Housing for the community

I raised two crucial questions about community housing in the Lords. First, an end to estate demolitions that destroy working-class communities. I have seen several council estates demolished against the wishes of the residents themselves. What happens is that estates are demolished and less affordable, social housing is then brought in—and some of the housing is sold off privately and very expensively. I understand why Labour councils do it; they have been kept short of money by this Government. But it is an extremely damaging process.

My second point is about boosting community-owned housing. It has often been said that more housing could be built, but sometimes nimbys are blocking it—but in fact, many communities are stepping up and providing more affordable homes through community-led housing. Such groups have already built 800 homes in recent years, many in areas of outstanding natural beauty, having won support for more homes than the local council thought likely or even possible. In the spring of 2016, the Government announced the community housing fund, designed to help community-led groups build affordable homes. It could help them to build a further 12,000 homes over five years. The first year’s money went directly to councils, but the Government has still not released any funding for this financial year, more than halfway through the year. When I asked the Government in July when the money would be released I was told, “In due course”. The appropriate time would have been in March, after the sector submitted a detailed proposal to the Government. The longer it waits, the more projects get stuck in limbo and the fewer homes acceptable to local communities can be built. A decision from the Government on the community housing fund is long overdue. When will it happen?

My questions and the response can be found here 

 

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Ditch the label, end hate crime

Bullying and nastiness seems to be reaching an all time high at the moment. Despite various equality laws that have made big steps forward over recent decades, abhorrent, vile views are now spreading like wildfire on the internet and spilling out into the real world. The Home Office released statistics this week which showed hate crime has increased by nearly a third in the last year, with the biggest rises being against people who are transgender and people with disabilities. The work of Ditch the Label is extremely important in the struggle to create a more equal world that is free of bullying and prejudice.

The internet is definitely a massive driver of what is a growing culture of toxic hate. Politicians understand this all too well. It’s part of our job to listen to different views, form an opinion, take difficult decisions, and justify all of that to the public whom we answer to.

Of course sometimes you will meet a difficult character who makes it very clear that they hate you and everything you stand for, but what we are seeing over recent years is the internet providing a platform for the wholesale manufacture and distribution of hate. Amnesty International ran an analysis of Twitter in the lead up to the General Election and found over 25,000 abusive tweets sent to female politicians in a six month period. Diane Abbott alone received over 8,000 abusive messages, mostly focused on her race and gender. So politicians know a lot about online abuse and bullying. We know it has to stop.

Ditch the Label focuses their efforts on people aged 12-25, probably the age range where most people face bullying. It’s also the time in life where most people are working out who they are. These are the formative years where you are trying to figure out what style you like, what music you like, what your sexuality is, what your political and religious beliefs are. For some people, it’s the time when they grapple with deep questions about gender identity. It can be an intense and confusing time for many people.

Bullying can be deeply traumatic and make it difficult for people to be the person they want to be. It also has a detrimental impact on people’s mental health, which can extend long into the future. But mental health problems can also lead to people being bullied. The social stigma around mental health makes it difficult for people to reach out for help and support, so they try to just deal with it alone. Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under the age of 45, so something is going terribly wrong. Support is out there – family, friends, support groups, charities, GPs and specialist mental health services – but the hardest step can be reaching out for help in the first place. The easier we can make those conversations, the more help people will be able to access, and the happier and healthier we will all be.

Ditch the Label’s collaborative online focus seems like the perfect recipe for making an impact on the future of the Digital Generation. Their #isitokforguys campaign is focused on supporting young men to be comfortable with who they are, free from the dangerous shackles of toxic and oppressive masculinity. Their #GamersUnite campaign is about standing against bullying and trolling in online games, where apparently half of people surveyed reported experiencing bullying in game. These types of campaigns are about breaking through commonplace bullying and oppression, giving people the tools to survive and be themselves. I’m proud to have hosted Ditch the Label in Parliament yesterday, to support them to lead the debate in society and make real changes for the better.

£3.1m cost of policing Lancashire frackers

The Lancashire Police have asked the Home Office for an extra £3.1m to recover some of their additional expenses in policing the Cuadrilla site at Preston New Road. That is the equivalent of £8 a Lancashire household and enough to pay for 25 police officer jobs. In 2014, Sussex police got £905,000 for their operation to protect a fracking site. Continue reading “£3.1m cost of policing Lancashire frackers”

Fewer Lords is no guarantee of improved efficiency

A recent report by the Electoral Reform Society says that 115 peers claim £1.3m despite not speaking in Lords for nine months. I’m happy to say that I’m not one of them. I spoke nearly a hundred times last year and as the only Green in the room (i.e. the Lords), I’m in a unique position to raise issues that are often ignored. From civil liberties to the use of pesticides, I can influence what issues are discussed. Continue reading “Fewer Lords is no guarantee of improved efficiency”

2016 was a horrendous year for road casualties

The latest government figures on road casualties confirm the link between austerity and increased danger on the roads. The link was outlined in a report by RoadPeace in May this year https://jennyjonesdotorg.files.wordpress.com/2017/05/roadpeace-lawless-roads-report-2017.pdf  Today’s figures show that the number of people who were killed or seriously injured (KSI) on the roads in 2016 has risen. The Government has caveated the rise in serious injuries by saying that the police under-reported such injuries in previous years and suggest that the number remains virtually unchanged. However, the flatlining of KSI figures since 2010 contrasts with a 16% decline in the 5 years prior to austerity starting in 2010 and far bigger declines in the years before that. Continue reading “2016 was a horrendous year for road casualties”

Air pollution and the Labour Party

As a speaker at the Transport Times breakfast debate on air pollution at the Labour Party conference, I told the audience:

 

  • Traffic reduction is the fastest most direct way of reducing pollution. Stop building new roads and invest in public transport instead. When Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone reduced traffic by 1% a year, despite the population growing by a 100,000 per annum. With Green Party support, he brought in the congestion charge, and an expanded bus fleet.

 

  • All governments (Labour, Conservative and Coalition) have failed to protect human health and prevent premature deaths because they have relied on the technical fix of cleaner vehicles to solve the problem. The UK government waited for the EU to act and the European Commission got scammed by many of the vehicle manufacturers (i.e. defeat devices etc..)

 

  • There is a post-Brexit opportunity to push through a new Clean Air Act and to create an enforcement agency similar to the Environmental Protection Agency in the US. It needs to be independent of DEFRA, set its own regulations, and people must have the right to sue it if the agency fails to deliver.

 

  • Local authorities in air pollution hotspots must introduce Low Emission Zones by next year, or join the UK government in court. They owe it to their residents and to their council tax payers to over-ride objections from the motoring lobby. Client Earth have successfully taken the Government to court and won. In response, the Government’s new strategy is to pass the buck to local authorities. You have been warned.

My day at a fracking protest

I’ve just come back from a few hours in Lancashire, at the Preston New Road protest against fracking by Cuadrilla. The people who are protesting are a mix of locals, initially reluctantly drawn into the fracas but now pivotal organisers, and experienced campaigners who can supply the outside contacts and good advice.

Continue reading “My day at a fracking protest”