Friday, March 30, 2007

Bristol still not annually calculating its ecological footprint

1 comment:
Graeme Bell makes a great comparison between his personal experience of the low litter levels in other European countries and how litter-strewn and grubby much of Bristol has become ('Litter', Bristol Evening Post letters, March 28). He uses European cities as a benchmark against which to assess Bristol's aim to be the UK's 'green capital'.

This is one perfectly legitimate way of judging progress and it currently finds that Bristol is sorely lacking (which is no surprise). When one looks at the details of the city council-led 'green city' initiative its hard to find concrete details of how everyone is supposed to be judging how 'green' we are, or more likely aren't, on an overall basis.

The city collects all sorts of data, including a set of quality of life indicators, but the yawning gap is that it has not annually assessed its ecological footprint, perhaps the best overall single indicator of how green or not we are. There is currently only limited footprint data available for Bristol and the council it seems still has no plans to publish a yearly figure so that we can all clearly see any progress made.

If this initiative is to be credible the city must sort this situation out and publish the city footprint, as measured by an agreed standard process, at regular intervals. It could also research a list of Eurpean cities that we could compare ourselves with.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Those that formerly argued to save local pool now argue strongly for closure! Why?

1 comment:
If Jubilee Pool really suffers from the all the disadvantages given by Councillor Gary Hopkins in his latest letter to the press ('Jubilee pool closure', Bristol Evening Post letters, March 26) why then did he say on his last election address that he would fight all plans to close Jubilee? Its interesting isn't it that he is now arguing for closure very strongly where once he argued the opposite.

Its also the case that he and his Lib-Dem colleague Simon Cook each emphasise different arguments.

Councillor Cook said that '...the private finance company funding the scheme (for a new leisure complex with Hengrove Park) would only provide the cash if Bishopsworth and Jubilee pool closed because it does not want competition'('Pool closure will harm our environment', Bristol Evening Post, March 19).

Far from deciding to close Jubilee Pool because it is not viable, or has serious deficiencies that can't be overcome, as Councillor Hopkins is now suggesting, the closure decision seems to have been taken in order to guarantee that any new pool is making a big, fat profit for private investors!

What a stitch-up! This is effectively putting private profit making before the availability of more local facilities and thus local quality of life. Why should a private finance company be allowed to shape policy in this way?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Green Party budget: costed in both pounds and in carbon; whereas Gordon Brown fails to act

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Gordon Brown's budget today was a very poor effort all round and involves quite a bit of trickery. The so-called 'green' measures were on a pretty small scale eg in 1999 'green' taxes amounted to 9.6% of total taxation but after this budget will still only be 7.5% (figures from the BBC), so not even back to where we were 8 yrs ago!

If you want to see a truly Green budget as well as the Green reaction to Gordon Brown's efforts go to: - a budget costed in £ and in carbon and with a scale of change needed to tackle climate change. - the Green reaction to the Brown budget and his failure to begin to tackle climate change, despite the recent talk about it being the biggest threat humanity faces.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Private finance companies should not be able to dictate policy. Measure local service value in social and environmental as well as financial terms

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Councillor Simon Cook's response to my point that closing Jubilee Pool would raise carbon emissions due to the additional car journeys caused well illustrates the 'warped logic' of Bristol City Council's Lib-Dem Cabinet decison making ('Pool closure will harm our environment', Bristol Evening Post, March 19). We are not going to become the UK's leading 'green city', the professed aim of the council, if we dont start measuring the value of local facilities in social and environmental as well as financial terms.

He says that '...the private finance company funding the scheme (for a new leisure complex with Hengrove Park) would only provide the cash if Bishopsworth and Jubilee pool closed because it does not want competition'. So, far from deciding to close Jubilee Pool because it is not viable, the closure decision seems to have been taken in order to guarantee that any new pool is making a big, fat profit for private investors! What a stitch-up! This is effectively putting private profit making before the availability of more local facilities and thus local quality of life. Why should a private finance company be allowed to shape policy in this way?

Councillor Cook acknowledged that I have a point about carbon emissions but then said '...the pool in Hengrove will still be walkable from Knowle'. It takes me ten minutes to walk to Jubilee and would take me forty minutes to get to Hengrove Park. Whilst this might be viable for me, provided I had the time, it is far less practical for the elderly and for those with a few young kids. He in any case should know very well that by extending the distance to a pool the chances of people turning to a car rise significantly. His idea of what is local and mine are obviously very different and he seems not to mind making it more difficult for the older and younger members of the community and their families to get to a health and fitness facility. What counts, it seems is that private investors can make a profit - my goodness the private finance initiative has a lot to answer for.

Councillor Cook says '...these pools do not make money'. Were the pools built in Bristol to make money or were they intended as places to promote healthy, active lifestyles, as a public service for the public good? If we are to apply his logic to all council services then what will be next in line for closure as not profit making, public libraries perhaps, or schools?

In a pretty desperate attempt to give the proposed Hengrove Leisure Centre, which will be built on open, green space by the way, a greener gloss, he says, rather vaguely, 'We will also try to build in some sustainable technology - maybe having some solar panels on the top, or a wind turbine'. I get the distinct impression from his vagueness that these features have not so far been integral to any plans, though I will track his progress towards doing these things with some interest. He should note though that pools like Jubilee are themselves possible candidates for renewable energy or fuel use and while he is in 'green' mode what about a decent bus service to any new pool?

Extra pollution from cars if Jubilee is closed

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I've been doing some calculations on additional carbon emissions that would occur from a rise in car use if the Jubilee Swiming Pool closed.

What I've done is to compare the carbon emissions from walking a short distance, say 1km, to the local pool, with driving say 5km to a new pool when constructed at Hengrove Park, in a medium sized petrol engined car (some will drive further of course). It is reasonable to assume that this shift from walking to driving will happen a lot should Jubilee close, if people want to continue to swim, especially if elderly people or kids are involved .

Basically I've found that walking is between 15 to 30 times more energy efficient per km. Walking to Jubilee would mean carbon emissions of approx 15 grams per visit, which is easily environmentally sustainable. Driving to a new pool at Hengrove would emit 2kg (2000 grams) of carbon ie an environmentally unsustainable 133 times more (due to the longer distance and the much lower efficiency of car travel combined; photo represents the carbon increase to scale).

Carbon emissions from travel of 2kg per visit amounts to approximately a mans own weight in carbon each year if he drives 5km to a pool about once a week! In contrast walking to Jubilee the same number of times produces just 0.75 kg - less than a bag of sugar.

The point of all this is to show that taking a purely financial decision to close the pool is very narrow minded. The preliminary calculations I've done show that locally available services and facilities like swimming pools have a value to our community and wider society beyond money. If we are to become a low carbon 'green city' for instance (and the City Council is currently blowing this particular trumpet loudly!) we need to measure the value of local facilities not only in financial terms but also in social and environmental terms terms. We dont know what the total impact of the loss of Jubilee would be because we aren't measuring everything, yet despite this the council has already decided that the pool will close - not a green decision or a green approach to the issue at all.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Ten Tory eco-cons!!

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Conservatives have supported the policies below very consistently, right across the country. Not very green is it?

1 Support for nuclear power

2 Support for new roads

3 Support for aviation growth

4 Opposition to EU green schemes

5 Axing environmental regulations as "red tape"

6 Opposition to congestion charging

7 Support for incineration of waste

8 Support for tax cuts for super-consumers

9 Support for low taxes for the most polluting multinational businesses

10 Support for Trident over tackling climate change

Friday, March 16, 2007

Apalling decision by Hengrove Community Arts College to axe GCSE courses already started months ago!

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Hengrove Community Arts College has seriously let down its students. To axe GCSE courses started several months ago by students is totally unacceptable and I'd like to see it reversed.

The school is rushing, or is being rushed, to get a balanced budget so that it can become an academy later this year and needs to cut its losses by £150,000. Surely before they gave firm course places to their students they could and should have anticipated their situation? Offering a course and then beginning it with classes of students means they are obliged to continue it for my money!

What does this situation say about the education policy of creating academies? The drive to turn Hengrove Community Arts College into an academy is causing deliberate damage to the education of children now studying there. The just and fair course would in my view be to either abandon plans for an academy or at least delay it to give students time to finish their GCSE courses. Academies are not the solution to todays education issues, as is well illustrated by this situation, as schools should be set up and run in the interests of parents and pupils and not private individuals, religions, or businesses.

Labour and Conservative 'green' policies not to be trusted

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Let me get this straight...

In recent weeks both the Labour and Conservative parties have been at pains to stress their so-called 'green' policies. We had Gordon Brown and David Cameron stressing the need to tackle climate change as the biggest threat to a decent life for future generations.

Just after the spurt of pronouncements on climate change, the same two parties voted in favour of the UK retaining its nuclear weapons (Labour MP rebels excepted) by spending tens or even hundreds of billions of pounds on new nuclear submarines and weapons . Hang on though...

...aren't nuclear weapons a huge threat to a decent life for future generations too? Have I missed something here? Has a rational case for spending this huge sum really been made when the known threats to our future eg climate change, energy security...require large investment? Wont spending huge sums of money on nukes mean less is available for tackling real and known threats, thus making us less secure??

The 'green' policies of Labour and the Conservatives are not to be trusted. Where they are half decent they are inconsistent with or cancelled out by other policies. Political will for implementation of coherent policies is often lacking and in any case their political thnking and action has got us where we are (ie with huge environmental challenges!). How for instance are we going to build an environmentally sustainable world if accelerating globalisation of trade, with all its massive energy consumption and pollution, continues unchecked by environmental considerations ?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Iran/Trident nuclear weapons/Kerry McCarthy MP/lack of democracy

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There has been a disinct lack of open, public debate about whether we should be spending vast sums of public money on updating our nuclear weapons systems. Its seems that even whilst debate is supposed to be happening both inside and outside of Parliament the government has already decided to update our nukes anyway! What a great democracy we have!

I wrote to my MP Kerry McCarthy about Iran/nuclear weapons a short while ago (see earlier blog posting) and have today received the reply below. Please feel free to contact her in response to what she says (my response to her points below are in bold italics).

Dear Mr Vowles,


As you are aware, the vote on Trident is taking place this Wednesday.
In reaching a decision as to how I intend to vote, my starting point was this: Labour stopped being a unilateralist party some time in the 1980s. It was clear at the time that the British voting public rejected unilateralism, and rejected Labour because of this. The Labour Party - and I, as a Labour Party candidate - stood in the 2005 General Election, and several elections before this, on a manifesto which said we would retain Britain's independent nuclear deterrent; we were elected on that basis. As a general rule, I believe that political parties should stick to the promises they make to the voters at a General Election, and that MPs should not vote against the Government on manifesto commitments, unless things have changed drastically since the election was held.

Many Labour MPs will be voting against the government on this issue! On such a major issue, which we have had no separate public vote or even widespread debate on, issues of conscience and principle and strong, independent thought and voting are highly relevant!

I certainly do not subscribe to the 'blind loyalist' view, that MPs should never vote against their own party - if Parliament had been recalled over last summer to debate the conflict in Lebanon (which I, along with a number of other Labour MPs, called for) and we had had a vote on whether to support the Prime Minister's stance, I would have felt compelled to vote against, and I made that clear to party officials at the time. That was not, however, a manifesto issue.

People vote for parties in general elections for all sorts of reasons. They dont go through manifestos generally and do not necessarily vote on the basis of one particular policy or another. Some Labour and other voters will certainly not like the government decision to update our nuclear weapons.

I am disappointed that there has not been more of a public debate since the White Paper was launched last year. I was unaware of Jon Trickett's EDM calling for more consultation until today - I might have signed it back in January when it was first tabled, in a bid to encourage more public debate before the vote in Parliament.

OK, this is somewhat encouraging to me as an anti-nuclear campaigner. Why not follow through forcefully and vote against the government because of the lack of debate!

Behind the scenes in Parliament, however, the issue has been debated at some length. I have attended several meetings, including one organised by Compass in opposition to Trident, and others where Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, has argued the case for Trident against Labour opponents.

Behind the scenes debate is not good enough. On such a big issue we need lengthy, open, public debate.

Having listened to those debates, I have reached the following conclusions:

(1) I do not accept that renewing Trident would put Britain in breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, as that treaty was negotiated on the basis that we are a nuclear state and we would not increase our nuclear capability - in fact, we will probably be reducing it. I have been reassured to hear the Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary propose a reduction in the number of subs from four to three, and a significant reduction in the number of warheads is also a possibility although I understand that this does not need to be decided for a number of years.

The destructive capacity we will retain is absolutely massive! We will be passing on to future generations the problem of what to do about nuclear weapons because we have not done anything significant about them ourselves. As time passes more and more countries have officially aquired their own nuclear arsenal (look at India and Pakistan..).

Some people have raised with me the question of double standards - i.e. why is it acceptable for the UK to have nuclear weapons and not Iran? In response to this, I would simply point to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which Iran is a signatory and, by signing up to the treaty, agreed not to develop nuclear weapons; whereas the UK, is signing the treaty, only agreed not to increase its nuclear capability.

The spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has certainly been breached by the UK by deciding to update its nuclear arsenal and retain a massive destructive capacity. Iran has not yet broken the treaty - I very much hope that through dialogue Iran will take a path away from both nuclear power and weapons.

(2) I do not accept the argument that , seeing as the Cold War is over and global terrorism is the main threat, a nuclear deterrent is unnecessary; we have no idea what the global political situation will be like in the 2020s and beyond, and who our political enemies will be, or whether they will have access to nuclear weapons. We therefore cannot base a long-term decision on a snapshot view of the situation in 2007.

We do know that very serious security threats are posed by climate change and energy security issues amongst others. Spending money on nukes means less money is available to counter known security threats. Retaining nukes may make us less secure, not more!

(3) I do not see much merit in the case for delaying the decision for a few years; it has to be made sooner or later. There is some dispute as to the lifespan of the current subs and the timescale for rebuilding them, although I cannot see how most people feel that they are in a position to judge; if the Defence Secretary says we need a 17 year lead-in time, then I accept that. At the very least, it would seem to me to be better to err on the side of caution and start the process now.

Far too unquestioning an approach for me to be comfortable with.

That leaves the question of cost. The Government says £15-£20 billion; others say it will be a lot more. Even if we operate on the Government's estimates, it is indeed a significant amount of money, which could fund a lot of other projects. However, that takes me back to my original point - if we accept the fundamental principle that we are not a unilateralist party, then we have to accept that it costs to have a nuclear deterrent.

Total cost over the life of the system are more like £75 to £100 billion. Not a bit of extra security against the real threats will be gained by spending this massive sum. There is so much else we could do with it and most other countries in the world are not spending such money on nukes.

I am sorry that this is not the answer you were hoping for.

It certainly is not what I'd like to hear from my MP.

Please do not hesitate to contact me again if there are any other issues you would like to bring to my attention.
Yours sincerely,
Kerry McCarthy MP

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Congratulations to my opponent Superman but I'm afraid your policies are plain wrong

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Many congratulations to my political opponent in Knowle, Lib-Dem Councillor Chris Davies, for being awarded his second Bristol Evening Post Gold Star award ('Second Honour for Chris', Bristol Evening Post, March 9). As the Lib-Dem newsletter I recently received correctly said, his actions in first saving the life of his young next door neighbour for gold star number one and then foiling a bank robbery at the Nat West Bank on Wells Rd for gold star number two, are indeed reminiscent of superman!

Any superhero would be proud of the two achievements and so Councillor Davies' personal qualities cannot be faulted.

However, I'm afraid my superhero opponents Lib-Dem policies for Knowle and Bristol are plain wrong.

For example would he agree with me that the decision to close Jubilee Swimming Pool in Knowle is a mistake and that his fellow Knowle Lib-Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins broke his election pledge to 'fight any plans to close Jubilee Pool'? Does he think, as the Lib-dem Cabinet does, that there is 'no realistic alternative' to closing the pool ?

Removing a local pool reduces the quality of life in Knowle. The availability of goods, services and facilities locally is a key feature of the quality of life and the capacity to live sustainably. Swimmers in Knowle would have to travel further to swim after the closure, adding to air pollution and climate change. The closure may put people off going for swim, a very healthy physical activity we are meant to be encouraging. It may be those who find it most awkward to travel further that are most put off, such as the elderly or families with young children.

Will Councillor Davies agree with me that a more rounded, balanced, less purely financial, greener and more democratic decision is needed? Would he campaign to reverse this pool closure decision and go back to the idea of reviewing the situation once the new leisure centre at Hengrove Park opens?

Furthermore, would he agree with my policy that reviews on the value of locally available facilities like pools should not only be a financial audit but should also be a social and environmental audit, examining the total impact of closure and of alternatives to it?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

My petition on the Prime Minister's website - new measure of progress needed

I was really pleased yesterday to receive the email below from 10 Downing Street.

I urge anyone who reads this blog to click the link below and sign my petition (it will be there to gather signatures for the next 12 months or so). If you can pass on my petition details to others that might also sign, this would be great!

Your petition has been approved by the Number 10 web team, and
is now available on the Number 10 website at the following

Your petition reads:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to replace
GDP/GNP as the key indicator of progress in society with a
measure, such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, or
similar, to help take us in a much greener direction.

Continued use of GDP/GNP (economic growth) as the major
indicator of progress in our society is seriously flawed.
Accounts which produce GDP/GNP do not subtract the costs of
producing economic growth such as climate change and resource
depletion, and so are most unlike normal balance sheet
accounts. Any greener government would use a much broader and
more balanced indicator of progress or wellbeing, such as the
Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare or similar.

Thanks for submitting your petition.
-- the ePetitions team

Loss of local services, shops, pubs...makes us less green

1 comment:
My MP, Labour's Kerry McCarthy, has recently confirmed to me in writing that she does not support the Sustainable Communities Bill currently going through Parliament. She said,
'I do not support the Sustainable Communities Bill because I do not think there is any need for a separate piece of legislation on this issue.'

This is a great shame and a mistake. All around the UK local shops, post offices, pubs, services and facilities like local swimming pools, have declined rapidly under the current government, which she supports. This means that any action they have taken on this issue has been far from effective. The Sustainable Communities Bill would on the other hand give real power to local people to take action to protect and enhance their communities. Locally available facilities cut travel, boost quality of life and make us greener.

One would think from what PM Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have said that they strongly favour giving more power to local communities and that therefore they should support the Sustainable Communities Bill. After all in his speech to the Labour Party conference in 2006 Tony Blair said, 'People want power in their own hands...they wont accept a service handed down from on high. They want to shape it to their needs and the reality of their lives.' In addition Gordon Brown said at the same conference, 'People and communities should now take power from the state and that means...a reinvention of the way we govern.'

However, despite what they have said, far from giving power to local communities the Blair/Brown government has centralised power and presided over local community decline, making us a far less green society.

US and UK hypocrisy on Iran and its nuclear program

No comments:
I've just wriiten to my MP Labour's Kerry McCarthy on the issue of Iran and its nuclear program. I've copied the letter below:

Dear Kerry McCarthy MP,
I feel that the UK must pledge itself to ensuring that what has happened in Iraq doesn't repeat itself with Iran and would like to know what your view is on this issue. Do you feel, as I do, that we must look hard for non-violent solutions to conflict situations, which take into account the interests of all parties as well as future generations in order to achieve lasting settlements?

Amidst the escalating rhetoric on Iran, its nuclear program in particular, there are some key facts:
Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and hasn't yet violated it. There are unresolved issues around full transparency of course but Iran's nuclear programme, including uranium enrichment, is perfectly legal under NPT requirements for non-nuclear states.

I believe along with fellow Greens that this encouragement of the spread of nuclear technology and nuclear power is a huge weakness of the NPT, but the fact remains that it is the operative legal framework.

Its my view that we are seeing extraordinary hypocrisy and double standards on the Iran issue. While the US accepts Israel's unacknowledged nuclear arsenal, and even rewards India's nuclear weapons status, it threatens war against Iran and fails in its own obligations to disarm under the NPT Treaty.

Our government is also guilty, apparently fighting wars to stop others gaining nuclear weapons while continuing to upgrade and refine our own. What moral authority can we possibly have to lecture Iran or anyone else about not developing nuclear weapons when we refuse to begin the process of disarmament ourselves, and indeed have decided to replace our own nuclear weapons arsenal even as the process of consultation on Trident is underway?

Have we forgotten the very real nuclear weapons are right here on our own doorstep, in Aldermaston, Fairford and Faslane. Will you please let me know how you view these facts and arguments?

The replacement of Trident is illegal, immoral, and hugely costly. It is dangerous, counterproductive, and places Britain at even greater risk of attack. Plans to replace Trident, together with the threat of first use of nuclear weapons, made by a Labour defence minister, risks making Britain itself a rogue state. The best policy on Iran is not to threaten attack but to engage with its people and its range of leaders to demonstrate the benefits to all of building positive relationships throughout the region and the globe. I hope you agree and look forward to receiving your views on this.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I'm not a Councillor - yet !

I'm grateful to the Bristol Evening Post for its reporting of Bristol's littered, graffiti-covered, vandalised 'grot spots'. This includes the coverage of my campaign about the derelict petrol station on Wells Rd, Knowle ('Clear up your petrol station, developers told', Bristol Evening Post, March 5). Its important that we get such areas cleaned up and even better change the law so that councils have much greater powers to ensure that owners of land and property can't abandon areas to rot for months and years unused.

I have to publicly correct just one small error in the subtitle of this story however. It reads 'Councillor angry at litter and graffiti at derelict site'. For the record, whilst I am certainly not happy about the litter and graffiti, I'm not yet a councillor! People in Knowle should of course feel free to make me their councillor, if they feel I deserve their vote, when I stand as the Green Party candidate for Knowle in the forthcoming May local elections.

I have been active on a number of issues affecting Knowle and Bristol for a very long time now (over 20 years), including recently: campaigning to keep Jubilee Pool open; highlighting the risk to childhood health of the air pollution around the heavily congested Wells Rd; and trying to get councillors and government to put waste reduction and re-use before recycling, to name just three, so this is not the first time people have assumed that I'm already elected.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Labour, Conservative, Lib-Dem - pretty much the same these days!

Wishy-washy comment and no substantial criticism of Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo's policies is what we got from Lib-Dem Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Bristol South Dr Mark Wright today ('I can do a better job than Dawn, I believe', Bristol Evening Post letters, March 3).

He says, as I have earlier in this blog, that her transformation from radical left-winger to New Labour loyalist is remarkable but does not back this with any observations or analysis at all. The truth is that he cant really offer a distinctive, radical alternative because there is no substantial difference between his policies and hers these days !!

The narrowness of the debate between Labour, Lib-Dems and Conservatives is striking. There is a very large measure of agreement between them about the shape of our consumer-capitalist society.

At several past general elections the debate has centred around tax and spending differences between Labour, Lib-Dems and Conservatives of less than 1% of national wealth! All three make claims to be radical and get to the root of problems, but none of them actually are radical.

Dawn Primarolo's ten years in the Blair government has set back progress in all the areas she once claimed to have a radical position on! Nuclear weapons, nuclear power, income inequality, privatisation, childhood wellbeing, opposing violence and more! Its a pity that the Lib-Dems have not taken her to task on these sort of issues.

As a Green I care deeply about the lack of achievement and the backward steps on these fronts.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

People before profit in the Home Care Service

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Bristol's plans to privatise its Home Care Service are not in the best interests of those cared for or of the caring staff. Private companies are motivated primarily by profit and I personally feel that, like health and education, there should be no place for private profit making in home care.

The priority for the care of vulnerable people must be what is in their best interests, not what provides a private profit. Elderly people should receive services helping them stay in their own homes as long as possible but for some people this option is neither safe nor what they want. For these people we need good quality residential care.

Economies in the Health Service and in council budgets mean there's less residential care available, and that has meant a huge strain on the Home Care Service. This is not the time to weaken it, as the Liberal Democrat Cabinet wishes, by privatising it. Home Care is not a consumer product that can be bought on special offer from a shop, though I heard words to that effect from a Lib-Dem spokesperson when I was observing the recent council meeting on setting a budget.

The private sector will, by its nature strive to deliver services more cheaply. How? By driving down staff pay and conditions over time. Carers both in Home Care services and Residential Homes are already poorly paid and as a result it is often difficult to recruit suitable staff or to keep staff. Many Homes now are staffed largely through agencies. That is expensive for the council and means residents often have little continuity of care and a poorer chance of building good relationships with the workers they depend on.

There is also the issue of equal pay. Caring work is mainly done by women, and as such is often very poorly paid. The women who carry out this type of work are usually very committed to their clients and so put up with poor pay and conditions of service, but it is not right that as a society we reward them so poorly for such essential work. Fair pay is less likely to happen in the private sector where often profits depend on getting the work done as cheaply as possible.

And what about the issue of quality of service? Vulnerable people should be cared for by staff who are properly trained, managed and supported. Short cuts in this area are ethically unacceptable. Isn't it about time we did right by the elderly and other vulnerable people?