Fighting privatisation, from buses to schools – UK Green news round up week 24
John Finnie celebrates victory that could transform bus services in Scotland
This week, the Scottish Parliament made an historic decision. It voted to accept amendments to the Transport Bill which would allow for local councils to establish new publicly owned bus companies. The amendments are the first step in reversing a ban on council run municipal bus companies initiated by Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher’s ban has led to the UK’s bus network being heavily privatised and deregulated.
Among those who have been pushing to end the ban was Green MSP John Finnie. Speaking on the vote in the Scottish Parliament, Finnie said:
I’m delighted we’ve finally ditched Thatcher’s ridiculous bus laws. Empowering councils to run their own services is a significant step which I believe will lead to better services for bus users across the country.
Three quarters of public transport journeys are made by bus, yet the number of journeys has been falling year on year as services were reduced and routes slashed.
Over the past year my better buses campaign has collected testimony from hundreds of bus users across the country who are crying out for cleaner, affordable and more reliable services. Today I believe we’ve taken a step toward delivering that.
Mark Ruskell disappointed over 20MpH bill
But it wasn’t all good news for the Greens in the Scottish Parliament this week. Scottish Green Party proposals to make 20MpH speed limits the default were defeated. The SNP, Tories and Liberal Democrats all voted down the Safer Streets Bill.
Speaking on the defeat in the Scottish Parliament, Ruskell said:
It would have made our streets safer for children to play in, it would have made them cleaner and it would have promoted walking and cycling. It had the backing of councils, health organisations and the public.
Despite all that the Scottish Government have acquiesced to the demands of the motoring lobby and voted to maintain a postcode lottery of road safety which puts lives at risk.
Greens slam Theresa May’s 2050 target for getting to net zero carbon emissions
This week Theresa May laid out the government’s target for achieving net zero carbon emissions in the UK. She pledged to get there by 2050.
But this target was roundly condemned by leading Green figures. Writing in the Guardian, Green MP Caroline Lucas slammed May’s plan as “too little, too late”:
Theresa May is doing her best to grab some good headlines in the closing weeks of her premiership. Setting a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions is vital, but her government’s plans are too little too late.
For all her claims of leadership on climate, May’s record in office has been pitiful: support for fracking (against the wishes of local communities), blocking onshore wind (the cheapest renewable energy source) and displaying unlimited enthusiasm for new roads and runways.
Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Jonathan Bartley joined the attack suggesting government policy isn’t going far enough:
The Prime Minister’s claim that setting a legal target is ‘action’ simply doesn’t stack up.
As Caroline identified, there are significant steps that Theresa May could take in her short remaining time as Prime Minister, cancelling Heathrow expansion, turning money earmarked for new roads to public transport and stopping fracking.
Jonathan Bartley claims Greens are the party ‘standing up for leave communities’
According to a study published in the Observer, Britain is ‘a more polarised and pessimistic nation than it has been for decades’. Much of this pessimism has been put down to the context of the ongoing Brexit debacle.
But according to Jonathan Bartley, it is Greens who are seeking to reverse such negativity and build a brighter future. Writing in Left Foot Forward, Bartley argued that Greens are the ones who are seeking to speak for communities neglected and left behind. Bartley wrote:
They [leave communities] were driven to Destination Despair by the Tory government’s austerity tour, but they didn’t have any say in the direction of this bus, or on the privatisation of public services, or the dreadful state of their rail link to York – once an hour – no kind of service at all for a resort town.
And he continued:
Neglect translates into anger with the political status quo, and that’s what we clearly heard in 2016. More and more however, it is focusing on the right place: Westminster, which went for austerity rather than taxes on the multinational companies and the rich, that further carved away at workers’ rights and failed to act on the desperate state of the natural environment, on land and at sea.
Isle of Wight Greens pledge to boot Tory off the council
This week, the Greens won a parish council by-election on the Isle of Wight. Green candidate Joe Lever picked up the victory in Newport West. On the news of the victory, Green Isle of Wight parliamentary candidate Vix Lowthion tweeted that the campaign to unseat the sitting Tory council on the county council was beginning:
And Lever celebrated his victory:
I am so grateful to voters for giving me this opportunity to prove I’m worthy of their vote. I’d like to say a massive thank you to local Green Party members for their help leading up to the election.
The local Party is full of vision and enthusiasm with Town and Parish Councillors working hard in communities all over the Island, and now I’m so proud to be one of them. Can’t wait to get started now!
Caroline Russell slams “utterly horrifying” air pollution in London
Recent figures from Public Health England have shown that the rate of people dying from inhaling toxic particles in London has increased. Green London Assembly Member Caroline Russell was quick to condemn the news:
This is utterly horrifying. How much more evidence do we need that our filthy air is ruining the health of Londoners?
Vix Lowthion hits out at ‘ideological’ Tory education policy
This week the UK government announced plans to open 22 new free schools. Free schools are a controversial type of school which operates outside of local authority control and are widely regarded as a wider project of privatisation of the education system.
The Green Party of England and Wales’ education spokesperson Vix Lowthion responded to the plans, describing them as resulting from Tory “privatisation ideology”:
Free schools have not raised attainment. They have consumed vast financial resources and are not accountable to their local communities. Their creation is driven by ideology, not evidence.
They are not being put where they are needed, whilst too many of our community schools are bursting at the seams.
The government must end this privatisation ideology and allow councils to plan for and deliver the educational needs of their communities.