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.

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Lib Dems believe in power at a local level to the people

I was watching Michael Portillo’s Power to the People , which was on over the weekend and he was advocating giving more power to local people and also for increased accountability. Not sure if Michael’s become a Liberal Democrat but that’s what we’ve been saying for years. I almost fell off my sofa when he even advocated “a local sales or income tax” to replace the council tax (Portillo was famously the Minister in charge of implementing the Poll tax).

Lib Dem measures to empower local people would be:

  • Local authorities to have the ability to set their own local income tax (in place of council tax) and keep the revenue.
  • Local authorities to set their own business rates, not have it set nationally, and also to keep the revenue. 
  • Locally elected health boards and police authorities so these services deliver what you need.
  • Allow local people to have a say in planning decisions and have the right of appeal.
  • Protect local shops and pubs, by cutting the business rate if they are the last one in the village.
  • Ability to sack your MP if they have done something wrong. Power should be in the hands of voters at all times, not just on Election Day.

PACT meetings – an example of localism at work

On Thursday night I attended the Cofton Hackett PACT (Partners and Communities Together) meeting, purely as an observer.

PACT meetings give local residents the chance to tell the local policing team, local authority and other partner agencies about the issues that are causing concern within their neighbourhood and attendees vote to prioritise which issues they want to be dealt with. Then the community work together to tackle the problems. Over 40 people attended the meeting and it was chaired very well, with points raised and discussed by any attendee.

The issues raised on the day were very local, and some may say low level, topics included: 

  • Gritting stations
  • Pothole repairs
  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Crime incidents
  • Bus services
  • Flooding on roads, and
  • Litter

I was very impressed with how all the various parties worked together. It never got political and it was very much “what can we do to solve the issue.” Two examples were the Parish council had volunteers picking up litter, and there were also separate volunteers who’d grit the steep roads around Cofton Hackett.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Eden was also attending his first Cofton Hackett PACT meeting and he remarked how great it was to see so many people involved and the difference it can make to the community and his police force. In his words

“This is democracy in action.”

For me as a Liberal Democrat who believes in localism and want more decisions decided by local people, it was fantastic to see it in action and evidently working. The local residents in the community are the key to its success, as other PACT meetings in nearby Birmingham have been sparsely attended, so a huge pat on the back to the residents of Cofton Hackett.