Letter from Bassetlaw – March 27th 2016

Leon DuveenIt’s Easter weekend and we have had lovely weather on Good Friday, followed by a windy, then wet & windy, Easter Saturday.  As I am writing this on Saturday evening (I will be busy with my family all day on Sunday) Easter Day looks to be mostly dry as does Easter Monday so, in the end, not a bad break from work with plenty of chances to get out in to the garden to tidy it up after winter.

One of the side effects with spending time in the garden is that it produces large amounts of waste.  Currently, here in Bassetlaw we have to dispose of such waste by composting it ourselves, taking it to one of the two County Council Recycling Centres (and now you have to register your car to access them, I predict that their use will drop off) or simply dump it in the general waste wheelie bin to be collected in the usual way.

Why am I writing about garden waste?  It is because, after finding out that they are the worst mainland English District Council at recycling, Bassetlaw District Council have finally woken up to the fact that they are rubbish at dealing with rubbish.

The response from Cllr Julie Leigh, the Cabinet member with responsibility for dealing with rubbish, has been to do a residents’ survey (a classic delaying tactic designed to put off taking any action) which concentrates almost entirely on garden waste as if that is the only issue with recycling.

Judging from what is in the survey, the proposed solution is to charge those who want to recycle their garden waste a yearly fee for the privilege of having it collected.  I may be being a bit cynical but this won’t encourage people to recycle their garden waste when they can already dispose of it for free in their wheelie bin nor will it help deal with recycling other possible waste from homes.   Where are the proposals for collections of glass bottles, why are there not more recycling points for drinks cartons (tetra paks) than the existing three (or even collect them with other recycling as Bolsover does?

Rather than waste time with a survey about a partial impractical solution, I suggest Cllr leigh contacts our neighbouring local councils to get ideas about what works & what doesn’t otherwise Bassetlaw’s Recycling Shame will continue for a very long time.

 

Another issue in the news this week is the Tory Government’s policy to impose Academy status on all schools, primary as well as secondary, whether or not they want it.   This is worrying as it will reduce local accountability of schools (Academies do not have to have independent governors overseeing them), make sure that there are places for students in schools near where they live far more difficult and weakens the role of Teachers’ Unions in making surer their members of not overworked.

As there is no evidence that Local Authority run schools are any worse than Academies, the only reasons for pushing this idea are political.  It seems to me that at the heart of this policy is an attack on accountable Local Authorities to reduce their influence in Education, an attack on teachers as Academies do not have to stick to national pay agreements and, most of all, an attack on parents, telling them that they are not responsible to have any say on how their children are taught.

By passing control of our children’s education away from our elected representatives to unelected & unaccountable Academy Trusts, the chances are we will see more stories about corruption & conflicts of interests such as this one from Birmingham. The forced change to Academy status is certainly isn’t in the interest of most children and parents.

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Letter from Bassetlaw – January 31th 2016

12573236_10153642000856773_7824302917179026797_nMy apologies for the lack of a Letter from Bassetlaw last weekend but I was cajoled in to celebrating my 60th Birthday by my family and simply couldn’t find the time.

Our winter still continues to surprise.  After a few days of frost & cold, we have had some rain then some sun and even a bit of snow, all mixed in with a lot of wind.

While this isn’t conclusive proof of man-made Climate Change, the weather we have had this winter and over the last few years, is a good indicator that something fundamental has changed, and is still changing, in our climate.   The speed of this change and amount of it we are seeing points to it being more than natural variation.  With this in mind, can we take the risk of assuming it is not driven by the emissions we make in our modern society?  Can we take the risk of not doing all we can to reduce those emissions and looking for ways to make sure that our need for energy is met from sources that do not emit carbon dioxide or methane into the atmosphere?

This is why looking for more and more marginal sources for gas & oil is so crazy.  Even if we can extract them in a way that does not damage the environment (which is far from being the case), we simply cannot afford to burn them.  The extra carbon that would emit into the atmosphere would cause a great deal of damage and stop us reducing our emissions as we need to do.

This leads me on the County Council’s recent decision to allow test bore drilling near Misson.

Let’s be clear, while the County Council Planning Committee (& Bassetlaw’s Planning Committee before them) have been spineless in not voting against the development, the reality is that it is the Tory Government’s desire to press ahead with Fracking at all costs meant that the drilling was always going to be allowed, if not by the County Council then by DCLG.

However, we also need to be clear that the reasons behind this have nothing to do with filling our imminent energy gap or even to secure the UK’s supply of gas in years to come but all to do with making surer that the big energy suppliers keep their hold on our energy supply.

Even the most optimistic prediction says it will be at least 5 years before gas in usable quantities comes out from any shale gas wells, be it by fracking or other techniques, yet we could be facing energy shortages as soon as next winter.  In spite of this, our Government has been moving subsides from renewable energy which could plug that gap to hydrocarbons that cannot.  It simply beggars belief that Cameron, Osborne & others are doing this simply to make sure that the big oil & energy companies (most of which donate money to the Conservatives) keep control of the energy we use.

There are no reasons why Fracking should be allowed to continue apart from the greed of the large energy companies & their need to control our energy supply.  While we may have lost a skirmish in fight to against fracking when the County Council Planning Committee didn’t stop the iGas proposal to drill near Misson, that fight will definitely continue and we need to make sure that everyone realises that the drive for fracking is nor about securing an energy supply for the UK but all about securing control of the supply.

 

On another “Green” issue, I was disappointed to see that Bassetlaw ranks 322nd out of 326 areas[i] in England for recycling.  Only 3 London Boroughs & the Isles of Scilly had a worse “Percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting” than the 19.2% Bassetlaw managed.  This is truly appalling and Bassetlaw & Sherwood Liberal Democrats will soon be issuing a report highlighting this as well as asking the District Council what they will be doing to improve recycling rates in our area.

 

Finally, plans are advancing for the Remain In campaign launch in Bassetlaw and I hope to have news about this soon.  It is vital that the UK remains in the EU, not just for those like me who (to put it bluntly) have lived most of our lives but for the generations to come.  Outside the EU, our country will be a diminished place to love, diminished economically, diminished in our influence abroad, diminished educational & culturally.  We must not let this happen, we owe it to our children to stay in the EU, to “Remain And Gain”.

[i] https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/env18-local-authority-collected-waste-annual-results-tables