I agree with Cameron, Osborne and IDS – we need to cut welfare spending

The British taxpayer is shelling out billions in welfare payments. We’re supporting businesses through handing their underpaid staff in-work benefits such as tax credits. We’re supporting private landlords through housing benefits. We’re supporting fossil fuel and nuclear energy companies through tax breaks.

David Cameron, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith are spot on. It really has to stop.

Email to Eleanor Laing: Reduce voting age to 16 for European Union Referendum

Our MPs will soon vote on whether or not to allow 16 and 17 year olds to participate in the European Union membership referendum. Email sent via writetothem.com. Continue reading Email to Eleanor Laing: Reduce voting age to 16 for European Union Referendum

Email to Eastern MEPs: Please vote against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (#TTIP)

MEPs listen - TTIP graphic(Email sent via writetothem.com)

Please vote against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)

Dear David Campbell Bannerman, Patrick O’Flynn, Tim Aker, Richard Howitt, Geoffrey Van Orden, Vicky Ford and Stuart Agnew,

I am writing to ask you to vote against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) on Wednesday. I believe that TTIP represents a threat to our democracy by sidestepping our elected domestic and European representatives, handing power to completely non-democratic corporations.

Of particular concern are threats to food safety, employment rights (including minimum wage legislation and the right to join a trade union) environmental and agricultural legislation.

Possibly my major worry is that TTIP would make it very difficult for a future British or English government to halt and reverse the privatisation of our public services, public transport and essential utilities. It’s possible that no future government will want to do that but the decision should be theirs to make in the best interests of Britain, not taken from them by private interests.

I believe that our membership of the European Union is of overall benefit to Britain but it can only remain so if our MEPs vote in the best interests of the people who elected you. The vast majority of people who are aware of TTIP oppose it. A vote against TTIP will demonstrate that you put democracy ahead of private interests.

If we really do need a trade deal let’s start again from scratch and hold the talks in the open, with representation from all of those affected, not just the corporations who stand to gain.

Please vote to reject TTIP.

Yours sincerely,

David Plummer

Want to know more about TTIP? Have a look at this short video:

Video: Caroline Lucas’ anti-austerity speech in Parliament, 03/06/2015

This is a link to video of Caroline Lucas MP’s anti-austerity speech in the House of Commons on Wednesday 3rd June 2015.

The Hansard transcript is on the They Work For You site here: http://v.gd/dpgwa_cl030615

Video: Caroline Lucas speech

(Unfortunately I can’t embed video from the Parliament site here.)

News from Waltham Abbey Greens – issues raised at our Street Surgeries

Waltham Abbey Greens street surgery stall 06/06/2015
Linda from Waltham Abbey Greens chatting to a local resident on our Street Surgery stall on Saturday.

Now that all of that election malarkey is a month behind us we can get on with trying to make a difference in Waltham Abbey.

Things are going to be difficult – the Coalition government imposed massive cuts on local authority funding and the Conservative government is very unlikely to be any better. On top of that we’ve a district council which is committed to an ongoing council tax freeze, regardless of its impact on local services. Waltham Abbey Town Council is also somewhat hamstrung by having very limited authority. A lot of decisions are made by our District or County councils, irrespective of the wishes of Waltham Abbey’s residents.

I think it worth mentioning that there were no public questions to last Thursday’s Town Council meetings and there was only one member of the public in attendance (me!) One of the first steps in getting issues addressed is to find out what’s already being done about them. The chances are that the council, either Town or District, is already on the case. Again, there might not be much the Town Council can do but they can report back on the current position if asked.

With that in mind, these are the main issues which have been raised with Waltham Abbey Greens on our Street Surgery stalls on Sun Street:

  • Litter and untidy streets: particularly chewing gum on Sun Street. I’m baffled that anybody thinks it’s acceptable to discard chewing gum on the footpath and it is an absolute pain to get off.
  • Parking: a lack of parking space does lead to a lot of pavement parking. It’s a pain, it’s illegal, but I do have some sympathy with those who do it. Our public transport is somewhat lacking; many people don’t have much choice other than to use their cars.
  • Refuse collection: it’s safe to say that the transfer to Biffa and the change in collections has been a bit of a shambles. Interesting fact: HMRC took Biffa to a tribunal in November 2014 over tax avoidance.
  • Smell of the drains: this was particularly noticeable on Saturday!
  • Public transport: we’re still collecting signatures for the 38 Degrees Save the 505 petition, which we support, so public transport crops up a lot in conversation. Common complaints mainly arise from the competitive nature of the private companies which run our buses:
    • two buses on very similar routes arriving within minutes of each other
    • return tickets which can’t be transferred between operators
    • inadequate evening/night services
    • dilapidated vehicles

To an extent we can’t blame the bus companies for any of this: they are private businesses which are there to make a profit. Ultimately the blame lies with deregulation and privatisation, neither of which are within Waltham Abbey Town Council’s purview, or Epping Forest District Council’s. Essex County Council would probably find itself in trouble with the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) if it tried bringing buses back in-house.

Still, there’s no harm in asking! At the very least the council could provide bigger subsidies to private bus companies to keep unprofitable services running. That’s not ideal but bus services are important, whether they’re profitable or not.

I’m going to submit questions to Waltham Abbey Town Council about a few of these issues. The next full Council meeting isn’t until 29th July but there are Policy and Resources Committee meetings before that.

If you’ve any comments please feel free to add them below (no swearing though – I’m OK with it but others reading this might not be) or send me an email: walthamabbey@eppingforest.greenparty.org.uk.

You can also come along to our next Waltham Abbey Green Drinks night – date and venue TBC.

Epping Forest Green Party in Waltham Abbey