Cycle pathology

Local councils have put in temporary schemes to improve walking and cycling safety in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They are bidding for funds for more projects.

In the longer term, we need high-quality permanent improvements to encourage a shift away from unnecessary, polluting car journeys to healthier walking and cycling.

The Government recently announced funds would be made available to encourage such projects.

But as this well-researched paper by Fareham Liberal Democrat and international tri-athlete David Abrams shows, none of Fareham’s current cycle routes would qualify for funding. On Your Bikes.

David is engaging with Council officers and the cycling charity Sustrans to seek better solutions.

What car?

I’m in a bind. My car, a 1.6 diesel has done 216,000 miles and does 65 mpg. Great for CO2 and cost, but diesels have to go and surely mine will fail at some point. But what to replace it with?

I have just investigated the brand new Toyota Yaris self charging hybrid. Toyota claims an mpg between 59 and 65. Where is the climate emergency breakthrough?

When will the powers that be take the planet seriously? How is it that a brand new hybrid is no more fuel efficient than my 12 year old car?

In fact, the Yaris has an engine that is more powerful than mine – what for? The manufacturers know that for 80% of the time a car generally uses less than 20% of its engine’s power.

Surely the trick is to have as small an engine as possible (consistent with efficiency) that will allow the car to cruise at 70 mph and still be able to keep the batteries topped up. An 800cc twin cylinder engine would do the job nicely and be able to use the stored battery energy for acceleration when required.

When hydrogen technology is rolled out, the little petrol engine can be replaced with a fuel cell. All that is needed to make this happen is some government strategy and direction which is sadly lacking.

What if the government rules were that cars had to do 80 mpg (or electrical equivalent) by 2030 and 100mpg by 2040. This would rapidly reduce the fossil fuel use of transport until it can be CO2 free at some point.

Simply banning the sale of new diesel and petrol cars will have the effect of keeping lots of old cars on the road for longer. It puts the personal transport eggs in the one basket of battery cars, relying on some future magical technology breakthrough to make them workable.

China effectively controls the supply of lithium batteries. Does anyone think this is a good idea? Where do I look for a new car? By the way, I have no off street parking so charging an electric car at home is not possible. Open to suggestions.


Galoot

Off yer bike: Barrie’s story

Like many people lucky enough to have a garden to use during the Coronavirus lockdown period, I accumulated much more garden waste (grass, weeds, etc) than usual. During this time the waste collection service was suspended and the recycling centre closed so when the service restarted I had plenty of garden waste to dispose of.

I have tried composting in the past but have not got sufficient/suitable space.

I looked at buying the green disposable garden waste bags from the council but considered the £40 charge for 25 bags or £10 for 5 bags a bit steep. However, even more off-putting, I am told by FBC that these bags are NOT made of a compostable material and the bags are not recyclable because there are no manufacturers that will recycle it.

Being green in colour does not make them compostable or bio-degradable and disposable means they are emptied of their contents, added to non-recyclable waste, and burned for energy recovery (how much energy can you get from a plastic bag?!).

Taking green garden waste to the recycling centre by car would be an unnecessary journey along with the associated air pollution.

 So I looked at cycling, carrying the garden waste in a small trailer, a mere 15 minute ride from Stubbington to the Grange Road recycling facility.

This time I am thwarted by HCC who state that ‘entering the recycling facility on a bicycle would be considered ‘pedestrian access’ and that this has always been ‘discouraged’ as HWRCs do not have pedestrian accesses. HCC also ask that customers use a vehicle to enter and exit sites safely to help ensure the safety of customers and staff and also to avoid accusations of queue jumping: not forgetting that I am ‘safe’ to cycle on the roads to the facility!

Considering council tax goes to support the recycling facilities, the costs of additional ‘green’ bags and the end product being sold back to us at a profit (no doubt) it seems as though we are being taken for a ride.

Barrie Webb

Open letter to the County Council

Net zero in 2030

Dear Councillors Mans, Warwick and cabinet members,

In light of the latest science on the climate emergency facing us all, Fareham Liberal Democrats believe that HCC’s current plan to achieve net zero carbon by 2050 fails all the criteria for avoiding a climate catastrophe.
The IPCC report of 2018 states that if we have not significantly reduced our carbon usage within 12 years then the planet faces a catastrophic temperature rise.
It is simply irresponsible for HCC not to bring forward its net zero carbon target to 2030. You may think taking a lead from Westminster with its 2050 national target will provide you with a figleaf of an excuse. It will not; the scientific facts are clear and known.
Fareham Borough Council unanimously voted to make itself carbon neutral by 2030. HCC should do the same. Fareham Liberal Democrats urge you to make the change to 2030 when the plan is reviewed in September.

Yours faithfully,
Peter Davison
Chair, Fareham Liberal Democrats

Squash squeezed out

The planned closure of squash courts at Fareham Leisure Centre to make way for a soft play area and climbing wall has been criticised by Liberal Democrats on the Council.

Lib Dem group leader Roger Price writes:

It is deeply disappointing that the Executive member for Leisure and Community, at her decision day on the 18th May 2020 did not refer back to the Executive for them to re-consider the continued use of Squash Courts at Fareham Leisure Centre. Both Councillors Katrina Trott and Roger Price made representations that the matter should be re-considered. The issues are:-

  1. There was a 166-signature petition which read “I hereby give my support to the petition to prevent the closure of the Leisure Centre Squash courts in the proposed development. I strongly urge the Fareham Borough Council to request alternative proposals that keep the squash facilities in the Fareham Leisure Centre to enable a richer experience and support for all groups in the local area”
  2. The Squash Players were not consulted until after the decision had been made. They were just told that both Courts were to be removed as part of the redevelopment of the Leisure Centre “to deliver improved revenue and to expand and modernise the range of facilities it currently provides”.
  3. Squash has a league within the Leisure Centre
  4. The Council and Everyone Active (who run the Leisure Centre on behalf of Fareham Borough Council) are putting money/profit over the provision of a long used facility much needed for a form of healthy exercise by local residents
  5. This reduction takes away an excellent leisure activity from residents who through their Council Tax pay for the Leisure Centre

We considered calling the issue in for Scrutiny by the Policy and Resources Scrutiny Panel, but even if they agreed it could only go back to the same Executive member who made the original decision – hardly a model of democratic scrutiny.

Defending democracy in a crisis

It is right and sensible that Fareham Borough Council has adapted to COVID conditions. This is no time for the regular run of council meetings and debates when Councillors are themselves self-isolating and minimising contact with the public and FBC employees.

But that does not mean total suspension of democracy or the stifling of urgent issues. Fareham’s Lib Dem Councillors still have an important role during this crisis.

Urgent decisions that might normally be debated in public at Executive, scrutiny panel and full Council meetings are now being made directly by the Council’s chief officer, or in some cases by individual executive members.

But that doesn’t lessen the need for democracy and transparency. Opposition spokesmen are being offered telephone or online alternatives to the regular briefings we have with the Council’s directors, and the opportunity to put questions to them as the situation develops.

We will use this access to ensure that agendas and decisions remain open to scrutiny. In future articles we will discuss what changes might be necessary to the timetable and content of the Council’s policies as the effects of the crisis become clearer.

Some residents have expressed fears that the COVID-19 crisis might be used as an excuse to push through policy changes in secrecy without clear accountability. We see no evidence of an intention to do this, but there is always a risk that emergency powers can be misapplied under the pressure of urgent need. So all decisions that would normally be discussed in open council meetings must be published to all councillors.

What also matters is that all citizens are able to get through to their local Councillors.

Obviously, our regular surgeries and street meetings are on hold, but all Lib Dem Councillors are willing to respond to calls, emails and messages.

Please keep in touch. Your Lib Dem councillors can be found through the Contacts tab at the top of this site or on About The Council on fareham.gov.uk . You can find us on Facebook and Twitter via @FarehamLibDems.

And for the next few months the public Facebook group we have set up, Fareham Coronavirus Support Group can also be used to share key information and links to organisations providing support. Meanwhile we echo the NHS advice – Stay Home and Stay Safe.

Working and listening in the crisis

Members of Fareham Lib Dems have set up the Facebook group Fareham Coronavirus Support Group.

The intention is to share ideas on how residents can help one another and support the most vulnerable people, while minimising risk of spreading the infection.

In a fast-moving situation we need constantly to monitor the advice we share to make sure it is consistent with the most up-to- date medical recommentations.

The restrictions and guidance on social distancing in force since March 23 mean an even greater need to find ways of helping which minimise personal contact.

We hope to be as inclusive as possible, and we will happily pass on details of organisations who can use help, bearing in mind these guidelines.

Choppy waters lie ahead

By David Chalmers

It is now over 12 weeks since the UK officially left the European Union and Boris Johnson has until 30 June to ask for the transition period we are now in to be extended by one or two years, otherwise we shall be crashing out with No Deal on 31 December.

It has long been argued that one year would not be long enough to negotiate a comprehensive deal governing the UK’s future relationship with the EU, and indeed at the hustings during the December 2019 General Election when questioned by me, Geoffrey Cox – the then Attorney General – admitted as much.

With the Covid-19 crisis having essentially put an end to talks between the UK and the EU with both sides distracted by their efforts to prevent a total melt down of society and the economy – there is just no capacity or willingness to sort out a deal at this moment.

An extension of the transition period would seem to be the only sensible course, but in the fight to stop Brexit over the past four years I have learnt to understand what motivates many of those who brought it about, and I fear that they will now use the impact of Covid- 19 to hide the true impact of Brexit.

Boris Johnson and his hardline Brexiters never really had any intention of negotiating a Deal with the EU, it was always their preference to have a complete break, which would allow them to reshape the economy in their interests and ultimately to secure their own power. The British constitution sadly offers us very little protection, as we experienced late last year, and the intention of the Government is to remove even the ability of the Supreme Court to hold them to account.

In practical terms leaving the transition period with the EU without a Deal will allow a trade agreement to be negotiated with the USA, in which our farming industry is going to be the main trade off. This will lead to the import of cheaper food and the lowering of standards , but also the end of British family farms as we know them today, which is going to have a huge impact on our rural communities in Devon.

Businesses are pleading with the Government not to compound the economic hit from the virus with the pain of a hard Brexit, but all Tory MPs were selected to stand in the recent General Election on the basis that they signed a pledge to support a No Deal Brexit over any delay. Any Conservatives who dared to oppose this position were culled from the Party – hence why we now have the C team in supposed charge of the country during this crisis.

In recent days there has been growing criticism of the Government’s handling of the Coronavirus and it’s lack of preparedness compared to many other countries and calls for a public enquiry. We have the right to ask and to have answers to our questions Why the UK was slow into lock down? Why the UK has been slow on testing? And Why the UK has been slow on providing protective equipment?

Up to 2016 the UK was regarded alongside Germany, as one of countries most well prepared to deal with a pandemic . We have dropped the ball over the past 4 years. Any guesses why? Since the EU Referendum Conservative Governments under Theresa May and Boris Johnson have been so fixated on Brexit that all other elements of governmental work have fallen to the way side

Apparently the Civil Service Task Force preparing us for a pandemic was disbanded and its team shifted to work on preparing for a No Deal Brexit.

We have been told that this would all be a price worth paying to achieve the Utopia of life outside the European Union.

The past few weeks have exposed the price that we have already paid and unless we can make Boris Johnson see reason within the next two months and seek an extension to the transition period that cost is only going to rise. We shall all be asking ourselves for a very long time – Was this really worth it?

David Chalmers is Chair of LDEG, Chair or FIRC EU/Brexit sub-committee and Parliamentary spokesperson for Torridge and West Devon

Going, going, gone?

Peter Davison writes:

Fareham town centre has several more shops lining up for closure.

Along with the previous losses of BHS, the flagship M&S and others, the town centre is becoming a ghost town of charity, coffee, pizza, phone and gambling shops.

Portchester town centre has lost its Co-op and further closures are likely. This has happened, and continues to happen under the Conservative led council which “proudly” but very mistakenly invests our money in out of town shopping areas.

Conservative led Hampshire County Council is hammering another nail into our town centres by threatening closure or shorter opening hours for our libraries.

We know that high street shops are having a hard time but our council has to take action to support and encourage them in the places where people live. Investing in out of town centres just encourages more travel and a bigger carbon footprint as well as accelerating the decline of the centres themselves.

Looking after our money is important. However, looking after our people, our communities and our environment is much more important.