Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Council cuts

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Cuts in services locally and nationally have originally and primarily come about through gross errors and greed in the private sector, enabled and encouraged by a corrupt political system. Public money still props part of the banking arm of the private sector up. Money can be found for banks but not a whole range of public services - and meanwhile the rich in the banking system continue to be rewarded with high pay plus a bonus.

Despite the tough economic situation Bristol City Council need not have gone for a council tax freeze, resulting in spending cuts in health care and children and young people's services - and yet more job losses. This is not only wrong but will continue to help our economy to stagnate. There is, in effect, a local Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition that matches the national one it seems. 

Bristol's Council tax will be frozen for another year after Bristol City Council approved its budget for 2012.

An average band D homeowner will still pay £1,569.75 from April – the same as they did in 2011 and 2010.

As a result...there will be £27million of cuts to services and around 350 jobs are set to go, after an amended budget was agreed at a meeting last night.

A large chunk of the cuts – £8 million – will come from making savings in the council's "back office" operations.

There will be around £5 million less for health care, which includes moving increasingly towards privatisation, and another £5 million less for children and young people's services. A range of charges are also set to go up, including parking and pest control...(full story)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Super Science

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Check out this program on the BBC. In the 2012 Richard Dimbleby Lecture, leading geneticist and Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse explores the wonder of science and how it enhances our culture and civilisation.

He investigates how science can not only help solve the world's big problems, but also be harnessed to improve health and quality of life.

One of Britain's most eminent scientists, Sir Paul is the president of the Royal Society and chief executive of the UK Centre for Medical Research and Innovation.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fight for forests

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Forests: reasons to protect and conserve... beauty, morality, natural cycles, learning, health, wellbeing, needs, biodiverity, humanity.

Roads research?

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No need to be so tentative - experimenting like this is a great idea. We should be experimenting with ideas more.

CARS could be banned from some of Bristol's roads to make way for cyclists on one day each week, an MP has suggested.

Kerry McCarthy said the idea had come from the Colombian ambassador, whom she had met as part of her work as a shadow foreign minister....

Ms McCarthy stressed that if the idea was transferred to Bristol there would need to be extensive consultation with residents and businesses.

"In Columbia, where it happens, it is in the context that some people are very nervous about cycling in the city centre with all the traffic," she said.

"Perhaps the idea could be tried in Bristol as a bit of an experiment.

"I wasn't putting it forward as a formal proposal, but I thought it was something that was worth looking at.... (full story)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ecology efforts

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Included in some materials on ecology I've been reviewing are Commoner's four laws of ecology. Professor Barry Commoner first stated these in his 1971 book The Closing Circle. They are a great legacy. We still have a lot to learn with respect to them. Sadly we have yet to make them part the core of our decision making in practical terms, though they continue to have a great impact. Here's a screencast summarising Commoner's four laws of ecology, along with a few additional comments on the science and its implications.
* * *

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Hype and humbug

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'Work has begun to restore College Green to its pre-Occupy Bristol glory...' says the Post. Now I like my green spaces and have a history of being more than prepared to argue for the benefits they bring, but glory? The glory of the grass on College Green? Massive exaggeration. Over the top bull.
Using the word glory would indicate a highly praiseworthy asset, worthy of adoration because of its majestic beauty and splendour. This is College Green, a formerly pleasant grassy area with a few trees and views of interesting buildings - not the Amazon Rainforest, the Serengeti National Park or the Himalayan mountain system!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

City Currency

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Find out about: Our City, our Money, our Future, The Bristol Pound

On May 21st 2012, Bristol will be seeing the launch of its very own unique currency. Developed in the name of all things local, The Bristol Pound aims to support the independent businesses that give our city both its richness and diversity. The currency will be spent using paper notes and secure mobile phone payments. Over the next few months, The Bristol Pound team will be putting on events around the city, providing information and inviting members of the public to come and share their views on this exciting new scheme. We are also opening up the opportunity for people around the city to enter our art competition, where the winners will have their work printed on the paper notes. The competition is open to anyone, professional, amateur, young or old. For more details on the competition or any other questions you may have concerning the Bristol Pound, go to our website at and help us make it happen.

Upcoming Events:

15th February, 6pm- 7:30pm: Queen's Building, University Walk

16th February, 7:30pm- 9pm: Hamilton House, Stokes Croft

21st February, 7:30-9pm: Redland Park United Reformed Church, (Just off Whiteladies Road)

23rd February, 7:30-9pm: Easton Community Centre, Easton

29th February, 7:30-9pm: Knowle West Media, Knowle West

6th March, 7:30- 9pm: The Tobacco Factory, Southville

7th March, 6:30-8pm: The Paintworks, Brislington

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Bristol: Renewable Energy Company

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Sounds very good. Hopefully the sums of money talked about will materialise - we really need even larger sums to move us significantly towards sustainable outcomes.

Bristol first UK Council to become Renewable Energy Company Sustainable Bristol

Carping critic

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Plenty of simplistic labelling, shallow outright dismissal and self-aggrandisement from Peter Hargeaves here (Bristol lacks leadership... but I won't be running for mayor).

He thinks everything is wrong about the way Bristol is run. He has the chance to put himself and his ideas - such as they are - into the mix to become the elected Mayor, should Bristolians vote to have one this May. He has huge resources to put into an election campaign. But he refuses point blank to be a candidate - so what he's says is no more than petty complaint and fault-finding. 

Also see here

Friday, February 10, 2012

Prayer piffle?

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 A Devon town council acted unlawfully by allowing prayers to be said before meetings, the High Court has ruled....(full story here). An eminently sensible decision. What on Earth have councils been doing summoning all councillors to Christian prayers in council chambers? Some councillors are Christians, some are of  other faiths, some hold to no particular faith, whilst others have no religious faith at all - and the business of councils should not be rooted in religion. Councils are for everybody and the fact that prayers have been part of formal council meetings for a very long time is not an argument based on reason to continue doing so. The overreaction to this court decision from government and church representatives has been pretty silly. 
...Mr Justice Ouseley said: "A local authority has no power under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972, or otherwise, to hold prayers as part of a formal local authority meeting, or to summon councillors to such a meeting at which prayers are on the agenda."
He told the court: "There is no specific power to say prayers or to have any period of quiet reflection as part of the business of the council."...

He told the court: "The saying of prayers in a local authority chamber before a formal meeting of such a body is lawful, provided councillors are not formally summoned to attend."...

A few other posts on religion here, here and here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Swedish sameness

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So, David Cameron is off to Sweden to attend the Nordic-Baltic Summit. Great place to go to learn a fair bit about equality. Sweden has much lower income equality than the UK (see here). Its gender equality is also much better:

I doubt very much that our PM will be adopting the Swedish approach though. They redistribute wealth using taxes and benefits. Public services are provided by a very well developed welfare state. Sweden's state is large. Public services are well developed and there is effective legislation to ensure that both men and women can have reasonably balanced work and family lives and good prospects for fair involvement at all levels of society. This is the opposite of Cameron's Conservatism.    

Climate: no change

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Climate change is rated as a very serious problem. So why has action not been correspondingly urgent? Here's a screencast I've made exploring this question in terms of: visibility; historical precedent; immediacy; complexity; blame; personal impacts.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Fairness and females

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The current political system is very clearly skewed in favour of men, in terms of style, substance and structures. It is therefore undemocratic, with people chosen for their gender rather than their ability. Its logical to counteract this skewed situation through measures like all-women shortlists (as Labour in Bristol West are planning to use*). To call a measure designed to achieve balance and fairness between men and women sexist, as some do, is to ignore the current bias in favour of men and turn reality upside down. Lets remember that its not so long ago that women had no vote at all! There should not be any need for all-women shortlists but until prejudice is significantly reduced something needs to be done - only 22% of MPs in the House of Commons and 20% of members of the House of Lords are women. Its unreasonable to say, as some do, that MPs who originally became candidates via all-women shortlists are somehow second class - because they have appeared on the ballot paper at a general election and have been put into power by voters in their constituency - presumeably any voter who felt they were not up to the job or were selected as a candidate by an objectionable process woud not have voted for them.

Politics in the UK is often overly and unecessarily macho and confrontational. Parliament has long been acknowledged as a 'boys club' or 'gentleman's club'. This is no way to address and solve problems and in part its down to the skewing of the system to favour men that is clearly shown by the stat that 4 in 5 in Parliament are men, including men with outdated, sexist attitudes. It is suggested that women candidates and MPs as weaker and second rate but many say that the performance of women MPs has been good and that Parliament with more women is better in several respects - a case of prejudice getting  in the way of reason.

There are other unfair aspects to our system. It needs wholesale radical reform

Monday, February 06, 2012

Bristol Pound: sound

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The Bristol Pound is a good idea and I'm glad to see that a date for its launch has now been set in May this year. Given the chaos that has ensued from creating fewer currencies within the EU, doing the opposite and creating more currencies seems good sense. The Schumacher Society state the advantages very well, saying '...local currencies are a legal, but underutilized tool for citizens to support local economies. Local currencies function on a regional scale the same way that national currencies have functioned on a national scale—building the regional economy by creating a protective “membrane” that is defined by the currency itself. Local businesses that accept the currency are distinguished from chain stores that do not, building greater affinity between citizens of the region and their local merchants. Individuals choosing to use the currency make a conscious commitment to buy locally first, taking personal responsibility for the health and wellbeing of their community, laying the foundation of a truly vibrant, thriving local economy.'

Anyone who simply does not like the idea of supporting local businesses that take the local currency doesn't have to use the Bristol Pound. Personally I object to the money I spend in Bristol not circlulating here and doing more work here, so I support moves such as local currencies


A few previous posts on local currencies, community banking and related matters:

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Talking temperatures

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What a load of rubbish in this Bristol Evening Post story! The temperature on a single day in a Bristol WINTER compared with the temperature on a single day in the Antarctic SUMMER (Bristol will be cold as the South Pole tonight - snow forecast for the weekend). Such a lack of care over fair comparison. What would the Post be like with setting a complex set of temperature data in its proper context?

Why not instead give some figures for past extreme high and extreme low temperatures along with the average high and low here in Bristol at this time of year? Record Feb high at Long Ashton +18.3 C, record low in Long Ashton -9.7 C (1959-2002), average high 7.7 C, average low 1.8 C (assuming the table of data here  is accurate and reliable). Compared to these averages it is going to be quite a bit colder tonight if we get the - 6 C forecast. Temperatures will vary according to where you are in Bristol, with the outskirts generally a bit colder than further into the city due to the urban heat island effect.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Big Green Week Programme Details | Sustainable Bristol

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From the 9th to the 17th of June...

“Bristol’s BIG Green Week is a celebration of green ideas and action which aims to challenge and motivate people to engage with the sustainability issues we face. It is also a fantastic opportunity to hear some world class speakers, get involved in some fun activities and enjoy the buzz in one of the UK’s greenest, most dynamic cities.”
Peter Madden, Forum for the Future.

Big Green Week Programme Details Sustainable Bristol

PMQs Queries

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Today's Prime Ministers Questions featured some important matters of course...banking and bonus culture, reform of the NHS...As is most often the case however, the motivation for questions and answers is party politics and tactics - trying to get your opponent on the back foot. Very serious, highly topical matters that should be raised often dont get a look in.

 No MP let alone Labour Leader Ed Miliband, asked about policy on Afghanistan despite the fact that overnight it was reported that a 'secret Nato report seen by the BBC suggests the Taliban in Afghanistan are being directly helped by the Pakistani security service (ISI).' (see full report and links to others here). This is a matter of life and death to our service personnel and Pakistan is supposed to be an ally. 

 Also no questions on the ongoing, unresolved economic crisis in Greece that could have widespread ramifications and where 'problems are as bad as ever.' (see here). Nothing on the prospect of famine in West Africa (here)...Ok, there is limited time and there are many serious issues that could be asked about - but there is a definite pattern to PMQs that severely narrows the topics chosen and the style and quality of debate.    

Lessons learned?

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Sadly few lessons seem to have been learned by Bristol City Council on flogging off green spaces as this Post report* demonstrates. We are not living in a city where people are genuinely listened to - and certain councillors dont know that they know almost nothing!!

* CRITICISM of the green spaces sell off plan has continued, despite Bristol City Council finally agreeing local people should have the final say.

There are 51 sites that are still under threat of sale, as part of the council's parks strategy.

The authority had hoped to sell the land to developers to raise money to improve other parks across the city, but there was a major public backlash from people who felt it was like "selling off the family silver".

After the Liberal Democrats lost their majority in last year's elections, they were forced to compromise and at Thursday night's cabinet meeting they finally approved giving the final say to Bristol's Neighbourhood Committees.

A timetable will now be drawn up for when these decisions will be made. Ward councillors for each area will have the final say, after they are discussed at local committee meetings.

But there are still concerns about the process, nearly two years after it began.

Avon Wildlife Trust has long called for green spaces with significant wildlife to be removed the process, but members are concerned they are still on the list of potential disposals.

Director of Community Programmes Steve Micklewright, pictured, said: "These include two Sites for Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI) and 10 Wildlife Network Sites (WNS).

"This is one quarter of the sites proposed for disposal. This indicates that the council is still not taking ecological factors into full account during the process as advised by their own scrutiny committee...


Happy invitation

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Message from Action for Happiness: On Saturday 11th Feb, thousands of people all over the world are getting together to watch an inspiring documentary film called "Happy" as part of World Happy Day.

It's a great movie and had an amazing audience response at our inaugural screening in London.

Our friends at Happy City Bristol are hosting a screening at Hamilton House that day
 [1pm to 3pm]. So if you're around it would be great if you could make it along.

You can watch a trailer and read a review of the film here:

To book tickets or find out more about World Happy Day see:

I really hope you can make it. All are welcome so please spread the word to friends, family and colleagues too.

Very best wishes