DevoManc, A Bad Deal Just Got Even Worse

Council Leaders need to stop Labouring under the delusion that they are in control says Jenny Ross

Ostensibly, devolution seems like a good thing, a chance for an area to become autonomous, no longer subject to the hostile whims of Westminster, free to chart its own destiny and define itself on its own terms; but scrutinise the DevoManc deal and you’ll see that Osborne’s much touted ‘Northern Powerhouse’ is more like a ‘Mancunian Workhouse’ offering about as much freedom to Greater Manchester as a choke lead does to an errant dog, and Osborne has wasted no time tightening the lead.

Campaigners for a Referendum on DevoManc take to the streets

Campaigners for a Referendum on DevoManc take to the streets

“Responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget, with a multi-year settlement” clearly seemed like a good idea at the time to the ten, mainly Labour, council leaders who rushed off behind closed doors to sign the DevoManc deal with George Osborne, without the merest whiff of public oversight. Unfortunately, like people about to be taken in by a payday loan lender, they forgot to heed the small print: that the deal is “subject to future Spending Review”.

The Chancellor’s post-election ’emergency budget’ just so happens to assure that every single ‘freedom’ Osborne had bestowed on Greater Manchester was precisely where he was making the most brutal cuts: transport, further education and business and skills.

Now Council leaders’ opportunity to build a Greater Manchester integrated transport system to rival London’s winning Transport for London has been severely impeded by Osborne hacking £545 million off the national transport budget, and devolved powers to “shape and re-structure the further education provision” and design business skills provision have both been hit by a £450 million national shortfall. Bad news for apprenticeship schemes in an area with some of the highest youth employment in the country.

What was sold as an opportunity to protect Greater Manchester from Westminster cuts seems, in the cold light of day, to be nothing more than having further responsibility for passing them down. With no opportunity to raise taxes, only an an ‘earnback scheme’ posited on narrow national growth targets, and subject to sanction if they’re not met, Tory-led Westminster are still calling the tune and Labour Council Heads are far too keen to dance to it, particularly when one of the dubious privileges they’ve been awarded is to co-commission the Workfare programme – playing Fagin to Osbourne’s Scrooge.

In an area where both Tameside and Wigan councils have volunteered to subject the most vulnerable members of their boroughs to the vagaries of Universal Credit and Troubled Families pilot schemes, alongside zealously enforcing the government sanction regime, the karmic irony can’t be lost on people that when Council Leaders are inevitably forced to go to Osborne begging bowl in hand to ask “Please Sir, can we have some more?” The answer, to the detriment of us all, will inevitably be, “No.”

Sign here to demand a referendum on DevoManc

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Use Your Vote to Keep Tameside Frack Free

Jenny Ross on the dirty industry that threatens our beautiful hills

Hydraulic Fracturing – the process of extracting gas from wells drilled deep below the earth by administering a highly pressurised mix of water, sand and up to 600 chemicals – may seem a long way away for the electorate, but Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde, Jenny Ross, says Tameside locals should vote to protect themselves from this controversial form of extreme energy gathering because our entire area is currently being offered up for license.

DEC-PEDL-14th-Round

95 out of a potential 295 bids have come in to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, but they won’t release details of where until after the general election,” says Jenny, “So if the people of Tameside don’t vote for a party that opposes fracking, the world’s worst lottery scenario – where our houses lose 70% of their value, our families’ health is put at risk, and our entire area is blighted, could apply to us.”

Last month a report from Medact, backed by leading UK doctors and public health academics, advised a nationwide prohibition on fracking – a process which remains hugely unpopular with the electorate. 76% of people oppose fracking, according to a Department of Energy and Climate Change survey, and the Infrastructure Bill’s removal of peoples’ right to oppose fracking under their homes, has cemented public dissent.

The Green Party are the only party who oppose fracking. That’s the only sensible decision to take when health evidence from the USA and Australia makes it abundantly clear fracking isn’t safe,” states Jenny.

The pro-fracking Conservative party have been strongly criticised for their close relationship with industry bosses, whilst Labour support a regulated industry – despite the fact their regulations to demand mandatory Environmental Impact Assessments and no fracking on controlled water zones were watered down in the House of Lords, leaving campaigners concerned over UK aquifer supply and integrity.

There is lower Boland shale in Tameside,” says Jenny. “However, I think it’s much more likely we will see fracking to develop Coal Bed Methane as our area is littered with old mine seams and CBM is in TMBC’s local plan.”

Coal Bed Methane extraction – known as Coal Seam Gas (CSG) in Australia – has caused earthquakes and air and water pollution in the rural outback, provoking huge nationwide protests.

The problems we’ve seen in Australia and the US would be magnified here on our highly populated island. These developments aren’t just one well: a production zone could have up to 30 wells on, each taking up 5km square. They have 24/7 drilling licenses, flaring radioactive gasses through the night, compressor stations, thousands of movements of 300,000 litre tankers clogging up and damaging our roads. Furthermore, each frack takes between 20,000-50,000 cubic meters of water per well. Where on earth do we find that amount of water when every summer we get a hosepipe ban for wanting to hydrate the marigolds? And how do we replace it when the water is rendered toxic and radioactive during the process?” asks Jenny.

Parliament’s own Environmental Audit Committee have advised the House of Commons that even if shale and CBM are developed in the UK, our carbon budget would not allow for their burning, and industry insider’s have already admitted the gas will not be cheaper.

Jenny MC-ing the People's Climate March in Manchester, 2014

Jenny MC-ing the People’s Climate March in Manchester, 2014

Continuing to invest in fracking is stifling investment in affordable renewable energy that the people of this country so desperately need,” says Jenny. “1-in-4 households in the UK are now living in fuel poverty. It’s time to roll out renewables creating 1,000,000 new jobs in the process and supplying the people of the UK with clean energy that won’t cost the earth.”

If you don’t want to see fracking developed in Tameside, sign our petition here

Vote for a Safe Climate

A Vote for the Green Party is a Vote for the Future

In honour of Earth Day, our candidate for Stalybridge and Hyde, Jenny Ross, has put together a small film about how the Green Party offer a solution for a safe climate.

As all other political parties, rush to develop another fossil fuel market in fracking for shale gas and Coal Bed Methane, the Greens have a vision for renewable energy that will free us from the profiteering of the ‘Big Six’ energy companies, create 1 million new jobs and provide clean energy that will return profits locally and won’t cost us our earth.

With the entire area of Tameside currently up for license for fracking and with Coal Bed Methane extraction in Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council’s local plan, it is important we vote to protect ourselves from this dirty industry that won’t bring jobs but will threaten our health, house prices and water.