Archive for the ‘Jobs’ Category

Campaign Issues for 2013

April 15, 2013

DSCF2820THE GREEN Party are proud to announce that they are standing over 1000 candidates are standing in May’s County Elections, with 14 candidates standing across Northamptonshire.

The Green Party’s key campaign issues for 2013 include:

No to Welfare Cuts — The Green Party believes that cuts to essential welfare programs like jobseekers’ assistance benefits, NHS services, and disability living allowances will only harm the economy further. The Government’s failed austerity measures have done nothing to bring Britain out of the recession and only served to line the pockets of banks and big business, leaving those who are most in need of assistance helpless. Green led Brighton and Hove Council has paved the way in declaring “No evictions for the Bedroom Tax”.

Yes to a Living Wage — The Green Party believes that all people deserve a living wage, rather than a minimum wage. This means earnings should be no less than 60% of net national average earnings (approximately £8.10 per hour). The institution of a living wage will help ensure low paid workers earn enough to provide for themselves and their families and eradicate poverty in Britain for good. Green Councillors are leading the way in making their councils Living Wage employers.

Transport —The Green Party is committed to introducing 20mph speed limits across the UK, improving pedestrian and cyclist safety. Cycle lanes where possible and genuine improvements in local public transport (increased buses to rural areas and improved local train service). We oppose the HS2 rail system, which is at its core a deeply flawed project that will not deliver the benefits it promises. The rail project is economically unsound, as the train as planned will cost each parliamentary constituency an average of £51 million—money which could be better spent on improving existing essential services. Furthermore, the proposed train will burn nearly 50% more energy per mile than the Eurostar, making the HS2 project both a financial and environmental disaster.

No to Incinerators — The Green Party firmly opposes the construction of new incinerators anywhere in the U.K. Incinerators are costly, dangerous to public health, and can be easily replaced by greener forms of waste diversion. Not only are incinerators dangerous to both the environment and the population, releasing harmful gasses and particulate matter directly into the atmosphere, but building new incinerators is also completely unnecessary. Encouraging the reduced production of waste and encouraging growth of recycling programs has proven to be one of the most effective forms of reducing overall waste, which would eliminate the need for more incinerators entirely

Communism, welfare state – what’s the next big idea?

April 2, 2013

emergency food bank coventryMost of the world’s people are decent, honest and kind. Most of those who dominate us are inveterate bastards. This is the conclusion I’ve reached after many years of journalism. Writing on Black Monday, as the British government’s full-spectrum attack on the lives of the poor commences, the thought keeps returning to me.

“With a most inhuman cruelty, they who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them of their blindness.” This government, whose mismanagement of the economy has forced so many into the arms of the state, blames the sick, the unemployed, the underpaid for a crisis caused by the feral elite – and punishes them accordingly. Most of those affected by the bedroom tax, introduced today, are disabled. Thousands will be driven from their homes, and many more pushed towards destitution. Relief for the poor from council tax will be clipped; legal aid for civil cases cut off. Yet at the end of this week those making more than £150,000 a year will have their income tax cut.

Two days later, benefit payments for the poorest will be cut in real terms. A week after that, thousands of families who live in towns and boroughs where property prices are high will be forced out of their homes by the total benefits cap. What we are witnessing is raw economic warfare by the rich against the poor.

So the age-old question comes knocking: why does the decent majority allow itself to be governed by a brutal, antisocial minority? Part of the reason is that the minority controls the story. As John Harris explained in the Guardian, large numbers (including many who depend on it) have been persuaded that most recipients of social security are feckless, profligate fraudsters. Despite everything that has happened over the last two years, Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the other media barons still seem to be running the country. Their relentless propaganda, using exceptional and shocking cases to characterise an entire social class, remains highly effective. Divide and rule is as potent as it has ever been.

But I’ve come to believe that there’s also something deeper at work: that most of the world’s people live with the legacy of slavery. Even in a nominal democracy like the United Kingdom, most people were more or less in bondage until little more than a century ago: on near-starvation wages, fired at will, threatened with extreme punishment if they dissented, forbidden to vote. They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.

Any movement that seeks to challenge the power of the elite needs to ask itself what it takes to shake people out of this state. And the answer seems inescapable – hope. Those who govern on behalf of billionaires are threatened only when confronted by the power of a transformative idea.

A century and more ago the idea was communism. Even in the form in which Marx and Engels presented it, its problems are evident: the simplistic binary system into which they tried to force society; their brutal dismissal of anyone who did not fit this dialectic (“social scum”, “bribed tool[s] of reactionary intrigue”); their reinvention of Plato’s guardian-philosophers, who would “represent and take care of the future” of the proletariat; the unprecedented power over human life they granted to the state; the millenarian myth of a final resolution to the struggle for power. But their promise of another world electrified people who had, until then, believed that there was no alternative.

Seventy years ago, in the UK, the transformative idea was freedom from want and fear through the creation of a social security system and a National Health Service. It swept a Labour government to power which was able, despite far tougher economic circumstances than today’s, to create a fair society from a smashed, divided nation. This is the achievement which – through a series of sudden, spectacular and unmandated strikes – Cameron’s government is now demolishing.

So where do we look for the idea that can make hope more powerful than fear? Not to the Labour party. If Ed Miliband cannot bring himself even to oppose a bill which retrospectively denies compensation to cheated jobseekers, the most we can expect from him is a low-alcohol conservatism of the kind that doused all aspiration under Tony Blair.

Last week I ran a small online poll, asking people to nominate inspiring, transfiguring ideas. The two mentioned most often were land value taxation and a basic income. As it happens, both are championed by the Green party. On this and other measures, its policies are by a long way more progressive than Labour’s.

I discussed land value taxation in a recent column. A basic income (also known as a citizen’s income) gives everyone, rich and poor, without means-testing or conditions, a guaranteed sum every week. It replaces some but not all benefits (there would, for instance, be extra payments for pensioners and people with disabilities). It banishes the fear and insecurity now stalking the poorer half of the population. Economic survival becomes a right, not a privilege.

A basic income removes the stigma of benefits while also breaking open what politicians call the welfare trap. Because taking work would not reduce your entitlement to social security, there would be no disincentive to find a job – all the money you earn is extra income. The poor are not forced by desperation into the arms of unscrupulous employers: people will work if conditions are good and pay fair, but will refuse to be treated like mules. It redresses the wild imbalance in bargaining power that the current system exacerbates. It could do more than any other measure to dislodge the emotional legacy of serfdom. It would be financed by progressive taxation – in fact it meshes well with land value tax.

These ideas require courage: the courage to confront the government, the opposition, the plutocrats, the media, the suspicions of a wary electorate. But without proposals on this scale, progressive politics is dead. They strike that precious spark, so seldom kindled in this age of triangulation and timidity – the spark of hope.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at monbiot.com

Source:
George Monbiot
The Guardian

Living Wage Should Be Adopted

November 6, 2012

Boris Johnson has called on David Cameron to follow his lead by paying all staff across Whitehall the London living wage as he announced the new rate of £8.55 for workers in the capital, following a 25p increase.

The prime minister came under pressure as Johnson and the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, held separate events to press the case for employers to pay workers a living wage, well above the minimum rate for adults of £6.19, to ensure they can enjoy a decent standard of living.

The living wage rate outside London also rose on Monday by 25p to £7.45, benefiting thousands of workers.

Cameron’s spokesman said the government supported the living wage, but claimed that making it a condition of giving government contracts to private businesses would breach EU rules.

But Miliband said: “I think it is completely ridiculous for the government to be hiding behind EU law to try and explain their total failure to promote the living wage in two-and-a-half years in office. They promised before the election that it is something that they took seriously – the prime minister made that promise – and nothing has happened.

“What local councils are showing is that there are definitely ways of promoting the living wage and getting contractors to pay the living wage, which are absolutely within EU law.”

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, described the government’s view of EU law as “completely wrong”.

She said: “In response to my question on the inclusion of living wage conditions in procurement processes, the [European] commission clearly states that living wage conditions can be included in public sector contracts, provided they are not discriminatory. Now that the government is aware that there is no problem under EU law, they can make progress on ensuring payment of the living wage for low-paid workers on the government estate, helping to ensure that work pays.”

Johnson said “some of the most red-blooded capitalist firms you can imagine” were signing up to the living wage because they realised it helped to create productivity and ensured staff enjoyed a decent standard of living.

Cameron hailed the living wage as a “good and attractive idea” before the general election in 2010 and vowed that as the biggest employer in the country the government would take the lead to ensure that “fairness will begin to be hardwired into pay scales up and down the country”. But two years on, the LLW has yet to be systematically deployed across Whitehall.

Cameron’s spokesman said: “We are not proposing to require it of businesses. Requiring people to pay it would reduce the flexibility businesses have and could ultimately be a bad thing for jobs.”

Johnson urged the government to support low-paid workers in the capital.

“I would like to see Whitehall generally in London, I would like to see Labour councils, Tory councils, Liberal councils, supporting low-paid workers and pay the London living wage. A huge number of public sector workers could benefit from this.”

Johnson unveiled a trademark that formally recognises and accredits employers who pay the London living wage, courtesy of the Living Wage Foundation, which hopes the mark will become as recognisable as the Fairtrade logo.

But it emerged that the Greater London Authority, led by Johnson, has yet to be added to the 76-strong list of accredited employers and that the five London borough councils included are all Labour-controlled. The GLA is on a separate list of 44 employers in the process of being accredited, which includes four more Labour-controlled London boroughs and Tower Hamlets, led by independent mayor Lutfur Rahman, with no Conservative-led council on either list.

Johnson, who has for the past four years championed the LLW, established in 2005 by his predecessor, Ken Livingstone, outlined the mutual benefits of paying a rate £2.36 above the minimum wage.

He said “some of the most redblooded capitalist firms you can imagine” were signing up to the LLW because they realised it helped to create productivity as well as ensuring staff can enjoy a decent standard of living.

Lovebridge Achempoang, a cleaner working for Lloyds of London, said receiving the LLW from his employer had made a big difference for him and his family. It had allowed him to spend more time with his three daughters, having previously worked very long hours to make ends meet, and coming home very late, feeling very tired.

“Because of the living wage I don’t need to work so many hours and can now spend time with my family,” he said. “We might only be in a one-bedroom flat, but it’s ours to live in and I’m very happy to be there. It feels good to be able to support myself and my family.”

Pressed on the fact that he is the only Conservative in the capital to show leadership by implementing the LLW rate to all GLA staff, Johnson said: “I’ve certainly heard David Cameron support this and give very clear and categorical backing for what we are doing, so that’s good.”

However, Johnson declined to be drawn on whether the government should lift the minimum wage to the living wage rates for inside and outside the capital. “I certainly think it’s important to pay people decently but we’ve got particular issues here in London which means the London living wage for the capital.”

Downing Street’s claim that imposing the living wage as a condition of business would be in breach of EU procurement laws was challenged by Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, as “completely wrong”.

“In response to my question on the inclusion of living wage conditions in procurement processes, the [European] commission clearly states that living wage conditions can be included in public sector contracts, provided they are not discriminatory. Now that the government is aware that there is no problem under EU law, they can make progress on ensuring payment of the living wage for low-paid workers on the government estate, helping to ensure that work pays.”

Miliband vowed to address Britain’s “living standards crisis” by delivering a living wage of at least £7.20 an hour to millions of people in the public and private sector. He contrasted the 11 Labour councils that have already become living wage employers, with more on the way to acquiring living wage status, with the record of Conservative-led boroughs.

Miliband outlined three policy proposals that could be used to promote the living wage: forcing employers to pay the living wage if they want to bid for public sector contracts; paying firms a subsidy if they pay the living wage, and forcing companies to say how many of their employees are receiving less than the living wage, as part of a natural extension of the principle of pay transparency at the top.

“There are almost 5 million people in Britain who aren’t earning the living wage: people who got up early this morning, spent hours getting to work – who are putting in all the effort they can – but who often don’t get paid enough to look after their families, to heat their homes, feed their kids, care for elderly relatives and plan for the future,” he said. “Too many people in Britain are doing the right thing and doing their bit, helping to build the prosperity on which our country depends, but aren’t sharing fairly in the rewards.

“It’s not how it should be in Britain. It’s not how we will succeed as a country in the years ahead because we can’t go on with an economy that works for a few at the top and not for most people. We need to change it.”

In London, an estimated 11,500 workers have benefited since the LLW was introduced in 2005. Johnson said the new rate of £8.55 will be worth £4.5m a year for lower-paid workers, and announced that InterContinental had become the first hotel chain to sign up to the living wage.

Johnson blamed the fact that the GLA was still in the process of securing accreditation on “historic” authority contracts that would see the LLW implemented once they were renewed. Aides to Johnson said the GLA was implementing the LLW “100%” for its staff but not yet for all external contractors, and that the paperwork for such a large organisation, encompassing five functional bodies, meant the accreditation process was taking longer.

Darren Johnson, a Green member of the London assembly, said: “The mayor’s support for the living wage is very patchy. I had to lobby him earlier in the year to get the official Olympics hotel partner signed up, and even then he broke his election promise to only promote living-wage hotels to tourists. It has been the same story with councils and Whitehall, where I have repeatedly lobbied him to raise it when meeting council leaders and ministers. That list of living-wage employers could have been a lot longer if the mayor had spent five years making the case at every opportunity, not just for the occasional press release.”

Rhys Moore, director of the Living Wage Foundation, said the movement was growing as more employers realised the benefits of paying the rate. “Like Fair Trade, it represents a new standard for responsible business. We hope to see the living wage mark and symbol spreading further and further across organisations in the UK.”

More than 80 employers have been formally accredited to the foundation, with 47 awaiting accreditation and a further 73 saying they are committed to paying the rate. Around 200 employers in London support the campaign, ranging from banks to universities.

Britain’s Shock Doctrine

October 19, 2010

The economic crisis is the disaster the Conservatives have been praying for. Now they can reshape the economy on corporate lines.

By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 19th October 2010.

We’ve been staring at the wrong list. In an effort to guess what will hit us tomorrow, we’ve been trying to understand the first phase of the British government’s assault on the public sector: its bonfire of the quangos. Almost all the public bodies charged with protecting the environment, animal welfare and consumers have been either hobbled or killed(1). But that’s only half the story. Look again, and this time make a list of the quangos which survived.

If the government’s aim had been to destroy useless or damaging public bodies, it would have started with the Commonwealth Development Corporation. It was set up to relieve poverty in developing countries, but when New Labour tried, and failed, to privatise it, the CDC completely changed its mission. Now it sluices money into lucrative corporate ventures, while massively enriching its own directors. Private Eye discovered that in 2007 this quango paid its chief executive just over a million pounds(2). The magazine has also shown how the CDC has become entangled in a series of corruption cases(3). Uncut. Unreformed.

The same goes for the Export Credit Guarantee Department. The ECGD effectively subsidises private corporations, by underwriting the investments they make abroad. At one point, 42% of its budget was spent on propping up BAE’s weapons sales(4). It also pours money into drilling for oil in fragile environments(5,6). A recent court case showed how it has underwritten contracts obtained with the help of bribery(7,8). Uncut. Unreformed.

The Sea Fish Industry Authority exists “to help improve profitability for the seafood industry”(9). Though it is a public body, all but one of its 11 directors work for either the fishing industry or food companies(10). They seek to “promote the consumption of seafood”(11), to “champion the industry in public debates”(12) and to “influence the regulatory process” in the industry’s favour(13). Uncut. Unreformed.

Can you see the pattern yet? Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed. What the two lists suggest is that the economic crisis is the disaster the Conservatives have been praying for. The government’s programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.

In her book The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein shows how disaster capitalism was conceived by the extreme neoliberals at the University of Chicago(14). These people believed that the public sphere should be eliminated, that business should be free to do as it wants, and almost all tax and social spending should be stopped. They believed that total personal freedom in a completely free market produces a perfect economy and perfect relationships. It was a utopian system as fanatical as any developed by a religious cult. And it was profoundly unpopular. For a long time its only supporters were the heads of multinational corporations and a few wackos in the US government.

In a democracy under normal conditions, those who were harmed by abandoning public provision would outvote those who gained from it. So the Chicago programme couldn’t be imposed in these circumstances. As the Chicago School’s guru, Milton Friedman, explained, “only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.”(15) After a crisis has struck, he added later, “a new administration has some six to nine months in which to achieve major changes; if it does not act decisively during that period, it will not have another such opportunity.”(16)

The first such opportunity was provided by General Pinochet’s coup in Chile. The coup was plotted by two factions: the generals and a group of economists trained at the University of Chicago and funded by the CIA. Their ideas had already been comprehensively rejected by the electorate, but now the electorate was irrelevant: Pinochet used the crisis he had created to imprison, torture or kill anyone who dissented. The Chicago School policies – privatisation, deregulation, massive tax and spending cuts – were catastrophic. Inflation rose to 375% in 1974; the highest rate on earth. Even so, Friedman insisted that the programme was not going far or fast enough. On a visit to Chile in 1975 he persuaded Pinochet to hit much harder. The result was a massive increase in unemployment and the near-eradication of the middle class. But the very rich became much richer, and the corporations, scarcely taxed, deregulated, fattened on privatised assets, became much more powerful.

By 1982, Friedman’s prescriptions had caused a spectacular economic crash. Unemployment hit 30%; debt exploded. Pinochet sacked the Chicago economists and started re-nationalising stricken companies, whereupon the economy began to recover. Chile’s so-called economic miracle began only after Friedman’s doctrines were abandoned. The Chicago School’s catastrophic programme pushed almost half the popultaion below the poverty line and left Chile with one of the world’s highest rates of inequality(17).

But all this was spun by the corporate media as a great success. With the help of successive US governments, similar programmes were imposed on dozens of countries in which crises ensured that the population was unable to resist. Other Latin American dictators copied Pinochet’s economic policies, with the help of mass disappearances, torture and killings. The poor world’s debt crisis was used by the IMF and the World Bank to impose Chicago School programmes on countries that had no option but to accept their help. The US hit Iraq with economic shock and awe – privatisation, a flat tax, massive deregulation – even as the bombs were still falling. After Hurricane Katrina wrecked New Orleans, Friedman described it as “an opportunity to radically reform the educational system”(18). His disciples immediately moved in, sweeping away public schools while the residents were picking up the pieces of their lives, replacing them with private charter schools.

Our crisis is less extreme, so, in the United Kingdom, the shock doctrine cannot be so widely applied. But, as David Blanchflower warned yesterday, there’s a strong possibility that the cuts programme will precipitate a bigger crisis: “it’s a terrible, terrible mistake. The sensible thing to do is to spread [the cuts] over a long time”(19). That’s another feature of disaster capitalism: it exacerbates the crises on which it thrives, creating its own opportunities.

So we shouldn’t wonder that 35 corporate executives wrote to the Telegraph yesterday, arguing, just as Milton Friedman used to do, for a short, sharp shock, before the window of opportunity closes(20). The policy might hit their profits for a while, but when we stagger out of our shelters to assess the damage, we’ll discover that we have emerged into a different world, run for their benefit, not ours.

http://www.monbiot.com

References:

1. https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AhsZb7eJoMM5dHlDMXhaMmM1TTdsSE9LTUZiQlh1NGc&hl=en#gid=0

2. Richard Brooks, 3rd September 2010. That’s Rich! How Britain’s poverty relief fund abandoned the poor … while its bosses cleaned up. Private Eye.

3. As above.

4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/oct/02/bae-jobs-sfo

5. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2007/aug/16/russia.climatechange

6. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/30/uk-loans-brazil-offshore-drilling

7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jul/08/mabey-johnson-serious-fraud-office-plea-bargain

8. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/jan/02/scamsandfraud.money

9. http://www.seafish.org/upload/file/about_us/Economics%20team%20LR.pdf

10. http://www.seafish.org/about/board.asp?p=bc

11. http://www.seafish.org/upload/file/about_us/MarketingComms.pdf

12. http://www.seafish.org/upload/file/about_us/MarketingComms.pdf

13. http://www.seafish.org/upload/file/2008_sea_fisheries_statistics_summary/SSI%20brochure.pdf

14. Naomi Klein, 2007. The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism. Allen Lane, London.

15. Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, quoted by Naomi Klein, as above.

16. Milton Friedman and Rose Friedman, Tyranny of the Status Quo, quoted by Naomi Klein, as above.

17. Naomi Klein, as above.

18. Milton Friedman, 5th December 2005. article in the Wall Street Journal, quoted by Naomi Klein, as above.

19. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/oct/18/david-blanchflower-warns-against-spending-cuts

20. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/8069609/Osbornes-cuts-will-strengthen-Britains-economy-by-allowing-the-private-sector-to-generate-more-jobs.html

New equality rights in workplace come into force

October 2, 2010

New rules aimed at banning discrimination by employers, covering areas such as age, disability and pay, have come into force across Britain.

The Equality Act covers many workplace areas and draws nine separate pieces of legislation into a single Act.

Equalities Minister Theresa May says it will now be easier for firms to comply with anti-discrimination rules.

However, some business groups argued the new legislation will impose a heavy burden on employers.

The new law applies in England, Wales and Scotland.

The new law restricts the circumstances in which employers can ask job applicants questions about disability or health prior to offering them a position, making it more difficult for disabled people to be unfairly screened out.

“In these challenging economic times it’s more important than ever for employers to make the most of all the talent available,” said Ms May.

There are also new powers for employment tribunals.

The Act will also stop employers using pay secrecy clauses to prevent employees discussing their own pay, which means men and women can compare pay.

But the Act will not make employers reveal how much they pay men compared with women, as had been planned by the Labour government.

Some campaigners argued that this revision undermined the new legislation.

“Rowing back on the requirement for big business to publish and take action on any differences in pay between men and women employees is tantamount to endorsing the shocking gender pay gap,” said Ceri Goddard, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality.

Business cost

The Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Everyone is protected by the new law.

“It [the Act] covers age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex (meaning gender) and sexual orientation.

“Under the act people are not allowed to discriminate, harass or victimise another person because they belong to a group that the Act protects, they are thought to belong to one of those groups or are associated with someone who does.”

But some business groups argued that the new rules place an extra burden on companies at a time when they are still trying to recover from the recession.

“Businesses are really concerned,” Abigail Morris from the British Chambers of Commerce told the BBC.

“The government’s own impact assessment shows that this is going to cost £190m just for businesses to understand the legislation, and this at a time when we really need them to be concentrating on creating private sector jobs and driving economic recovery.”

During the summer there were some concerns about the new rules expressed by shipping companies.

Some claimed the laws could force them to quit the UK because they would have to pay UK rates to foreign-based seafarers who do not have the burden of British living costs.

Source – BBC

Clone Town Britain 2010

September 16, 2010

41 per cent of UK towns are clone towns and a further 23 per cent are on the verge of becoming clone towns, according to the widest ever Clone Town survey results released today by leading independent think-tank nef (new economics foundation).

Only 36 per cent of the high streets surveyed retain their distinctive character with more than two thirds of their shops being independents. The nef report, Re-imagining the High Street: Escape from Clone Town Britain, also brands the multiple chain outlets as “fair weather friends” who have either abandoned the high streets entirely or given up so-called secondary locations.

The report says that overall trend towards “Clone Town Britain”, continues, despite widespread publicity about the loss of local identity following the 2005 Clone Town report.

• 41 per cent of the towns surveyed were “clone towns” (more than half the stores were chains); 23 per cent are on the verge of becoming clone towns (border towns); and 36 per cent were “home towns” (more than 2/3rds of shops are independents).

• Cambridge is the UK’s most cloned town, managing only 11.6 on the diversity scale (out of a possible 100). Only nine varieties of shops are found on the main high street.

• Richmond has the most cloned high street of London’s “villages”, with only five independent shops found down its length.

• Whitstable, Kent is the best performing “home town”, according to the survey, scoring an impressive 92.1. on the diversity scale.

• Nine of the 13 west London village high streets surveyed registered as “clone towns”.

Paul Squires, the co-author of the report said: “The towns most dependent on the big chains and out of town stores have proven to be most vulnerable to the economic crisis. The government’s “Big Society” idea cannot be built on these fractured local economies, represented so clearly by the empty shop fronts along our high streets.”

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” Paul continued; “we found many towns that are thriving with initiatives to retain local diversity. The local currency schemes in Lewes and Brixton, for example; community buy-outs of post offices and pubs from Yorkshire to Cornwall; and loyalty cards for shopping at independent retailers from London to Penzance.”

Elizabeth Cox, co-author of the report added: “We need to completely re-evaluate what we use our high streets for now that the age of mass retail is juddering to a halt. Our high streets could become places where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities including working, sharing, exchanging, playing and learning new skills. As the hub of our communities, the high street could become the place where we begin to build a more sustainable world.”

nef is calling for action from:

• Individuals: “Use them, or lose them”. Residents should put their money where their mouth is and seek out independents and locally sourced products.

• Local government: Establish High Street Transition Hubs in key vacant shops to help develop local economies. These could range from local currency development (like Brixton £) to local food distribution and tool share/exchange schemes. They would not be general “community centres”.

• Central government: Give local authorities powers to offer discretionary business rate relief for new and established independent enterprises to move onto the high street and commit to reducing their carbon footprint.

Caroline Lucas in call to West Midlands car plants

September 14, 2010

The leader of the Green Party said she wanted to see the West Midlands at the forefront of green automotive design.

Speaking on the West Midlands Politics Show, Caroline Lucas said she wanted to see an expansion of green jobs in the region.

She said there was huge potential for plants to make sustainable cars that do not run on traditional fossil fuels.

“I see a jobs rich future for the West Midlands and it’s the Green Party that’s championing that,” she added.

Less than 1%

She said: “There’s huge potential in the West Midlands for looking at some of those car plants and car factories and thinking how do we make sure they’re producing the most sustainable vehicles possible?”

The party, which has been holding its annual conference at the Birmingham Conservatoire since Friday, has only three councillors elected in the region on Solihull Borough Council, Herefordshire Council and the Malvern Hills District Council.

In May’s general election the party finished seventh in the region, gaining less than 1% of the vote.

Ms Lucas, who was elected as the party’s first MP in Brighton Pavilion, said she hoped the party could also improve its reach in the West Midlands.

Source – BBC