Letter from Bassetlaw – December 19th 2015

Leon Duveen 140920aThis week has been dominated by two subjects, Fracking and the EU Referendum.  As I suspect these subject will continue to dominate in the weeks & months to come, it is right that I will use this, my last “Letter from Bassetlaw” for this year, to look at both.

Fracking vs Renewables.

This week we saw the Government renege on the commitments made before the election not the extract methane or oil from under National Parks & other sensitive areas of our countryside.  Now, it will be OK to Frack under places like Sherwood Forest & Clumber just so long as the site they drill from is outside the sensitive area.   They have also slashed subsides to the solar power industry by 65%.

Also this week Bassetlaw District Council’s Planning Committee voted not to object to iGas’s plan to drill a test bore under Misson to see if there is enough Methane there to make it worth Fracking.  Only 1 of the Councillors (and thank you to Cllr Graham Oxby) was brave enough to stand up to the bullies and vote against the application.  This was after compelling evidence had been presented to show that far from bringing jobs to the area, the drilling will put 75 jobs at risk on a local Organic farm as the chemicals used as lubricants in the drilling the bore would bit that Organic status at risk.  The application now goes on to Nottinghamshire County Council to approve or not

Since May, our Government (which only got the support of less than 37% of those who voted in the General Election) has rolled back all the safeguards against Fracking put in place by the Lib Dem Secretaries of State, Chris Huhne & Ed Davey, when they were in charge at DECC.  This is completely incompatible with the commitments made in Pairs last weekend to cut back on the burning of hydrocarbons.

After these developments, and prompted by a discussion I had been having with others, I posted a comment on my Facebook page.

Even if Fracking was clean, safe and economic, I would still oppose it as we cannot afford to burn more hydrocarbons.   We must move away from this dangerous reliance on a technology that is poisoning the planet and the sooner we start making serious moves to do so, the better it will be.

Fracking will not help the drive towards a clean energy future.  We must stop wasting time & money chasing ever harder to extract hydrocarbons and start make real investments into renewables.

The EU Referendum

In the run up to the European Parliaments elections, I was challenged to say why I was pro-EU so I wrote this post Why I am Pro-EU which I have reposted this week.   While some of the details may have change, the basic arguments are just as valid today as they were two weeks ago.  In some ways they are even more valid.

On a range of issues, from Climate Change to fighting International Crime, from combating terrorism & ensuring our security to making sure Human Rights are respected around the world, the problem cross national boundaries and can only be tackled by working closely with other countries.

The EU gives us that framework.  The UK needs to be taking the lead in using the EU’s standing & influence to solve these problems rather than walking away from it and diminishing bout our & the EU’s power to be a force for the better in the world.

I am not naïve to think that the EU cannot be improved.   Like most layers of Government, it can be over bureaucratic and remote from those it governs, just as Whitehall, County Hall and Queens Buildings can be.  These issues need to be address, indeed our concerns on this are shared by many across the EU, but would anyone seriously claim that Nottinghamshire (with 786,700 residents it is bigger than some members of the EU) should leave the UK because the UK Government in Westminster does not reflect what we want, does not take our concerns into account and cost too much?  No, and anyone suggesting that would be though to be a fool.  Well the UK is in the same position towards Europe as Nottinghamshire is to the UK Government.  We may have issues with it and what it does but to leave would be unthinkable.

 

D2N2

A couple of weeks ago, I promised to come back to you about what D2N2 means and how it affects us in Bassetlaw.  I had a meeting earlier this week with others from across Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire to explore this and found out that D2N2 is a “Local Enterprise Partnership” (LEP) for the combined area of Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire (including Nottingham & Derby cities) and is used to channel development funds from Central Government to the area.

The D2N2 area is now being offered the chance to get even more funding from the Government but the condition is that we have an Executive Mayor for the area and many of the powers, including planning, of the District, Borough, County & City Councils in the two Counties will be passed to the Mayor and a Combined Authority (CA) to oversee them.  It is not yet clear who will make up this CA.  The full range of powers to be passed up and the role of the Councils in the new settlement is still very unclear

The Government calls this Devolution but, to be honest, it does not look like devolving powers down to local communities, simply a way of taking powers from those communities & local accountable councils and centralising them in a single person even more remote and far less accountable by the people across two Counties

I am still working to fill in the gaps in my knowledge on the proposals and am open to having my views changed on this but for now, I feel the idea is bad news for us in the “remote north” of the area as we will get ignored both by the new CA and by the Sheffield City Region (which we also belong to) as both will think the other should be responsible for development here in Bassetlaw.

 

As I wrote at the beginning, this will be my final Letter from Bassetlaw this year, I will post my next one on the first weekend in January 2016.  I hope you all have a great time with family & friends over the next couple of weeks and look forward to a prosperous & rewarding time in 2016

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

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Letter from Bassetlaw – December 12th 2015

2015-12-06 10.48.45Back home from our travels and we really enjoyed visiting a part of the Netherlands that neither of us had been to before.  I was wrong to be disparaging about the Aachen Christmas Market last week, it was quite spectacular and we enjoyed our few hours in Germany.

It was very interesting to visit Drielanderpunt, the meeting point of the Dutch, Belgian & German borders.  Today, it is a simple small stone obelisk with the line of the three borders marked by a thin metal strip in the pavement.  You can walk around it and (apart from the multiple text messages from EE telling me I was in a different county and was connected to a different local mobile network) you really couldn’t tell which country you were in.

When you think that just over 70 years ago, within living memories of some, these borders were being fought over in a dreadful, who would have thought then that within a few years most of the main combatants in that war would form a Union that has helped banish such wars from most of Europe.  Today the borders between these counties have all but disappeared, it is only the change of road surfaces, a Welcome to Germany/The Netherlands sign and the language on road signs changes.  Do we really want to tear that Union to pieces?

I realise that the EU is not perfect, far from it.  Like all levels of Government, it can be bureaucratic and can seem to exist in a little bubble around where it is based (the same criticism can also be laid against Westminster & West Bridgford).  It needs to make itself more relevant and responsive to the European public it is supposed to serve (also problems at other levels of government).  But for all that, the membership of the EU is a positive for the UK in many area, not just economic.  If we left the EU, then the UK would be a meaner, poorer place to live.

 

New Franchise Provider for Trains to Lincoln & Sheffield

This week we had the announcement that, from next April, we will have a new provider for rail service on the Sheffield to Lincoln line, Arriva Rail North.  As is always the case with these announcements, there are plenty of headline catching promises of improvements and the local press printing pictures of (normally Labour) politicians trying to convince us that they had something to do with it.

These promises are all improvements that we in the local Lib Dems have been calling for for some time so we welcome the promises.  However, call me cynical, but I seem to remember similar promises, especially about replacing the dreaded “Pacer” units (which were old fashioned & uncomfortable 25 years ago), before and will wait until the last pacer has been withdrawn from use and the extra trains promised are actually running before I start cheering.

The promised improvements from Virgin which took over the East Coast Line earlier this year, are still to materialise & I expect Arriva

 

EU & TTIP

I am still seeing posts from 38 Degrees & similar “campaigning” groups on the supposed perils of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP), the trade agreement currently be negotiated between the EU & USA.  Most of the claims made in these posts are unattributed and, simply put, plain wrong.  Indeed, there are a whole load of exaggerations, misrepresentations &, possibly, downright lies from these groups.  If you want to find out about the reality I suggest you go to the where the EU publish details of what some would have you believe are secret negotiations, The Transatlantic Trade Investment Partnership pages on the EU web site.

Letter from Bassetlaw – December 5th 2015

11212751_10153548490456773_5134864088091511748_nWell really this should be a “Letter from Limburg” where Yannie & I are enjoying a weekend break.  So far we have been round the Christmas Market in Valkenburg, where we are staying, and in Maastricht.  Tomorrow we hope to go across to Aachen in Germany (one of the advantages of open boarders in the EU) to see the same tat in the Christmas Market there.

So it has been an eventful week in politics.

On Wednesday, the Commons decided to authorise the RAF to extend it’s mission against ISIL in Syria & Iraq to include attacking targets in Syria.  I have made my view clear in posts on Facebook & elsewhere that I think this is a wrong choice and will not defeat ISIL so I won’t repeat all the arguments here.  As you can read in my Letter from Bassetlaw – November 26th2015, I also wrote to John Mann & he agreed with my position and voted against the authorisation in the House of Commons. Sadly, even though I and other Lib Dems wrote to all our MPs, 6 of the 8 vote to authorise the extended mission.

The main damage from the decision seems to have been on Labour Party unity (which I am sure was Cameron’s intention) rather than on ISIL.

Fracking in Bassetlaw

As you will know, in the last few weeks the sceptre of Fracking in our area is raising it’s ugly head.  Both in Misson, where iGas have applied for permission to drill a test bore & in Blyth, where a similar application is expected shortly, most of residents are agreed to oppose these developments and are objecting to the patronising way iGas talk to them.

Let’s hope common sense prevails and iGas realise they and Fracking are not wanted in Bassetlaw. Meanwhile we need to keep up the pressure on both iGas & Nottinghamshire County Council to make sure the applications do not go ahead.  You can find out what you can do to help on the Bassetlaw Against Fracking Bassetlaw Against Fracking.

D2N2 & what it means for Bassetlaw

To be absolutely honest with you, I don’t know.  For those that are not aware D2N2 is a Local Enterprise Partnership for Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire which promises to bring investment & jobs to the two Counties.  Along with this the Government are devolving powers to the area.  While I am all in favour of devolving power from an all too powerful Central Government, I want to make sure there is proper democratic control over those that will wield power in our name and not one or two people having all the control but not directly answerable to elected representatives.  I hope to find out more in the coming days and will share that in forthcoming Letters from Bassetlaw.

Bassetlaw for Europe

Sometime in the next 2 years, we will be having the long awaited referendum on whether we should stay in the European Union (which was created out of the EEC by the Treaty signed here in Maastricht in 1992) or leaving it.

I am very clear that the UK needs to be in the EU and not just as the semi-detached member that successive governments have consigned us to being but being a leader and shaping the future of the Union to make more responsive to the people of Europe.  The benefits for us all are many, & not just that we can drive from places like Worksop across to Maastricht, Aachen and even across to Warsaw with just some quick passport check at most to cross the many international boarders, and we would be poorer as a country economically & culturally if we were to leave.

Apart from the effects on the UK economy of leaving, there are three important areas where cooperation across the EU is vital to keeping us safe, these are the Environment, Security & crime. All three are now international issues and we in the UK need to work closely with partners in the EU (and beyond) if we are you make sure we deal successfully with them.

I will return to the Referendum and working to lead, not leave in Europe over the weeks and months ahead. If you want to be involved in the campaign to stay in the EU, let me know, your contribution will be most welcome.

The Drums of War

The Drums of War beat loud again

The armchair generals mass their force

They call other to arms to defend their privilege

They call for others’ blood to flow

 

From all sides comes the justifications

We have no choice, we must attack

To defend our liberty, we must kill others

To defend our liberty, we must give it away

 

Those who oppose are called cowards & traitors

Those who doubt are branded the enemy’s friend

Those who call for peace are laughed at and ignored

Those who decry the loss of blood are labelled fools

 

Yet no-one tells us what it will achieve

No-one know how it will end

Will killing those in distant lands

Make us safe in years to come?

 

All I know is that many have died

In Syria, Iraq, Beirut & Paris

Killed by enemies or slaughter by allies

Their blood already flowed and peace is far

 

All I know is that many will die

More blood will only call for yet more

With no thought for a future

With no though for what for.