9 January 2018
Green councillors in Lancaster are calling on the city council to re-set its spending priorities ahead of the budget in February and have published a 6-point ‘Budget Priorities Plan’ to improve both the local economy and residents’ quality of life.
Green City Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox said:
“It's time the Council took a different approach to creating a more resilient and sustainable economy; to building low-energy affordable housing; to promoting a cleaner, safer environment; and to relieving some of the most extreme poverty in the district. There is too much reliance, and council money, being placed on attracting uncertain investment from outside the district to address our problems.”
Green Group Leader, Cllr Jon Barry said:
“Labour's previous £70k cut to the budget for street cleaning plus lots of new houses in the district has meant our public spaces are under pressure. I have certainly noticed an increase in litter on the west side of the city this last year. But council action on the local environment needs to be broader - with action on climate change emissions, air pollution and flood protection at the top of the council’s agenda."
The Green Party call for Budget Priorities for the local economy, environment, and people.
1) Localise the district's economy.
Co-ordinate public sector spending across our major organisations ( for example Councils, NHS Trusts and the Universities) to support local enterprises and thereby encourage local employment, development of skills of local work force and generally enhancing the resilience of local business.
Lancaster should follow the example of Preston City Council where the proportion of procurement spend, in Preston, of the six anchor institutions increased from 5% to 18% over the last five financial years, with £74m more now spent with Preston organisations. The proportion of procurement spend in wider Lancashire has increased from 39% to 79%, with £199m more now spent with Lancashire-based organisations. A Green Party motion on local procurement was supported in full council in July 2017 and the officer report on this is now imminent.
2) Localise renewable energy production.
Lancaster should invigorate joint ventures with private or preferably community partners to build solar farms at Salt Ayre (now that it's back in city council ownership) and Middleton; review other options for renewable energy generation at these sites; and investigate the installation of solar panels on council housing. The city council could use the council's capital borrowing powers as necessary and boost revenue by selling the electricity generated to LCC itself (via what is known as a sleeving arrangement.)
3) Develop the skills of local people.
Initiate a local Building Trades Academy – for example through a joint venture with Lancaster & Morecambe College which builds on the college's own construction skills expertise. The particular aim is to build up the skills base to enable energy-saving retro-fitting of housing, importantly with a council-backed guarantee to encourage take-up; and to assist with affordable housing. Equally to help to tackle the issue of those young people being left adrift – those not in employment, education or training. Council would deploy skilled people onto its own older estate properties, eg on Newton.
4) Low-energy, affordable housing for local people.
Use council borrowing powers to build new, and buy existing, properties to secure a greater number of more sustainable and more affordable properties for rent. This would also provide more competition for the private rental sector. Prefabricated construction is now recognised as a way forward for sustainable house-build revolution. Lancaster should consider the promising examples of excellence from elsewhere in low carbon construction (http://www.lowcarbonconstruction.co.uk/residential/ <http://www.lowcarbonconstruction.co.uk/residential/> ) and utilising council-owned car parks. ( https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/zedpods-may-be-coming-to-a-car-park-near-you/10015920.article <https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/zedpods-may-be-coming-to-a-car-park-near-you/10015920.article>)
5) Pride in our area.
Focus council resources on improving the local environment: eg tackling litter and dog fouling by increasing the budget for street cleaning by £70k, reversing the reduction of last year; softening the urban environment with landscape planting; and protecting and enhancing our well-loved green spaces. Most important is that the council works with other agencies on flood protection, including gully cleaning.
6) Relief of extreme poverty.
Lancaster City needs to ensure that no-one is in dire poverty. The City Council should specifically ring fence up to £20k in the 18-19 budget to fund vouchers for food and utilities through the Citizen Advice Bureau, and ensure that existing support organisations such as the Homeless Action Centre are supported to continue their vital work.