Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Black Lives Matter

As we hope all realise, the Green Party is a party for social justice: especially relevant with the prospect of climate change having its largest impact on the poorest in society.  As part of that search for justice, it stands with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In response to online racial harassment of a local Facebook group, Mike recent proposed a motion that 'Horsham District Council takes note of the Black Lives Matter protests within the district earlier this year.  In response, council resolves to tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it, and to continue to work with the community and Sussex police to ensure that policing in the county is proportionate and fair to all residents.'  

This was summarily amended by the relevant cabinet member to read: 'Horsham District Council notes the Black Lives Matter protests that have take place recently.  We have long condemned racism, along with all other forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, religious belief, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics that are in Section 4 of the 2010 equality act. This council requires that all members adhere to that non-discrimination policy in Section 3.2 of the members' code of conduct and we will continue to work with partner agencies, including Sussex police, to meet these requirements.' and this motion was passed, but not without some dissent regarding dilution of the original message.

As an administrative / technical error* resulted in Mike not be able to speak in support of his motion before the amendment was proposed, his text follows: 

Firstly, I must comment on the timing of this motion, which I had originally planned for the, subsequently cancelled, September council meeting.  Fortuitously, we are now in Black History Month, so the proposed motion possibly has more relevance, given the historical repression and exploitation of black lives – something touched on in the recent museum press release regarding Horsham's Black History.  In particular, the linked blog by Malcolm Linfield about the life of Jomo Kenyatta is particularly edifying.  I also note that this is Hate Crime Awareness week!

Secondly, I must thank the cabinet member for Community Matters and Wellbeing for her reply to my constituent in Upper Beeding who initially contacted me on this subject.  I look forward to receiving progress reports from the cabinet member regarding the various actions she outlined in her reply.

In proposing this motion, I am well aware of the duties of this council under the Equality Act 2010.  However, the public discourse around the recent BLM protests earlier this year made it abundantly clear that racism, both blatant and more subtle, still persist throughout UK society.  A recent local example, which led to me being contacted, was the posting of aggressive racist comments on the Steyning Stand Up To Racism group's Facebook page after they organised a very successful Black Lives Matter protest. The sheer volume of the hatred expressed resulted in the need for the group to remove any reference to what, I am informed, was a positive and well attended event.

Members may be wondering why I make specific mention of Sussex police.  This is in response to the recent police data indicating that people of Black ethnicity were significantly more likely to be subject to a 'stop and search' than those regarded as White.  Clearly it is important that Sussex police are challenged about these statistics, but I am encouraged by their awareness of, and engagement with, Hate Crime Awareness week.

So this motion is both a 'stake in the ground' and a reminder to all that Black Lives do Matter, and I earnestly hope that members will support it. 

* meetings are held via Zoom: HDC is currently trying hybrid meetings, which have exposed communications difficulties between those at the physical meeting similar to those experienced virtually when all microphones are unmuted...

Horsham DC and the Climate Emergency

One year after the council took note of the Climate Emergency, Mike asked the Leader "What changes have been made to the council's structure in response to the climate emergency recognised by this council 12 months ago?" (CO/15).  

Although welcome steps are being taken, the Green councillors consider that community engagement, as well as a more aggressive approach to its own Scope 3 emissions (effectively those contracted out) will be required, especially as the latter makes up around 90% of HDC's carbon footprint.  

They will be looking for ways to expand the excellent work of organisations such as the South East Climate Alliance, Sussex Green Living and Steyning, Bramber and Beeding's own Greening Steyning, with its 2030 project.  Needless to say, the financial restrictions resulting from the ongoing Co-19 pandemic will not make this community engagement any easier, although the increased use of online discussions may facilitate lower cost engagement models.

 

Passivhaus

I expect that many reading this blog will be aware of Passivhaus design buildings.  In a nutshell, a Passiv house will generally have excellent fabric insulation, be very well sealed with mechanical ventilation incorporating heat recovery (MVHR), and be optimised to capture winter solar energy, but shield in summer, to reduce overheating (likely to be an increasing problem in the years ahead). 

Current, and currently proposed, UK building standards are still way behind Passivhaus, but there are shining examples where councils have taken the initiative to show how it should be done eg Goldsmith Street in Norwich.  With this in mind, in July 2020 Mike proposed a motion requiring all dwellings developed by the council owned Horsham District Homes Ltd to be built to Passivhaus standards (Item CO/18).  It came as no surprise the Tory majority did not approve, mostly on the grounds of additional cost, despite the potential future cost savings from significantly lower heating bills, not to mention the future fabric improvements that will be needed to meet the 2050 UK zero carbon target.

(It should be noted that the UK's EPC rating methodology is a cost based assessment, which does not necessarily encourage best practice in building fabrics.  It can also be shown that achieving carbon neutrality by heating with renewable energy isn't going to work unless the fabric efficiency of all UK housing is dramatically improved, because of the number of poor quality dwellings that require improvement.  So why are sub-optimal dwellings still being approved?)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Year One

At our initial annual council meeting, Bob was confirmed as a member of:

  • Planning South committee
  • Leisure and Culture policy development advisory group (PDAG)
and Mike joined:

  • Planning South committee
  • Licensing committee
  • Overview and Scrutiny committee
  • Environment, Waste, Recycling and Cleansing PDAG

We were thrown in at the deep end with our first 'serious' council meeting which included a well publicised motion regarding the climate emergency (proposed by the LibDems, seconded by Mike - CO/20).  The presence of a large number of SECA members offered moral support but increased stomach butterflies!  As the minutes show, this motion was diluted by a Tory amendment, but nevertheless serves as a reminder to all at HDC.

Further actions during the first year included:

  • pushing the council to go beyond current building regulations in regard to the fabric of new dwellings (CO/35
  • objecting to the council's support of the 'magenta' route for the proposed Arundel by-pass, and seconding a LibDem motion around sustainable transport provision, should a by-pass be built (CO/46)
  • welcoming the council's financial commitments to the Wilder Horsham project and carbon footprinting, including potential support for community groups and parishes (CO/53)
and then the Covid-19 pandemic hit home, with emergency measures to allow remote meetings implemented (by Zoom).

From our Green perspective, this has the distinct advantages of removing the need to travel to Horsham for meetings - a process that highlighted the limited public transport provision (shame on you, Dr Beeching) - but, more importantly, meant that remote public access was now feasible from anywhere, with meetings streamed live on YouTube and available for subsequent scrutiny, (audio recordings have been available for some time).

It is possible for members of the public to speak at meetings (para 4a.19 of the constitution), provided the topic is relevant to the published agenda, and the necessary 2 working days notice is given to democratic services.  

At this point, it's worth highlighting that the easiest way to find out what meetings are going on is to use the online calendar: clicking on a meeting will take you to the published information.    

Year Zero

In the beginning, there were two longtime members of Greening Steyning with a shared concern for the future of the planet's ecosystem.  Both were Green Party members, so decided to stand at the 2019 Horsham District Council Elections.  (Bob for Steyning and Ashurst, and Mike for Bramber, Upper Beeding and Woodmancote.)

Thanks to the work of XR and Sir David Attenborough in publicising the issues, and with massive support from local voters, they were both elected to council in May of that year.  Although retired, both already had active voluntary roles in the community, but now the hard work really would begin, as neither had any previous experience of district council operations.

This blog will record their progress as they strive to make Horsham District a greener, fairer place to live, and to ensure that it plays its full part in averting a climate and ecological catastrophe.

Why 20 is Plenty for Steyning (and Bramber)

By now, anyone living in the parish of Steyning, or those parts of Bramber potentially affected, will have received a paper survey asking fo...