By Stefan Antinou / EnvironmentServices / 0 Comments

The sun is finally showing its face and enticing us onto the banks of the Stour – and, for the very brave, the beach. The temperatures aren’t the only thing that’s rising, though: households are to be hit with an average 5% increase in energy bills in 2019, well outstripping both inflation and average wage growth — if yours is growing at all. Unbelievably, 2.5 million households in the UK are already suffering from fuel poverty, while the big energy companies lock up massive profits off the backs of Canterbury and Whitstable residents who have enough to worry about without being slapped with another rise in bills. The Tory government’s typically watered-down copycat price cap has made almost no difference to most people’s energy bills (did you even notice that they’d implemented it?), and while a Labour government’s Green New Deal would put the brakes on the Big Six, invest in green industry and create regional energy cooperatives across the UK, we don’t have to wait for Westminster to act for us. We can take power into our own hands.

 

Don’t listen to anyone who says it’s not possible: towns and villages across the country are setting up so-called Community Energy Schemes – and a Labour-led Canterbury City Council administration would do the same here. Whether it’s Nottingham’s hugely successful Robin Hood community company providing not-for-profit power to households across the country, or the small cooperatives already being set up by and for ordinary people around the South East – people power is transforming and democratising energy for the long term and for the common good.

 

When communities choose how they generate electricity – building genuinely affordable council houses fitted with locally made solar panels, for example – we can not only do our part in the vital fight against climate catastrophe, but invest in local industry. When a company’s stakeholders and customers are the same local residents, profits can be reinvested into the area and prices kept down. If even small groups of people in Canterbury, Whitstable and the villages dare to come together to think radically differently about the way we produce our energy – backed and funded by a Labour Council – we will see the benefits in our community. We’ll not only know where our energy comes from but be producing it ourselves, and by investing in each other we will rebuild trust in our energy sector, relieve fuel poverty and strengthen our communities.

 

The for-profit energy market isn’t working, but nationalising it isn’t going to be good enough either. To create an energy sector that’s truly green, local and fit for the 21st century, we need to democratise it — and put power into the hands of the people.

By Canterbury Labour Party / JobsServices / 0 Comments

The Living Wage campaign is an independent movement of businesses, organisations and people who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay. Employers choosing to pay the real Living Wage on a voluntary basis get access to a ethical benchmark for responsible pay, but for council’s it is also a way of ensuring their own staff and contractors in the local economy receive a basic wage, tackling poverty from the bottom up.

Many people in our community find that even though they are working full time on the government’s national living wage of £8.21 an hour they are still struggling to make ends meet. 1 in 5 employees (22%) in the UK earn below the Living Wage. That’s nearly a quarter of the UK workforce and nearly a 1/3 (26%) of working women in the UK. Two thirds of children in poverty have a parent in work.

The real Living Wage is independently calculated every year based on what employees and their families need to get by, including what people need for a decent standard of living and to participate fully in society. This includes things like housing, transport to work and heating, but also enough for a small birthday celebration or a trip to the cinema.

Paying the real Living Wage rate of £9 per hour (£10.55 in London) can mean the difference between employees just about managing and having the funds to deal with those unexpected costs and little extras and can change people’s lives, putting money back into the pockets of the lowest paid workers.

Not only that, but the real Living Wage is good for business. In a 2016 survey of accredited Living Wage employers by Cardiff Business School, 93% employers reported they had benefited from accreditation, 86% reported an enhanced reputation as an employer, 76% of large organisations reported improved recruitment and retention and 78% of large employers reported an increase staff motivation.

Labour committed the council to paying its staff the real living wage in 2010 but we want it to go further an become an Accreditted Real Living Wage council, committing itself to also pay its contractors the same.

The Living Wage campaign enjoys cross-party political support. Councils and Local Authorities across the country from Aberdeen to York have already accredited as Living Wage employers, joining a growing movement of over 5000 businesses and organisations across the UK who believe a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay.

By Councillor Alan Baldock / Latest NewsServices / / 0 Comments

In a last-minute election dash, the Canterbury Conservatives are trying to convince us that their new waste collection idea for 2021 is going to be the “in-house” service we all want. But let’s be very clear. It won’t be. Their proposal for a Local Authority Trading Company (LATCo), wholly owned by the Council, won’t look or feel like an “in-house” service which most of us would recognise.

Empowered by the 2011 Localism Act, Councils are now able to reject outsourcing and exercise greater control over their providers, feeding profits back into the local authority. But the Conservatives’ new proposals won’t work like that. Built into the plans is a degree of “flexibility,” which will benefit the council, not its workers. Their suggested new LATCo service could impose terms and conditions upon its employees which appear considerably less favourable than those enjoyed by direct Council employees. This is not Labour making an unfounded assumption, this change is the main reason the Tories are supporting this option. It appears in the report in black and white. It is designed to save them money.

Should the LATCo proposal be set in motion, our waste collection service may well be just SERCO in disguise, run by the Council in your name. Little will change on the outside. Quite possibly you will still get your bins collected by agency staff on short term contracts, but on zero-hour contracts and paid the minimum wage, with no guaranteed hours to bring stability to their lives. Make no mistake, this is the true face of the “flexibility” which the Tories intend to use LATCo to conceal. Canterbury’s residents and workers deserve better. There is no reason that a true in-house operation cannot be equally able to accommodate the many changes ahead for waste management, but without the imposed “flexibility” of poor pay and conditions. Yet that option has already been dismissed by the local Conservatives.

Labour will be opposing this proposal on these principles, not because we are stuck in a time-warp, but because we feel strongly that CCC should be setting a better example. It should be a fair and ethical employer, not one that is prepared to set itself up deliberately to pass on the consequences of in-work poverty to the taxpayer, and to wash their hands in the tears of local families struggling to survive. I see nothing in this proposal that puts my mind at ease, nothing that sets out to create a true LATCo, if that is what they are wedded to. Such a company should be based around fair and ethical conditions of employment and one that would not create a two-tier CCC workforce serving our community.

Unbelievably the Tories seem to think that residents don’t care how their bin collection is run. Well, I can share this with them: people do care, they are communicating this to Labour every day. Residents will not support a service delivered on the back of poverty wages, poor conditions and insecure employment. Any LATCo established in the name of the people would be wise to take note.

This article first appeared in the Kentish Gazette on 14 March, 2019.