Archive for the ‘Youth issues’ Category

by Natalie Bennett

There was much excitement in a packed Kentish Town Community Centre on Saturday when the completed building project was officially opened.

The line-up of buggies outside looked like it was competing for a Guiness World Record, and inside many of their usual occupants were hard at play in the walled garden as their parents listened to the speeches inside the spacious, airy main hall.

Tribute were paid particularly to the staff who had stayed through the temporary move to Greenwood Place and back, and Cathy Crawford, the Chair of Centre, pointed out particularly to the politicians present (including Camden’s mayor, Abdul Quadir, whose chain proved a great attraction with the younger set, and local MP Frank Dobson) how the centre had listened to its users in designing its new shape, and how successful that listening had been in its growth in recent years.
Upstairs was a fine selection of artwork, including Kim Cunningham’s Portrait of a (London) village, a telling series of portraits of local people, and Jason Shenai’s hyper-real photos of local shops.

Pleasingly, the centre is committed to using china plates and proper cutlery, not disposables, and to that end has acquired two dishwashers, one from that excellent recycling source eBay, so that they can manage the flow. They were doing an admirable job keeping up with demand on Saturday – as a fine selection of finger food was whoofed down at great speed.

Anyone looking to get involved might want to look to the gardening club, meeting on the 1st Saturday of the month from 10-12. A fine board display discussed possibilities – from a haybale permaculture version to raised beds for wheelchair gardeners.

Part of the crowd at the opening.


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by Natalie Bennett

Chilled fingers but warm atmosphere this morning at the excellent demonstration against Nadine Dorries’s Sex Education (Required Content) Bill, which called for abstinence-only sex education for girls – but not boys.

My general thoughts on this are elsewhere, but I’ve been reflecting since on the words of Kate Smurthwaite of Abortion Rights (interviewed here), that we had to recognise that while Dorries is frequently an apparent figure of fun, both so fanatical and extreme, and so inept, as to not to seem a serious threat, the fact is that she’s useful cover for rather more controlled but equally dangerous and disturbing figures behind her who want to achieve much the same goals, of regarding women as the sexual gatekeepers, whose only appropriate position in bed is lying still on their back thinking of England – in strictly heterosexual, married beds of course.

It’s worth noting that 67 MPS – sixty seven – back the bill on its first reading, which allowed it to get to this stage. The debate can be found <a href = "http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110504/debtext/110504-0001.htm#11050491000001">here (and well done to Labour’s Chris Bryant for speaking up in it!)

This is the roll of dishonour, the 67 MPS who voted for the Bill: Peter Aldous, Louise Bagshawe, Harriet Baldwin, Harriett Bebb, Karen Bradley, Julian Brazier, Fiona Bruce, Dan Byles, Alun Cairns, Ronnie Campbell (Lab), William Cash, Christopher Chope, Damian Collins, Tracey Crouch, Philip Davies, Nick de Bois, Nadine Dorries, George Eustice Charlie Elphicke, George Evans, Jonathan Fuller, Roger Gale, James Gray, Matthew Hancock, Matthew Heaton-Harris, John Hemming (Lib Dem), Dmian Hinds, Philip Hollobone, Bernard Jenkin, Gareth Johnson, Marcus Jones, Kwasi Kwarteng, Andrea Leadsom, Jeffrey Lefroy, Peter Lilley, Jonathan Lord, Anne Main, Michael McCann (Lab), Jason McCartney, William McCrea (DU), Anne McIntosh, Stephen McPartland, Stephen Metcalfe, James Morris, Stephen Mosley, David Nuttall, Matthew Offord, Ian Paisley (DU), Neil Parish, Priti Patel, Mark Pawsey, Stephen Phillips, John Redwood, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrew Rosindell, Lee Scott, Jim Shannon (DU), Henry Smith, John Stevenson, Bob Stewart, Andrew Turner, Robin Walker, Robert Walter, Mike Weatherley, Craig Whittaker, Gavin Williamson,
Tellers: Brian Binley and Thérèse Coffey.

They’re all Conservatives, unless otherwise marked, and I think a large majority of the new 2010 intake. They bear watching – and should you happen to have the misfortune to live in one of their seats, I’d suggest using your local paper or blog to highlight their vote.

Also worth keeping an eye on the controversial Christian charity Care.

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2011 has been an eventful year by any standards. And here it is from a Green perspective. It began with the death of Pete Postlethwaite the face of the Age of Stupid – I’ll never forget his words as he tells us that we are busy watching and monitoring the collapse of our planet but taking very little action in the face of known calamity – at least the Mesopatamians and the Romans didn’t quite watch their demise as we do!

In February, we saw Queensland, Australia, being hit by floods perhaps another sign of more extreme weather events. It was also the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring with the resignation of Mubarak in Egypt. This wave of events was not surprising in the face of a declining world economy and high prices for food and other basic goods. We welcome the change and hope that better governance may make a difference.

In March, it was the Japanese tsunami and the risks of nuclear contamination that took up the headlines. People turned to the Green Party in Germany for an alternative. We must push ahead with the real Green alternative – energy saving and renewables – as we recognise the risks with nuclear.

From April to early August, the US right caused chaos with the Republican dominated Congress refusing to lift the debt ceiling throwing the US into crisis and reducing its credit rating. Whilst the US President tried to avoid crashing the economy, here the government continued soldiering on – whilst ordinary people wonder if we are under the command of another Haig.

Things went terribly wrong in the UK in August when one police shooting in Tottenham led to violence flaring up around the country, scaring all of us
as we suddenly realised the fragility of what we took for granted. A thirst for consumer goods combined with a lack of hope for the future and a lack of respect for the current order, led to looting and rioting. Mindless violence in some cases, but moe often it seemed chancing it and petty theft in others.

All this time, in East Africa people starved as famine continued to rage. The dusty land no longer seems able to offer sustenance, and people walk miles and miles to camps in the desert and in the blinding sun.

The Occupy Protest that began in September seemed like a welcome relief – at last people were regrouping, it seemed, determined to push for change. The Arab Spring continued into the Autumn and Gaddafi was killed in October.

In November, the Localism Act is enacted and we worry what this means for stable social housing. For how long will people in Council flats safely be able to regard them as home? And the government then makes its Autumn Statement. The Tory offensive will continue and there will be more public sector cuts to come ….. until the green shoots are forced out of the rocky

And finally, December – the Durban talks produce no firm commitments though there are signs that China and India see the need for change. The next day Canada pulls out of Kyoto. We all sink into what could be despair, but isn’t
as we are all optimists who believe that things will change. At last we have had the CERN breakthrough – almost seen the God Particle whatever that may mean – even if it comes along with flooding in the Phillipines and children being swept away with the water.

All this time the Greens made an offering of a positive means for change. Caroline Lucas MP amongst many others visited St Paul’s. The solution is investing in our long term future and moving away from the short-termism of the markets. It’s about challenging the inequality, that in an insidious way weakens our society, by making sure the corporates pay their taxes and making sure that the best paid employee does not get more than 10 times the lowest paid.

The solution is about breaking up the companies and banks that are too big to fail – smaller at least is better. It’s about greater local self-sufficiency combined with an internationalist outlook.

It’s about a focus on well-being and unlocking our huge creativity– instead of all the tat of Christmas and all the hours spent shopping, we’d be making things with the community, with our families.

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Green Councillor Maya de Souza was, as Richard Osley reported in the Camden New Journal, denied the right to respond to the Labour leader’s speech at last week’s full council meeting. Here she reports on what she would have said…

I would have liked to commend the Labour leader on his choice of themes for the next year: leadership, democracy and community. I was pleased to hear his mention of enduring values such as “dignity for all”.

It is, however, the action rather than the talk that really matters.

I’d have liked to illustrate the importance of these themes by showing their relevance to three aspects of our society so important to all of us – jobs, young people and safety.

In terms of leadership, I’d have liked to see innovative action that sought to create green jobs in our local economy and sought to protect public sector jobs. The Greens have put forward proposals that involve the Council piloting a Green Deal system so that it lends money to refurbish their homes to make them warmer and cheaper to hear.

At last Saturday’s Compass conference there was talk of doing this and raising money through community bonds. Why is the administration not showing real leadership in this field? In terms of protecting public sector jobs, the Greens have asked for consideration to be given to a small reduction in working hours to save jobs and allow redundancy money to be used to invest in our future. Again at the Compass conference, there was discussion about this. There are some pioneering Councils worldwide. Why is Camden not one of these when we have excellent officers, far-sighted councillors and a progressive community?

In terms of democracy, I would like to see greater involvement by young people and the community in ensuring we have good services, incuding youth services, which become more and more important in times of a downturn. However, the Shaping Services ward-based meetings did not involve any community groups let alone young people. The bodies represented there did spot the cumulative impact of cuts across a range of services on young people.

With community involvement, we may well have found good imaginative solutions. The Area Action Groups also are not sufficiently well resourced to allow full participation in these issues.

And we have limited public participation at Full Council – only today, we have seen a resident’s group which seeks discussion to ensure the possibility of a new school for our children rebuffed. And I’d like to add that the mayor’s decision not to allow me as a Green Councillor representing about 12% of voters the chance to speak in the debate as to the Leader’s vision for the future does not suggest a commitment to participation. So where is the evidence of that commitment to democracy the leader talks about?

In terms of community, to me this is about ensuring that all have a stake in society. It is also about strengthening our community organisations. Two particular issues that come to mind are the importance of good jobs for all. And here we have had lots of talk about apprenticeships which can give people a good career. But when I have spoken to people on these schemes they are concerned about the likelihood of getting jobs. Is the administration seeking to make sure these schemes make a difference?

And in terms of community action, one of the most successful initiatives in recent years has been the Safer Neighbourhood Panels and Teams. But I am afraid that the cuts in funding here will undermine the safer neighbourhood panels.

I’d like to ask what the administration is doing to find money to keep these services going? What about the People’s Fund? Will that be used for such services?

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Councillor Maya de Souza (Highgate) writes:
I had an enjoyable, interesting time on Friday at the Youth Question Time, attended by pupils from Camden’s secondary schools.

Some of the key issues identified by participants were:
* Youth being stigmatised and feeling that their positive contributions and achievements are not recognised

I spoke about the importance of intergenerational activity to break down barriers and also tried to assure young people that the general view amongst adults was not that all young people were a problem.

* Concern about a shortage of youth services and a desire to have more of a say in what programmes and activities are provided.

I said I would try and ensure that there were some participatory workshops to involve youth in designing spaces and planning services, and that we had an interactive website in place. I also encouraged young people to take part in the forums we already have: the Youth Council and ward level Area Forums. (I spoke afterwards with the Director of the Children, Schools and Families Directorate, who said they hold such workshops, but agreed they might be better arranged on a ward basis. She also confirmed that an interactive website is now being designed.)

* Discrimination in employment: young people felt that they were at a disadvantage in the job market.

I spoke about their legal rights if discriminated against and advised that there was legal protection. But that it was most important that they got the necessary skills and training, which meant carefully choosing higher education courses and more apprenticeships and training being provided.

* University tuition fees, the high cost now and the fact that these are likely to rise further.

I explained that Green Party policy is against tuition fees as they discourage young people from poorer backgrounds from going to University. Labour and the Conservatives are for them.

Those who attended and lots of good ideas and a strong desire to take part more fully. It was great to see young people having a chance to have at least an unofficial role in electoral politics. It showed how, if the voting age were lowered, as the Green Party calls for, it would help to refresh and energise politics and reduce the sense of exclusion that young people feel from decision-making.

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There’s to be a Green Party stall at the Youth Question Time at Camden Town Hall tomorrow (Friday).

We’ve got some snazzy postcards, lots of information on climate change, about a green economy, about health and wellbeing, animal rights and much more.

You can sign up to join the party, or to get more information.

We’ll be there from noon.

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