Friday, 12 March 2010

Reading West Hustings Tilehurst, 11 March 2010

Tilehurst Hustings s
A very interesting hustings, well chaired by Bishop Stephen Cotrell.

Representing the parties were Ricky Duveen (LD), Naz Sarkar (Lab), Adrian Windisch (Green), Alok Sharma (Cons). Ricky was standing in for Daisy Benson who was chairing an RBC meeting, he was a good substitute but I would have been interested in Daisys opinions, she has talked a lot about housing, but where would you build the extra houses and what of there impact?

When he introduced the candidates, the Bishop said Naz was with New Labour, which got a laugh.

Below are a collection of my notes, they are not precise, (and I have made some explanations in brackets). Anyone reading this who wants to, please feel free to comment or contact me and I will either correct the text or leave as comments.

All the candidates got 3 minutes to make their speech, the order was done by lots, I got to go first. The Bishop proved he was tough strait away, by stopping me after 3 mins, I had overrun by about a sentence.

I talked about the difference between the Green Party and the other, fairness, future generations. Ricky talked about carbon trading, Naz praised Martin Salter on the Kennet Meadows, recycling and landfill. Alok started with that great Prescott quote, "I will have failed if in five years time there are not...far fewer journeys by car”, mentioned Disraeli cleaning up rivers, the green belt.

Question 1, was about how we will achieve our emissions targets. Naz kept saying 'we have to take the public with you' which seemed code for not doing anything without huge popular support, and the TIF bid. He said he didn't have all the answers. Alok talked about investing, up to £6500 per house to insulate, and that we should lead the world in CCS (Carbon capture and storage). Ricky talked about improving recycling, food waste and green transport. (I didn't note down what I said but I think it was) cutting emissions by 9% every year, I questioned the £6500 per house figure as most houses would need a few hundred, Alok responded that this was 'up to' £6500.

Q2, how can we encourage councils to do more. Ricky talked about vehicle emissions, reducing lorries passing through Reading. Alok said its all stick and no carrot, the TIF scheme was being replaced, weekly waste collection, spy chips in rubbish bins. An audience member asked why West Berkshire (Tory council) was not applying for TIF. Another asked what TIF meant. (I was glad of this as I didn't know it meant Transport Innovation Fund). Alok said councils have autonomy. Naz said we were getting £650m with TIF, Alok interupted to say its been cancelled. An audience member asked why Alok was against congestion charging, he said because Manchester had voted against it by 79%. I pointed out that London had voted for it, and I supported congestion charging.

Q3, Grants for renewable energy projects. Alok spoke of feed in tariffs, rooftop PV, 50% biogas replacing current gas supplies. Ricky said that the other candidates were speaking against their local party policies (later they denied this). Naz said he knew no details on biogas. An audience member asked why the feed in tariff rates were so poor, the others didn't answer so I said that the new rates were ok, but they were giving a very low rate for existing PV panels.

I was sceptical about biogas after the experience of biofuel, but it would be a good use of food waste.

An audience member (@lappynet) said CCS didn't work. Alok wants us to invest in it and then export the technology.

Q4, can public transport reduce congestion. Naz spoke about Cllr Tony Page, and said the Tories weren't participating with TIF. Alok responded that Sadiq Khan MP was replacing it.
He was keen on high speed trains & cycle lanes. I said make it cheaper to use public transport than by car and traffic would reduce. I also mentioned the difference with congestion on school holidays, encourage people to walk to school and school buses. An audience member said buying a car at £15,000 makes car use more expensive. (I was referring to getting car owners to use public transport).

Q5, developments in Reading. Alok was asked about the Chronicle storey saying the Pincents Hill developers would have better luck under the Tories, he said he was gobsmacked, and had written to the developers, he would oppose it with his life! Naz spoke about top down planning. Ricky said the decision would be made in Bristol.

In the audience a comment came about Infrastructure Plans, another comment that emissions could be easily sorted with reduced bus fares. Another asked about reducing business emissions. Alok spoke of BT; how good companies were at reducing emissions. Naz said the Pincents Hill descion was robust and would stand up. I said behind these developments were the Barker review of housing that pushed ever more housing on us, we need to change this, there were limits with available land for housing, roads and drains (flooding).
Alok praised the save calcott campaign and that a future Tory government would prioritise a new planning bill.

Q6, Threat to sustainable future population growth. Unsustainable lifestyles in developing countries similar to us. I spoke about bicycles in China 20 years ago, how the roads were full of bikes, but that most people in those countries live more sustainably than we do. (I later mentioned contraction and convergence, we reduce growth, allowing the countries to catch up is fair). Alok spoke of his interest in development in India, including wind. Naz spoke of 'wasteful growth'? 'Copenhagen not as successful as it could be'!

Q7, what do we do to reduce our emissions? Alok flies less on buisness, has a new condensing boiler (a heckler said his one just froze up). Naz said he has no car, and has few emissions. Ricky uses public transport to commute. I said I hadn't flown for 10 years, didn't use the car on short trips but needed it for work as public transport so poor.

Q8 three questions, Endless growth, new technologies, emission targets.
Ricky said we cant go on. I discussed contraction and convergence limits growth, we have the technolgy now but new things like led lightbulbs with very low energy come along, and a yearly target is better than a distant one in 10 years that may be for a different parliament. Alok said growth by debt was less as less debt around and CCS can develop.

Q9, Inequality, the book 'Spirit Level', Mandleson saying he was 'relaxed about people getting filthy rich'.
Naz was uncomfortable with inequality. Alok discussed top rates of tax, and was heckled about Ashcroft the non dom. I said the inequality was getting worse and lead to frustrations and tensions in society, as the rich were getting richer. I referred to a rich broker who said his cleaner was paying more tax.

Q10, The local vicar asked about flood risk.
Mike Hurd asked about noise from wind turbines legislation.
Naz said there was a real issue with flooding in Whitley and would spend money on it, he was a fan of wind power and said we were the largest in the world. (I struggled with laughter at this point). I said we were one of the worst for wind turbines, councils turn down most applications or we would be much better. Standing under the Green Park turbine I can't hear any noise over the M4. Flooding was being made worse by building on the flood plane, I mentioned Pangbourne (I meant to mention Purley), building sealed car parks like tesco on the flood plain, we may have to dig them up to allow groundwater recharge when it rains instead of heavy rain going into flooding. I also said I would give the Environment Agency teeth, so they could stop such developments, not just make recommendations. Alok spoke a a flood review, and making benefits for locals when there is a new wind turbine. Ricky said Wokingham was a built up area (the town is like Reading, but the turbine is for Rushey Mead, Arbourfield, near the M4).
The questioner than explained he meant that the legislation should be updated as modern turbines were much bigger, and he was for renewables, but not closer than a mile from homes. (I think they were from HARM).

Q11, as its near lent, the Bishop asked what we would up to reduce emissions.
I said nuclear weapons, trident alone will cost £78billion. Alok struggled to answer, I helpfully suggested id cards. Ricky said we had already taken his choices. Naz said we had to take people with us.

This is one of the first hustings on twitter, so below are some twitters about the hustings.
In reverse order.

Reading West Hustings Tilehurst, 11 March 2010: A very interesting Hustings, well chaired by Bishop Stephen Cotre...
Pictures From Reading West Hustings in Tilehurst: It was very entertaining, I will write more shortly. The Bisho...
1:46 AM Mar 10th via twitterfeed
Pressure on Green Belt land means it ‘CAN BE BUILT ON’

@dazmando Asok did his thing but he was very defensive and the #rdg audience didn't seem persuaded by him or his posters.
about 13 hours ago via web in reply to dazmando

The #rdg West hustings was more a real political event than the rather fake Cameron Direct that was held recently and that I attended.
about 13 hours ago via web

Ricky Duveen was standing in for @CllrDaisyBenson (who was chairing a scrutiny meeting on that night) and present the Lib Dem case well.
about 13 hours ago via web
Adrian Windisch, the Green PCC, was often able to point out flaws made by Labour and the Conservatives on green issues
about 13 hours ago via web
Naz Sarkar, the Labour PCC, was a nice enough chap but he often seemed a bit confused and made a number of mistakes.
about 13 hours ago via web
Alok Sharma, the Conservative PCC, was really defensive about all manner of things. He seemed to feel under pressure.
about 13 hours ago via web
Unfortunately I sat next to some really foul mouthed Conservatives, who were really rude about the other parties. I tried to ignore them.
about 13 hours ago via web
I rated the parties at the #rdg hustings, in order of performance; Lib Dems, Green, Labour and finally the Conservatives.
about 14 hours ago via web
Back from the #rdg West parliamentary hustings on Green Issue. It was quite robust with bishop chairing it taking an active role.
about 14 hours ago via web

Green party first and only to mention pop growth and that we need to reduce, but only so poorer countries can continue. Understandable.
about 14 hours ago via TweetDeck
Q asked about poor countries pop growth, our lifestyle & their aspiration for it. Wow, way to ignore our pop growth.
about 14 hours ago via TweetDeck
Ooh, got to talk. Cut down conservative for promising carbon capture as though it works and mentioned additional unheard cost of bio fuel.
about 14 hours ago via TweetDeck
All twoddle. Promise of unproven tech and cut back cash. No one is talking abou population growth.
about 15 hours ago via TweetDeck

Just come from the Greater Reading Environmental Network election hustings. Lots of really good questions and very interesting!


howard thomas said...

Naz is clearly a weak candidate who is out of his depth. He ought to work out that if he doesn't know an answer then the best way is to either say so ,or shut up!
Alok has obviously studied the Tory guide to PPCs on how not to answer questions......lets put just one here for Alok and his Tories.

Given that the Tories have said that they will scrap the HIP, how do they propose to comply with the EU rule that says that all properties bought,sold or rented must gave an Energy Performance Certificate. (perhaps we are going to either leave the EU, or perhaps we will go 'French' and only comply with the rules that suit us)
Do have a go at answering that Alok.....if you can!

Ricky is a decent chap representing the one party on the council that refuses to be a puppet for private developers

Peter Roberts said...

Adrian you are mis-informed.

Apparently you said London had voted for a congestion charge. This is not true. When asked during the consultation, Londoners expressed an opinion in similar numbers to Manchester against a congestion charge but Red Ken ignored the results and imposed it anyway. This in large part is why he is now the EX London Mayor.

You should also know that Boris ran a consultation on the western extension which also showed a huge majority in favour of its removal. As a result, it will be going.

There never has been a referendum or consultation where a congestion charge been accepted by the public at large and the proposals in Reading are nothing short of a scam. It is good that they have been cancelled and the government has now removed the requirement for a charge from TIF.

Adrian Windisch said...

Peter, I didnt say it was a consultation. They voted for Ken when he stood as an independent in 2000, his policy was to get a congestion charge despite Labours attempts.

In 2004 Ken won again, the Tory was against cc.

And though Boris won in 2008, he didn't oppose cc, though he opposes the extension. Or he wouldn't have won.

howard thomas said...

TIF becomes UCF. What aload of cobblers!
No doubt it will involve con charging at some later point judging by its rather woolly wording.
RBC would not want it any other way! They have been creating congestion for years now , presumsbly based on the theory that if you can create enough congestion, then you can introduce a charge so that you can tax it !
Nobody could be so absolutely useless at their job as to not realise that the changes made to the road system are creating congestion.
It has to be deliberate!
What chance though of RBC organising a vote on the subject?

Peter said...

Hi Adrian,

That report is wrong.

Manchester has some 19,000 buses and a tram system. Public transport is already causing lines of buses with only a handful of passengers spewing out fumes in Manchester because there are so many of them.

Traffic in Manchester is already falling without a charge but the council continues to try and create congestion through badly designed junction changes and traffic lights which hold people up for no reason.

Why are you greens so passionate about buses?

A bus is the ultimate 'gas guzzler' dumping some 1.8kg of CO2 for every km. They also spew 120 times the NOX of a car and create congestion by stopping so often along main roads.

If bus emissions were measured in the same way as cars, they would be seen as an environmental disaster and I simply do not understand why a Green candidate would want to see the most polluting and inefficient form of transport take priority over the most efficient and in passenger/km terms the cleanest.

You said yourself; Boris had to oppose the Western extension to get elected. Doesn't this tell you something? Charging people to drive a car on roads which they have already paid for many times over is not an option.

Adrian Windisch said...

Peter, misquoting me will not help, I said Boris had to back congestion charging or he would have lost. As the Tories lost before, they had to change to win.

Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but lots of people can get on a single bus, so per person the emissions are lower. Bus prices have risen above inflation so its no surprise they are empty. While car costs are stable, hence more congestion.

Greens also like buses as the poorest people use them, they cant afford cars. So making a better bus service helps those who need it, as well as reducing congestion. So its a win win.

howard thomas said...

Just a question Peter, are you sure that there are 19,000 buses in Manchester? I don't know , but it seems a hell of a lot , bearing in mind that Reading had 180 until they sold a few off recently.

Arian, car costs are not "stable" . The cost of fuel has risen 20 plus percent in the last year and I believe that insurance has risen by a similar amount.

I have noticed that there has been a fall in traffic levels over the last year or so. I would say that some of this is down to cost and some down to the recession. One thing for sure that any fall in congestion is absolutely not down to any policy of RBC !

Adrian Windisch said...

The cost of motoring has fallen while the cost of public transport has risen since Labour came to power. Official figures show that the cost of motoring has fallen by 13 per cent in real terms since 1997, while bus and coach fares have increased by 17 per cent above inflation. Rail fares have risen by 7 per cent extra above inflation.

Traffic will be less now as so many are unemployed.

Adrian Windisch said...

From one month to the next fuel costs go up and down. But over some years its actually quite stable.

howard thomas said...

The clue in what I said was "in the last year" where 20 odd percent is not stable. However over a longer period it will be more even...........something like the middle ages warm period!

Peter said...

Adrian, Sorry if I misquoted you, I didn't think I had. Boris stood on an anti congestion charge platform and singled out the Western extension for removal as it had only been recently introduced.

I notice your assertion that car costs are stable whilst public transport has risen.
Sorry, but yet again you are wrong.

The cost of fuel to run a vehicle is now higher by some 20% for petrol and 49% for diesel in real terms since 1995. This is hardly a stable cost when fuel is by far the largest component of car ownership.

It does seem you are misinformed in a lot of areas.

In reply to Howard - yes there are 19,000 buses.

Peter said...


Just to confirm - another reference to the 19,000 buses in Manchester:

That;s 34,200kgs of CO2 for every kilometer they travel and the average occupancy outside London is 9 passengers.

That means the CO2 per passenger km is 200g or about the same as a Ferrari.

Modern family cars = about 93g/km per passenger.

As you an see, a car is far cleaner than a bus.

Adrian Windisch said...

Peter, I suppose you can prove any of this?

I have already said it, but you wern't listening, Boris won the election on keeping the congestion charge, his tory predecessors lost their elections on that issue.

The link I gave earlier shows petrol prices basically stable over 27 years. It dropped down in the 90s, and went up in 2008, but has settled back down to almost the same as it was in 1983. Diesel will be similar.

Every time I use a bus it has plenty of people on it, nothing like the 9 you claim. Now some buses are empty, in Reading the developers had to lay on a free one from greenpark, but as most of those offices there are empty the bus is empty. So if you base your calculations on that, they are misleading.

New bus engines are much cleaner than old ones, as with cars. If you are comparing an old bus with a new car then you will get a silly result. The answer is to get better buses.

howard thomas said...

Peter.......I have had a look around and the 19,000 figure appears elsewhere....still amazing hell of a lot of buses!

howard thomas said...

Adrian ....the answer as regards the cleanliness of buses is to clean up the existing ones by fitting the technology that exists already, but is not encouraged by government.
It is actually surprisingly easy!

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