Adrian Ramsay of the Green Party believes we can fight the economic and environmental crises at the same time
Central government cuts to local council budgets are already resulting in crucial services being put on the line. One example in Norfolk is the halving of staff numbers at our local Connexions service. The Green Party's emphasis during the recession has been to argue that we can fight the economic and environmental crises together. We can create apprenticeships for young people in lowcarbon sectors. We can create jobs to retrofit houses with insulation and solar panels, build trains and trams, and localise our food system. The government has not taken this opportunity and cutting the number of careers advisers will take us in the wrong direction, severely hampering a local transition to a sustainable economy.
Caroline Spelman recently announced a review of waste policies in England. Again, on waste, we need to prioritise jobs and encourage smart, long-term decision-making that leads to lower carbon emissions.
Using the Private Finance Initiative to build incinerators locks councils into decades-long contracts. Waste levels would need to remain high to keep feeding them. Money could be better spent on seed funding for social enterprises that pursue reuse and repair. We could prioritise spending on comprehensive kerbside recycling, composting programmes and mechanical and biological waste treatment plants. All of these methods are better for the environment and create far more local jobs.
Another area where cuts are already affecting green policies is in the transport budgets. Faced with a reduced transport budget, many councils are cutting back on new road safety measures, like pedestrian crossings and 20mph zones. As the Campaign for Better Transport said in June, we need local authorities to spend in ways that reduce the need to travel, help the local economy and reduce carbon emissions.
Millions of pounds could be saved by scrapping new road building projects around the country to increase spending on road safety, cycle routes and ensuring decent, affordable public transport - but the government is not getting its priorities right.
Adrian Ramsay is a councillor in Norwich and deputy leader of the Green Party
This article was first published in Total Politics magazine.