting Environment Projects and Policy Team and

·         Ceasing a grant to Energy Solutions

A public attitudes survey from the Department of Energy and Climate change found that nearly half of people (47%) reported they were fairly concerned about the impact of climate change. The same proportion of people recognise that Climate Change is partly caused by natural processes and partly caused by human activity. Yet the same survey shows that it is near the bottom of people’s priorities list.  It is understandable, that when people’s primary needs are not being met it can be difficult to think about aesthetic and altruistic matters such as climate change and the environment.  However, Greens understand that the world is interconnected and as such believe that there does not have to be a choice of either / or.  Green policies are such that can have a beneficial impact upon our well-being, save money in the long run and create prosperity.

If, as the public attitudes survey shows that unemployment is top of people’s priorities, what sense does it make to close Welsh Harp Environmental Education Centre which amongst other courses inspires children about renewable energy and how to conserve it.  It is only the Greens that will kickstart our economy through investing in a renewable energy, creating Green Jobs perhaps for these very children. 

The second highest concern relates to the NHS and it shouldn’t take The Department of Health to run a advertising campaign to reiterate that food scraps and other rubbish have lots of germs and sometimes parasites upon them. The spread of disease can be exacerbated by weather as well as our wildlife creatures and at a time where our local hospitals A&E departments are under increasing pressure it should be clear to most that litter clearing in Brent is a protective factor.

At a time when 10.4% of British Households are in fuel poverty, in a borough that is the 12th most deprived in London support provided by the council to help people improve energy efficiency, which is a key driver of fuel poverty should only have a beneficial impact on people experiencing inequality.

Whilst the Labour Group makes a choice to implement the cuts, blaming the Tory and Lib Dem Coalition, the reality remains that each of them have pledged to continue the flawed economic policy of austerity. There is of course another way, one where people and the environment take precedence and faceless corporations are made to pay their way when trading in our country. 

For that, you’d have to vote Green. 


Anonymous said...

What services would you cut instead?

Childrens - Mental health - which ones - or would you thumb your nose at the govt and not set a budget?

Anonymous said...

What's your position on licensing private landlords?

Pardon? Sorry what did you say, you think it's a stealth tax - you want to let the market decide. Oh dear.

Anonymous said...

"Whilst the Labour Group makes a choice to implement the cuts, blaming the Tory and Lib Dem Coalition, the reality remains that each of them have pledged to continue the flawed economic policy of austerity. There is of course another way, one where people and the environment take precedence and faceless corporations are made to pay their way when trading in our country. "

Nobody mention the Greens in Brighton Council, then

Unknown said...

Dear Anon 17/12/2014 at 19:34

As someone priced out of the housing market myself I recognise the challenges that we face within the rental market. The rights and well-being of people that rent property are paramount and Green's have been proactive in developing the policy to enable people to attain housing to meet their needs. This will be emphasised more the closer we get to the election.

Yet there are three clear strands that formed by objection to the selective licensing scheme as proposed by Brent Labour.

1. Concerns of class-warfare as it accuses people of a low socio-economic demographic of being responsible for anti-social behaviour. This is based upon dodgy data and a definition of anti-social behaviour that confuses correlation with causation. E.g. littering by tourists to Wembley Stadium or from Chichele Road Job-seekers in Mapesbury attributed to residents. The consultation report reads very pejoratively and as such is very stigmatising towards people and can be found here:

2. Of civil liberties, as the landlords are considered responsible for anti-social behaviour. This is a subtle privatisation of state function as the definition of anti-social is normally determined and regulated by the law. This has parallels to Operation Skybreaker where landlords are also being asked to perform the role of the state in determining immigration status. The nature of this control expected by private citizens over tenants infringes upon libertarianism sensibilities and has Orwellian undertones.

3. Efficacy of intervention. In the initial narrative they framed the problem as 'anti-social behaviour caused by tenants'. Based upon strands 1 and 2, the effectiveness of this intervention to solve 'anti-social behaviour' would be zero.

In the second narrative Brent Labour framed the problem as mysterious 'rogue landlords'. I don't think that portraying landlords as 'rogue' is helpful and will do little to encourage collaboration. The Shelter report on selective licensing (please see here: makes it clear that the actual function of selective licensing relates to the well-being of tenants in substandard accommodation.

The well-being of tenants in substandard accommodation is a concern and this is equally applicable to other organisations providing services of a public function. For example Network Stadium, a private operator providing a public service - social housing yet has left people to live in squalor (For example: Yet despite an environmental officer condemning the place, there was slow progress.

As a) The council has reported the licensing of HMO's has been ineffective b) the issue of beds in sheds does not appear to have been completely tackled and C) the environment department is being disbanded are we really convinced that this policy will have a positive impact upon peoples well-being?

if yes: then great - brilliant full-steam ahead.
if no: Then this is nothing but another avenue for income generation - and as such we might as well say what it is - merely a tenant tax.

Its not much to ask that public authorities are transparent in the fulfilment of their duties and in the same year as they have tried to spin the garden tax as something that it is not, despite clearly being a technique for income generation - enough is enough.

Based upon my concerns above and a recent court case (last Friday) where Selective licensing was quashed in Enfield by his Honour Judge Mckenna over in R (Regas) v LB Enfield [2014] EWHC 4173 – I do wonder if the the legality of the Brent Scheme might also be questioned.


Scott Bartle

Unknown said...

Dear Anon 17/12/2014 @ 19:34

What you are offering me here is choice but with an absence of alternatives.

Yet there is another way. The Green Party believes in evidence based policy and multiple leading economists (including noble prize winners) have denounced austerity as a failed experiment and denounced it as 'delusional' deficit-reduction strategy. You may have noticed this article on wembleymatters detailing that the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP are united in seeking to implement these options given the chance.

I would urge you and others reading this to also turn away from the tripartite liberal labour conservative coalition and seize the opportunity to vote for change.


Scott Bartle

Unknown said...

Hi Anon 19/12/2014 @ 14:28:

You may have seen the articles on wembleymatters
Some of the actions of the minority Green Council in Brighton and Hove have been controversial , locally and nationally within the Green Party. Caroline Lucas has often condemned them for positions that they have taken.

Within the comments Martin Francis 19/11/14 @ 18:37 points out that The Green Party is anti-austerity but weakened by the fact that apart from the minority Brighton administration it does not have the council base to mount a national challenge.

Come may, we all have the opportunity to challenge the status quo and say enough to political parties offering nothing but fear of the other as an incentive to vote for them. A vote Green won't be a mere 'protest' vote but progression towards the wider movement for change.


Scott Bartle

Anonymous said...

Your replies are intellectually dihonest.

You berate the local council for making cuts but don't say what would you do in their situation.

A silly little boy playing at politics rather than having to grapple with real choices.

It is so fake to say if there wasn't austerity

Anonymous said...

So you disagree with Caroline Lucas who is in favour of licensing landlords

Unknown said...

Dear Anon 20/12/2014 @ 11:32

People often turn to personal insults when they have lost the debate.

The reason I signed up to the Green Party from a position of disengagement and disillusionment with politics is because they believe in evidence based policy.

Nobel Prize Winning Economists have evidenced that austerity does not work.
If we take a look at government statistics George Osborne managed to increase the deficit more than Labour did in 13 years so we have evidence that practically austerity does not work. Brent Labour may hand wring and make noises that these cuts are not what they want, yet their national party, of which they are still affiliated have pledged to match and go further than the spending plans of the Tories & the Lib Dems. I would therefore ask you again to think about who is coming from the position of fakery?

Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru are united in the perspective that there is another way. The only difference between these parties and the tripartite coalition is that there is a disparity in arms when it comes to funding. The tripartite do not work for the people, but to please their donor's - hence cash for questions, cash for peerages and an environment where tax-avoidance despite losing our country billions of pounds is ignored and people on welfare or immigrants are demonised. May is not far away, take a stand and seize the chance to vote for something different.


Scott Bartle

Unknown said...

Hi Anon 20/12 @ 11:36

Caroline Lucas holds the same position as the Shelter Report (linked earlier) which was about licensing to improve the well-being of vulnerable people in sub-standard accommodation. As previously stated, I'd support any intervention that would increase people's well-being.

However, this is not what Brent Labour were initially selling - they were claiming that this was an intervention to solve the issue of 'anti-social behaviour' by tenants. This was based upon a flawed research and was stigmatising towards people of a low socio-economic demographic claiming they were responsible for anti-social behaviour and as such their landlords should keep them in check.

I've detailed the strands of my thoughts at the 21:15 comment - Brent Labour engaged in Classwar to keep their members that are landlords sweet "its not about you landlords, its about them - those anti-social" - you could hear them say behind close doors.

If we accept that Brent Labour have changed their mind and this is now about people's well-being. On a pragmatic level - we have no evidence that they have the ability to carry this out. They acknowledged in a report on homelessness in the borough that their licensing of HMO's has been ineffective and furthermore they are now cutting the Environment Department.

I think time and time again this administration has shown itself to be lacking in initiative to tackle the big issues that they do face and resort to spin or insult when challenged. I could cite many examples but the treatment of Rosemarie Clarke and that of other Brent Council Employees through threats and intimidation was / is completely unacceptable.


Scott Bartle.

Unknown said...

A quick note

Brent Labour declared their manifesto their contract.

Signatory to this contract was Barry Gardiner, MP and Dawn Butler PPC Brent North.
If Brent Labour are really anti these cuts - why aren't Barry or Dawn challenging the national party on their position? Granted Barry lives in Chorleywood and as such might not notice so much in Herfordshire - but the point remains Brent Labour do have outlets to make a stand here.


Scott Bartle