Thursday 26 May 2016

Belper & Duffield Labour Party at Belper Goes Green

Your chance to discuss issues with local Labour Party members at their BGG stand on the 4th and 5th June (Saturday and Sunday).

You might want to ask about Labour's policies and record on the environment. What about our position on the EU referendum or perhaps something more local.

This image has been lifted from here:Nailed Belper magazine article

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Neighbourhood Plan 4 Belper attending Belper Goes Green

The Neighbourhood Plan 4 Belper blog is gathering momentum with the latest post advertising their presence at Belper Goes Green. A copy of the NP4B blog post is pasted below:


The Neighbourhood Plan for Belper team will be attending Belper Goes Green. Look out for us at BGG on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th June.

If you have any questions about NP4B or want to feed your ideas into the process then please come and speak to us. We will be located in a marquee ........... not quite sure exactly where that will be on the Rugby Club grounds so you may have to search us out.

This is also an ideal time to become part of the team as the workload is demanding but would be made so much easier if shared amongst an expanded group of volunteers.

Link to the Belper Goes Green page on the Transition Belper website

BGG is being held at the Belper Rugby Club:

Saturday 21 May 2016

Sadiq Khan questions the wisdom of HS2 terminating in Euston

My experience is that though the Labour Party publically supports the HS2 project, privately there are many who have grave doubts that this scheme is the best way forward for our country. Some senior figures have gone on record with their disquiet, notably Alistair Darling who warned that money was being diverted from the traditional railway network to fund the HS2 whilst Ed Balls (remember him) made it known in 2014 that Labour could not support the HS2 project if the cost estimates exceeded £50 billion. Last September, behind the scenes at the Labour Party conference in Brighton I had the opportunity to question a handful of front benchers (OK I admit it ....... only 3 of them) and they all were, shall we say, luke warm. Now we have Sadiq Khan questioning the planned 10 years of disruption that will be caused if HS2 terminates in Euston; not just for long distance travellers and commuters but also for those who live and work in that area of London. Sadiq is suggesting that terminating HS2 at Old Oak Common may be a better way forward. I am reminded of the furore surrounding the building of the railway into Euston in the 1830's, significantly featured by Charles Dickens in his book, "Dombey and Son".  See here:

Evening Standard article in which Sadiq questions building HS2 into Euston - 19th May 2016

Railway cutting in Camden Town - 1836 by John Cooke Bourne
Dickens wrote about the effect on London of this construction work in Dombey and Son

For blog readers who are unsure of the railway geography of London this map of the Old Oak Common area might be of some help:

The new London Mayor has wasted no time in listening to his transport advisors; Transport for London are very keen on the travel opportunities made possible by the planned Old Oak Common interchange station between HS2 (the blue line in the above map) and Crossrail (the mauve line - well it looks mauve to me). The idea to terminate HS2 at Old Oak Common is a natural progression of this idea. Why spend all that money and subject travellers and London residents to a decade of upheaval just for passengers to be debouched at Euston, which is not as well connected to the West End and the City as a Crossrail connected Old Oak Common.

............. but Old Oak offers far more

Look again at that map and you see the West Coast Main Line (the black line) just above Old Oak. This is the existing 4 track main line running into Euston that supporters of HS2 claim is incapable of handling any more passenger growth, the predominant argument justifying the building of the high speed route to Birmingham and beyond. Those 4 tracks are split between 2 that carry Virgin InterCity express trains whilst the other 2 tracks carry suburban commuter trains that reach out as far as Milton Keynes and Northampton (some trains even as far as Birmingham) ............. the London Midland franchise. The distance between the Crossrail and West Coast routes is under a mile and there already exists a railway alignment between the two (the green line on the map) and it would be very simple to link the suburban West Coast pair of tracks through to Crossrail. Construction work would be minimal, the investment comparatively little, a mere fraction of whatever HS2 ends up costing.

In this way suburban trains that now run into Euston would be diverted onto Crossrail thus providing a direct link to the West End and the City, relieving a lot of pressure from the underground and bus services. Capacity on Crossrail would not be an issue because many trains from the East End of London are scheduled to terminate at Paddington so extending them through to the West Coast via this new link would not cause untoward congestion on the section between Paddington and Old Oak.

Diagram lifted from the London Connections paper, "Old Oak Common - A vision for Crossrail)

What is the relevance of this to HS2

By diverting the bulk of suburban services out of Euston there would be no need for wholesale rebuilding of the station. You would also increase capacity on the existing Euston to Birmingham route as the main constraint is the bottleneck of the approach trackwork just outside the station .......... trains leaving get in the way of trains arriving as they fan out into the various platforms. There would also be more platforms available to InterCity trains, platforms that formerly were occupied by suburban trains.

With this increase of capacity at Euston, coupled with train lengthening (a simple matter of adding coaches to existing trains and adding some metres to selected platforms at key stations such as Watford, Milton Keynes, Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton the central raison d'ĂȘtre for HS2 collapses.

But ......................  

Of course the proponents of HS2 cite other reasons why this high speed line should be built but there is now a considerable body of evidence that questions the logic of such a venture. It is a fact that no meaningful study has been undertaken to compare HS2 with alternative proposals so once again I urge that the Labour Party should push for a thoroughgoing investigation into the future of transport in this country. A royal commision would seem to be appropriate but, failing that, Labour should carry out a "Socialist Audit" on who will be the beneficiaries of HS2. The outcome would I believe show that over 90% of existing rail passengers would gain no benefit from HS2 and that there is little relevance to the travel needs of the vast majority of the population.

Sadiq Khan questions the last few miles of HS2 striking into the heart of London and it is not too late for other senior Labour Party figures to question other aspects of this elitist railway scheme.

I have written about the HS2 project before and have no wish to repeat my position so here are the links to the relevant previous posts where I explore other HS2 related themes:

HS2 .............. HS1 a hard act to follow ....... does the sequel do it for you?

............. and you might like to explore other BelperStuff transport posts:

........... and this link that was used in research for this post may be of interest:

London Connections - A vision and a challenge for Crossrail A very interesting paper.

Monday 16 May 2016

Angelina Jolie Pitt: Refugee system breaking down

Angelina Jolie Pitt: Refugee system breaking down

Number of forcibly displaced worldwide: 59.5 million

BBC News World On The Move is a day of coverage dedicated to migration, and the effect it is having on our world.
A range of speakers, including the UNHCR's special envoy Angelina Jolie Pitt, and former British secret intelligence chief Sir Richard Dearlove, will set out the most important new ideas shaping our thinking on economic development, security and humanitarian assistance.
You can follow the discussion and reaction to it, with live online coverage on the BBC News website:
Watch this excerpt from Angelina Jolie Pitt's speech:

.......... and see this graphic:


Click on this link: UN Refugee Agency to find out the true scale of  the worldwide problem.

Number of forcibly displaced worldwide: 59.5 million

Isolationism does not provide an answer

Sunday 8 May 2016

Changes to BelperStuff

It has been a concern that BelperStuff has a recognisable political leaning yet supports activities which are distinctly non-political such as the Neighbourhood Plan 4 Belper. There had to be a degree of separation and the best way to achieve this would seem to be to change the design and structure of this blog. So .................. 

New Neighbourhood Plan 4 Belper tab

Yes look at the tabs above. By clicking on the Neighbourhood Plan 4 Belper tab you will be taken to another parallel blog devoted solely to NP4B. You can also go directly to this blog (thus avoiding BelperStuff entirely) by typing into your search engine:

The NP4B blog has just been created and so far only contains the May press release but it will be populated with other material asap.


New SERA blog tab

This is in the planning stage and will be going live this month.

Saturday 7 May 2016

Cox and Nelson lose their seats on Amber Valley Borough Council

Labour take both wards in Belper

The two Belper ward wins were pivotal with Clrs Cox and Nelson both beaten by our excellent Labour candidates (now councillors) Ben Bellamy and Maurice Neville.

Clr Maurice Neville
Area: Belper Central pre elec party:

Turnout: 43.59%
Clr Ben Bellamy

Area: Belper North pre elec party:
COX A (CON)576
Turnout: 47.02%

It would appear that the Tories still have control of AVBC. Although Labour gained these two seats they lost the contest in Ironville & Riddings by 14 votes. The composition of the council is therefore 23 Conservative and 22 Labour. Just 14 crucial votes decided the outcome of this election.

A bittersweet moment - still some work to be done

Monday 2 May 2016

AVBC elections May 5th .......... Tory record on employment

Local Tories claim to be the party for business and employment with the two Belper candidates, Alan Cox and John Nelson featuring this claim on their leaflets:

"Promote Local Jobs. We will support our local firms and high streets to build a stronger economy so that Belper can continue to thrive".

So how have the Tories performed in promoting local jobs? Obviously the answer can be found at the Office for National Statistics and the relevant data can be found here:

Percentage of economically active 16 to 64 year olds in Amber Valley district.

It would take a significant amount of data collation to unearth specific figures for Belper but a cursory investigation shows that Belper employment (not necessarily jobs in Belper) is in line with the overall Derbyshire statistic though there has been an increase in the distance that folk have to travel to get to work.

What is disturbing is that the rate of employment in Amber Valley has declined between 2004 and 2015:

  • 2004 % - Amber Valley = 76.5, East Midlands = 73.5, GB = 72.6
  • 2015 % - Amber Valley = 71.7, East Midlands = 73.8, GB = 73.6
It would appear that the Tories efforts in promoting jobs in Amber Valley, on this measure are not successful. This is a complex issue and there are any number of factors that have to be taken into account but, if we compare Amber Valley with the East Midlands or national scene then we are experiencing an underlying decline in job opportunities. There is evidence of a steady increase in employment in the region up to 2008 but the recession halted growth. 

The worrying factor is that Amber Valley is woefully underperforming when compared with other regions with the % of businesses over 10 years old increasing and the number of start up companies that fail within their first 2 years is also increasing. See these ONS charts for the region:

Percentage of Amber Valley businesses that are 2 to 3 years old - source ONS
Percentage of Amber Valley businesses older than 10 years - source ONS
Both these charts point to the fact that any effort made by AVBC Tory councillors to promote business and employment in the region has been unsuccessful. However much a mitigating Tory finger is pointed at the credit crunch or an isolated annual improvement, when compared with the average performance in the East Midlands, or in fact nationally, Amber Valley has underperformed. Despite what they say the Tories have presided over declining work opportunities for those seeking steady employment in this region.

It is not good enough for these two Tory borough councillors to wrap themselves in Belper centric statistics because the majority of working age Belper residents find employment outside the town and are reliant on jobs elsewhere in the county ............ or beyond. They should be concerned about job opportunities in the borough of Amber Valley.

What this area needs

Old coal shaft near Heanor - John Holland 1805 - 1880
Buxton Museum & Art Gallery
There can be no distinction between Belper and the rest of Amber Valley as we are interdependent. In our modern society employment is not as localised as it once was and it is wrong for politicians to suggest such a thing. BelperStuff sees no distinction between an impoverished household in Heanor, Codnor or Belper. In a world where regions compete to attract companies to their areas perhaps it is time for more consideration to be given to the building blocks needed for increased employment opportunities; for the encouragement of meaningful apprenticeships, for fostering of stronger links between schools, colleges and businesses, for more resources to be targeted at those vital transport links between employment centres and the places where people live. The key elements must be education, training and mobility and not the promotion of zero hour jobs and zero year companies.

There are many people working in education and training who devote their lives to making those they care for better able to make some headway in the world of work. They need more support.

Sunday 1 May 2016

AVBC elections May 5th ...... Cox ...... judge me on housing 2

Tories want to build on the Green Belt

The last post looking at Clr. Cox and his desire to be judged on his housing record (Cox ......... judge me on housing 1) started a train of thought about the overall record of the Tory years in charge of the borough council, the years that saw council houses being handed over to what eventually became Futures Homescape which effectively left the council powerless to intervene in what has become a housing crisis in our region. Cox's statement about being in the hands of private developers who only want to build 3 and 4 bedroom semis/detached on prime sites is evidence of that loss of control.

So I studied the annual financial reports of Futures Homescape and the later 2016 press release about their plans to build 1,000 new houses in 2020 across the East Midlands  (Futures Homescape annual report 2014/15) finding many facts that disturbed me ............ so many in fact that I started to doubt that my analysis was correct. My calculations showed an increase of debt owed to financiers on the Amber Valley ex council houses of nigh on 350%  (£28 million in 2003 to £96m in 2015) whilst the number of houses owned by Futures Homescape in Amber Valley only increased by 1.5% (5,361 in March 2003 rising to 5,719 in 2015). Surely my interpretation of the figures cannot be right. The safest course of action is to complete the analysis and then ask the housing charity to comment ............ this I will do. and will also take note of the fact that the Tory Westminster government has introduced measures to force housing associations to sell off their housing stock (see this article in the Financial Times).

The other concern was, "is it right to blame the AVBC Tories for this just because it was their decision to hand over the council houses to a housing association?" This issue demands to be
handled objectively as we are dealing with real homes occupied by real people. They deserve honesty and openness that is devoid of any political bias aimed at short term electoral advantage.

Winter Fields by Lewis Noble - Foundation House in Ripley

So where am I going with this post. Well ....... writing that last post regarding Cox and housing I just could not understand how the leader of a borough council could say one thing in May 2015, indicate the opposite only 7 months later and then compound the uncertainty by stating that green belt land is under threat (when a year before it was not). The suspicion is that these contrary statements are made for electoral advantage (well of course they are) but to state that a vote for Labour could endanger green belt land without some evidence to that fact would be mendacious (and here I am picking my words carefully as we should not suspect the leader of a borough council of being disingenuous). I naturally asked the Amber Valley Labour group for clarification and was told that the AVBC Tories had voted against the Labour motion to remove all proposed green belt housing development sites from the core strategy. This vote was held in September 2014 during the one year that Labour held control of the council and I was interested to read the comments of the then Labour deputy leader of the council:

 Clr Chris Emmas-Williams, " ............ we have followed through on our commitment not to develop on Green Belt land, which we feel is very important.”.  (you can read the full press release here on the AVBC website).

The vote was necessary because in 2012 the Tories had proposed building on two green belt sites (once again a link to the AVBC website - this time a Tory press release in 2012) with the words,  "Although this site is within the Green Belt, its development will secure a significant contribution .........................". 

Two statements just a couple of years apart. Labour voting to take housing developments on Green belt land out of the core strategy whilst Tories voted to build on Green Belt land.

Private developers take notice of all this and must obviously consider that they have more of a chance to send their JCB diggers onto the green fields that surround our towns if they are dealing with a Tory controlled council. This explains the volte-farce (yes I know it should be volte-face) of Cox. The pressures from private developers following the Tories 2012 plan are there to see in the their core strategy submissions which echoed the Tory press release on the "significant contribution" that would be made by building on this virgin land.

It is no surprise that Cox's election leaflet  does not mention the Tory record of building on Green Belt land and propagates the myth that voting Labour leads to an assault on our countryside. What matters is that voters are not given the full facts and are led to believe the opposite of the true situation. Typical Tory tactics.

Two links that are of interest:

Interactive map of the Green Belt I may have posted this before. Use the search box to refine the mp area.

Building on Green Belt land has soared over the past 5 years a BBC news article which is very disturbing.