Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Deputy Leader Amelia Womack campaigns with Canterbury District Greens


Deputy Leader Amelia Womack (centre) with Canterbury District Greens

Canterbury District Greens outside Canterbury West Station, handing out leaflets listing reasons to vote Remain in the EU referendum two days before the vote on 23rd June, were joined by Joint Deputy Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, Amelia Womack, during the afternoon rush hour. 



Thursday, 19 May 2016

Keith Taylor MEP joins Greens on Canterbury High Street


South East Green MEP Keith Taylor (centre) joins Canterbury District Greens on Canterbury High Street

Canterbury District Green Party met many people keen to talk about the EU Referendum at their stall on Canterbury High Street on Saturday, 14th March. South East Green MEP Keith Taylor joined local members to put the Remain arguments to voters. More than 500 leaflets were distributed on the day, as well as several membership forms. 

There was a lot of interest in the Referendum and, it seems, still a lot of undecideds out there. Canterbury District Greens focused their message on what the EU has done for air pollution and beach cleanliness regulation, which resonated with the people they talked to. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Greens welcome announcement that more child refugees can come to the UK

Kent Greens have welcomed the news that the country is to be allowed to take more child refugees following today's announcement by the government, but they have warned that councils will need financial support to ensure this is possible.

Martin Whybrow, Green Party Kent County Council member, said: "The passing of the buck by central government to local authorities with regard to the UK taking its fair share of child refugees from Europe is better than nothing. However, it needs to be backed up by adequate funding from central government, otherwise councils - which have seen their budgets slashed in recent years - will not be able to step up. 

"In Kent, the county council has experienced a steep increase in the number of young unaccompanied asylum seekers and, to date, it has proved extremely difficult to persuade other councils to accept them, leaving many in a state of limbo, without the long-term certainty and security that they need. It is this country's moral duty to accept far more refugees than it is doing at present, but merely stating that councils can accept more if they want to without sufficient funding could be just a token gesture."

Stuart Jeffery, Co-Chair of Kent Greens, commented: "Across the county there are people working and campaigning to support the desperate circumstances that the refugees find themselves in, so it is great to hear that the UK is going to be able to provide sanctuary to more vulnerable people. Groups such as 'Tonbridge Welcomes Refugees' are working hard to make refugees welcome in Kent, which is clear evidence of the amount of compassion that local people have."

Monday, 25 April 2016

Greens' Michelle Freeman puts the case for staying in the EU

Canterbury District Green Party's Press Officer, Michelle Freeman, represented us extremely capably in a debate on whether or not to remain in the European Union held at All Saints' Church in Whitstable on Friday 22nd April at 7.30pm. 
She not only gave well-prepared and concise answers to the questioners in the debate but also intervened several times to make well-informed and convincing arguments in support of staying in the EU.
There were questions on the economic repercussions of leaving the EU or remaining, the issues around migration from EU countries to the UK and the control of UK borderswhether the UK will be better placed to deal with the threats to our environment inside or outside the EU, a question on the possible accession of Turkey to the EU, and another on the State of Israel and its relationship to Palestinians from an EU/ British position.
About 230 people attended the debate and a straw poll of hands at the beginning showed a majority in favour of staying in the EU, with the second most popular group being undecided.
At the end of the debate a straw poll of hands was conducted again and those undecided were in the chairman's opinion marginally fewer than before, with some having joined the Leave vote and others having joined the Remain group.
Here is Michelle's introductory speech:
I think leaving the EU would be very expensive and very messy. We’d have years of uncertainty while we negotiated. We are just coming out of recession and have many problems facing us and our children. It would be more efficient for us to stay in and help deal with the problems together.

One major challenge facing us is the environment. From a UK perspective, agreements within the EU have improved our beaches and rivers and added protection from toxic chemicals. From a wider perspective, environmental factors are a major cause of political unrest; severe droughts in Syria were certainly a factor in its instability. Maybe we can do more to reduce these problems in the EU, rather than leaving it and dealing with the consequences. The EU champions global action on managing environmental issues.

By far the largest share of regulation we have to implement as part of our deal with the EU concerns trade. If we want to continue trade with the EU, we are still going to have to follow these regulations.

Defra’s Regulation Assessment 2015 found that for every £1 spent in regulation - by a company managing its by-products for example - £3 is saved in other areas, such as public health. When the rules are clear, a level playing field is created and efficient companies thrive.

Companies in the EU need to have confirmation about what we want to do so they can invest appropriately. I don’t think UK companies can afford the uncertainty that a Brexit would have.

The EU has provided a range of workers’ rights.  These are not rights that have been foisted upon us, they are rights we have fought for and agreed to.

We have far better potential to get a fair share of taxes from international companies if we work together in the massive trade bloc that is the EU rather than offering improved terms for companies individually; zero hour contracts and lower returns in taxes don't seem like a good deal for the UK to me.

The recent crisis regarding refugees has shown both the EU’s strengths and weaknesses. That each country could react in such individual ways shows the degree of sovereignty of our individual nations. Countries returning to discuss what can be done is a result of our EU association.

I think we are better off in and that the EU is better with the UK.

Click the Campaigns button above for nine reasons to stay in the EU

Read more about the debate here: https://www.facebook.com/allsaintswhitstable/posts/1095582027129707

Serious health concerns over developments planned for Canterbury and resulting increases in air pollution

Canterbury District Green Party Chair, Prof. Stephen Peckham, had the letter below printed in the Kentish Gazette on 21st April 2016. There was also a long article about the air pollution problem in Canterbury containing an interview with Stephen in the same issue of the newspaper.

Dear Sir

There are major concerns about the proposed traffic plans being put forward by Corinthian, the Mountfield Park Developers (Gazette April 14). While gridlock and traffic chaos are obvious consequences of what is proposed, the resultant increase in air pollution also needs to be highlighted. Canterbury already experiences poor air quality from traffic with a third of roadside pollution monitors recording levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) higher than the maximum permitted annual level of 40 ug/m3.  In addition, many of the sites record levels that are close to the maximum hourly rate – especially at peak travel times. Traffic pollution builds up during the week and people living or working close to main roads are particularly at risk, as are children in schools located next to busy roads.

In February this year a new report from the Royal College of Physicians estimated that air pollution causes over 40,000 deaths annually in the UK as well as contributing to health problems such as asthma, cancer and heart disease. Children are particularly vulnerable – damage to children’s lungs occurs at levels well below the national permitted levels. In Canterbury estimates suggest that air pollution is also responsible for over 100 deaths each year.  Moreover, historic buildings are damaged by air pollution – an important issue given Canterbury’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The analysis of traffic increases outlined by the developers in the South Canterbury – as well as other large developments such as in Thanington – significantly underestimate future traffic volumes. Contrary to the assurances given in the air quality report submitted with the planning application for Mountfield Park, air quality has been getting worse and will continue to worsen with increased traffic volume, especially in the key access roads such as New Dover Road, Rheims Way and Wincheap. In 2015 ozone levels exceeded maximum legal limits on 11 days and NO2 levels increased across many monitoring sites in 2014. Given the extensive housing and commercial developments proposed for Canterbury, it is inevitable that air pollution levels will continue to rise.

While the Local Plan strategy of increasing pedestrian, cycle and bus use is to be welcomed, the reality is that achieving significant reductions in traffic requires investment across the whole district, not just in relation to future housing developments.  Reducing traffic volumes through restrictions and use of alternatives is clearly an important goal, but attention also needs to be paid to improving roads and pavements for non-car users, buffering non-car users from traffic and promoting people-friendly residential roads with 20mph speed limits and pedestrian priority.  Some initiatives that should be considered before agreeing further developments could include:

·         banning the most polluting heavy vehicles by creating a low- emission zone within Canterbury, encouraging public and commercial organisations to switch to low emission vehicles;
·         better traffic management including pedestrian and dedicated cycle access for congested roads and junctions;
·         more roadside pollution monitoring with the installation of automated monitoring stations on New Dover Road, Wincheap and Rheims Way to get a clearer picture of pollution levels and routine measuring of roadside particulate matter levels;
·         increased buffer planting near schools and housing  to reduce pollution exposure;
·         deterring vehicles from congested areas by providing alternative transport options with priority access.

It is vital to consider measures to reduce the growing problem of air pollution before large-scale developments are given the green light in order to protect the health of Canterbury residents.

Professor Stephen Peckham
Centre for Health Services Studies

University of Kent

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Panama Papers and Canterbury District's tax avoiders

With the ramifications of the Panama Papers starting to be felt everywhere, Canterbury District Greens have called on property owners in the District who are registered overseas for tax purposes to clarify how much tax they pay and to whom.
In September 2015, Private Eye published its register of properties in England and Wales owned by companies based in tax havens all over the world. Most are held in this way for tax avoidance and often to conceal dubious wealth.
Michelle Freeman, Press Officer of Canterbury District Green Party, commented: "According to this information, as many as 87 properties in Canterbury's CT1 area alone have been bought by offshore companies at a cost of £323m. 
"All these companies are acting within the current law, but this allows them to operate out of places where their tax burden is likely to be significantly lighter than in the UK. While the UK government continues to cut support for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, it is allowing companies to minimise the amount of tax they pay to the UK Treasury."
Land Registry data (https://datasets.landregistry.gov.uk/overseas/dataset) show that trustees registered in Jersey own the Whitefriars Development, the Marlowe Arcade and its bridge link, worth over a quarter of a billion pounds in total according to Private Eye. The same sources also indicate that these trustees own over £50m worth of property in the same area.
The Greens' Press Officer noted: "As well as the owners of these units paying little or no UK tax, most of the retailer tenants are multinationals, which have a reputation for paying little tax in the UK. In other words, profits made in Canterbury are mainly squirrelled away in tax havens with very little benefit to Canterbury residents. If these shops were owned and operated by local independents, as many still are in Whitstable, those profits could be ploughed back into the local community.
"The same is true of companies owning student accommodation in Canterbury. A company registered in Guernsey is currently building student accommodation on the former Peugeot site and we now hear that the 800-bedroom student complex in Parham Road has been acquired for a Kuwaiti company, which will be developing a further large site for the same purpose. Apart from the fact that profits will not be reinvested in Canterbury by these offshore owners, the Council will receive nothing from their tenants either, as students pay no council tax."
It is not just property in Canterbury which has been the target for offshore companies. The Signature Miramar Care Home in Herne Bay has over £170m worth of its property owned by a company registered in Luxembourg according to Land Registry and Private Eye data.
Canterbury District Greens' Press Officer commented: “We think this is all morally wrong. We want to see companies owning property or operating in the UK registered here and paying the full UK tax requirements. We would like to know how much offshore tax these companies pay and to know how much the Treasury would expect if they were registered in the UK.”
Notes:
http://www.private-eye.co.uk/registry data collected from 2005 to 2014