Borough Council Elections Manifesto 2015
Better transport – opposing HS2
We are totally against the construction of HS2. We believe it to be misconceived, destructive of the environment and of no benefit to the people of Stafford – in fact it will worsen the service we presently have. Furthermore, it is a massive waste of resources at a time when, as a nation, we are facing the need to reduce national debt. We will argue within the Council for the maximum opposition to this proposal. We need better rail and bus services with a proper bus station and through – ticketing. Walking and cycling are good for health and the environment. We will press for better foot and cycle paths.
A Public NHS – Restoring services to Stafford Hospital
We will work with groups campaigning to restore full services to Stafford Hospital by whatever means are open to us, whether this be legal action, lobbying or through the Council’s representatives on outside bodies. We will also make clear our opposition to the privatisation of N.H.S services and seek to persuade the Council to support us in this.
Local study – local jobs
We will support measures which enable residents to study and work in Stafford. We do not want Stafford to be a dormitory town with those studying or in work having to travel outside the Borough. We will press for university – level provision to continue to be available in Stafford and give support to local businesses, especially if they are contributing to a low-carbon future.
Accountability and community involvement
Many voters feel alienated from what the Council is doing. Voting once in four years for (fewer) councillors is not enough. We pledge to consult residents on major issues using new technology as well as face to face meetings. We will encourage the setting up of residents groups where they do not currently exist and make sure they are consulted too. We will argue for the opportunity to be given to more people to take an active role in the running of the Borough by setting up advisory and management committees open to all.￼
Our parks and open spaces are precious not only to us but to the many wild creatures that live in them. We will argue for them to be managed sensitively so that wildlife flourishes. This is especially important for pollinators such as bees which have been in serious decline. We believe that the staff responsible for maintaining these areas should be properly trained to promote biodiversity. We will encourage the planting of more trees. Should trees need to be removed, we will press for them to be replanted elsewhere. Local nature reserves need to be properly managed and we will work with volunteers and agencies such as Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to make sure they are. We will undertake the planting of wildflowers in as many areas as possible both to encourage wildlife and to bring some colour to our open spaces. Allotments play a vital role in enabling local people to grow their own food, get good exercise and provide a wildlife habitat. We will talk to allotment holders and the societies that run allotments to discuss ways of promoting these aims.￼ ￼
Poverty and equality
Thanks to the Government’s policies, the past few years has seen a massive increase in those living in or near poverty. The bedroom tax has brought insecurity and financial hardship to many Stafford residents. The Government has forced councils to make even the poorest people pay council tax. For those on benefits, this is a major burden and forces some to choose between paying it or feeding their families. We will press the Council to ease this situation by charging them as little as possible and also by supporting the organisations helping them. Affordable housing is a real issue for many residents and we will promote working with housing associations and other organisations to achieve a real increase in provision. We will work to establish a Community Land Trust which will buy land for future affordable housing provision and support housing co-ops.
Health and Leisure
We will support schemes which enable more people with health problems to access leisure facilities which provide much needed exercise. We will give a high priority to schemes for walking and cycling and discuss with local schools arrangements to make their gymnasia available to the public. For older people, being active and in touch with others is vital for a fulfilling and healthy life. We will support schemes which facilitate this. Arts activities make a major contribution to our quality of life. The Gatehouse Theatre is a major asset which we will continue to support. Animal welfare is a serious issue for us. We will encourage all having charge of animals to observe the highest standards of care. We will develop an ethical procurement policy covering issues such as animal testing, environmental sustainability and work with unacceptable regimes.
We recognise the imminent danger to the World of climate change. The instability this will cause in terms of more violent weather patterns, destruction of habitats and the increasing pressure on migration cannot be underestimated. We believe that not only does the Borough Council have a duty to do what it can to assist in reducing its own carbon footprint, it needs to raise awareness among residents of the urgency of the situation and assist them to play their part. There are many measures we propose to take and examples of these are set out in the appendix to this document. We will support community groups which aim to produce renewable energy on a small scale.
￼We are seeing too much housing being built in Stafford and surrounds. Further north there is no shortage of land for development yet we are seeing green field sites built on and our few remaining green spaces in the town disappear under bricks and mortar. We will do all we legally can to reduce the amount of new building. We will try to ensure all new buildings are as sustainable and energy
Appendix of environmental issues and measures
We will work for a zero carbon Stafford Borough.
- Use and waste less energy, for example through a procurement policy focused on the use of fewer goods and through the retrofitting of existing buildings.
- Prioritise action on climate change in all decision-making processes, for example during Planning Committee consideration of applications to install wind turbines. Attention should be focused on such core planning principles of the National Planning Policy Framework as that which requires encouragement of the development of renewable energy.
- Actively promote a mix of renewable energy technologies, based as extensively as possible on community involvement, to generate electricity and provide space heating locally in Stafford Borough, including wind, biomass, hydro, and solar PV.
- Discourage the use of fossil fuels, and oppose fracking, which should not be seen as a technology transitional to going over to renewables. .
- Support increased localisation of the production and distribution of goods and services, for example by supporting local businesses and obtaining SBC goods and services locally whenever possible, but at least from Britain
- Require within legal limits, where housing developments are deemed unavoidable, that houses are designed to the highest 21st century eco-standards and use renewable energy sources, including thermal solar energy to enable passive heating (e. g. Passivhaus) and photovoltaic devices to generate electricity.
- Reduce waste, for example via a rebate on council tax based on the amount of recycling and how little waste is produced, linked to wider use of smaller green bins and less frequent collections.
- Encourage reductions in motorised traffic, for example by further encouraging walking and cycling, by supporting the development of a vastly improved public transport network with a co-ordinated system of bus interchange points.
- Encourage urban horticulture, especially forms of food production which involve the growing of woody perennials (permaculture).
- Encourage the consumption of vegan or vegetarian food.
We will take very seriously our responsibility to protect and enhance biodiversity, and thus make our contribution to the prevention of extinction of species locally and worldwide.
- Ensure proper management of our local nature reserves. Over – drainage is a particular problem in some and we will take steps to rectify this.
- Reintroduce trees and other wildlife habitats in as many areas as possible.
- Ensure that all staff understand the importance of biodiversity and the use of organic methods in horticulture.
- Refuse to buy GM products.
- Encourage home composting of garden waste and of non-meat and non-fish kitchen waste. Offer, for those unable to do this, collections of non-meat and non-fish kitchen waste for composting in an anaerobic digester.
We will prevent forests, wetlands and other vegetation types being converted to agricultural and other land uses.
- Reduce the demand for new housing (in line with the core principle of the National Planning Policy Framework that the ‘reuse of existing resources, including conversion of existing buildings’ should be encouraged), for example by imposing stringent restrictions on the practice of ‘buy-to-leave’ and encouraging multiple occupancy.
- Use brown field sites as a way of preventing any further coverage of land surface with buildings, tarmac or paving.
POLLUTION – ATMOSPHERIC AEROSOLS/PARTICULATES
We will avoid the emission of aerosol particles, which result in about 800,000 premature deaths per year worldwide and affect climate.
- We will discuss with allotment holders and allotment societies the introduction of a ban on bonfires on Council allotment sites.
We will avoid the use of artificial soluble fertilisers containing nitrogen and phosphorus.
- Instead of soluble artificial fertilisers, incorporate bulky organic residues (particularly biochar) into the soil at Council-managed sites.
- Adopt organic growing and minimum tillage techniques such as non-dig gardening on land worked by the Borough Council. Encourage these practices at Council-controlled allotment sites and in private gardens
We will reduce pressures on freshwater systems
- Reduce water use
- Prevent building on flood-plains
- Avoid developments which may release contaminants into freshwater systems
- Ensure that any new developments do not result in rapid run-off into streams, culverts, etc, but soak away slowly so that flash-floods/high water levels are avoided.
We will avoid the use of chemicals such as persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals and radio nuclides which have potentially irreversible effects on biological organisms, reducing fertility and resulting in permanent genetic damage.
- Minimise the use of batteries in the work of the Council and discourage their use by others.
- Avoid the use of pesticides, including neonicotinoids.