The St Benedict’s Ward by-election has been called following the tragic and untimely death of our well-loved friend and colleague, Green Councillor and twice Mayor of Glastonbury, Denise Michell. Glastonbury’s Green by-election candidate, Harry Wood, is standing to make sure that Glastonbury Town Council remains Green, and that the social and environmental causes we champion in our town will continue.
I am standing as the Green Party Candidate for the St Benedict’s Ward by-election in May 2021. I have lived in Glastonbury since May 2018, having moved down from Bristol. I grew up in Leamington Spa, and lived and studied in Liverpool before moving to the South West. I feel very at home in Glastonbury, and know I am privileged to have become part of a diverse, unique community.
I work as a Rights of Way Modification and Commons Officer at Somerset County Council, and am interested in land management, rewilding, and public rights of way. I previously worked for Bristol-based reuse charity Children’s Scrapstore; my role concentrated on reducing waste, encouraging reuse, promoting recycling, and helping to develop a circular economy. I am a keen cyclist and walker, an enthusiastic but novice gardener, a bass player, and a long-suffering Coventry City fan. I am an active member of the Glastonbury and Street Green Party and have served as Local Party Coordinator and Membership Secretary since May 2019.
I have always been interested in politics and joined the Green Party in 2016. For me the Greens have always been on the right side of the key issues throughout my lifetime, from promoting investment in green energy through to the anti-austerity campaign, and from campaigning against foreign military interventions through to fighting for meaningful action on climate change. I also strongly believe in cooperation and dialogue, and feel that the adversarial nature of the current political climate is disastrous for democracy and political accountability. I feel that the climate and ecological emergencies should be the starting point for all political and policy decisions, and this shift in perspective is just as important at the local level as it is in Westminster.
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At the Mendip District Council meeting on Monday, 22nd February, councillors passed a motion overwhelmingly to support a trial of Universal Basic Income in Mendip.
The motion was proposed by Cllr. Shane Collins, leader of the Green Party Group, and seconded by Cllr. Ros Wyke, LibDem leader of Mendip – and passed with cross party support.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr. Collins said:
“Tonight the council voted overwhelmingly to support our motion for a UBI trial in Mendip. Many thanks to the 29 Green and LibDem councillors who voted in favour. Our next step is to write to the government asking for a trial – so don’t hold your breath – but Mendip is now one of many councils who have asked for a trial. This is progressive pressure to make sure UBI is debated at (and before) the next election.”
“In a time of COVID, Brexit, Artificial Intelligence, the ‘gig economy’, and Climate Emergency, the amount of paid jobs are shrinking and with 5.8 million people on Universal Credit and often falling through the net, now is the time for a UBI trial in Mendip.”
“UBI would simplify and replace benefits such as Universal Credit and Working Tax Credits and work alongside housing benefit and carers allowance, with additional UBI payments for groups of people who experience barriers to working, including disabled people, single parents and people of pension age – offering basic financial security for all people at a time when it is needed more than ever.”
The motion in full:
A Universal Basic Income Trial in Mendip
Motion to be moved by: Shane Collins, Keyford Ward Green Party Councillor, seconded by Cllr Ros Wyke, Leader of MDC.
Date submitted: 9th February 2021.
Passed: 22nd February 2021.
This council notes:
1. The drastic impacts of the Covid pandemic on employment and household incomes in Mendip, in particular the self employed, those on zero hours contracts and people working in the arts, festival and cultural industries.
2. The threat to income and employment from Brexit, climate breakdown, automation and artificial intelligence, which could affect a great many more jobs in future;
3. The development of universal basic income (UBI) trials in other countries, which offer a non-means-tested sum paid by the state to cover the basic cost of living, which is paid to all citizens individually, regardless of employment status, wealth, or marital status, which has been widely debated in recent months;
4. The resolutions of other local authorities including Sheffield, Bristol, Oxford, Birmingham, Lewes, and Brighton and Hove (with cross party support) calling for trials of UBI;
5. A network of Universal Basic Income Labs has been set up and works with local authorities across the UK developing UBI proposals to address problems such as poverty, inequality, discrimination and environmental damage, long-term and immediately, in relation to coronavirus.
6. UBI has been Green Party Policy since the 1970s and now taken up by the Liberal Democrats and more recently the Labour manifesto calling for a UBI trial.
7. The time has come for Universal Basic Income.
This council believes:
1. That the current benefit system is failing citizens, with Universal Credit causing hardship to many communities;
2. A UBI is the fairest, most effective way to mitigate the effects of coronavirus on people’s incomes as it does not discriminate between employment status, caring responsibilities, age, or disability when providing basic support;
3. There is a danger of increasing numbers of people facing poverty as a result of the coronavirus crisis;
4. Testing a UBI is needed, as a UBI has the potential to help address key challenges such as inequality, poverty, precarious employment, loss of community, and breach of planetary boundaries through:
i. Giving employers a more flexible workforce whilst giving employees greater freedom to change their jobs;
ii. Valuing unpaid work, such as caring for family members and voluntary work;
iii. Removing the negative impacts of benefit sanctions and conditionality; and
iv. Giving people more equal resources within the family, workplace and society;
v. Breaking the link between work and consumption, thus helping reduce strain on the environment.
vi. Enabling greater opportunities for people to work in community and cultural activities or to train or reskill in areas that will be needed to transition to a lower-carbon economy.
5. The success of a UBI pilot should not be measured only by impact upon take-up of paid work, but also the impact upon communities and what the people within them do, how they feel, and how they relate to others and the environment around them; and
6. Given its history of social innovation, wealth of expertise, and active networks across community, business and public services, Mendip is ideally placed to pilot a UBI.
Full Council calls on the Chief Executive / Leader to:
1. Send a joint letter with the other party leaders to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the leader of the party in Government, their counterparts in all opposition political parties in parliament, and all local MPs, and media asking for a trial of Universal Basic Income in Mendip citing the above reasons.
At the end of August, all five councils in Somerset were targeted by Extinction Rebellion over investments in fossil fuels by the councils’ pension fund.
Somerset is on the front line of climate change. Climate Change has caused, and is predicted to cause, a much greater risk of flooding and extreme weather. After the devastating floods of the Somerset Levels in 2013, Somerset County Council saw the terrible impact of climate change first hand. The Council recognises the potential impacts of climate change yet its pension fund invests over £120,000,000 in the very fossil fuel companies that are causing climate change!
Since 2015, Greens in Mendip have been leading the call for Somerset County Council to divest from fossil fuel.
Green Party district councillor for Frome Keyford, Shane Collins, who is leading the campaign for the SCC pension fund to divest, said: “Somerset County Council recognises that it must do whatever it can to tackle climate change and it has a responsibility to divest from an industry that jeopardises the future of our planet.”
“Instead of fossil fuel investment, SCC Pension Fund Committee should invest in solutions to climate change; investments that protect pensions and planet, joining The British Medical Association, Bristol City Council, and Oxford City Council – who have all recently agreed to make the commitment to no direct investment in the fossil fuel industry.”
Please sign our petition, and share widely.
Over one thousand people so far have signed the petition urging the council to heed the advice of financial experts and remove its investments from overvalued fossil fuel companies, but so far the council seems unwilling to acknowledge how it contributes to climate change with these unwise investments.
There is a very promising development in the tree planting front here in Glastonbury as I discovered when I met up with Green Town Councillor Ian Mutch recently.
A number of flourishing Crack Willows (Salix fragilis) are to be found on the Sydenhams Timber yard side of the Mill Stream rivulet running alongside Beckery Road.
Cllr. Mutch planted the small seedlings over the past two years and they are growing magnificently in their new homes.
This is what is hoped to be the first of a large number of seedlings which will be planted in the Glastonbury and Street area over the next few years.
Cllr. Brian Outten
“We must never forget – and pledge never again to inflict such mass destruction. That should start with the UK scrapping plans to replace and upgrade Trident, and instead sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”
Caroline Lucas MP.
On Sunday 9th August, Glastonbury’s Mayor, Cllr. Jon Cousins and Deputy Mayor, Cllr. Sue Barnet, observed The Silent Minute at 11:02 a.m. to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Nagasaki atomic bomb.
A member of the international movement Mayors For Peace, Cllr. Cousins read a message from Mayor Taue of Nagasaki:
“Exactly 75 years have passed since the day our city was assaulted by a nuclear bomb. Despite the passing of three quarters of a century, we are still living in world where nuclear weapons exist.
I appeal to the leaders of countries around the world. Please aim to break down the growing climate of distrust and instead build trust through dialogue... At this very time, please choose solidarity over division. At the NPT Review Conference, which is scheduled for next year, I ask that you show a workable way towards nuclear disarmament.”
“ ‘Only 100 seconds remain.’ In order to symbolize this state of crisis, the ‘Doomsday Clock’, an indicator of the time left until the earth’s extinction, was set at its shortest time ever this year.”
The observation took place at Glastonbury’s Peace Pole which was planted on 26th January 2013 by the Pilgrim Reception Centre supported by Uma Uchima, from the World Peace Prayer Society and Tatomir Ion-Marius, a Romanian Peace Ambassador and international peace worker.
Glastonbury’s Peace Pole has “May Peace Prevail on Earth” written on it in eight languages and also a Braille plate. Located on the grass verge at the front of St Dunstan’s car park in the centre of the town, it ensures visitors and residents all have the opportunity to see and feel the message.
In light of the significant 75th anniversary in August of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan during the Second World War, Glastonbury’s Mayor and Deputy Mayor will observe a Silent Minute at 11:02 a.m. on Sunday, 9th August 2020* – remembering all victims of nuclear weapons.
Glastonbury’s Mayors are members of Mayors For Peace, an international body which came into being on 24th June 1982 at the second United Nations Special Session on Disarmament held in New York, when Takeshi Araki, the then Mayor of Hiroshima, called for cities throughout the world to transcend national borders and work together to press for nuclear abolition.
As Mayors for Peace, Glastonbury’s Mayor Cllr. Jon Cousins and Deputy Mayor Cllr. Sue Barnet call on the UK Government to support the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which is working towards the complete prohibition of developing, testing, and using nuclear weapons. At present, the UK Government has refused to sign or ratify the treaty, which has been signed by 81 members of the United Nations…
The observation of the Silent Minute will take place at Glastonbury’s ‘Peace Pole’, which is situated outside Glastonbury Information Centre, St. Dunstan’s House – at the entrance of the Magdalene Street Car Park.
Please note: If you wish to observe the Silent Minute in a public space, please respect social distancing rules.
The Silent Minute:
The Silent Minute was conceived by Glastonbury visionary, Major Wellesley Tudor Pole O.B.E. in 1940, during the Battle of Britain.
Tudor Pole’s vision was for people to unite in meditation, prayer, or focus (each according to their own belief) and consciously will for “peace to prevail”.
The concept of the dedicated Silent Minute received the direct support of King George VI, Sir Winston Churchill and his Parliamentary Cabinet. It was also recognized by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and observed on land and at sea on the battlefields, in air raid shelters, and in hospitals.
With Churchill’s support, the BBC, on Sunday, 10th November 1940, began to play the bells of Big Ben on the radio as a signal for The Silent Minute to begin.
The tradition of The Silent Minute continues to this day, and Glastonbury Council observe The Silent Minute at the beginning of each of our meetings.
Tudor Pole explained it’s meaning thus: “There is no power on earth that can withstand the united cooperation on spiritual levels of men and women of goodwill everywhere.”
* The anniversary of the time and date of the Nagasaki atom bomb, which instantly killed over 60,000 people at 11:02 a.m. on 9th August 1945, resulting in Japan’s unconditional surrender, effectively ending the Second World War.