The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon


3:44 pm - August 29th 2010

by Rupert Read    


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On 9th September local elections in Norwich could lead to Greens becoming the largest party on a Principal Authority Council.

If they then form a minority administration, it would be the first time they would have an opportunity to govern in their (in our) own name.

OK, it would would be a minority Green administration in a City Council with relatively few powers and desperately strapped for cash. Challenging times. How would the first Green administration in Britain attempt to rise to the challenge?

I’ll give the two top examples of how.

Top of the Norwich Greens’ agenda is their plans for making Norwich an ‘Open Council’. Green councillors will make decisions in public more than has ever happened in Norwich before. See our manifesto on that promise. Participatory budgeting will be just the beginning of this.

And a Green-run Council will seek to create a Council-run Energy Services Company, offering local people the chance to choose green energy without having to pay an exorbitant price, or being pestered by every energy or renewables company that comes knocking on their door, is also high on the Greens’ agenda. (See here for a precedent).

Again, this can be done for very little money, because the ‘ESCo’ takes the financial risk, while citizens (and the Earth) gain.

If you are interested in the details of all this and more, then see the manifesto for yourself here.

Lefties, progressives and g/Greens may not have seen this coming, but Sept. 9th might just end up being as significant a day for the ‘liberal conspiracy’ in Britain as was General Election Day this year.

After all, a Green Council will presumably be able to achieve more than a lone Green MP can do in practice.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Environment ,Green party ,Local Government ,Westminster

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Reader comments


Hope so. Hope the fact that many of the student voters won’t yet have returned to Norwich doesn’t work against the Greens.

2. Luis Enrique

And a Green-run Council will seek to create a Council-run Energy Services Company, offering local people the chance to choose green energy without having to pay an exorbitant price, or being pestered by every energy or renewables company that comes knocking on their door, is also high on the Greens’ agenda.

how are you going to be able to provide green energy at lower prices than other providers? how and why will you stop other energy companies marketing their productions?

Again, this can be done for very little money, because the ‘ESCo’ takes the financial risk, while citizens (and the Earth) gain.

But who pays the ESCo’s costs, if not the citizens? You can’t make costs and risks vanish, so is bearing the costs and risks?

As with Luis:

“And a Green-run Council will seek to create a Council-run Energy Services Company, offering local people the chance to choose green energy without having to pay an exorbitant price, ”

Erm, how? We all know that renewables (“green” energy) cost more than fossil fuel derived. Sure, we can argue about the externalities….but if you include the externalities then green energy will, by definition, be more expensive out of pocket that fossil fuel derived.

Come on now, if renewables really were cheaper than fossil then we wouldn’t be having any problems, would we?

“because the ‘ESCo’ takes the financial risk, ”

That financial risk is passed on doesn’t mean that financial risk disappears. I would hope the recent banking crisis would teach you that.

Who stands behind the ESCo, who ultimately bears the risk?

2. and 3.

One of the easiest ways to help people to save on their energy bills is to ensure their houses are fully insulated. People might then look into small scale renewable energy harvesting such as solar hot water or solar voltaic.

I suppose in principle there is nothing wrong with private companies offering a similar service. I doubt they will be as cheap, because they’ll be expected to create a profit to pass on to their investors. Here is a warning from the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2010/aug/14/free-solar-panels

It’s the lack of having to ‘reward’ an investor for taking a risk that makes it cheaper. It’s a bit like if New Labour had raised taxes or straight up borrowed money to pay for new hospitals rather than used PFI. They’d have cost the tax payer on average around 6 times less:
http://www.nhslocal.nhs.uk/story/news/true-cost-building-pfi-hospitals-west-midlands

I presume the reason why energy companies have been reluctant to market schemes like this is because they already make money selling people energy. They need to find a way to retain their profits whilst helping people to consume less.

The manifesto makes interesting reading. There are welcome proposals for greater transparency in the “Open Council” section, any much that is innocuous enough.

Some of the proposals raised a smile: “Encourage high quality busking” for instance, although it raises the interesting question of whether this will be done by restricting low-quality buskers or by subsidising “preferred buskers”; in any case, who decides?

Some of the proposals seem a little contradictory to me: e.g. promotion of social housing, while increasing the number of allotment plots and requiring green spaces in developments. Presumably these allotment plots and green spaces could have been used to lower the cost of social housing? So while a laudable aim it’s not clear where the money will come from.

I’m curious about the proposal to insist upon a requirement of 30% on-site renewable energy generation for major new developments. I suppose it depends on what counts as renewable, but I’m genuinely interested: is there a renewable technology which can reliably provide 30% of energy needs (even assuming that the development is highly energy-efficient?)

One proposal in particular stuck out for me as being potentially controversial: “Develop a garden share scheme so people who have larger gardens than they need can share them with people who don’t need a garden”. It depends on whether there is any element of compulsion, and again, who decides whether someone’s garden is “larger than they need”?

Interesting reading though, and thanks for the link.

@4

Sure, insulation’s possibly cheaper than more electricity. But that’s not what they’re saying. They are actually saying that they;re going to offer cheap green energy. How are they going to do that?

Re PFI, yes, I know it’s expensive and no, I don’t defend it in general.

But saying that the profit margin is 5/6 ths of the total cost is absolute nonsense. The PFI contracts include cleaning, catering, porterage, and in some cases regular replacement of the medical equipment throughout the lifetime of the contract: not just the original building work.

Lets not rule out the possibility of a coalition council. But yes, this is a great opportunity for the Greens to make a splash and prove they can handle a degree of responsibility that they have never et experienced in this country.

Would also be great to see it come at the expense of the Lib Dems as we’ve needed a small left wing party in this country for years to help keep Labour honest and inventive.

Interesting, will Rupert be assessing the buskers to make sure they are quality?

Hope people spread the word and support the election work for the Greens in Norwich.

Regarding the sensible queries from Luis and Tim, it would be nice if OPs were prepared to spend a little time backing up their claims or answering such sensible questions.

I’d imagine the greens will hold onto the seats they’ve already got, but being in Uni holidays I cant see them winning enough support with non-students to take control of the council. Not having students about will also decrease the Lib Dem vote, so Labour could profit from the timing of the election.

Just can’t see what the greens could offer norwich though, they abstain on loads of votes, and just irritate people by getting in the way of new businesses eg: unthank road tescos which created jobs and gave people a cheaper alternative to the co op.

Although the amount of support for greens is shockingly high for a single-issue party (ever seen UKIP as the biggest opposition on a council?) , Labour will hold on I reckon.

@7

Definitely – especially now the LDs have stopped even pretending to be left-ish. And the far-left is still as splintered as it always has been. The Greens fufill a vital role, good luck in Norwich.

@10 We’re just two seats short of being the largest party, and we’ve been consistently building support in Norwich for years, you can’t do that whilst relying primarily on the student vote. Whilst it’s by no means a sure thing that we’ll become the largest party, it’s definitely possible.

As for your point about new businesses, it’s been fairly well proven that supermarkets destroy more jobs than they create (as local shops that can’t compete on price are forced out of business), so perhaps you could provide an example that will actually benefit the community.

Finally, the Greens aren’t a single-issue party, and haven’t been for decades. We almost certainly have the most detailed policy platform of any UK Political Party. Our high level of support in Norwich is due to many years of hard work on the ground.

13. Charlieman

@12 Green Christian: “…it’s been fairly well proven that supermarkets destroy more jobs than they create…”

It might have been proven to you but I suspect that the people who wish to buy cheap food have blanked your arguments. You should know the argument: when you are poor it is difficult to be picky.

I can afford to shop for food wherever I wish. I use lunch time to shop in a nice precinct adjacent to a university; a fine butcher, two green grocers and a real deli (there are two boutique delis that do not get my business). The two bakers’ products are unspeakable.

Those shops compete against a Sainsbury’s Quiki Mart which has machines that shout at people.

While I am sufficiently rich, I’ll shop in the most pleasant environment. If I am poor, I will buy the cheap stuff that is edible.

“As for your point about new businesses, it’s been fairly well proven that supermarkets destroy more jobs than they create (as local shops that can’t compete on price are forced out of business), so perhaps you could provide an example that will actually benefit the community.”

Let us just try and unpack that. In doing so, let’s use the numbers from the nef, why not?

They say that “local shops” as opposed to supermarkets, produce 4 times as many jobs per £100k of sales.

So, what we’re saying is that in order to provide retail services to a town we’ve got two models.

1) Local shops.

2) Supermarkets.

Option 1 uses four times as much labour as option 2.

You are now saying that because of this, because more labour is used in retail services using local shops, then local shops are better.

So, umm, do you go further? Do you follow this logic? The use of the telegraph would provide many more jobs than the internet. Should we therefore restrict the internet to provide jobs?

Harvesting hay by hand, with scythes, would provide many more jobs than using a tractor (or even horse drawn machinery). Do you therefore support the banning of mechanised hay gathering?

Or, would you perhaps like to get with the real world, where reducing the amount of labour required to do one job increases the amount of labour that is available to do the other things that people might like done?

Given that we’re talking about the Green Party here, no, obviously, you haven’t grasped it. Your last GE manifesto proclaimed that renewables energy was better because (no, not in spite of, not this is a fun side line, but because) it required more human labour to produce.

Are you seriously that ignorant that you’ll run for office on such stupidity?

Apparently so, sadly.

15. Charlieman

Tim Worstall: “Your last GE manifesto proclaimed that renewables energy was better because (no, not in spite of, not this is a fun side line, but because) it required more human labour to produce.”

Tim, you have been running this argument around for years. I think that you are 90% right.

But most people do not understand your argument in any current form. You need to represent the argument in a different way.

Are you seriously that ignorant that you’ll run for office on such stupidity?

You’re the guy who was supporting and working for the UKIP for ages right?

Don’t think you have any right to comment on other party’s stupidities really do you?

“You need to represent the argument in a different way.”

It’s explained, in detail, in the first chapter of the book out in October.

Buy now at Amazon etc etc.

I read the bit of the manifesto about “Open Council”, giving residents opportunity to say how council spends money in local areas.

Just wondered if Rupert or others could explain how they intend for this to work, and if there has been any equalities impact assessment of this proposal, or plans to ensure that everyone will have an equal opportunity to have their say about how the council spends money in their local area?

It’s possible. But it’s also possible that Labour will do better now the Party is in opposition nationally and now that Charles Clarke is gone.

Can you persuade Amazon to do better than a 10% discount?!

Has anyone answered the question as to who stands behind the proposed local energy company??

Amazon discounts work rather strangely. The more people who buy the book the larger the discount becomes….odd, very odd, but that’s the way they do it.

22. The Master

Pie in the sky stuff again ? Remember how the Greens talked themselves up in Norwich North, then Norwich South, and now this. The Greens might be largest party, and it will be the death of them locally when they can no longer shirk responsibility for decisions and will no longer be able to oppose everything.

@14

First we’re criticised for opposing job creation. Then, when we point out that we’re actually opposing something that will lead to a net loss of jobs, we get told that supporting higher levels of employment is stupidity. It would be nice if our critics could make up their minds whether jobs are good for society or bad for it.

The results are in, and the answer is ‘no’.

Here are the actual results of tonight’s elections [in brief]. Looks like we’ll be waiting until at least next May for the first Green Council:
http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2010/09/result-of-norwich-local-elections.html
Bad night for Tories / LDs, in Norwich, obviously.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon http://bit.ly/caems0

  2. David H

    RT @libcon: The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon http://bit.ly/caems0

  3. manishta sunnia

    RT @libcon: The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon http://bit.ly/caems0

  4. Political Scrapbook

    The first ever Green Party (minority) council administration? http://is.gd/eKj52

  5. Simon Cooke

    Poor old Norwich if this happens and the loonies take over the asylum http://bit.ly/cdWjY3

  6. Martin Tiedemann

    Labour should be claiming participatory budgeting and ESCos, not waiting for Green councils to get elected. http://is.gd/eKj52 (via @psbook)

  7. Nadia

    Interesting. Norwich? RT @libcon The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon http://bit.ly/caems0

  8. AdamRamsay

    RT @psbook The first ever Green Party (minority) council administration? http://is.gd/eKj52

  9. Antonia Bance

    Crikey, I hope not. Crackers bunch RT @psbook The first ever Green Party (minority) council administration? http://is.gd/eKj52

  10. Randy Canoy

    The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon … http://bit.ly/aS5dYi

  11. RupertRead

    The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon…
    My new piece at liberalconspiracy.org – please… http://fb.me/GEaUTSQ7

  12. Politics of UK

    The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon #ukpolitics http://bit.ly/ds8GTE

  13. Carol Alevroyianni

    RT @politicsofuk: The first ever Green-governed council? It could happen soon #ukpolitics http://bit.ly/ds8GTE





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