Transition Town and local activism – a very Lib Dem way

Last week I was invited to Transition Town Tooting’s Electing the Future event with other parliamentary candidates. A discussion based evening, rather than a hustings, there were some great ideas around improving community, controlling traffic & pollution, access to housing, green spaces, locally sourced food, better streets and independent retail environments.

Philip giving group feedback from one of the discussions

Philip giving group feedback from one of the discussions

Locally the Lib Dems have are campaigning on safer streets and improved housing, and you can support us at the links below:

In terms of local decision making, in Lib Dem run Borough of Sutton they have encouraged people to set up more resident and community groups, tenants’ associations and friends of parks and heritage buildings, helping them bid for funds so they can make their own decisions about the area where they live. An example is a district centre regeneration project worth more than £1m which was handed over to local residents to agree and oversee.

The Transition Town movement focuses on sustainable living, especially in light of climate change, and nationally the Liberal Democrats understand this, which is why the Liberal Democrats have  it a priority for the next Government, if we are part of it, for five green laws to safeguard the environment:

Zero Carbon Bill

Introducing a Zero Carbon Britain Bill in the next parliament to end Britain’s adverse impact on climate change for good by 2050.

Zero Waste Bill

Treble fines and claw back £500 million for the taxpayer by clamping down on organisations which fly-tip to deliberately evade tax and review the tax structure across landfill, incineration and collection.

Green Homes Bill

New Green Homes Bill will insulate up to 10 million homes by 2025 and offer at least £100 a year off Council Tax for ten years when energy improvements are carried out.

Green Transport Bill

Transport has a significant role to play in reducing carbon emissions. In the UK, transport is responsible for around 25% of our carbon emissions and is the fastest growing source of carbon emissions. We will bring forward a comprehensive package of transport policies to continue to build a people-centred, sustainable, safe travel system that helps the economy grow.

Nature Bill

Establish the Natural Capital Committee on a statutory footing to provide advice to Government to ensure that nature is at the heart of government decision-making and that government departments are held to account for achieving progress against commitments to improving the natural environment.

There is no magic solution to solve all the problems discussed, it requires local and national actions. However, communities thrive best when there is local participation, something the Lib Dems truly believe in.

Innovative housing design (from 1969)

Yesterday I was delivering in Rowley Way, Kilburn, an award winning and Grade II listed architectural estate. Hearing more about it, and speaking to a former resident of the place, it made me think is this the kind of innovative architecture we need more of in the UK?

Image

Yes, the estate has its problems and the concrete façade is not what many would now choose, but it has the following:

  • Fantastic use of living space inside the flats
  • Flats designed to maximise the natural light
  • Pedestrianised streeting, which encourages children to play on the streets
  • Balcony space for all flats

I’m not suggesting replica estates / designs, but it’s an example of trying to use space more creatively that could tackle the housing problem in Hampstead and Kilburn as well as the UK.

The homeless – a hidden problem in Bromsgrove

Last week I visited the Basement Project, an award winning Bromsgrove charity based in Bromsgrove Baptist Church, which offers support and advice to 16-25 year olds who are homeless or facing homelessness. It may surprise people in Bromsgrove to think that there is a homeless problem in the area but there are many people affected of all backgrounds for various reasons.

The causes may be breakdown in child/parent relationship, no family support, wrong choices made in life or simply unemployment. The staff at the centre have seen so many cases that they are no longer shocked by anything, although they do find things upsetting.

The centre has 3 projects:

  1. Drop in centre open every week day. Where visitors can have some food, clean themselves up and seek confidential advice whatever the problem.
  2. Outreach service where staff will go and give help on a one-to-one basis with individuals, as they want it
  3. Private tenancy scheme which helps young people to rent a private property with some assistance.

With the Basement staff (l-r Marina, Lance and Elaine)

There are no simple solutions and government help on housing for the under 25 could be improved (they have lower financial support than those older than 25). Improving the educational opportunities for all young people will help more have the skills required to help them through life. Some of the projects work can be as simple as basic life skills, managing money to help with getting a job or further education.

Providing the safety net for those in need is vital, but so is the support to enable them to get out of their situation. Many of these young people are incredibly bright and have aspirations, and we need to ensure the opportunities are there for them.

All party’s could do more, but I am proud that education is at the heart of the Lib Dem’s key policies, especially the scrapping of tuition fees, which is a severe barrier to those with little income in even considering higher education. I will be seeking to understand how housing support for under 25s can be improved.

If you would like to know more about the Basement Project please visit their website or e-mail Elaine Mortimer: elaine@bromsgrovebasementproject.co.uk

With Alison, one of the volunteers at the centre