Let’s continue to do some things differently…. here are some personal hopes and views from members of the local Green Party
Universal Basic Income - Joan
The Chancellor of the Exchequer realised that the Corvid 19 lock- down would result in financial problems for millions of people and introduced measures to mitigate those effects. However, the complex way in which he did this resulted in delays, anxiety and more people using food banks He could have made his life a lot simpler, and given certainty to everyone by introducing a flat rate Universal Basic Income(UBI) instead. So what is it? In its purest form UBI is a sum of money paid regularly to every adult resident in a given state or region without distinction, including those who are economically inactive, and replacing all other benefits. This may seem like an expensive way to enrich the already wealthy but as UBI would be taxable, tax rates could be easily tweaked so that those with an adequate income paid back the UBI they received in income tax. Had Rishi Sunak chosen such a system no one would have had to wait 5 weeks for Universal Credit or worry that their bank would not co-operate with the government loan scheme. Some fear that UBI would discourage people from working. Where it has been introduced e.g. Finland, this has not been the case.
see the letter sent to the Berwick advertiser below from Peter Guthrie for more information about Universal Credit
Local Transport in a post-Covid Northumberland - Tom
There has been a lot of discussion in the media about the importance of walking and cycling as means of helping the country emerge from lockdown. This has arisen mainly because of the difficulties associated with physical distancing on any form of public transport.
Britain’s cities rely very heavily on their public transport systems for the movement of people so, with the collapse in use of that public transport, an alternative must be found. Any shift to greater use of cars would quickly cripple the road infrastructure; hence the need to look at cycling and walking.
But is this relevant in rural north Northumberland where there is far less public transport and, some would argue, more space on the roads to accept an increased use of cars as a substitute?
The answer can and should be yes.
Around 45% of the population of our Constituency live in the three settlements of Alnwick, Amble and Berwick- these are the towns served by high schools, with the greatest density of population, with the greatest density of shops and employment. These are also towns where bus journeys – and car journeys – can be replaced by walking or cycling, but where that shift will not happen unless there is safe infrastructure.
More journeys undertaken by cycling and walking will mean we become fitter, healthier, and more able to fight off infection. They will also reduce injuries and fatalities – cars are statistically the most dangerous form of transport. Cycling and walking will ease congestion outside schools, ease parking problems in our town centres, allow us to breather air that is even cleaner.
What is urgently essential to make this happen is more space for pedestrians, and separated space for cyclists – it must NEVER be the case that children are asked to cycle to school along roads where there is no separation from cars and lorries travelling at 30 mph or more.
Covid-19 is a virus that transmits most easily in enclosed spaces: we need to get out, to exercise, to meet: cycling and walking will help us to rebuild our communities.
Support local shops and producers - Kathryn
I have so valued being able to get door step deliveries of milk and collect orders from local shops during the last few weeks.
I have had local, organic milk delivered twice a week during snow, floods and now lock down. Milk can be delivered to your door in returnable glass bottles – so it’s good for the environment too. You can easily find who would deliver to you at findmeamilkman.net by just entering your postcode.
A World of Difference who sell a range of fair trade, organic and wholefoods in Alnwick have been so helpful in taking orders for collection and sourcing flours from new suppliers.
The Ship Inn at Newton opened a shop selling Doddington cheeses and ice cream, Carters Butcher, Swallow Fish and fresh leaves from Northumberland Green and lots more so I did not need to get in a car or leave the village to get supplies.
I heard that The Stable Yard Tea Room at Alnwick were making bread and cakes to order and collect and I’m sure there are many more examples.
My hope is that folk who have enjoyed the personal service and local food will, through continued usage, help these local enterprises thrive in the longer term.
GREEN PARTY CANDIDATE
The Green Party candidate for the Berwick upon Tweed Constituency is Thomas Stewart of Berwick.
“The climate crisis is the most urgent issue our society will have to confront in our lifetime; for the sake of the next generation, we can’t afford to let the challenge go by, or deal with it only half-heartedly. The Green Party have been leading the way for the last 40 years, listening to the science while others didn’t, and planning for a better future. But looking after the environment is only half the story – our country also desperately needs to look after its people better, and our campaign for social and economic justice is again leading the way”.
I am writing on behalf of the Berwick upon Tweed constituency Green Party with regard to benefit poverty. Universal credit has been rolled out the county late last year in 2018. It has been reported in the media and on social media that it has put people into economic hardship.
The Joseph Rountree Foundation stated that 1.5 million people in the UK in the year 2017 experienced destitution. To put this into context they went without food, toiletries, adequate clothing and shelter. The reason why this occurs is due to the benefit sanctions imposed by the job centre for claimants who have not met specific criteria has a “combination effect” of benefits being cut, delays in claimants receiving benefits and sanctions mean that people are being pushed into extreme deprivation.
It was the intention that universal credit would be a fairer system which would bring children out of poverty. Child Poverty Action Group, a pressure group campaigning against children living in poverty, shows that more children will be affected due to the unfairness of the system which the “combination effect” allows. The intent that universal credit would bring more children out of poverty was downgraded by the government. In 2011 the government stated that 320,000 children would be brought out of poverty. This figure was downgraded in 2013 showing that the government intends that 150,000 children would be brought out of poverty. Surely it shows that if the government are downgrading figures that universal credit is not fit for purpose in bringing families with children out of poverty.
While it is not just the implementation of universal credit which has allowed people to fall into poverty there has been cuts in disability benefits, tax credits, child benefit, ESA and incapacity benefit and housing benefit. This has led to an increase in the use of people using foodbanks and has sent more people into destitution and poverty.
Benefit poverty has had an effect on the mental health of disabled people who have been found “fit to work.” There has been an increase in the number of suicides and attempted suicides. It has become so bad in the UK that the UN has condoned the UK governments treatment of disabled people stating that “if the government had any real interest in suicide prevention then benefit reform would be an immediate priority.”
Nationally the green party is very critical of Universal Credit, calling it an assault on the most vulnerable leaving families without food. It has acknowledged that the government has no regard for the pain and suffering it has inflicted and still is inflicting. We are proposing a pilot of a universal basic income which would hopefully eliminate the poverty trap which most people are finding themselves in. With personal independence payments nationally the green party also opposes it. Stating the government is weaponizing welfare against disabled people, treating them unfairly and forcing people into poverty. The green party’ intends to help disabled people would give a universal basic income and would give extra payments to those who needed it giving people the chance to live a fair life.
Letter sent to press 23 October 2018
I am appalled that Northumberland County Council is proposing to cut financial support to people of working age on Council Tax Benefit, from 100% to 92%.
An 8% cut may be inconvenient for some people and could be difficult for others, but, for people who most need our support through Council Tax Credit, it is critical: any new demand causes further stress both on their budget and their wellbeing.This consultation lasts until 2nd November, and I would urge everyone to contact NCC and say that this is unacceptable. You cannot take more, from those in our community who have the least.
The web address for comments is https://form.northumberland.gov.uk/form/auto/ctax_consultation
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate - Berwick upon Tweed Green Party Berwick upon Tweed Constituency Green Party
I heard Anne Marie Trevelyan talking on national radio on Sunday evening, saying that she would prefer a “no-Deal Brexit” over the proposals currently on offer, as this would be the way to ensure that “we regain sovereignty over our laws and our borders”.
This is dangerous talk that cannot go unchallenged. The people of Northumberland will not be gaining any sovereignty, and it has been demonstrated that a no-deal Brexit (a “hard” Brexit) will push the country into a deep recession, hitting families in the north-east worse that in any other part of the UK.
How is it that our MP can actively promote a course of action that will inflict such harm to her own constituents? How can she promote a situation that will pull our friends and neighbours in Scotland out of the EU against that country's will and on the worst of terms, leading almost inevitably lead to a second Scottish Referendum? We need to be very cautious of unintended consequences of our actions over the next few weeks, which may cause damage that will take decades to rectify.
It’s a bit rich for Jacob Rees Mogg and Anne Marie Trevelyan to talk about the sovereignty of the people while also voting repeatedly to maintain the sovereignty of the unelected House of Lords, and voting down any proposals for voting reform - it seems that they believe the input of us, the voters, has to be extremely limited.
If they truly want to give us control, then give us a fair voting system that results in a parliament that actually reflects what people want; and extend voting to 16- and 17-year olds.
Prospective Parliamentary Candidate - Berwick upon Tweed Green Party
Letter sent to local press 11th September 2018
Peter Jackson appeared proud to claim that the Cabinet meeting at the Swan Centre in Tweedmouth on Monday was the first the County Council have ever held outside Morpeth, and it was painfully obvious - the members seemed genuinely surprised that people in Berwick wanted to engage with them, seemed unwilling to enter into that engagement (at least on the record) and were clearly completely unprepared - not even a microphone.
Comments such as "you won't get anything" (from Peter Jackson) and "I'm here to talk to my cabinet colleagues, not to you" (from Richard Wearmouth) will have done nothing to foster any good relations between the administration and the community that they are elected to serve.
Prior notification of the meeting had given a clear indication that the one agenda item would be the proposals for co-location of a new hospital with a leisure centre, and yet Peter Jackson claimed at the outset that the meeting was ONLY on the topic of a new leisure centre, shutting down any discussion of the hospital.
Despite his claim, the two votes that where held were both on topics of co-location (a vote that the new leisure centre should incorporate adult learning services, and a vote that NCC should proceed with a joint venture with Northumberland Healthcare Trust - NHT - subject to approval of a business plan).
It seems that - yet again - there is a huge difference between what the community of Berwick needs, and what external bodies such as the NCC or NHT think we need. In any list of "things that Berwick needs", a new leisure centre would be way down the priorities: at the top of the list, now and at every time for the last 15-20 years, is a new hospital, with services reinstated to a level they used to be at. Promising a hospital will retain the existing level of services, when those services have been run down repeatedly over the last 15 years, is disengenuous at best.
Both the current Tory administration and the Labour opposition at NCC need to realise that there is no demand from Berwick for a new leisure centre, that there is no appetite for any joist venture with NHT, and both will be vote-losers.
Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate
We marked the struggle and sacrifice that was required to achieve that first step in 1918, and also the second step in 1928 when there was finally full equality of voting between men and women on Saturday 13th October in Berwick.
In 1969, the UK became the first country in western Europe to lower the minimum voting age from 21 to 18.
In the 49 years since then, there that been no further extension of voting rights in England, and the “First Past the Post” system of voting has remained in place for all elections except those to the European Parliament.
We explored the following issues…
Is the existing system – unchanged in 50 years - truly democratic?
Under this system, do the votes that women struggled so hard to gain actually enable us to influence how we are governed, or change society for the better?
Can we learn from Scotland, where voting was extended to 16- and 17-year olds for all elections EXCEPT elections to Westminster?
Does the “First Past the Post” system ever give a result that can be deemed to be the true will of the people? Can we also learn from Scotland’s experience of other, Proportional Voting systems, where the number of seats more accurately reflects the number of votes cast.
We were delighted to be joined by
Penni Blythe – founder of “Emily Inspires!” and historian of Emily Wilding Davison. Emily Davison was from a Northumberland family and is buried in Morpeth – she fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote, was arrested ten times, went on hunger strike seven times, and was force fed on forty-nine separate occasions: ultimately her struggle led to her death when she was killed by the King’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.
Natalie Bennett – who was leader of the Green Party of England and Wales at the time of the 2015 general election: the party gained 4% of the total vote, but only 0.2% of the number of seats; while the Conservatives gained 36% of the total vote, but 51% of the number of seats.
Patrick Harvie MSP – who has sat in the Holyrood Parliament for the last 15 years, and is co-leader of the Scottish Green Party.
Tom Stewart - says
" .....our country needs to look after its people better .."
The front page that the Northumberland Gazette ran on 14 May 2015 was addressed directly to Anne-Marie Trevelyan and said:
You’ve been voted in.
The comment said it was AMT’s job over the next 5 years to hold the Prime Minister and the Chancellor to account for this, and that the paper in turn would be holding AMP to account. Come 2020 the electorate should be feeling the benefit of the vows. There was no excuse for not following through on what has been promised. The page ended: NOW DELIVER!