It’s Up the Poll! 2015: The Green Party and Tameside

A look at the Green Party manifesto from a Tameside angle.

As detailed in the previous entry, we shall continue our electoral Tour of Tameside via each party’s manifestoes. For the sixth part of It’s Up the Poll! 2015, we shall be looking at the only party to stand in all of Tameside’s nineteen wards and all three constituencies. Plus all three wards of Mossley Town Council.

The Green Party of England and Wales was an offshoot of the original UK wide party created in 1990. Hence today’s Green Party having separate parties for Scotland, England and Wales, and Northern Ireland. All of which affiliated with the European Green Party and the Global Greens.

Founded on the 13 October 1972, the original UK party which dissolved in 1990 was known as “PEOPLE”. Inspired by an article in Playboy magazine, Lesley and Tony Whittaker – both property agents situated in Coventry – formed PEOPLE at a meeting in Daventry.

By 1974, a more left-leaning stance was taken. After its annual conference in 1975, they voted to change its name to the Ecology Party before becoming the Green Party ten years later.

In Tameside, the Green Party’s history is much shorter. It started fielding candidates in the local elections in the early noughties. One of the borough’s earliest Green Party candidates was Reverend Vernon Marshall who stood in the Dukinfield ward. For many, he is better known as the one time Reverend of Old Chapel Unitarian Church, and often polled around 400 votes.

Most of its rise in popularity is owing to recent campaigns which strike a chord with Labour voters. For example, anti-fracking and renationalising our railways as well as its environmental policies. Could the Green Surge have an affect on Tameside’s voters? We await the 07 May with interest.

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Arts, Culture and Sport

Our fellows at The Witchwood, The Hippodrome and Tameside MBC could benefit a VAT reduction on ticket sales. Any live performance would incur a reduced rate of 5% VAT. The Green Party also favours the restoration of arts funding to pre-May 2010 levels and a 20% cap on media market share. Therefore, the latter plan aims to reduce the hold that News International and Associated Newspapers has on the UK’s media interests and – ultimately – the country’s news agenda.

They also favour the role of the BBC as the primary public service broadcaster. Adding to this is plans to allow fair representation to all political parties in televised debates. The Lobbying Act 2014 will also be repealed, on the grounds it stifles debate and dissent.

In a move to quell obesity levels, the Green Party wishes to make sure children get the equivalent of half a day’s P.E. in schools. That in a school timetable would equate to three hours of Physical Education and competitive sports.

Crime

Whereas building new prisons and ASBOs are hailed as a vote-winner, the Green Party favour an holistic approach to crime prevention. Drug addiction is seen as a health issue instead of a criminal one for a start. Improved street design and public spaces is seen as a panacea to crime reduction. Likewise with the reopening of local police stations and the return of bus conductors.

Like Labour, the Greens also like to see the back of Police and Crime Commissioners. Instead, police control would return to local government. The privatisation of policing is opposed.

Instead of more prisons, they favour restorative justice. Having been piloted under Blair’s Labour government and in New Zealand before then, it is seen as more cost-effective and rehabilitative to offenders.

Defence

The Green Party favours a UK defence and security policy which is consistent with international law. Over a 30 year period, it aims to save £100 billion by scrapping Trident, any plans for its replacement plus existing nuclear forces and bases.

Also favoured is negotiations prohibiting the development, deployment and use of autonomous weapons. This also extends to weapons using depleted uranium and to those designed for use from outer space.

In the manifesto, it states they aim to take a leading role in preventing violent conflict, genocide and war crimes overseas. There is also plans to diminish dependence on arms sales and a halt to government subsidies in this field.

Democracy

Over-centralisation and loss of powers have in the view of the Green Party blunted the effectiveness of local government and democracy itself. This includes education policy which has been tilted in favour of Academies and greater DfE control. Also their ability to raise funds.

The Green Party wishes to give greater powers to Tameside MBC, Mossley Town Council, and any other future Town Councils in the borough. Formal constitutional protection will be granted to local authorities, as well as local powers to set fines, fees and charges.

At central government level, it favours the abolition of the City of London Corporation, an Assembly for Cornwall, and greater powers for the Welsh Assembly. It also favours lowering the age of majority from 18 to 16, the target of a 50:50 Male/Female parliament by 2025 and the right to recall MPs.

Economy

Key to the Green Party’s economic plans, as well as the Universal Basic Income (covering in the Social Security section), is the aim of a £10 per hour National Minimum Wage. It is hope this rate would be achieved in 2020 – the same year when Labour’s £8 per hour rate aims to be introduced. Work-life balance could be improved as they aim to introduce phase in a 35 hour week.

Whereas the Conservatives wish to stifle the trade unions even more, the Green Party aims to reverse 30 years of anti-trade union policies. Therefore, trade union membership and recognition could be revive. This may entail the repeal of the 1984 Trade Union Act and subsequent Acts which have outlawed secondary picketing for example.

Like Labour, the Green Party favours the abolition of zero hour contracts. It also favours a reduction in Employment Tribunal fees – which isn’t quite as far as Labour’s plan to abolish fees. Other policies include a maximum pay ratio of 10:1 between the best and lowest paid employees.

Education

Key to Green Party education policy is the end of marketisation of schools and colleges. In other words, it proposes greater local authority control with existing academies and free schools joining LEAs. Therefore, Copley Academy and the New Charter Academy could revert to Tameside’s watch.

For working class parents, poorer children will benefit from school trips or extra equipment without their parents taking a financial hit. School dinners would be cheaper – in many cases free – with GM-free and locally sourced ingredients. Children with a disability will be given the right to a mainstream education where desired.

School pupils could benefit from the abolition of SATS examinations, a broad curriculum, and smaller classes. The Green Party favours a maximum class size of 20 pupils.

By college age, they could benefit from the restoration of Labour’s Education Maintenance Allowance. Or they could apply for university without fear of a five-figure debt: the Greens plan to scrap undergraduate tuition fees and bring back student grants.

Environment

Central to the Green Party since its early beginnings has always been the environment, not only the planet as a whole but also our neighbourhoods. Second only to renationalising the railways in terms of policy recognition is its anti-fracking policies. Given that the whole of Tameside has shale gas deposits and mine workings underneath, this is likely to be a popular one. Not only environmentally (i.e., BT Roundabout besieged by earthquakes) but also economically (the effect on house prices and insurance premiums).

The Green Party also favours more environmentally friendly houses, an end to fossil fuel tax breaks, and greater borrowing powers to the Green Investment Bank. They also aim to encourage divestment in fossil fuels and any of its unconventional sources. Nuclear power, they hope, would be phased out in ten years. Instead, windmills and tidal stream generators.

In the home, this means more intelligent appliances and smart meters. Also greater use of solar panels. All the above making economic and environmental sense to each household.

Europe

As with UKIP and the Conservatives, the Green Party supports the in-out referendum. This owing to how the European Union has evolved since the 1975 referendum. Unlike UKIP they favour EU membership. The difference is they wish to transform it within, so as to better suit its citizens.

Like UKIP the Green Party is opposed to the Euro, citing the EU’s ‘unsustainable economics of free trade and growth’ as its achilles heel. An exemplar of the EU’s thinking in free trade, as per the manifesto, is TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. The loss of national control, if Britain switches from £ to €, is seen as too precious and unwieldy.

Families

Under the Green Party’s Universal Basic Income scheme, children could get their own pocket money. As a replacement for Child Benefit, the junior rate of UBI would be half that of adult rates. This in younger years could give them a good start in life whereas older children may be willing to save some of their ‘spends’ for a rainy day.

Foreign policy

With the Green Party’s concerns over rampant free trade, among their main policies is their opposition to TTIP. In a nutshell, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership opens the door to further privatisation, and corporations having greater control over governments and citizens. A move that could never see Labour performing a System Restore to the radicalism of 1945, even if public support is forthcoming.

TTIP would stymie Green Party policies to reverse privatisation in the NHS. Likewise with our buses and trains. Other policies include promoting a fairer global tax system, a global minimum wage, plus action to end tax evasion and avoidance. The Greens also support the rights of indigenous people to control their own lands and resources.

Health

Like Labour, the Green Party of England and Wales wishes to see the Health and Social Care Act 2012. In Tameside, it has done more to heighten the hospital’s shortcomings resulting in bigger queues outside its Accident and Emergency department. It has meant more people being referred to A&E instead of being treated by GP – in spite of advice pertaining to the contrary.

One of the most tangible signs of Lansley’s Act is privately-run patient transport services and ambulances seen outside the Hartshead Building. The Green Party aims to reverse this trend along with abolishing competition and the purchaser-provider split. There will also be more funding for mental health services and the restoration of a people-centred approach to treatment.

As well as improving access to the NHS, the Green Party aims to extend 20% VAT to less healthy foods – subsidising fresh fruit and vegetables. Also proposed is higher tobacco and alcohol duties with the latter subject to a minimum price of 50p per unit. Therefore, a can of John Smiths Extra Smooth (3.6% A.B.V, 1.6 units per can) could be 80p – or £14.40 for 18 (40p more than present Tesco prices).

Housing

Whereas the Conservatives are firmly committed to boost home ownership, the Green Party favours social housing. In doing so it aims to scrap “Help to Buy” which critics state inflates the housing market. It aims to scrap “Right to Buy”, which has seen the decline of council housing and the rise of Arms Length Management Organisations. Most notably the rise of New Charter Housing Trust and Housing Associations further to municipal provision in the borough.

Not only that, the Green Party opposes the creation of new ALMOs. However, it favours genuine tenant participation in existing organisations, thus increasing their accountability.

Throughout the United Kingdom, the Green Party aims to provide 500,000 social rented homes – all to high sustainability standards. Tameside MBC could be given more powers to build houses and have access to Housing Benefit budgets.

The Green Party’s approach to Rent Controls is the formation of a Living Rent Commission where rents would best reflect local incomes. It also aims to change the definition of affordable rented housing, by means of local median incomes instead of market rates.

Immigration

The Green Party sees Britain as a country that has thrived from immigration rather than insularity. From Viking to Romanian people, it has been part of our country’s story for the last thousand or so years.

In recognition of this, the Greens aim to scrap restrictions on foreign students, and allow them to work in the UK for two years after graduation. Other aims include easier passage for adult dependents of British citizens – i.e. grandparents and parents. At odd with the dog whistle policies of some parties, the Greens’ immigration policies are compassionate and on the side of families.

The £18,600 p.a income threshold for British citizens wishing to set up home with an overseas partner, launched by the ConDems will be scrapped. At present, the average Tameside citizen who is less likely to earn £18.6k a year (if he or she falls in love with an overseas partner), is unable to set up home in any of the nine towns. Therefore, his or her beau from Spain/Greece/Kazakhstan/Wallis and Futuna has to stay in Benidorm or Corfu. Or Astana instead of Ashton; Mata-Utu instead of Matley Lane.

Social Security

As with Labour, the Green Party also abhors the “Bedroom Tax” and is also committed to its abolition. Key to the Green Party’s Social Security strategy is its Universal Basic Income which could replace all existing benefits, except for Housing Benefit and disability benefits. Its aim is to “act as a springboard rather than a safety net” – an alternative to the gamut of sanctions and coercion from Work Coaches at Ashton, Stalybridge or Hyde Job Centres.

The era of sanctions and up to 35 hours of job hunting could be over as the Greens aim to stop the Universal Credit project and carry a thorough review. Workfare programmes and similar schemes, could be scrapped. Its approach to training or work placements entail college-based training, or candidates earning the National Minimum Wage whilst on placement.

Whereas Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties seem to favour the coercion of unemployed persons, the Green Party aims to treat them like human beings instead of as “Sanction Fodder”.

Pensioners aren’t neglected either with the Citizen’s Pension. This – most importantly for elderly voters – would be paid to all pensioners without means-testing. It is stated that Winter Fuel Payments and concessionary travel schemes will be protected.

Transport

The Green Party favours renationalising our rail network. With most of Tameside’s rail services operated by Northern Rail, the journey experience can vary from ‘packed and smooth’, to ‘sardine like and bumpy’. If you include the Department for Transport imposed evening peak fares from September 2014 onwards, downright expensive.

It also aims to do away with the borough’s ghastly Pacer units thanks to electrification programmes. Which in our case means the Northern Hub. Favouring improved local networks, the Green Party opposes HS2. Instead it would rather see the money spent on reopening closed lines and railway stations.

On the buses it supports free fares for pensioners, young people and students, which would be extended to cover trams and trains within Greater Manchester. The use of regional smart payment systems could complement Transport for Greater Manchester’s GetMeThere pass.

Youth

The borough’s young people could benefit from Green Party policies which include greater access to FE/HE. Not least proposals to scrap undergraduate tuition fees, reintroduce EMA and student grants.

16 year olds could be given the vote, a proposal shared with the Labour Party. To foster independent living and self-reliance as well as respite from broken homes, plans include the retention of Housing Benefit for persons under 25 years old. They could be supported in their efforts to find work in other parts of the EU. Something criticised by other parties in relation to fellow EU citizens working in Britain.

Furthermore, Green Party policies discourage the exploitation of youth by means of a Living Wage policy. Internships will have a four-week limit. Random stop and search powers will be restricted. Plans to make local bus fares free for under 25s will not only make the going easy, but also encourage them to use public transport in later life. Though quoted as costing £4 billion a year, the savings could see a clearer BT Roundabout and cleaner air at Denton Island.

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At a more local level…

The Green Party is seen as an “Anyone But Labour” option for more left-leaning Tameside voters. Many of its policies are likely to appease disillusioned Labour types, though some people think of Swampy when the Greens are mentioned. Even so, they are touted as an alternative to Labour in six wards. Locally they favour:

  • More affordable public transport – particularly given FirstGroup’s near monopoly in Ashton and Mossley;
  • A moratorium on Universal Credit – poignant given Ashton-under-Lyne, Droylsden and Dukinfield being its pioneering towns;
  • Greater local democracy: a referendum on Greater Manchester’s devolution proposals;
  • The abolition of Tameside’s role in the ConDems’ Troubled Families programmes;
  • Ensuring that there is more to Tameside than Ashton-under-Lyne.

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Next up on It’s Up The Poll! 2015

For the seventh part of our electoral Tour of Tameside, we shall be looking at UKIP’s manifesto. As with our previous entries, how their proposals may affect our borough’s 210,000 citizens.

S.V., 30 April 2015.

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