Monday, 13 February 2012

Worcester Park Ward By-election: George Dow - Green Party

Ahead of the Worcester Park Ward council by-election on Thursday 16th February, the Worcester Park Blog profiles the candidates and their views and policies on key issues affecting the local area.

The Green Party - George Dow                                         

George Dow has lived in Wallington for over 30 years with his wife and family, works in management training and is a trustee of a national environmental charity.

Over the years he has been active in the community in many areas.He was the Green Party candidate for Carshalton & Wallington in the 2010 General Election and also stood in the Local Council Election.

He is currently part of the core team in establishing the local Transition Town initiative – ‘Sutton in Transition’ – and playing an active role in the Sustainable Hackbridge community development project.

In 2008 he participated in the Green Guardian's ‘Green Household Award’, winning in the borough and
runner-up in the South West London regional awards.

Supporting local shops and businesses
The local economy is a cornerstone of Green party philosophy. Some of our policies would need action at national level, for example we would like to abolish the uniform business rate and give local councils the power to set business rates to encourage community-friendly businesses.

But a combination of carrot and stick approaches at local level can support community businesses: reducing parking charges for local shopping centres, taxing parking spaces at more distant centres like Sutton would encourage people to shop local. We should examine ways in which the council can encourage local businesses to collectively publicise themselves, perhaps via local loyalty schemes which have worked well elsewhere.

The council could and should be looking to provide affordable workspaces locally so that people do not have to leave their locality to set up in business.

Crime & Policing

Green Party crime and community safety strategy is based on the view that prevention is always better than cure.  We believe that people who are well-educated and well-housed, who have jobs, who are supported by good health and social services and who are living in well-kept neighbourhoods are best placed to build strong and inclusive communities that deter crime and anti-social behaviour.

We support the Safer Neighbourhoods Teams and recruitment of community support officers to provide a distinct visible presence on the streets which help people feel safer and deter people from committing crime.

We think that PCSOs should be given the power to issue fines for anti-social behaviour such as dog fouling and littering.

Public spaces should be well maintained with good street lighting and people-friendly street design.

We believe in dealing swiftly with vandalism, litter and illegal dumping to make sure that streets and open spaces are kept. Those serving community service orders should be drafted into anti-graffiti and litter teams.

Where prevention fails, we believe the police should act swiftly to deal with crime and anti-social behaviour. They are more likely to do this if they are based locally and know and understand their communities.

For Greens, education is about ensuring everyone is given the skills, knowledge and confidence they need to fully engage with and contribute to the society in which they live, in an inclusive education system.

We believe education must be about more than just academic knowledge or simple achievement - children must also, for example, learn practical life skills and social awareness. All too often, schools focus too heavily on exams and tests at a cost of ensuring all pupils receive a well-rounded education that gives them the very best start in life.

Ensuring all teachers and children feel comfortable at school means putting an end to routine discrimination on the basis of religion or belief in school admissions policies, staff recruitment or the daily timetable.

While education should include recognition and celebration of religious diversity and spirituality - and all schools should allow space for prayer - this should not extend to turning down pupils or teachers because they belong to a different religion.

We are opposed to the government’s academies programme which is a form of backdoor privatisation, and the ridiculous ‘choice’ agenda. Nearly all parents simply want a good local school not a bogus ‘choice’ which for all but the wealthiest is no more than Hobson’s choice with local children often being excluded from good local schools by outsiders.
There have of course been such frustrating congestion and delay issues which the area has faced – what with water and gas mains replacement works and the ongoing traffic congestion due to Malden Road being a major route for commuters.

While recognising that utilities work needs to be carried out, I do feel that in order to reduce traffic congestion – whenever possible – the number of car users on the road could be substantially reduced by, for example use of public transport (bus and rail), improved cycle routes and – if it is not possible to do without a car in some cases – then moving towards sharing our car journeys.

Local Health Services

The Green Party totally opposes the government’s health privatisation programme, which will see health being run not by already overstretched GPs but by private contractors and consultants.

The yearly cost of these privatisation schemes is already over £1 billion and we are the ones left to foot the bill. We believe in keeping the health service free – we would abolish prescription charges, re-introduce free eye tests and ensure NHS chiropody is widely available. We want to end phony patient choice: for most of us patient choice is much less important than getting good treatment at our local hospital or health centre – which is often, for many, the only practical choice.

We will fight for a fair deal for those needing health care by opposing cuts, closures and privatisation and by demanding a full programme of locally accessible services. In particular, we campaign for the principle of a free NHS by implementing in England and Wales the scheme that provides free social care to the elderly in Scotland.

We support a comprehensive network of local surgeries, health centres and clinics to relieve pressure on acute services, and the concept of 24 hour access to local out-patient healthcare.
We will also fight to restore free dental care and provide everyone with the choice of an NHS dentist.

Council Tax and Service Cuts
Protecting public services is a key priority for Greens. We believe in a properly funded system of public services to ensure a good quality of life for all, not just with regard to our social services but also in our built environment. These cost money, and need to be paid for. However it’s undeniable that for much of the past decade levels of Council Tax rose way above inflation.

The prime responsibility for this really lies with central government who claimed to have given local authorities generous annual increases, but in reality many of these increases were not enough to keep up with additional demands which central government has either directly or indirectly imposed on local authorities.

Remember that most of the cost of local services comes from central government grants not from the locally-raised council tax, but when the government support is reduced, perhaps for political reasons, a disproportionate burden falls on local tax-payers.

Green policy would remove the ability of central government use the grant levels for its own political purposes. We would use an independent commission, including representatives from all levels of government, to decide what increases were necessary in order to ensure local government was properly funded - taking into account any new responsibilities placed upon it.