Sunday, 16 December 2012

Kent Police must back 20mph limits

17th December 2012
After a new report that there was a 50% rise in people 'Killed or Seriously Injured' in Maidstone[1] in 2011, local Greens have challenged the new Police and Crime Commissioner to make good on her promise to back 20mph limits where there is public support.

In a letter to Ms Barnes, the Greens spell out the case for making Maidstone a 20mph limit town. The letter follows a long campaign by Kent Greens for 20mph limits where people live, a campaign that has so far been blocked by Kent Police and Kent County Council.

Stuart Jeffery, Kent Green Party: "With a 50% increase in people killed or seriously injured on Maidstone's roads last year, it is time for Ann Barnes to make good on her promise to back 20mph limits where people live.

"Default 20mph limits are the norm in Western Europe, and in the UK 8 million people live in areas that are committed to them. 20mph limits reduce accidents, reduce pollution and reduce congestion, and they have overwhelming public support.

"The case has been made for 20mph limits. There is no reason for Kent Police to not back them."

Ends.

Notes:

1. https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/roads-and-transport/road-safety/Review%20of%20personal%20injury%20crashes%20occurring%20on%20Kent%20%20Roads%20i.pdf - see page 22
2.
Speed kills,Stuart. Yes, support 20 limit if it is what locals want @AnnBarnesPCC- 28th October on Twitter
3. Text of letter:

Dear Ann,

Congratulations on your election. During your election you tweeted your support for 20mph limits where there is public support. This is a welcome shift for Kent Police who have previously blocked 20mph limits. I am therefore seeking your support to help make Maidstone a 20mph town.

In Maidstone there was a 10% increase in accidents 2011 involving cars compared to 2010. This was 412 accidents too many. There were 24 accidents where people were killed or seriously injured, up 50% on the year below – 24 too many. Across Kent there was no improvement in the KSI numbers. This is unacceptable and represents an appalling public health disaster.

20mph towns are normal in much of Western Europe and increasingly in the UK. Over 8 million people live in places committed to 20mph limits including York, Liverpool, Islington, Bath, Newcastle, Oxford and Lancashire.

The benefits of 20mph limits include fewer crashes and severe injuries. On average 20% fewer casualties. Slower speeds are the basis for active travel. Bristol found walking and cycling increased by 20% and that for every pound spent, the health benefit from more walking was £24. Exercise lowers obesity, heart disease and stress. 20mph limits save 12% of fuel lessening climate change emissions. They smooth traffic and cut urban congestion making roads more efficient. Journey trip times unaffected. Noise is 40% less. It’s hard to find anyone living in a 20mph street who wants it back at 30. Light touch policing can enforce limits.

Our surveys and petitions show massive public support for 20mph limits. Our survey a couple of years ago put support at 80%. Nationally, 73% favoured 20mph residential limits in the British Social Attitudes Survey 2011, only 11% were against.

You can have a policy that has overwhelming support, saves lives, reduces congestion and reduced emissions. Please work with me to convince councillors on Kent County Council to make Maidstone’s streets 20mph where people live.

Yours sincerely

Stuart Jeffery Maidstone Green Party

cc. Cllr Chris Garland, Leader Maidstone Borough Council
Cllr Bryan Sweetland,Cabinet Member for Transport, Kent County Council
Meradin Peachey, Director of Public Health, Kent County Council

Monday, 3 December 2012

Where have all the recycling bins gone?

4th December 2012
A recent survey by local Green, Matt White, revealed that recycling bins have now been completely removed from Maidstone's town centre. The move has been criticised by Matt for discouraging recycling, especially at Christmas time. With around half of the existing bins having two compartments, the Greens have called for their quick return and for steps to be taken to ensure that people know that they are for recycling rather than waste.

Matt White, Maidstone Green Party: "I surveyed the town centre last week as I had noticed a fewer recycling bins through the year and  I was shocked to find that all the recycling bins in the town centre have now gone.

"All rubbish thrown away in the town centre now goes straight into the incinerator rather than being recycled. This is an appalling waste of resource and sends a poor message to the people of Maidstone, especially at this time of year.

"Converting bins back to recycling bins would be quick and easy but the council should make it clear that they are for recycling not general waste. The council need to get on with."





Survey of Litter Bins in Maidstone Town Centre

Snapshot taken Sunday 25th November 2012, 3-4pm

For the purposes of this survey the town centre was taken to be:

-       High Street
-       Bank Street
-       Jubilee Square
-       Gabriel’s Hill
-       King Street (to the junction with Wyke Manor Rd)
-       Week Street (to McDonalds Restaurant)
-       Earl Street (to the junction of Pudding Lane)
-       Pudding Lane
-       Market Buildings
-       Rose Yard

The Mall, Royal Star Arcade and Fremlins Walk were not included for the purposes of the survey as the provision of litter bins in these locations do not fall within the remit of the Council, however, it should be noted that there are none at all in The Mall and that none of the 10 bins in Fremlins Walk have provision for recycling nor could currently be adapted to do so.

The bins in the town centre are of two separate designs of similar appearance incorporating an ashtray. One is split into two compartments (D for double) the other is not divided (S for single)

The provision and current location of litter bins:

High Street
-       Maidstone Grill (D)
-       Former Post Office building (D)
-       El comellor (D)
-       Frame & Print (S)
-       Coyotes (D)  
-       Cheltenham & Gloucester (D)
-       Town Hall  (D)
-       Muggletons (D)

Bank Street
-       Town Hall (D)
-       The Sun (D)

Jubilee Square
-       Former Kentish Bank (D)
-       RBS (S)
-       Corals (S)
-       HSBC (D)
-       Seating Area S x 3

Gabriel’s Hill
-       The Roast House (D)
-       The entrance to The Mall (D)
-       reelfruits.co.uk (D)

King Street
-       Britannia Building Society (S)
-       Costa Coffee (D)
-       The entrance to The Mall (D)

Week Street
-       Mothercare (S)
-       Lloyds TSB (S)
-       Accesorize (S)
-       Phones 4 u (S)
-       Marks & Spencers (D)
-       Poundland (D)
-       Primark (D)
-       Savers (S)
-       Tesco’s Express (S)

Earl Street
-       Seating area (S)
-       Hazlitt Theatre (D)

Pudding Lane
-       None

Market Buildings
-       None

Rose Yard
-       None


Therefore there are 41 litter bins in the town centre of which 20 (48.8%) could easily be adapted for recycling with signage to indicate which compartment to use for recycling and which to use for landfill with minimal impact upon current budgetary limitations


Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Another disgusting twist in the sleaze

28th November 2012
Former Green Parliamentary opponent to Helen Grant said that the latest news about her employees' sick pay is "another disgusting twist in the sleaze" surrounding her. The BBC has reported [1] that her husband has resigned after it emerged that he was entitled to 6 months sick pay rather than the 2 weeks that she had changed her constituency assistant Tony Williams's contract to. Stuart has renewed calls for her to resign and is collecting signatures on an online petition[2].


Stuart Jeffery, former parliamentary opponent to Helen Grant: "Yet another disgusting twist in the sleaze now surrounding Helen Grant.


"There is one rule for family, one for unwanted Maidstone employees.

"This MP embodies the worst of the behaviours seen during the expense scandal. She is not fit to be an MP and must resign now."

Notes:
1. www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-20531202
2. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/helen-grant-should-resign.html

Sunday, 25 November 2012

MP expenses claim for local paper

25th November 2012
Local Greens have been shocked at news that Helen Grant MP claimed the cost of a copy of the Kent Messenger [1]. The weekly paper, which cost just 90p back in January, is one of the main local papers for her constituency and local Greens think that she should want to read for her interest in the local area not as a necessary part of her job. They have stated that she is not fit to be an MP and have repeated calls for her to resign [2].

Stuart Jeffery: "Each week I buy the Kent Messenger. I like to know what is going on in Maidstone and it is a good local paper. As an active member of my community I want to know what is in the paper each week because I want to know what is going on locally.

"I buy the paper with my own money as does almost every other reader of it, except one.

"The idea of claiming for the cost of the local paper as a business expense underlines Mrs Grant's attitude towards both her expenses and her constituency.

"What she did was wrong. It symbolises the worst of everything from the expenses scandal three years ago. It is yet another example of why she is not fit to be an MP. She should resign."

Notes:

1. On 20th Jan 2012, a claim was submitted for expenses (and was paid) which included 90p for "Local Newspaper costs" / "cost of newspaper which contains column written by MP" - which appears to be for a copy of the Kent Messenger. The claim was from Helen Grant MP for Maidstone and the Weald. There was no claim before this date or since.
2. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/helen-grant-should-resign.html

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Helen Grant should resign as Maidstone's MP

18th November 2012
Stuart Jeffery, the Green Party's opponent against Helen Grant in the 2010 General Election for the Maidstone and the Weald constituency, has called for her resignation after it was revealed that she is breaking the spirit of the expenses rules while receiving three incomes and claiming for a second home while living in a £1.8m house 37 miles from the constituency but only 19 miles from Westminster. Channel 4's Dispatches are featuring Helen Grant in their programme, "MPs: Are they still at it?" on Monday 19th November[1].

Stuart Jeffery: "Helen Grant the Equalities Minister, lives is a £1.8m house in Reigate 37 miles from her Maidstone constituency but just 19 miles from Westminster. Reigate to Westminster is a journey that takes around 45 min to get to London and perhaps 10 mins more on the tube - yet she is allowed to claim for rent on a second home in London costing £20,000 per year[2].

"It seems that she is allowed to claim for a second home despite having her first home close to London. It might not be against the letter of the rules but it is clearly against the spirit of them.

"She is apparently earning £97k from her job as an MP and minister, a further £26k from her legal company and has made no secret of having a job outside Parliament. I make that three jobs, three more than her former assistant Tony Williams whose contract was changed without his knowledge and who then was made redundant by her.

"In a government that is destroying the lives of those most in need, the Equalities Minister is busy making her life very comfortable.

"Three jobs, doesn't live in the constituency or anywhere near it, soon won't have an office here, doesn't understand equalities and feels happy to claim what I consider unreasonable expenses for a second home. She clearly has no time for Maidstone's constituents and seems to complete disregard for the spirit of expenses.

"Helen Grant should resign as MP for Maidstone and the Weald."

Notes:
1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2234499/Minister-lives-1-8m-home-19-miles-Commons--claims-20k-London-flat.html
2. Channel 4's Dispatches
3. Helen Grant is Stuart's MP. He lives in the centre of Maidstone and stood against her for parliament in 2010.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Helen Grant should resign as Equalities Minister

11th November 2012
A former opponent to Helen Grant MP has called on her to resign from her post as Equalities Minister. The Green Party's Stuart Jeffery who stood against Ms Grant in the 2010 parliamentary election for Maidstone and the Weald, has claimed that her ministerial work is severely detracting from her presence in the constituency after she admitted that she no longer has time to run a constituency office in the town and appears to no longer have a constituency home there.

He also criticised her for not following employment law. Ms Grant tried to change sick pay entitlement without letting her employee know and then went on to make him redundant simply because the work moved from Maidstone to Westminster.

Stuart Jeffery: "Helen Grant has closed her constituency office in the town because she no longer has time for her constituents. She seems to have stopped living in the constituency, I assume for the same reason.  She also seems to think it quite reasonable to flout employment law by both changing sick pay terms without consultation and then making her assistant redundant simply because she is moving the constituency work to Westminster.

"Maidstone's MP clearly doesn't have time for the people she is supposed to represent and doesn't have the skills needed to be the Equalities Minister. Helen Grant should resign from her ministerial job, and her second job as a solicitor if she still has it, to concentrate on representing the people of Maidstone."

Notes:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-kent-20210134

Monday, 29 October 2012

A 'Living Wage' in Maidstone

29th October 2012
As KMPG reveal that 1 in 5 workers are paid less that is needed for a basic standard of living (1), including 90% of bar staff and 85% of waiters and waitresses, Maidstone Green Party has called on all businesses, including clubs and restaurants, in Maidstone to pay a 'Living Wage'.

Maidstone is widely considered to have the busiest night economy in Kent. The living wage is considered to be £7.20 per hour outside London(2). Living Wage week runs from the 4th November to 10th (3).

Stuart Jeffery comments: "Paying people less that the minimum needed to live on is morally wrong and it about time that it damaged the reputations of those companies that pay workers too little.

"The benefits trap is clearly visible when you start from the perspective of the Living Wage. People cannot be expected to work for an income that does not provide a basic standard of living. As a minimum, people need to have a basic quality of life when working.

"We are calling on all companies in Maidstone to sign up to being a Living Wage Employer. Just as other employment schemes have raised the bar on worker's rights, the simple concept of paying people enough to live on has to be tackled.

Notes:

1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20104177
2. http://www.livingwage.org.uk/
3. http://www.livingwage.org.uk/living-wage-week



Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Stop the planning sprawl

2nd October 2012
Maidstone Greens have heavily criticised the council in their submission to the strategic sites consultation. Maidstone Borough Council have proposed building 3000 houses, mostly large executive homes, on farm land in the borough. The Greens have called for high density affordable homes and social housing to be developed within the existing footprint of the town to meet current housing pressures and to preserve much needed arable land.

The Greens have stated that the need for housing is predominantly for younger people and young families who need to be close to good transport links, schools and employment.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "It is simply absurd to build large executive homes on much needed farm land. Building houses to suit the rich at the expense of land needed for jobs and food has to be wrong.

"The council needs to focus on providing homes for young people and young families. They also need to ensure that new homes don't end up increasing traffic flows significantly and the best way to do this is to develop them close to existing infrastructure while improving public transport, walking and cycling.

"Building high density homes can be problematic if it is done badly. Making sure that they are built as communities with close, accessible green areas around them is essential.

"The council also need to focus on bringing empty properties back into use. There are over 500 long term empty homes in the borough which could contribute significantly to reduce the demand for homes."

ends

Notes:

Monday, 1 October 2012

Maidstone Council's Manifesto for More Cars

1st October 2012
Maidstone Green Party have responded to the Council's consultation on transport and labelling it the "Maidstone Council's Manifesto for More Cars". They have pointed to the proposed allocations in the draft strategy which would put 75% of the investment, some £29m, into road widening and just 3%, or £1m, into encouraging people to walk or cycle. The Green's submission is available here.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "The consultation paper clearly sets out just how fixated the council is on increasing the traffic in the town. Spending 75% of the money widening roads and increasing traffic flows will simply mean more cars, more pollution and ultimately more jams.

"The strategy should be focused on reducing car use through viable alternatives, making the roads safer with schemes like a blanket 20mph limit in residential areas and making walking and cycling a priority. Spending just 3% on cycling and walking won't achieve this.

"Cutting off the residents in St Andrew's Road to ease the traffic of the unnecessary housing sprawl that they have planned for Hermitage Lane is a prime example of the poorly thought through plans.

"This really is Maidstone Council's Manifesto for More Cars and it must not be allowed to become their strategy."

Thursday, 27 September 2012

By-election candidates

28th Sept 2012
Maidstone Green Party are standing two candidates in next month's local by-elections. Jill Shepherd is standing for the Borough Council seat in Allington and Stuart Jeffery is standing for the County Council seat for Maidstone Central.

Jill Shepherd works for the Open University and also runs a company helping children learn Chinese. Jill has a family and lives in Bearsted.

Stuart Jeffery works as a manager in the NHS and is a registered nurse. He is Chair of Kent Greens and lives close to Maidstone's town centre.

They are campaigning on a range of issues including:

  • We want a new democracy, one where councillors are on the side of residents and are not told how to vote by their party. We will be independent Greens with no party whip.
  • We want 20mph streets where people live which will improve road safety, reduce pollution and improve communities.
  • We will fight the ideologically driven austerity cuts and campaign for much needed jobs
  • We want local schools for local people, not selective schools that turn children into commuters.
  • Cheaper and more frequent buses, a proper network of cycle lanes and pavements that are not obstacle courses.
  • These are essential for people who are not using cars - we will campaign tirelessly for them.
  • Councils up and down the country are offering people free insulation. People in Maidstone are facing rapidly rising fuel bills and yet the offer of free insulation is not available. We want to change this unfair situation that helps no-one.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

3p per day to protect people against the worst of the council tax benefit cuts

21st September 2012
Maidstone Greens have expressed real concern that Maidstone Borough Council are not doing everything in their power to protect people on council tax benefit against the Coalition's cuts to Council Tax Benefit. The Lib Dem / Conservative government are reducing their council tax benefit payment to local councils by 10% next year, a cut that will fall on the under 65s.

Maidstone Borough Council is consulting on whether to reduce benefits by between 13% and 24.5%, however Maidstone Greens have shown that by increasing council tax by 3.5%, rather than the 2.5% they are planning, the council can go further to help mitigate the effects of the cuts.

At Wednesday's Council meeting, the Greens questioned whether the council was really doing all it can to protect vulnerable people.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "It is clear that the council can go further that it is planning to. It is right for those who can afford to pay council tax to help those who can’t, which is why we are calling on the council to think again about it's proposals.

"While no-one wants to pay more tax, an extra 3p per day per household would provide £150k to help households in real need. People that can afford to pay their council tax are likely to be able to find 3p. We are calling on Maidstone Borough Council to raise council tax by 3.5% next year to help protect vulnerable people in the borough.


"With 13% of children in families claiming benefits and those benefits facing huge cuts, poverty is set to increase drastically. It is essential that the council does all it can to help."

Notes:
  • http://www.maidstone.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/consultations/current_consultations.aspx
  • This question was put to the Council meeting of Maidstone Borough Council: "Noting the 10% reduction in central government grant for Council Tax Benefit, to what extent could the shortfall in funding be reduced if council tax was raised in 13/14"

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Son of KIG

25th July 2012
Maidstone Greens have vowed to be in the front line of the fight against the junction 8 development being dubbed as 'Son of KIG'. The plan for an industrial park covering a quarter of the site that was proposed for the Kent International Gateway is being discussed at Maidstone Borough Council’s Cabinet meeting tomorrow (25th July).

The 25 hectare site is in the Kent Downs AONB and was the subject of a two year campaign by local residents and other local organisations including the local Green Party and local Conservative Party to prevent it becoming a huge industrial park. The Conservatives are now proposing a similar but smaller development on the site.

Ciaran Oliver, Maidstone Green Party: “Bearsted residents feel betrayed by the Conservatives. After they marched and demonstrated alongside Bearsted residents, and other groups including the Green Party, it beggars belief that the Tories now suggest that the land should be developed.

” The scale of this disloyalty to Bearsted residents and to fellow campaigners is immense. There is a real sense of shock that the council can spend £2m fighting an industrial park development in 2009 only to propose a similar one three years later. Their support for the StopKIG campaign now seems like hollow electioneering.

” This industrial park must not be allowed to go ahead. Maidstone Greens will be in the front line of the fight to stop it.”

20mph anger - community action

4th April 2012
Residents on Upper Fant Road in Maidstone have put 20mph signs on their wheelie bins as a protest at the council's failure to address the speeding traffic on their road. These wheelie bins will be on show tomorrow (Thursday) when the bins are collected around 100 wheelie bins have the 20mph stickers.

Maidstone's Green MEP Keith Taylor will also be visiting to talk to residents about the campaign. He will be there between 3pm and 3.30pm around the junction of St Michaels Rd and Upper Fant Road.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "Residents have been campaigning to get their road made safer for more than quarter of a century yet the council continues to turn a blind eye to their concerns. While the council has slowed down the two feeder roads to Upper Fant Road, they have left the 2/3rds of a mile stretch as a drag strip for motorists and we agree with residents that urgent action is necessary to slow it down.

"We have been working with the residents on this latest campaign which sends a clear message to the council and to motorists that this road is residential and we want cars to drive along it more slowly. Our MEP is writing formally to the council after his visit to the area."

2012 Local Elections

8th April 2012
Maidstone Green Party are standing in 12 wards in this year’s local elections and have a great chance of winning their first seats.
Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: “ This year’s local elections are proving to be the most exciting yet. With Labour not able to shake off their past and outright anger towards the Lib Dems and Conservatives, we are hoping for some great results and our first councillors. In Fant Ward we just need an additional 200 votes to win and in Headcorn Ward it is between the Greens and Conservatives. A Green breakthrough is highly likely this year.
” We are campaigning on core green issues, policies that will save money for people and provide much needed jobs. As fuel bills continue to rise, it is clear that homes need better insulation and people need cheaper alternatives to using their cars. If the council can spend £2m on crazy paving for the High Street, it can spend money on providing free insulation just as other councils have done, and it can improve public transport and cycle lanes.
”Maidstone’s economy is being hit hard by the public sector cuts. We are opposing these cuts which are based on flawed economics by the Coalition. Instead we want to see the green economy being built with jobs building well insulated affordable homes on brown field sites, more public transport and of course jobs for people insulating homes. We want people to earn at least a ‘living wage’ of £8.10 an hour.
”Finally we have to tackle both speeding traffic and congestion. We want 20mph limits on residential roads and we want people to have good alternatives to using their cars.” Candidates:
Bearsted: Ciaran Oliver
Boxley: Andrew Waldie
Bridge: Robin Kinrade
Coxheath: Denise Hay
East: Hannah Patton
Fant: Stuart Jeffery
Headcorn: Penny Kemp
Heath: Jim Shalice
High St: Wendy Lewis
Marden: Ian McDonald
North Downs: Sarah Goodwin
Shepway North: Steve Muggeridge

Unemployment highest for 15 years

14th March 2012
Unemployment in Maidstone has risen to its highest level since 1997[1] amid the 'flawed economics' of the Conservative / Lib Dem coalition, claim local Greens. The Greens have repeated calls for Maidstone Councillors to invest in green jobs such as insulation, public transport and housing rather that wasting money on the High Street paving.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "Public sector cuts were always going to hurt employment Maidstone. While the government have bought into the flawed economics of austerity, Maidstone Borough council are happily throwing scarce money on importing paving slabs for the High Street. So much more could have been done with the £2m that they have wasted.

"There are now over 2700 claiming job seeker's allowance in Maidstone, the highest it has been for 15 years. This is simply disgraceful. Austerity is hurting poorer and middle income people, yet the government continues to allow the rich to avoid paying their way. One in three jobs in Maidstone are in the public sector. While the Tories and Lib Dems are cutting the public sector they are not just hurting the workers but they are hurting the people who rely on the services.

"There is so much that needs to be done in the town. Congestion on the roads is rife and while public transport remains expensive and infrequent it won't reduce traffic; homes need insulation to reduce fuel bills and people need affordable housing. Perhaps the council and government should question their priorities.

Notes:
1. https://www.nomisweb.co.uk/reports/lmp/la/2038431809/subreports/jsa_time_series/report.aspx

Housing Chaos

3rd January 2012
Maidstone Greens have warned of ‘housing chaos’ in the borough as housing waiting lists will shoot up from their already record high level following the introduction of further housing benefits changes yesterday and the latest intention to end subletting.

Last year the social housing waiting list in Maidstone rose to 3,442(1) – a record level, 4.5 times higher than in 1997 and the research by the Chartered Institute of Housing (2) suggests that between 1,000 and 2,500 people across the borough will lose out through the housing benefit changes, potentially increasing the social housing waiting list by a further 50%.

While Maidstone Greens do not condone the practice of subletting, plans to make it a criminal offence(3) for the estimated 160,000 people who do this across the country will also potentially mean that a further 160,000 need to find accommodation, adding to the housing crisis.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: “ The government is building towards housing chaos rather than building good quality affordable homes. In Maidstone we could see huge rises on top of the record levels of people on the waiting list for social housing with the increasingly draconian approach to housing benefit and social housing.

”The new research by the Chartered Institute of Housing shows that up to 2500 people across the borough will face housing benefit cuts pushing poorer people into increasing poverty and potentially adding them to the ridiculously high waiting list for social housing.

”Making subletting a criminal offence might stop some people making money out of social housing but it will also put even more families out of their homes. The government needs to stop this assault on people on benefits.

Notes:
1. Social Housing Waiting List statistics: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/xls/2039614.xls
2. CIH Map here: http://image.guardian.co.uk/sys-files/Guardian/documents/2012/01/01/Housing_Benefit.pdf
3. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-16378153

Fuel poverty in Maidstone

24th November 2011
Maidstone Green Party have criticised Maidstone Councillors for failing to reduce fuel poverty and winter deaths across the Borough while wasting money on the High Street. They have pointed out that over 6,300 local households are in fuel poverty.

Maidstone Green Party have criticised Maidstone Councillors for failing to reduce fuel poverty and winter deaths across the Borough while wasting money on the High Street. They have pointed out that over 6,300 local households are in fuel poverty.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "It is simply unacceptable that millions of people across the UK are still struggling to keep their homes warm and protect their families from the cold. There were more than 25,000 excess winter deaths across England and Wales(1) last winter. Figures from 2008 show that over 6,300 households in the Borough of Maidstone(2), or one in ten, are stuck in fuel poverty and with the hikes in fuel prices I expect this figure to be much higher now.

"Sadly, Maidstone Councillors have ignored Green calls to divert the millions being used to pave the High Street into providing free insulation, insulation that would have saved people's lives and householders' money. Instead they have wasted £2m(3) 'improving' the High Street while disrupting trade and access to shops in the run up to Christmas.

Green MP, Caroline Lucas: "If the Government is serious about eradicating fuel poverty by 2016, it must radically improve housing standards, curb the power of the big energy companies to charge what they like, and put in place measures to help fuel-poor households. In the meantime, I urge people to contact the Home Heat Helpline on 0800 33 66 99 to get advice on staying warm this winter."

Notes:
1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-15836494
2. Fuel Poverty Sub Regional Statistics: 6317 households in fuel poverty (10.5% of all households in the borough) http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/fuelpov_stats/regional/regional.aspx
3. http://www.maidstonetowncentre.com/newsletters/MTCMAutumn2011.pdf

Core Strategy submission

10th October 2011
In their submission to Maidstone Borough Council's consultation on the Core Strategy, Maidstone Greens have called for higher density housing to prevent urban sprawl while ensuring enough homes for the future; a move away from Maidstone's reliance on retail industry towards music, knowledge and energy sectors; and a reduction in traffic of 50% by 2026. This compares with the Council's suggestion of low density housing covering the KIG site, plus Allington and Shepway extensions, the Council's suggestion of an increase in traffic by 30% and their vision to increase the retail sector in the town. The Greens have called for a more European feel to the town.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "They really don't have a clue what Maidstone needs. Increasing urban sprawl across greenfield sites will help nobody except the rich developers. There is enough land in the town to meet the housing needs for the next 15 years, farm land must be maintained for farming.

"The town urgently needs to move away from its reliance on the retail sector. We need to embrace the music and entertainment industry, energy industries and the knowledge sector. Retail will continue to decline and Maidstone will only survive if it diversifies.

"And as for planning for a 30% increase in traffic, that is ludicrous. Not only will the price of fuel mean that this simply will not happen, there wouldn’t be the infrastructure to support it even if it did. The council should be planning to get people out of cars and into public transport or better still walking or cycling."

Notes:
Maidstone Green Party's submission is available here: http://maidstone.greenparty.org.uk/publications/CoreStrategySubmission2011.pdf

20mph gets closer

3rd October 2011
Maidstone Green Party welcomes the news that the EU is backing 20mph limits in urban areas and that ministers are preparing to significantly expand the use of 20mph in the UK. Maidstone Greens have been campaigning for 20mph streets where people live, a campaign which has significant support among residents. Local Greens are not happy with the proposed rise in motorway speed limits which will increase CO2 emissions, accidents, noise and air pollution along an already problematic M20.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "This is great news for Maidstone residents. The council is dipping its toe into 20mph zones outside schools, which is a step in the right direction, but the weight of opinion must now quickly take them to making all of our streets safer. The vast majority of residents would feel and be safer with cars coming past their houses at 20mph instead of 30mph.

"There is now simply no excuse for Maidstone's residential roads to remain at 30mph. Councillors need to seize this opportunity to make life better for all.

"We must also campaign against the proposed rise in motorway speed limits. The M20 through Harrietsham is extremely noisy and residents do not need even faster traffic there. Fuel costs and CO2 emissions will increase significantly, as will accidents and air pollution. The M20 corridor already suffers with bad air quality - an 80mph limit would simply make this worse."

Notes:
1. The European Parliament has today signalled the right direction for road safety, notably by strongly recommending an EU-wide speed limit of 30 km/h (20mph) in urban areas. http://www.keithtaylormep.org.uk/2011/09/27/green-mep-gains-european-parliaments-support-for-20mph-safer-speed-limit/
2. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/new-80mph-motorway-limit-20mph-in-towns-2362980.html

Maidstone Borough Council should pay a "Living Wage"

22nd September 2011
Maidstone Green Party is calling on Maidstone Borough Council to ensure that all its staff receive at least a 'Living Wage' of £7.20 per hour, as defined by the Living Wage Foundation. The call comes after the leader, Cllr Garland, revealed the extent of low pay at last night's Council meeting where he stated that at least 12 staff are paid below the level of the Living Wage. The Greens posed the question to Maidstone Borough Council following the raising of wages in Brighton by the new Green administration there and the advertising of a post by Maidstone Borough Council that attracts an hourly wage of £6.19.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "The Living Wage of £7.20 per hour has been shown to be the minimum level of income necessary to lead a full life with resonable surroundings and sufficient leisure, so we are shocked that Maidstone Borough Council is paying some staff far less than this.

"The Council should be ashamed of promoting a low wage economy and for advertising and paying less that the minimum needed to live on. I challenge any of the councillors to try to survive on just £11k a year while paying rent and the ever increasing fuel bills. The Council has a duty to its employees that it is clearly failing in.

"One of the first acts of the new Green administration in Brighton was to announce an increase in wages of its lowest paid staff to meet the Living Wage. Maidstone Borough Council should follow Brighton's lead and immediately raise the pay for staff that currently earn less than £7.20 per hour. The Council should also introduce a local Living Wage Commission, which would look at the benefits, risks and opportunities of establishing a Living Wage in the town's public, private and third sectors."

Notes:
1. Living Wage details here: http://www.citizensuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/The-Living-Wage-in-the-United-Kingdom-May-2011.pdf
2. Maidstone Borough Council advertised a post at the Hazlitt in July 2011 "Salary £6.19 to £7.02 per hour"
3. http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news/22-07-2011-brighton-hove-living-wage.html

Commentary on the riots

13th August 2011
Hannah Patton comments on last week's riots:

"Maidstone Green Party utterly condemns last week's arson, looting and violence. If any good might come of it then let's hope that it serves as a wake up call to government and the impact of its policies on society. Unfortunately the rhetoric from Tories, Lib Dems, Labour and even Helen Grant is to deal with the problems by escalating the violence towards the trouble makers. Simply responding to angry, disenfranchised people by turning water cannons and plastic bullets on them will not deal with the underlying problems in society. That is not to say that the minority committing this violence should go unpunished, but that the violence also needs to be understood and its causes need to be addressed.

"Sadly, while Helen Grant calls for more violence towards children by their parents in 'troubled' households, I suspect there is already too much violence in some of these families. Perhaps more compassion, understanding and support for these children might make a difference, but simply exposing them to more violence will not teach them to be non-violent. Not only doesn't she understand what young people need to grow into responsible adults, neither does her party. They are closing youth centres, stopping young people from modest backgrounds going to university, preventing some even staying on at school beyond 16 with the withdrawal of the Education Maintenance Allowance, presiding over rampant youth unemployment and they are now calling some young people 'feral'.

"It is any wonder that young people are becoming increasingly disenfranchised. Furthermore, widening inequalities in society will make it more violent and less cohesive, yet that is exactly what the Tory / Lib Dem coalition are doing. Meanwhile bankers and MPs are getting away with looting society 'legally' and the constant bombardment of the need to consume more, have the latest fashions and possibilities for quick wins in life, all contribute to disillusionment and anger in people.

Welcome for 20mph School Trial

27th July 2011
Maidstone Green Party has welcomed the endorsement by the Maidstone Joint Transportation Board last night of a plan to trial 20mph speed limits outside 6 schools in the Borough. Stuart Jeffery addressed the Board, which is made up of Borough and County Councillors, urging them to back the plan. Local Greens has been calling for 20mph streets in the Borough for a number of years and have presented petitions in the past. Along with Green MEP, Keith Taylor, they had actively backed the petition in Lenham which prompted the plan for this trial.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "This is a small but good step in the right direction, one that is very welcome after years of hard campaigning. 20mph areas have been shown to be very effective in reducing accidents and promoting cycling and walking. They have overwhelming public support - after all who wants cars travelling fast past schools or people's homes?

"I hope that once these schemes have been shown to be effective, that they will be expanded across the borough and that Kent County Council will consider bringing Maidstone into the 21st century by giving all Maidstone's residential streets 20mph limits, just as other county towns across the country now have. It is quite disgraceful that Maidstone is at least 5 years behind places such as Oxford, Norwich, Lancaster and Portsmouth."

Oaken Wood called in

27th July 2011
Maidstone Green Party has welcomed the 'call-in' of the Oaken Wood quarrying plan by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles MP, and have welcomed the additional scrutiny which will give all parties greater opportunity to be heard in the plan which would see the loss of 74 acres of ancient woodland. They have reiterated their call for Gallaghers to prioritise other options for aggregate such as increasing recycled aggregate, so that no jobs are lost.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "The call-in by Eric Pickles is very welcome as is the change to reiterate local views to the Planning Inspectorate. Kent County Council made a hasty decision when they backed the plan for the quarry and it is clear that the plan needs greater scrutiny than KCC were prepared to give.

"While we are keen to ensure that jobs are not lost, we should remember that these jobs would see the loss of 74 acres of ancient woodland when there is an acknowledged lack of demand for ragstone. We want Gallaghers to put these jobs to use increasing their production of recycled aggregate.

"We also note that Kent County Council's current draft mineral strategy suggests that there is no need for this additional ragstone. Let us hope that KCC don't decide to change their mind on this established fact."

See: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/campaigning/woodwatch/case-studies/high-speed-two/Documents/oaken-call-in.pdf

McDonalds should remove the mosquito

19th July 2011
Maidstone Greens slam McDonalds for adding to a 'full scale assault on hope' for young people by their use of a mosquito outside their Maidstone branch and have called for its immediate removal. They claim that mosquito discriminates against young people and equivalent devices would not be allowed to move other groups on. The Greens also point to the increasing problems that young people are facing and say that the mosquito is adding to what amounts to an assault on hope which includes the rise in tuition fees, cuts to youth services, the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance and high levels of unemployment.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "We have been shocked by McDonalds use of the mosquito in Maidstone. This is a device that discriminates against young people but if this was a device for keeping black people, women or the elderly away, McDonalds would rightly be prosecuted, so why should society tolerate discrimination against young people?

"Young people are having a tough enough time at present: 18-24 year olds now account for a quarter of all unemployed people, youth centres are being closed across the county, the government has scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance and student fees have been trebled. Local and national government have got it in for the young, now it looks like McDonalds has joined them.

"This amounts to a full scale assault on hope for young people. Young people are the future of our society, we should be supporting them not destroying their chances of getting started in life and certainly not discriminating against them as McDonalds are doing."

Petition against job cuts at the Museum

7th July 2011
Maidstone Greens have welcomed a petition to reinstate Dr Ed Jarzembowski and his colleagues at Maidstone Museum and they have written to Helen Grant who is President of the Trustees of the museum to demand action. The petition comes after a long media fight to prevent the cuts at the museum imposed by the council. The petition on The Care 2 Petition Site and is available at http://tinyurl.com/3p89ocw.

Maidstone Greens have welcomed a petition to reinstate Dr Ed Jarzembowski and his colleagues at Maidstone Museum and they have written to Helen Grant who is President of the Trustees of the museum to demand action. The petition comes after a long media fight to prevent the cuts at the museum imposed by the council. The petition on The Care 2 Petition Site and is available at http://tinyurl.com/3p89ocw.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "We are pleased that this petition has started. History is essential to our education and our culture. Maidstone Borough Council and Maidstone's MP Helen Grant, should be ashamed of themselves for allowing these cuts to happen."
"We are calling on support from across Maidstone to sign the petition for Dr Ed and his colleagues to be reinstated and we have writted to Helen Grant asking her to intervene as the President of the Trustees of the museum."

Notes:
Petition available at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/maidstone-museum-needs-dr-ed---bring-him-back/ Letter to Helen Grant MP:

Dear Helen,

I am emailing you in your capacity of both MP for Maidstone and President of the Trustees of Maidstone Museum. As you are aware Dr Ed Jarzembowski and four of his colleagues have been or are being made redundant from the museum and we are asking for your help to overturn this decision.

While there has been public outcry at the loss of Dr Ed, the damage that his redundancy and those of his colleagues will do to the museum will be significant. I am sure that you will agree that history is vital to our education and culture so for Maidstone to lose staff from the museum is not in the public interest.

While I am sure you will consider the public sector cuts necessary in general and will disagree with me when I suggest that they are politically motivated and based on poor economics, I hope that you will be able to intervene and prevent these job losses.

Yours sincerely

Stuart

Stuart Jeffery Maidstone Green Party

Maidstone Greens support June 30th protests and strikes

30th June 2011
Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party spoke at the protest outside County Hall in Maidstone and Maidstone Greens were out in force at the protest rallies outside County Hall and the earlier one by Oakwood Park schools. The Greens have condemned the coalition for their ideological attack on the public sector and Labour's opposition to the strikes. They have stated that while the disruption was regretable, it was necessary.

Stuart Jeffery, Chair of Kent Green Party and Coordinator for Maidstone: "We were proud to stand alongside workers protesting at the immoral and unjust cuts to their pensions, jobs and livelihoods. Cameron, Clegg, Osbourne and Cable should be ashamed at their actions that are simply being taken to protect their rich friends at the expense of ordinary workers. Even Labour have deserted the workers with their shameful condemnation of the strikes this morning.

"The government claims that the country is broke, but they are letting super rich individuals and large corporations get away with tax evasion estimated to be around £100bn. Why should workers face pension cuts and job losses, and why should ordinary people face cuts to services just so the rich can feather their beds? Stealing from the poor to give to the rich is obscene.

"The government seems wedded to an ideology that is not based on fact. The country has proportionally less debt now that it had through half of the last century. The public sector is affordable, their pensions are affordable and while we regret the disruption the action is causing, these are worth fighting for.

"Teachers are being asked to work longer, pay 50% more for their pensions and get less when they retire, yet the government's respose is to ask parents to volunteer and to let negotiations fail. Action was clearly necessary."

Protect Maidstone against Cable and the Lib Dems

7th June 2011
Maidstone Greens have vowed to fight alongside public sector workers and their unions following Vince Cable's announcement that he would impose stronger anti-strike laws if the public sector strikes became widespread and started to "impose serious damage to our economic and social fabric"[1]. Maidstone has the second highest proportion of public sector jobs in the South East with 27.9% (almost 20,000) jobs being in the public sector[2] and is likely to be hit hardest by the cuts in Kent. The Greens say that the announcement by the Lib Dems leaves no support for the workers by the parties on Maidstone Borough Council.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "This announcement by the Lib Dems is disgraceful but hardly unexpected. Vince Cable is planning on leaving more than a quarter of workers in Maidstone at the mercy of Lib Dem and Tory cuts. Maidstone has the second highest proportion of public sector jobs in the South East and will be hardest hit in Kent by the cuts.

"The public sector is the backbone of the town and is essential to the economy of Maidstone. Not only will the cuts destroy the lives and families of those made redundant, they will destroy the economic viability of the town. If Cable is concerned that protecting jobs and the economy by strike action if necessary is too high a price to pay, then perhaps he should stop being part of a government desperate to wreck the public sector.

"Unlike the Lib Dems, Maidstone Greens will fight alongside public sector workers against the unnecessary and immoral cuts. We don't won't the public sector broken."

Notes:
1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/unions-criticise-vince-cables-strikes-warning-2293692.html
2. https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/facts-and-figures/Economy/public-sector-dependency-2011.pdf

McNulty Review will hurt Maidstone

20th May 2011
Maidstone Greens have slammed the McNulty review as potentially disastrous for Maidstone's commuters, suggesting that Maidstone does not need fare increases and less station staff, but more investment, more regular and faster trains and a direct line to the City.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Green Party: "Roy McNulty thinks that slashing subsidies, privatising more of the infrastructure and increasing fares will help reduce ticket prices. Maidstone already suffers from a slow and expensive service that has seen appalling cuts in recent years. McNuulty's plans will make our service worse.

"Getting rid of station staff may seem a neat way of saving money, but the reality is very different. We will be faced with more confusion and less information. Remember what happened in the snow last year when even at current staffing levels, information was hard to find. We need more staff, with more information to improve the service.

"Increasing fares for our commuters will be a real slap in the face and is completely contrary to the aim of reducing prices. It is like going to war for the sake of peace. Fares from Maidstone are already ridiculous, they need to be reduced not increased. The way to reduce prices and ensure financial viability is to get more passengers by getting people out of cars and on to trains. We can only do this by making trains more appealing, more reliable and travelling to the place where people need to go.

"Privatisation has brought nothing but increasing costs to this country, however we should expect nothing less of Lib Dems and Conservatives who are wedded to the principle of putting markets before people."

Election results 2011

9th May 2011
Maidstone Greens have called the results of last week's local elections in Maidstone a slap in the face for the Lib Dems, and they have welcomed their own significant advance. Maidstone Greens increased the number of votes in Fant Ward by 66% from the last comparable election in 2009 to have a very respectable result in the only four-way marginal in Kent. The Greens now need just 8% or 202 votes more to win the ward.

Stuart Jeffery, Maidstone Greens: "To come so close in Fant Ward was disappointing but our vote has increased dramatically and we were just 8% away from winning, so there is much to be pleased about.

"Across Maidstone, the Lib Dems have clearly suffered at the hands of the national party - getting in to bed with the Tories was a poor idea and Maidstone residents are rightly angry about it. Maidstone is clearly angry about the coalition and this is a slap in the face for them.

"We will be back to fight next year and look forward to getting our first seat on the council."

Notes:
Fant by-election in 2009, Greens got 317 votes which increased to 526 in 2011.
Fant results: Green 526 (21.4%); Lab 542 (22.1%); Lib Dem 661 (26.9%); Con 727 (29.6%)

Promises waiting to be broken

I6th April 2011
Maidstone Greens have slammed the local Lib Dems' election statement as promises waiting to be broken. Last week Maidstone Lib Dems issue six promises which have now come under heavy attack by local Greens. The Greens have described the Lib Dems as having lost all credibility and having a local manifesto that will destroy the local economy.

Stuart Jeffery, Fant Ward candidate for Maidstone Greens: "No one believes a word the Lib Dems say now. They had many years running Maidstone Borough Council, so how they can suggest such wide ranging promises, ones that should have been delivered 10 years ago, is beyond me. We have also now seen how they act in national government, breaking promise after elction promise. They have lost all credibility.

"Not only do their pledges sound hollow, but they are framed by a commitment to cut services and jobs that are provided by the council. We think this is immoral and will undermine any effort to revive Maidstone's floundering economy, making their economic pledge meaningless. You can't boost an economy by making people redundant, this is surely basic economics.

"The Lib Dems may talk about protecting the environment, but they have opposed wind turbines across Kent and in Maidstone, they have failed time and time again to reduce congestion in the town, and they have supported road and airport expansion up and down the country. How can they claim any green credentials?

"On the other hand Green Councillors in Huddersfield have insulated tens of thousands of homes and put solar panels on hundreds of council houses, Greens in Oxford, Lancaster and Norwich have delivered 20mph speed limits in resential streets and Greens on the London Assembly ensured millions were invested in public transport and cycling across London. Green Councillors really deliver.

"The only promise that I can see the Lib Dems sticking to is making people redundant, and with their position in the polls plummeting it is clear that people have seem them for what they really are. The Green Party is ready to step up to the mark and has the policies, principle and drive to deliver what people need."

Notes:
Maidstone Lib Dem statement 28/3/11 Maidstone Lib Dem statement 28/3/11

Greens announce council candidates

4th April 2011

Maidstone Greens will be standing fourteen candidates in next month's local election. The Greens are hoping to capitalise on the decline of the Liberal Democrats and their alignment with the Conservative in national government. Badging themselves as the real opposition to the Conservatives they have high hopes of gaining their first seats on the Council.

Stuart Jeffery, Fant Ward candidate for Maidstone Greens: "Now that the Lib Dems have shown their true blue colours, there is only one party of opposition in Maidstone, the Green Party. The public anger at the ConDem cuts is palpable and unlike the 'big three' we stand resolutely opposed to the cuts especially while the super rich are allowed to avoid tax payments of up to £100bn each year. These cuts are just starting to hit local services, local services that are there to support the poorer and more vulnerable members of society.

"On Maidstone Borough Council we will be calling for the £4m due to be spent on re-paving the High St to be put into public transport infrastructure, to set up a local energy company and to help insulate people's homes. Fuel prices are soaring and hitting people hard, yet local councillors are still refusing to invest in energy production or energy efficiency. Green Councillors in Norfolk have persuded the council to set up an energy company that will provide income for the council and energy for its residents - a scheme that is urgently required in Maidstone.

"As well as investment that starts to meet the needs of people, we need to ramp up the campaign to make our streets safer with 20mph as the default limit on residential streets. We need to support local businesses with planning that favours them and we need to see the introduction of a local rewards card. We need to ensure that most new homes are affordable or for the social housing market, but that our green spaces are protected.

"Our aims are not just radical and affordable, but are exactly what Maidstone needs."

Notes:
Bearsted: Sarah Goodwin
Bearsted: Ciaran Oliver
Boxley: Penny Kemp
Coxheath: Robin Kinrade
Downswood: Andrew Waldie
East: Caroline Burns
East: Hannah Patton
Fant: Stuart Jeffery
High St: Wendy Lewis
Loose: Denise Hay
Marden: Jim Shalice
North: Derek Eagle
Shepway North: Steve Muggeridge
Staplehurst: Ian McDonald

TUC March for the Alternative

28th March 2011
Maidstone Greens were proud to march at Saturday's TUC "March for the Alternative" alongside 400,000 others. Maidstone Green Party Chair, Ian McDonald, and at least seven other members of Maidstone Green Party, joined the TUC's demonstration in London.

Ian McDonald, Chair of Maidstone Green Party: "There were possibly 400,000 participants, with Green Party members from Maidstone and across the UK, marching alongside trade unionists, public sector workers and hundreds of thousands of other people. We were all demanding that the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition abandon their crippling attacks on ordinary people's jobs and incomes, and demanding that the bankers and super rich pay in full for the financial crisis they created.

"The march was overwhelmingly peaceful with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Their common theme: we did not create this crisis, don't make us pay for it!"

Notes:
Ian McDonald is Chair of Maidstone Green Party and a senior trade unionist