Growth won’t save the planet

We continue to destroy our only planet, driven on by the moneymen – and women. Politicians, in awe of the economists, see growth as the answer to every question.

Anyone who stops to think for a moment can see that more and more growth is not any sort of a solution to today’s problems on a planet with limited resources. 

This view of economics is hard wired into our society through the legal system. Most company directors have as a prime responsibility, that they must maximise the money made by their shareholders. Failure to do this means that they can be sued.

Without changing company law to revise director responsibilities, we will remain locked into money being the measure of everything. And consequent ongoing environmental destruction.

If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend spending four minutes watching Greta Thunberg’s “How dare you” speech to the United Nations. Follow this link.

If the politicians and moneypersons don’t stand up now to save the planet, I will also not forgive them. And I am in my 70s rather than a 16 year old.

Route out of lockdown

Our government doesn’t need to fret over how to get out of lockdown. It just needs to look to the Australian state of Victoria.

Their first criterion was to get to less than 5 new cases a day (roughly 1 per million people). That target was achieved by taking the whole situation seriously with strict lockdowns in different areas. Then having achieved the target rate, the changes to each lockdown rule were announced, along with a timetable for the changes.

The rules were clear; everyone knew what they were, why they were there and therefore they were generally well supported. And Victoria was the worst performing state in Australia re Covid! 

The contrast with the way the UK Conservative government, with all its resources has mishandled the pandemic could not be more embarrassing.

Anyone know what the tier 1/2/3 rules are? It’s tricky because they vary for different areas.

Anyone know what the criteria are for moving into or out of each tier? Is it any wonder there is a strong impression of the government making it up as they go? We deserve better.

Selling out our farmers

Mostly hidden by covid-19 and Brexit, the agriculture bill is steadily going through parliament. This bill will define the shape of farming, wildlife, water management and the quality of food we eat.

It will determine whether we continue to push money to big landowners simply because they own land, or whether it is aimed at supporting smaller farmers who are key to protecting our environment. It will decide if we take a serious step towards avoiding climate catastrophe or keep on maintaining the same damaging practices we have so far used. In short, it’s key to what our countryside will look like in the future.

Government ministers repeatedly claim there will be no reduction in food quality or animal welfare standards. In February 2019, Michael Gove (then the environment secretary) pledged that British food standards would not be lowered “in pursuit of trade deals”.

 Why then did the government reject an amendment to the bill which guaranteed that UK farmers would not be undercut by lower standard imports? Clearly, the words they say are not worth anything. Without the safeguard of the law, anything can be negotiated away. Hormone treated beef and pork plus chlorinated chicken may soon be on our shelves. With our food labelling standards also up for negotiation, if the US have their way you will not even be allowed to know what you are eating!

The most recent statement from Cabinet Office minister Penny Mordaunt is that we should trust the consumer to decide and put our faith in government. This shows exactly what they plan to do; to sell the consumer, our farmers and our environment down the river. 

Trustworthy? Remember, this is the government which counted one pair of surgical gloves as two pieces of PPE!

Read more about food standards legislation on Which?

Green shoots on Climate Change?

All major oil companies have business plans showing growth over the next 5 years. To be fair to the oil companies, with the current world economic and money models, they have no choice but to go for growth.

If a climate catastrophe is to be avoided, we cannot use the oil and gas reserves we already know about, let alone any new finds. What is needed is oil company shrinkage rather than growth.

So it is great news that Greenpeace has won an injunction in the Scottish courts against a drilling permit issued by the government. This will initially delay, and maybe stop BP sinking new wells in the North Sea.

The legal challenge is that new drilling is incompatible with the UK’s legal commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050. This is the same argument that has held up the third runway at Heathrow.

If only this Conservative government would take its climate change responsibilities seriously and HAVE A STRATEGY, we might stop going round in legal circles and wasting our money.

Remove nitrates, not farmland

The Solent is polluted and local councils have a legal obligation to improve the quality of it.

The level of nitrates is one pollutant which causes an algal bloom on mud which suffocates worms and other invertebrates which are an important source of food for wildlife. The main sources of nitrates are fertiliser run off from farms and human wastewater from houses.

People do need new homes but house building around the Solent is on hold as this would increase the amount of nitrate entering the Solent.

There is no government strategy in place to resolve this impasse. Although I wouldn’t put it past them to relax the rules and sacrifice the environment even more.

Options include reducing farming activity. But as we are leaving the EU and we already grow less than half of the food we eat, this does not look like a good long term option.

This is however the approach not only supported by Fareham MP (and Attorney General) Suella Braverman, but also by Cllr.Woodward, leader of Fareham council.

He would like to see the fines imposed on Southern Water for failures of its pollution control, to be used to buy farmland and stop farming. This would allow houses to be built using up the “nitrate credit” from reduced farming. In effect, subsidising rich builders to get even richer.

But this approach does not meet the legal requirement to IMPROVE the bad environment. Commenting on a recent planning appeal in Warsash, the inspector said he was not convinced that this mitigation of nitrate levels would work in “perpetuity”. My interpretation of his words is that he thinks once houses are built the nitrate issue may be quietly brushed under the carpet.

A better approach would be to invest in removing the nitrates from the waste water (both human and farm). The recovered nitrate could be recycled back into fertiliser and sold. The environment improves and everyone is happy. Pie in the sky? Why not? I’ve seen more difficult pies than this baked.

One thing we now know without a doubt, is that the environment needs care. It’s the only one we’ve got.

Response to Hampshire County Council’s Library Service Consultation 2020

This response is made on behalf of communities within the jurisdiction of Fareham Borough Council and has been compiled, approved and submitted by Fareham Liberal Democrats as part of our support for local communities.

In summary, we reject the rationale underlying the proposed options for Hampshire library service budget reductions. We call for a reversal of continuing under-investment as a first small step towards restoration of community well-being.

We propose a shift in investment priorities to better reflect the interests of citizens and communities.

1: Austerity – not what it said on the tin

This library consultation presents a major dilemma for respondents. As much as the background ‘Information Pack’ may try to project a positive ‘Future Vision’ for Hampshire’s libraries, any rejection of the two main consultation options (i.e. library closures and/or less library opening hours) leaves the respondent with only the third option: to propose some other way to achieve a budget reduction. Just saying NO is not a permitted option in the consultation, but this is what we say is necessary. The basic premise of the consultation is therefore false.

2: Intelligent Communities

Investment in Public Library services is globally recognised as an indicator of Intelligent Communities, i.e. the ‘fabric of society’. Library Services have primary linkages with education, employment, health & social care, homelessness, and with many other aspects of thriving communities.

Communities are long-term projects. At a local community level, patient investment in essential infrastructure includes far more than transport, energy, sanitation, drainage, flood defences and connectivity.

Libraries contribute towards creating a skilled workforce and digital equity – a role shared with schools and colleges but also embracing the constant retraining needs of mature citizens. Similarly, libraries have a role in developing access to ‘open data’, supporting local advocacy and growing innovation capacity. The skills of well-trained library professionals are central to helping entire communities develop and thrive.

Libraries facilitate all of these vital threads by their trusted presence in communities in a way that individual government agencies cannot. The values of this wider community contribution are not revealed in blinkered accounts or footfall metrics. Libraries are key to creating the culture of that place we call home.

3. Statutory Requirements

Community leadership often demands expertise in managing ambiguity. Difficult choices must be made and, inevitably, individual preferences may not always be sustained. It helps, therefore, to have some basic principles – some certain truths that underscore a commitment to societal wellbeing. Fortunately, such principles are enshrined in law – notably the Localism Act 2011.

Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, Councillor Seán Woodward, has the lead responsibility for library policy. On 6 th November 2019 he was delighted to announce a quadrupling of demand for digital library services: “These figures show that the appetite for reading and listening to books remains incredibly strong in Hampshire”. As keen exponent of new library services he said, “We want everyone to be a part of these offerings at Hampshire Libraries, by exploring what’s available and getting the very most out of them in terms of fun, creativity and learning.”

We agree wholeheartedly with these statements and the wider sentiment expressed. In the context of the Statutory Requirements overseen by the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sports, it is clear that Library provision is very much a local matter and not beholden to national strictures including funding. It is therefore disingenuous for Hampshire County Council to suggest that the requirement to make savings is a direct result of underfunding from national government. It is not clear whether the current consultation and analysis of need was pre-reviewed by the DCMS department.

It is of course important to recognise that some aspects of library services must change over time to meet new needs and exploit new resources. It is entirely reasonable to try and match libraries to shifting populations and demographics to fulfil the Statutory Requirements. Hampshire’s analysis of future library locations and public transport adequacy, however, seems not to anticipate the needs arising from major housing growth areas such as Welborne. In the context of environmental pressures to reduce vehicle use, the increased dependency on future public transport provisions (similarly under budget constraints) seems implausible.

Volunteering has certainly been beneficial in terms of community engagement and in delivering the cost savings often sought, for example, by charities. Library Services are not however charity shops, but a non-optional local government responsibility. It is what Local Governments are required to do. The minimisation of well-trained core librarians and the shift away from outreach activities simply shifts cost and logistical burdens onto other similarly stretched departments. It is not surprising that some schools are now unable to afford subscription to the Schools Library Service.

Conclusion

The Hampshire library consultation shines a harsh spotlight on the long-term impact of austerity policies. Indeed, it is difficult to explain where the benefits of a decade of Austerity policies might be found. Voices (notably Lord Bird of ‘Big Issue’ fame) are already raised, demanding a long-term funding settlement for library provisions in the forthcoming budget.

We reject the options proposed in the consultation as false. We call for the £1.76m cuts to Hampshire Library Services to be replaced with a restorative £2m investment instead.

Peter Davison

Chair, Fareham Liberal Democrats

05 March 2020

What price for honesty?

We don’t need to look as far as the White House to find fake news. Listening to Matt Hancock repeatedly claiming that care homes have been prioritised since the beginning of the pandemic is an example close to home.

This demonstrably false claim is worse than fake news, it is an attempt to exterminate the truth. This approach to the truth has been going on at least since the vote leave campaign. The leaders of the vote leave campaign are now un-elected advisors at the heart of government.

Make no mistake, this is dangerous territory. Every nasty regime in history has sought to manipulate reality for its own benefit.

The modern “post truth” world is being deliberately encouraged and promoted by the Conservatives. We all need to fight against this perversion of democracy.

How can we agree on anything?

What if the people have changed their mind on Brexit? The majority of opinion polls indicate that the mood has changed in favour of remaining in the EU. But opinion polls have contributed to the mess that we are now in – remember Theresa’s 2017 snap election with the polls predicting a Brexit landslide in her favour? The polls were wrong then so we don’t actually know what the people’s mind is – only what it was.If people haven’t changed their minds fair enough – but how do we know?

If people have changed their minds, what should we do? Would it be fair to force through Brexit anyway, against the new will of the people? Is that democracy? It would certainly cause further division in the country if the majority felt they were being forced to leave the EU against their will.

The only way to bring this divided country together again is a second referendum. How to hold this without the blatant lies, murky money and insidious social media influence which corrupted the first one will be the challenge. We will then at least all be able to agree on something.

ECJ – the European Court of Justice or the WTO?

Most human activity is based on rules. Without rules there could be no football. Without rules on quality, standards, safety etc., there could be no trade.

The EU is a group of countries that have got together and written rules that allow them to live and work together on a level playing field, so no one country can take unfair advantage over the others. In addition, the EU has agreed rules on governance and the environment; e.g. member countries must abide by the rule of law, have an independent judiciary, limit air pollution and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The ECJ is the referee ensuring all play by the same rules. It is made up of judges from each EU country (including ours) and it is responsible for adjudicating on disputes between countries and where countries break the EU rules they have agreed to. When we have written the rules and agreed to them, it is a nonsense to complain we don’t like them. These are not rules being imposed on us (as claimed by the Brexiteers), they are our rules.

The EU system is far better than the way the World Trade Organisation (WTO) works. The WTO rules are regularly ignored when deemed inconvenient by individual countries; the USA is a major culprit of this. In addition the USA is deliberately and slowly strangling the WTO by refusing to allow any new trade adjudicators to be appointed.
I know which group I think is better for the future of our country!

Why we love EU trade deals

We are part of the EU’s negotiating of trade deals so what is there not to like? The deals are negotiated with the strength of the whole EU economy behind them so they are good deals. Around 65% of our trade already goes through the EU or through good deals negotiated with the EU. If the EU restarts trade talks with the USA as equal economies, we will eventually get a good deal bringing our trade through the EU and EU trade deals up to 80%. The UK as a relative minnow would get a terrible stand alone deal with the USA. 

We lose all of these deals when/if we leave the EU and we will have to renegotiate everything from the beginning taking years. As a stand alone independent country we would have worse deals and would be poorer with LESS money available to fund the NHS and other public services. 

The opposite of the promises made by leave campaigners!