Category Archives: Local Government

Worried about Amazon deforestation? Look to your own urban street trees too

Deforestation: 5,000 trees were chopped in Sheffield after street mainenance was taken over by a private contractor. The vandalism resulted in international headlines and worldwide condemnation.

Sheffield Council (famously) is likely to be one of many UK local authorities to have made entirely the wrong decision by felling street trees in our cities.

And in the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the blunder is becoming increasingly more self-evident:

As the UK first entered lockdown in spring 2020… many people spent more time on their local streets and in parks. Online tree app Tree Talk saw a 50-fold increase in users as people fell in love with their local “ .”

And rightly so:

The wood of street trees stores carbon, while their roots and crowns support wildlife and slow rainfall, reducing urban flooding. Transpiration and shade from their canopies reduces temperatures in heatwaves, while pollution-trapping leaves lower the prevalence of asthma.

If these ecosystem services weren’t enough, having trees on our streets reduces crime rates and improves mental health and wellbeing. One mature street tree can have a net ecosystem service value of thousands of pounds.

Sadly, it seems protecting our eco-system comes with a slight maintenance cost that has become too much for some councils (probably due to cash starvation by central – Conservative – government).

That’s why – with no interest in the environment, health or crime – councils across the country have been chopping down trees like there’s no tomorrow (which is ironic when you consider that their actions are helping to ensure that there won’t be).

After the Sheffield debacle, in which 5,000 trees were felled by a private contractor in order to make street maintenance cheaper – but the resulting outcry led to international news headlines, councils have become more circumspect.

Nowadays they tend to sing from a hymn-sheet that declares they will plant several new trees for every old one that is felled. This is no justification:

Just as any child would understand they were being ripped off if given a 2p piece and a 1p piece to replace a pound coin, removing large species trees and replacing them with small ones results in a net loss of ecosystem services.

Size really matters with trees. The annual net ecological benefit of planting a large species tree is 92% greater than planting a small one. Mature street trees do everything from having a positive effect on infant birth weight in lower socio-economic demographics, to increasing resilience to major life events among people who live within sight of them. Consumers spend more on streets that are lined with large trees.

So if your local authority decides to start felling large, mature street trees – get organised and tell your councillors:

You won’t be fooled.

You won’t be fobbed off with a promise of more planting when saplings have only a fraction of the benefit of mature trees.

And you won’t tolerate the fall in public health – and the rise in crime – that your council intends to create.

Source: Why keeping one mature street tree is far better for humans and nature than planting lots of new ones

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Lockdown democracy exposes bizarre behaviour at local council

Zoom: who would have thought that holding a meeting over the internet would reveal so much about local councillors?

My sympathies go to the people of Handforth.

Their area of Wilmslow, Cheshire, has become a place of national interest – not to mention hilarity – after a parish council meeting held via the Zoom platform went viral with more than two million views.

Sadly, the reason for its popularity is the misbehaviour of the councillors.

Jackie Weaver, from the Cheshire Association of Local Councils, said she was called in to help and “support” two parish councillors to hold the planning meeting. This is what happened:

The meeting, which took place on 10 December, descended into chaos with some people muttering under their breath while others tried to speak, hysterical laughter, participants answering phone calls and members being reprimanded.

When chairman Brian Tolver, who refused to recognise the legitimacy of the meeting, labelled himself as the “clerk”, Ms Weaver said: “The chairman simply declared himself clerk and notified everybody of the case.

“There is no way of stopping him from calling himself clerk. Please refer to me as Britney Spears from now on.”

Ms Weaver told the BBC there was a “positive spin” to the video going viral as it “raised the profile” of parish councils.

But she said it also showed an element of “bullying and bad behaviour” in local councils, adding: “A lot of us are working very hard – and that includes central government – to try to do something about that.”

I’m not going to link to any of the footage from the meeting. Feel free to click on the link below if you want to see it.

My point is that this is actually good for democracy. By seeing how our councillors behave (or misbehave) we become better-equipped to decide whether we want those particular people to represent us.

It also de-mystifies the processes of local government.

I predict hard times for some of the Handforth councillors in the future, as they are called to account for their behaviour.

But they have actually done us all a service.

Source: Jackie Weaver: Handforth Parish Council meeting goes viral – BBC News

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Labour isn’t winning back Tory voters by trying to be Tory. What will Starmer try next?

Spot the difference: one of these men has the experience, the principles, and the arguments to win voters to the Labour Party, and the other is a chameleon who can only fake similarity with the Tories in a bid to steal their votes.

Chameleon Starmer’s bid to out-Tory the Conservative Party seems set to fail, with only four per cent of Tory voters expected to switch to Labour in the May elections.

This means Labour is likely to lose a swathe of council seats due to Starmer’s failure to understand that leading an opposition political party implies offering an alternative to the government – not trying to be just as bad.

Labour officials have been briefing that a “standstill” result, where the party gains no seats and minimises losses, would be a good outcome.

Of the constituencies that Labour lost to the Conservatives in 2019, 37 have council seats up for election this year.

Shadow ministers have been warned that the party’s 20-point poll advance has come from cannibalising the Liberal Democrat vote, as that party languishes in single figures.

It’s a trick.

Pretending to be what supporters of other parties want might seem an easy way to win votes but it doesn’t work. People have seen through it. The Liberal Democrats haemorrhaged support because of the disastrous leaderships of Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson.

And now Labour is likely to lose support because of Keir Starmer.

The only UK party guaranteed to keep its core vote is the Conservatives, because they rely on selfishness and there are a lot of very selfish people in the country.

And the only way to take voters away from the Tories is to explain why Tory selfishness doesn’t work and to have the principled political policies that would provide a better future – given the chance.

That’s why Jeremy Corbyn was such a threat to the status quo. He had the principled policies and people realised it. That’s why Labour, under him, had the highest membership of any political party in western Europe.

It is also why right-wing politicians and their client news media spent years undermining him with lies (most commonly the false claims that he was an anti-Semite and a supporter of terrorism).

Starmer doesn’t have the policies; he doesn’t have the principles; and he doesn’t have the patience.

And there’s something else he doesn’t have, too: he doesn’t have a chance.

Source: Labour failing to win back enough Tory voters, officials warn | Labour | The Guardian

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Will you be able to pay next year’s FIVE PER CENT council tax rise?

 

Isn’t it wonderful that dodgy Tory Robert Jenrick has announced a huge boost in councils’ spending power next year?

And isn’t it diabolical that, after finding billions upon billions of pounds for fake firms run by Tory cronies, these funds will be provided via a massive five per cent hike in council tax?

Councils will be given the freedom to hike bills by 5% next year despite wages and growth stalling in the pandemic.

The small print of a police grants report, published today, also reveals next year’s police funding is dependent on council tax hikes of £15 for a Band D home.

Those hikes would be over and above the other rises in council tax to pay for general services and social care.

And what will you get for it?

Street lighting, rubbish collection (except you still won’t be able to recycle everything that you should), and inflated salaries for councillors and council officers who don’t deserve them.

Source: 11 bits of bad news the Tories sneaked out hours before the Christmas holiday

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After This Site suggested it, Tories are letting experts tackle Covid-19 instead of their chums

I know. It’s just a coincidence.

But isn’t it interesting that, the day after This Site asked, “Don’t you agree that giving control of the response to Coronavirus back to people who actually know what they’re doing might turn the tide?” the Tories are talking about doing just that?

I had suggested, “Let’s see the Tories reopen the contract system to multiple tenders, with assignments of Covid-related contracts going to the firms best-suited for the work. Or – indeed – to the public organisations and authorities best-placed to handle it.”

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick made the admission that this will happen on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show today (October 11): “People who know their own community… are bound to be better than Whitehall or national contact tracers.”

Here’s the clip:

There’s an obvious question to be answered here:

Yes – why weren’t they used in the first place?

The obvious answer is that individuals within the Johnson government have corruptly and opportunistically used the pandemic as a chance to funnel cash to their fellow-Tory friends. Certainly there is a movement now to find out how much money has been wasted on so-called services that haven’t worked at all:

That question of wasted time is crucial because many people have died.

What happens if we find that those deaths happened because the Tories were giving money to their friends – for nothing – rather than to people who could actually keep that death toll down?

Will there be any accountability?

Or will Boris Johnson just shrug his shoulders, say “Now is not the time,” and forget about it?

For further information, here‘s the Mirror‘s piece.

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Care workers awarded £100,000 in back pay – but why is their NEW employer paying it?

How pleasant to see home carers being awarded the pay they are due!

In a court victory, home care workers contracted by Haringey Council in North London were awarded £100,000 in back pay.

That’s between them, not individually – amounting to around £10,000 for each of the 10 claimants.

It seems the council had given the work contract to a private provider called Sevacare that cheated them out of money they should have been paid for travel time between patient visits.

As a result, some of them ended up being paid less than £4 per hour – less than the minimum wage, and much less than even the “National Living Wage” that the Tories introduced, which still doesn’t cover living expenses.

Care service companies, Kaamil Education Limited, Diligent Care Services Limited and Premier Carewaiting Limited say they inherited the case when they took over the work contract.

The firms who took over the contracts were ordered to pay the claimants.

Wait – what?

Why were the new providers ordered to pay? Why couldn’t the offending firm do it?

Has it gone out of business? Government contractors seem to do that, don’t they? Does anybody remember Carillion?

Mrs Mike was completely unimpressed by this story.

She reckons the problem is the sub-contracting of care work by councils to private providers, who always say they can do the work for a very low price.

Then the bosses and shareholders take their cut (Mrs Mike said), and the people who do the actual work end up with whatever’s left – the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel.

It’s a consequence of privatisation, she said. It was better when councils employed care workers directly.

Given this result, I’d say she makes a good point. Wouldn’t you?

Source: Unison: Care workers who made £4 an hour awarded in £100,000 court case – BBC News

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Spectators told ‘stay away’ from St Leger after This Site’s story about it

Jam-packed: This is how the crowd at the St Leger event in Doncaster usually looks. With Covid-19 back on the rise in the UK, Boris Johnson’s Tory government was happy to allow it to go ahead. Fortunately, the local authority was more interested in public safety than private profit.

This Writer would love to take credit for the latest u-turn but I don’t really think it is anything to do with me.

Shortly after This Site asked whether the decision to impose new Covid-19-related restrictions on public gatherings after the weekend had anything to do with the St Leger horse racing event being during the weekend, organisers were told to forbid entry to the public in any event.

I had pointed out the extraordinary business interests in horse racing held by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and ‘Test and Trace’ boss Dido Harding.

As MP for horse racing centre Newmarket, he receives significant donations from the horse racing industry, while she is a director of the Jockey Club.

So it seemed reasonable to ask whether these facts had anything to do with the delay in the new restriction. Many others have pointed out that you can’t do a deal with Covid-19 to wait until after the weekend, after all.

And we should all be reminded that the Cheltenham Festival, in March, was allowed to stay open to the public – and expert evidence suggested that this led to “increased suffering and death”.

In the end, it seems, any personal interests people like Hancock, Harding, or indeed Boris Johnson may have in the St Leger turned out to be immaterial:

Doncaster Racecourse has been told by local health officials to stop spectators attending its St Leger meeting after Wednesday’s opening day.

“On the grounds of public health and public safety I have instructed the course to hold the St Leger Festival behind closed doors from tomorrow,” said Dr Rupert Suckling, director of Public Health for Doncaster.

So any corrupt or greed-motivated reasons for delaying the restriction have been thwarted.

Good. It is the right decision for the health of the nation.

Source: Doncaster Racecourse told to stop spectators attending St Leger meeting – BBC Sport

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Elderly man’s health failed and he died after council sent his wife to a care home

When care isn’t so caring: one partner was taken into a home and the health of the other deteriorated until he died. Why didn’t the council consider this? Or was it just a financial consideration?

In these days of Covid-19, one might be forgiven for thinking this gentleman was worrying himself sick that his wife would catch the virus and die.

But it is also a recognised phenomenon that if a couple who have been together for many years are split up, most commonly because one of them dies, then the remaining partner’s health often suffers – possibly to death.

So This Writer is led to question why the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead didn’t take this into account when it split up the couple in this story. Was it just a question of money – that it was cheaper to split this couple, and never mind of one of them died? And what happened to the house where the deceased gentleman had been living?

An elderly couple of 59 years were split up with little regard for their welfare by Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman has found.

The couple were separated when the wife was discharged to a care home after leaving hospital.

The husband was left to live in the family home with the help of care workers, but quickly deteriorated.

He became very low, did not eat or drink properly and lost weight. He stopped going out and instead spent a lot of time in his bed.

When the family complained a few days later the council agreed to take more steps to help the man visit his wife, but he passed away just a few weeks after.

A report by the Ombudsman found the council did not do enough to consider the man’s situation when his wife left hospital, despite his family telling it he would suffer at home.

Windsor and Maidenhead Council has a history of ill-treating people. Back in 2018, it tried to get police to arrest homeless people under the Vagrancy Act so they wouldn’t be on the streets during the Royal Wedding.

Then it imposed a fine on aggressive or proactive begging, requests for money, leaving bedding and belongings in a public area and other behaviour associated with homelessness – totalling an unaffordable £1,000.

Needless to say, it is a Conservative-run authority.

Source: Elderly man suffers after council splits him from his wife

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Whoever says scrapping 213 smaller councils could save £3 billion hasn’t been paying attention to Tory spaffing

Rubbish: who does the bins in your council area? A private firm? Expect much more privatisation if smaller councils are scrapped; the £3 billion we’re told would be saved has to be spent somewhere!

It seems some people really do have a blind spot.

Whoever wrote the report that says the following, for example:

Abolishing 213 smaller councils in England and replacing them with 25 new local authorities could save almost £3bn over five years, a report says.

The report for the County Councils Network says one body in each area would reduce complexity and give communities a single unified voice.

However, others argue bigger councils are unwieldy and undemocratic.

It’s a good point that bigger councils may be unwieldy and undemocratic, but the better point is that they won’t save a penny while we have a Tory government.

The money will be spent outsourcing decision-making to private consultants like PwC, Deloitte and McKinsey, and outsourcing work to private firms like Serco – who will probably go bust because they habitually offer to do it for too low a price after the bosses and shareholders have taken their enormous cut of (council taxpayers’) cash.

If this happens, just watch what happens and see if I’m right.

Source: Scrapping 213 local councils could save £3bn says report – BBC News

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Are we letting Dominic Cummings off, now we have other things to entertain us?

Dominic Cummings in the Rose Garden: his attitude was “I can do whatever I like”.

Whatever happened to Dominic Cummings?

Did he quit his job as a prime ministerial advisor, ahead of being sacked? Did he apologise to the nation?

No.

Boris Johnson told us he was on his “last warning”, as if that means anything to us.

His arrogance has been unforgivable. His “last warning” should have been before the lockdown was imposed in Mid-March – not after he broke it in everybody’s face.

Nobody believed it anyway. When Boris Johnson failed spectacularly during Prime Minister’s Questions this week, we all thought he was wearing an earpiece so Demonic could Dominate him from a backroom.

There has been one dead cat after another. Today’s was the revival of a plan to build a new Royal Yacht, to cost the people of the UK £100 million that would be better-spent rebuilding the fabric of our ruined society after 41 years of neoliberal conservative rule and the Covid-19 pandemic.

So this question is pertinent:

Also, if Cummings was on his “last warning” earlier this week, shouldn’t he be out on his ear after this revelation?

Apparently…

Dominic Cummimgs; a Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, made it clear that he had stayed at a “spare cottage” at his father’s farm when he addressed allegations that he had broken lockdown restrictions in April.

The cottage in question is not registered for Council Tax, nor has planning permission been sought for the cottage from Durham County Council.

So he broke lockdown and social distancing rules in order to stay in a house that is a standing violation of planning laws, where Council Tax is avoided. Am I correct in that assumption?

And still this creepy little rule-flouter is drawing fat amounts of cash from the public purse.

Why?

Simon Wren-Lewis makes some good suggestions on Mainly Macro. He writes:

The old rules, like when an adviser becomes the story they go, just do not hold anymore, because this government has no respect for those rules.

Cummings is so valuable… He gaslighted half a nation into making them[selves] poorer because of an issue few of them had cared about before the referendum. To then convince enough people that Johnson accepting a deal which the EU originally proposed and the UK rejected was some kind of triumph was also impressive. Winning a large majority in the subsequent election sealed his reputation as a master manipulator of voters, although it has to be said that with all these things he had tremendous help from the collective media.

He wants a say in everything any minister does that might influence his mission… [and Boris Johnson] is happy to allow his partner in crime to pursue his own agenda, because Johnson does not have an extensive agenda of his own.

The ultimate in Cummings gaslighting was his appearance in the Rose Garden of No.10. As Frances Coppola writes, it was a gigantic show, a show of personal power. Look what I can do, he was saying. I can lie about why I went to Barnard Castle, I can lie about how I foresaw how vulnerable the UK was to a pandemic, and there is nothing you can do about it, much like all the previous lies I have made in the past and got others to say.

Yup. This Site drew attention to this lie but hardly anybody paid attention.

And later, when a BBC presenter tells the truth about what he did, his helpers get the BBC to give her a reprimand.

Again, I highlighted the injustice of this, to a chorus of tumbleweeds.

It is not as if Cummings necessarily improves Johnson’s decision making capacity. What Johnson desperately needs is someone with a proven record of gaslighting a nation to get voters to forget about it all as quickly as possible. For that reason Cummings survives, for now at least.

So there you have it.

Dominic Cummings will remain at Downing Street as long as he manages to do what Boris Johnson cannot, which is to make Boris Johnson look acceptable.

He has enjoyed the complicity of the right-wing media in this.

But the press pack has shown signs of turning lately. With Keir Starmer dragging Labour back across to the political right-wing, they have a new horse to back while still supporting the idea that rich people should be allowed to do what they want, especially if it humiliates the poor.

Maybe Demonic’s days are numbered after all. But don’t get your hopes up because even if that does happen, you won’t reap the benefits.

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/mike-sivier-libel-fight/


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