Councillor Chilvers reported on a marathon Warwickshire County Council Budget Setting meeting - Feb 2015
He said: “I am very pleased to see genuine progress on getting a fair Living Wage for Council employees. All parties agreed to put money in to figure out how to make this work in Warwickshire CC for the over 2000 of our employees paid less than £7.85ph. People working as Cleaners, midday supervisors and catering staff need to be paid fairly for the work they do.”
“Last year the Greens led the way in proposing massive investment in LED street lights which are good for the environment and save money and I’m delighted that this year the other parties all caught up. Some of the money saved should be given to local communities to prioritise which street lights they want back on.”
“It was a marathon 12 3/4 hours of proposing, debating, negotiating and a lot of waiting around to decide how to spend almost £400million of taxpayer money. Democracy is rightly messy and time consuming, but it would have been better over 2 days!”
Main changes overall are
- fund for 0-5yr old children £800k pa in 1st year then £1500k thereafter. Cllr Chilvers said: “The Green Party Cllrs strongly highlighted the pioneering Time to Talk and Chatter Matters programmes helping overcome speech delay in Childrens' Centres that were going to be scrapped, but we are now expect to be part of this pot.”
- £1m less in cuts to 'Housing Related Support services' e.g. hostels for people homeless / sheltered accommodation for older people so they don't need care Cllr Chilvers said: “This is something we've campaigned very hard on over the last year and this year all parties wanted to see some change on. We need to support the most vulnerable before they end up in crisis. ”
Cllr Chilvers said: “We welcome £2.5m capital allocation for 'Safer routes to schools' - traffic management / cycling / walking safety. Parents want to be able to send their children to school on bike or foot, but won’t if they don’t feel that they’ll be safe.”
Cllr Chilvers said: “Green Party Councillors feel strongly that there's still too much capital money going into road building which claims to 'create jobs' on rather dubious figures. We advocate instead the win win of cycling infrastructure which improves health / wellbeing and takes cars off the roads. Then people use cars only when need them, eg for longer journeys. We were especially disappointed that our proposals to ring fence capital money for rail/ cycle and extra staff to pull in more money for cycling investment were turned down.”
Cllr Chilvers said: “Overall there's still 3 years of eye watering cuts coming through because of horrific central government cuts. People will continue to see massive changes / cuts in services around libraries / social care / voluntary grants etc.”
“And finally, a small victory for common sense. Whereas last year the budget lunch was a tax payer funded 4 courses with wine and port, which we boycotted and put a proposal for a buffet and this year... it was a buffet.”
Being a Councillor is sometimes about making sure you're in the right place at the right time (Councillor Jonathan Chilvers)
Nowhere was this more the case than when it came to Underground Coal Gassification (UCG – similar to fracking) in South Warwickshire. Exploratory company Cluff had applied for a licence to drill in the Princethorpe area and a number of local groups had set up in opposition, gaining some good media coverage. I was keeping in contact with them and attended an excellent talk in Leamington by a foremost authority on the subject, Paul Mobbs.
The very next day I got a phone call from the local group at about 13.30 that they had heard from the local radio that there was a meeting that day at 14.00 between the leader of the County Council and the executives of Cluff. In a scene reminiscent of low budget movie we pelted harum scarum across to Warwick and I managed to speak to the Council Leader and get myself into the meeting just as it started.
After the meeting had finished, with the help of Paul Mobbs’ talk, I was able to take apart the Cluff arguments one by one with all the key Council leaders and officers present.
After that the Council deliberately tried to push Cluff’s advances away and started to make publicly clear that they weren’t interested at working with Cluff. Sometime later Cluff withdrew their application and for now we do have a ‘UCGFreeWarks’ (visit their Facebook page!)
My colleague, Keith Kondakor and I also got to intervene for the first on the Council’s budget – a plan for horrific cuts over the next 4 years. We had our proposal for greater funding for climate change & flooding readiness picked up and some of the worst children’s centre cuts pushed back. We also put forward key proposals for a Living Wage for all County employees, ameliorating cuts for the most vulnerable and investment in LED street lights, key themes which are now all gaining momentum towards becoming reality.
We also focus on bringing transparency to the sometimes foggy world of the Council and beyond. Often the Tory Council leaders throw up their hands and say they wish they didn’t need to make these cuts but they have no choice because they’re imposed by central government – the same government that they’ll be campaigning to re-elect in the coming months! I’ve been keeping the pressure onto holding the leaders to account on this.
Although it’s certainly not all bad, all too often the first instinct is away from democracy – unelected boards that still think that £millions of road building is the right way to ‘grow’ the economy’ (we’re pushing for some to be ring fenced for cycling / walking routes); keeping real decisions away from people affected until the last minute and then offering a tick box consultation; and fear at us videoing public meetings or reporting on Twitter what’s going on because they’re not used to that transparency.
Sometimes it’s not always possible to work out exactly where I have influence as a Councillor and where I don’t – nobody likes to own up to say they’ve been swayed by us! What I do know is that by being there putting forward a different, positive, Green perspective I have had a real impact, both at Council level and in promoting change in my constituency of South Leamington. Every extra person that we can get elected will only increase that impact and we’ll begin to see ever greater change in our area.
Greens were instrumental in setting up the campaign to oppose the dualing of the Kenilworth Road, and suggested instead that the speed should be reduced to 50mph (now 40mph) with good signing and lining : a significant success
Greens across Warwickshire, Coventry and Solihull have been very vocal in their opposition to the proposed massive incinerator, and latterly we've be joined by the Warwickshire Liberal Democrats
Greens played a significant part in the redevelopment of the Parade. We insisted that the upgrade went down across the river and to the High Street, linking both North and South of Leamington, and we lobbied to remove the railings in Spencer Street and in Dormer Place, allowing pedestrians far greater free movement and thereby reducing accidents.
Greens set up the local Living Streets group and have lobbied strenuously for better pedestrian and cycling provision. Pedestrians are the most vulnerable members of the Transport Community and the group who have the least voice (http://www.livingstreets.org.uk/
Greens lobbied to ensure the derelict flower beds were removed by the Lower Avenue crossing by the railway station so that a far greater space is available for pedestrians, especially with pushchairs, or wheelchairs.
Green Party members set up the ethical wholefood and organic food shop, Gaia, 7 Regent Place, Leamington Spa, now a successful Workers’ Co-operative, and highly regarded by the local community (http://www.gaia.coop/
Some Green Party members were instrumental in setting up the Warwick District Faiths Forum. This accords with our policy of creating a resilient and mutually supportive local community. The group has close relationships with the local police force and social services (http://www.wdfaithsforum.org/
For more information, please feel free to contact us any time.