Rachel Smith, candidate for Minchinhampton Division, writes:
In February, Green Party volunteers went door-to-door across the local area with a survey on local priorities: talking to local citizens about the issues that matter most.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to fill in a survey, or talk to one of the volunteers.
Here’s some of the things I’ve heard from the 405 survey responses in Minchinhampton Division, and from talking on the doorstep – along with the ways that I and the local Green Party are taking action to address them.
98% of responses said that it should be a County Council priority to “maintain roads and fill potholes promptly”.
We need accountability for the management of road repairs. In surveys and conversations, I heard a lot of concerns about the way repairs are currently managed: so on 13th March I requested a copy of the contract between Gloucestershire County Council and Amey, the roads contractor, to find our details of the price we’re all paying every time a pothole is filled, or a surface repaired – so we can make sure resources are being used effectively. So far – the Council have failed to supply the details requested (evading giving a reply until after the election it seems!), but I’ll keep pushing for transparency in this important area.
The Green Party would not blindly pour money into private contractors patching up potholes like the Conservatives have. Their £150m pledge for roads is a repackaging of existing spending – and will result in more roads with ongoing high maintenance costs.
Our county manifesto talks of a different transport strategy: to get the whole county moving with a mix of transport options. Not least because 80% of survey respondents highlighted the need for improved public transport, and 88% want to see roads that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
We’re also committed to reducing traffic speeds by bringing in 20mph limits on urban roads, an idea that 65% of survey responses backed.
Public services and communities
Good local schools (97% support), improving social care provision for the elderly and those with long term conditions (94% support) and protecting local amenities (90% support) are all key issues for local voters.
Whilst the Conservatives claim to be increasing the social care budgets, the 2017/18 budget they signed off involves a real-terms cut – with increased costs of £15m, and just £4m extra to cover them. Other councils around the country have been challenging the central government austerity measures pushing social care to breaking point: but Gloucestershire Conservatives are trying to pretend there are no problems, and won’t say a word against national cuts. A Green team at Shire Hall would fight for the resources Gloucestershire needs.
With a short-term £21m grant coming from government, whoever is elected, we need good scrutiny of spending. A Green team brings the experience needed, with Stroud Central candidate Eva Ward having decades of experience as a frontline social worker, and training social workers, and my own practice managing music therapy services for a social care charity.
Our county manifesto sets out our opposition to the privatisation of care provision, and a goal to bring more services back in-house.
Green Party candidate for Bisley and Painswick, Alan Mossman, has also made education a key focus. He is working to push back against Government proposals to cut school budgets across the county, and to resist attempts to introduce selective education and “free” schools.
80% of responses said that we should “monitor, reduce and repair the impacts of air pollution”. Local activists have been monitoring air quality in Thrupp and nationally the Green Party are campaigning for action on air quality. At our recent event with Larry Sanders I spoke about how air quality is a major public health issue: failing to address it increases costs for health care and other services.
“Targeting 85% recycling” also had strong support with 87% of people in favour. In Stroud District the new recycling scheme has already boosted rates – and our commitment to cancel the wasteful incinerator contract that will suppress recycling progress is key.
In the written-in comments on the survey, nature and the environment was a common theme. A number of people said my priority should be “to protect and conserve local natural habitats and ecosystems”. This is a beautiful area, with rich wildlife and ecosystems. We can’t take it for granted: particularly with the potential of major changes to agricultural and countryside policy in coming years. Sustainability and conservation are at the heart of Green values and politics.
We asked whether local residents support our policy to “make public all contracts that spend taxpayer’s money, for example the contract for the Javelin Park incinerator”. 82% said yes – and 13% don’t know, often because they were not aware of the details of Javelin Park.
Open contracting has become a key campaigning issue for us. Gloucestershire conservatives say they want a ‘contracting council’: where services are put out to the private sector. Yet our investigations have shown that under-investment and staff cuts mean there isn’t the capacity to manage those contracts effectively – and get best value for money.
We’re committed to creating a transparent, accountable council – and to making sure there is real scrutiny of decisions.
A real choice: your vote counts
All the issues on our survey were Green Party Policies. A number of people asked me “Who could disagree with any of these? Surely they are something anyone would support?”. Yet, our policies, and our values, are different. They are hopeful. They are not rooted in an illusory austerity narrative – but are based on a belief in positive social change, effective management of common resources to avoid short-term fixes or false economy, and in working with communities to meet challenges together.
With just one County Councillor over the last eight years, the Green Party has challenged fracking, championed rural flood defence schemes, and pushed for greater transparency in contracting.
At this election, with the chance to change the balance of power at Shire Hall, your vote really counts. If you want proper scrutiny of council decisions, positive policies, and dedicated action from a tireless team – please vote Green.