21 March 2019
In highlighting the following policy commitments, the West and South Dorset Green Party is mindful of what will lie within the power of the new Dorset Council to change, and what will continue to lie within the power of national government. We strongly believe that power should be devolved to the lowest possible level of government, and delivered by councillors that Dorset residents know and can talk to.
Having safe, secure, warm and dry housing is an absolutely basic human need, and must be made available for everyone. The current dire shortage of social housing forces many people into the private rental sector, which they either struggle to afford, can’t find, or face unfair restrictions. We will campaign for the new Dorset Council to take a lead by starting a large-scale programme of council house building, housing that will be available and affordable to anyone in need. We totally reject the current inadequate and failed approach of seeking affordable housing from commercial developers. We also believe that the Council should charge double Council Tax on all second homes and on long-term empty property. Such luxuries contribute to the housing crisis, and should be strongly discouraged.
2. CLIMATE CHANGE
All the evidence points to potentially irreversible climate change caused by human activity. Current plans and action are nowhere near adequate to reduce the chances of runaway global warming and limit the effects of climate breakdown – effects that pose great threats to human life and wellbeing. We will demand that the Dorset Council joins a multitude of other councils up and down the country by declaring a Climate Emergency; that it makes specific pledges to make Dorset carbon neutral by 2030; and that it takes the imperatives of this emergency into account in making all future decisions. We genuinely believe that this is an emergency comparable to being at war, and demand a comparable response by both local and national government.
3. PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Being able to travel to the shops or to a doctor’s or hospital appointment is absolutely essential. But for many people in Dorset, and not just those living in rural isolation, this is a luxury. Not only that, but if we are serious about tackling climate change we must fight to reduce the number of cars on the road. We will demand that the Council seeks bus regulation powers similar to London, allowing it to decide routes, frequencies and fares. Bus companies would then tender to deliver that service. This is the only way to preserve a viable bus service in the County and encourage residents to use public transport rather than cars. At the moment, private bus companies are putting profit before the needs of residents. Once achieved we would encourage people to use public transport rather than their cars by campaigning for the Council to raise parking charges and restrict free on-street parking, spending the money raised to subsidise socially necessary bus services.
4. LIVING WAGE
Being able to earn a wage that allows us live without the fear of being unable to afford adequate food, shelter and heating should be a basic right. Whilst the new council has limited powers in this regard, we will demand that it takes a lead by committing to paying each of its employees no less than the Living Wage. (Currently £9 per hour compared to the minimum wage for 25 years old and above of £7.83.) We would also make this a condition for all contractors wishing to tender for Council funded work, and campaign for the employees of all holiday accommodation listed in various tourist information guides to be paid likewise.
5. SOCIAL CARE
A major indicator of a civilised society is the way it cares for its most vulnerable members. Since 2010 local Councils have been starved of funding by the Conservatives which has led to a lack of care for vulnerable adults and children. Children with special needs and adults needing support, including those in need of residential care, have had swingeing cuts to their support, leaving many families struggling. The Green Party will work with other councils to lobby Parliament for adequate funding for the most vulnerable in our communities. We will seek to compel the new Dorset Council to protect the budgets for elderly care and support for adults and children in special needs as well as discretionary support for those on low incomes and the services supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse.
We are fearful that under the new Council there will be an even greater erosion of democracy than exists already. We are particularly fearful that with one party dominating the full council many decision making powers will be delegated to an executive made up exclusively of members from that one party. Effectively, this would turn Dorset into a one party council with alternative views and opinions silenced. To remedy this loss of democracy we would like to explore the possibility of forming a Citizens’ Assembly. This would gather a number of randomly chosen Dorset citizens to debate and discuss contentious issues. They would be given advice and information from experts in the particular issue under discussion, and from all perspectives. Their decision would then have to be considered by the full council / executive and good reasons given for not complying with that decision.