Ever since I was in school (a long while ago!) it seems that people have talked about the potential of tidal energy in the Severn Estuary. It was incredibly disappointing to hear that government had kicked the proposed tidal energy lagoon in Swansea into touch. A decision rounded upon by local politicians of all colours. A massive missed opportunity. Unlike the Tories’ deal with the DUP it would have been £1 billion well spent. Contrast with the £30bn EDF Hinkley nuclear project is also instructive.
The fact it came in a week where public health and environmental concerns were summarily dismissed in the Heathrow decision is doubly depressing.
My friend Chris Grocock has penned the following piece explaining why we should have gone ahead with the lagoon.
With this decision the Conservative Party has backed an outdated potentially dangerous technology where the expertise, ownership and engineering skills sit with foreign state owned companies (China and France) and which, like fossil fuels, still relies on importing an unstable finite fuel supply (Uranium) from the global marketplace.
The Prime Minister and Secretary of State have turned down a world-first opportunity to build a sustainable renewable power source extracted from our national waters, invest in jobs and skills, regenerate local communities, reduce carbon emissions, reinvigorate British industry and develop an entirely new sector of the UK economy.
The false idea that this decision has anything to do with the market is a nonsense. It is a purely political decision based on the unwillingness of the Tories to show any imagination or oppose the vast power of vested interests in the energy sector.
Yet serious public investment in the technological and industrial development of renewable energy would be truly transformative – environmentally, economically, socially and politically.
Over time it would eventually lead to an oversupply of inexhaustible electricity causing the price to plummet and ushering in an era of inexpensive, clean energy. How can renewables not be cheaper when the fuel source is infinite, abundant and doesn’t require expensive extraction from increasingly inaccessible locations? All that’s missing is the investment in technology and infrastructure to create economies of scale. The spin off benefits would be incredible.
And this is how Labour’s proposed national investment bank and regional development banks can and will most fundamentally transform Britain and set an example to the wider world.
It’s not principally about being green although the environmental impact would see us lead the way in the fight against climate change.
Nor is it about foreign policy although it would be great for Britain not to compromise with corrupt authoritarian regimes or feel the need to invade countries to secure our energy supply.
It’s not even about economic development although it would be amazing to cultivate new cutting edge industries, create thousands of jobs and improve the productivity of the UK workforce.
It’s ultimately about demonstrating a belief that sustained investment and innovation can make energy so cheap, even free at the point of use, that it is available to everyone entirely on the basis of need no matter their wealth, status or position.
I don’t know if anybody can truly conceive what that would look like in its entirety – for health, transport, education, housing, for information technology, industry, construction and agriculture – but it has to be one of the great missions of 21st century socialism.
For today, for tomorrow, and the future of our country.
I have been contacted by Sheltorpe residents who were concerned about this fence. It blocks off the end of a footpath between Manor Drive on the Shelthorpe Estate, and an open space with a very nice looking playground for younger children. That open space sits on the Chimes Estate which is still partly being built. The park is finished. Children play on it. The grass around it is in good shape.
People got in touch with me because they wanted to know why children on the Shelthorpe Estate were having to take a ten-minute or more detour to get to a bit of open space with a lovely community asset on it. The trip would otherwise be around 30 seconds.
Many people have memories of going down the self-same path to play on the open space that used to occupy the land where the new estate is being built.
I have been to the site twice now to see and hear what is going on. Today I went to speak to local residents. One, who lived within metres of the fence reported that it has been up since the building started, he was none the wiser as to why it was still up.
I also visited the office of the David Wilson Homes who are developing the site. They were very courteous to me. It’s fair to say the gentleman I spoke to did not have the answer but said he would get the relevant person to contact me.
I await eagerly, but won’t wait around if the response is slow.
One aspect of this is the way that these new estates across Loughborough are being constructed and sold. The parks and open spaces, and some other community amenities will not be administered by the Borough Council in the normal way, but will be maintained by a management company who takes a service-charge from those living on the estate. It’s a daft idea, basically privatising open-spaces, and introducing an additional private council tax.
This arrangement may mean that some of the paths around the park (on this plan below) will be maintainable by the management company. But in my view if the public has exercised a right of way over the path to what used to be recreation land (and still is), they should still be granted that right of way.
We will see what the construction firm come back with.
You would hope, however, that they would see sense: there is a community asset in the park, there is a path to it, and on any common sense view all members of the community ought to be able to use the park and access it by way of the path.
To be continued…
Today I gave a speech to NAPO, the professional body for probation employees. They were such a nice, thoughtful and talented group of people to spend my afternoon with.
I set out what a disaster the privatisation of much of the probation service has been since services for the so called “less serious offenders” were transferred into 21 “Community Rehabilitation Companies”: leaving a fractured and under-performing system.
The following damning reports give you a flavour:
- The Chief Inspectorate of Probation 2017 Annual Report released in December 2017 stated: “the quality of CRC work to protect the public is generally poor”; that “Government reform of probation has created a ‘two-tier and fragmented’ system in which private companies are performing significantly worse than public sector elements” and “CRCs have reduced staff numbers, some to a worrying extent.”
- A report from the Chief Inspectors of Probation and Prison in June 2017 stated: “CRCs are making little difference to their prospects on release. …The overall picture was bleak. If Through the Gate services were removed tomorrow, in our view the impact on the resettlement of prisoners would be negligible.”
- A recent National Audit Office report showed that the 21 private probation companies on average met just one-third of the 24 targets set to them by the Ministry of Justice.
- Tens of thousands of offenders – up to 40% of the total – being supervised by telephone calls every six weeks instead of face-to-face meetings, according to the chief inspector of probation.
And this really matters in our area as the figures for crime in Leicestershire are rapidly getting worse:
- Recorded crime in Leicestershire has risen by more than a fifth (21%) from 2016 to 2017, from 65,717 offences recorded by police in 2016 to 79,250 in 2017, a rise of 13,533 crimes.
- Among the types of crime seeing a big rise was violence against the person: a 29% rise in 2017.
- A 27% rise in reports of sexual offences between 2016 and 2017, with a total of 1,991 sexual offences reported last year.
- Possession of weapons offences were up, with a 43% rise in 2017, one of the biggest increases in England and Wales.
- Drug offences were also rising, up 28% in a year.
This matches with what I hear anecdotally is happening in Loughborough. Yes, Labour’s 10,000 additional police officers nationwide would address this crime. But in terms of the causes of crime, probation is essential, meaning ending the debacle of the privatised CRCs is essential. And Labour will end it.
On the back of the Carillion debacle, when it went bust owing £7 billion, this is yet more evidence that the private sector has no place running our public services. We are out on a limb as a country with the Economist calling us the “world-leader” in the privatisation of public services. It has been a colossul experiment. It has failed.
Yesterday we were treated to Loughborough’s Tory MP Nicky Morgan joining Nick Clegg and David Miliband at the Tilda Rice factory in Essex to say… well what exactly? The truth is that that in our country we have a party system. Politicians stand on a party manifesto, get elected, and then what happens is largely shaped by that manifesto, and the cabinet working in concert with the whips and the parliamentary party.
On the Conservative side, these basic facts are becomingly increasingly strained. The recent furore around a made-up customs partnership versus the soundbite “maximum facilitation” is just the latest symptom of a party comprised of people who cannot even reconcile their own personal ideological approach with the substantive measures they are calling for.
So, this begs the question of where did Mrs Morgan’s intervention at the Tilda Rice plant get us and the voter in trying to discern an alternative approach to Brexit and how that may be achieved?
Mrs Morgan has been as unclear as she has been inconsistent on what type of soft-Brexit she would like. Much less, on how she, a Conservative, will advance the country’s position.
In March of this year Nicky Morgan took to the BBC to say “mutual recognition of regulations is the way to go” in endorsing the substance of the Prime Minister’s Mansion House Brexit speech. This is a very far cry from membership of the European Economic Area or achieving any benefit of the single market: “mutual recognition” of regulations is very different to the “mutual adoption” of regulations that would be required to properly enjoy single market benefits.
Perhaps it is this lack of clarity that has undermined her efforts to shape Tory policy on Brexit. Or perhaps it is the fact that her approach offers a very fuzzy alternative to the two well-established camps in cabinet. And with the hard Brexiteers in the ascendancy it has been, and will remain, a case of vote for a Tory MP, get hard Tory Brexit.
I am very please to announce that we have two fantastic speakers confirmed for our next two NHS winter crisis public meetings.
Next Tuesday night, 10th April, 6.45pm at Shepshed Town Council Offices, we have Terri Eynon who is a Leicestershire GP and leader of the Labour Group on Leicestershire County Council.
Then for the last of our events Karen Lee MP, who is still a practising nurse will be with us at Quorn Scout Hut on Thursday 26th April at 7.30pm.
The first of our events in Loughborough provided a fantastic opportunity to share experiences of the NHS over the past few months. This provided detailed perspectives that will help us to shape our campaigning as we seek a secure and better future for our NHS.