For Green Policies, Vote Labour on 6th May

By Councillor Jane Milner-Barry – 25th April, 2021

Swindon Labour really likes the Green Party manifesto.

We support all the policies, most of which we recognise as they also appear in our Labour manifesto.  We share with the Green Party a commitment to cycling and public transport, retrofitting our housing stock, encouraging biodiversity and training/retraining Swindon people for the green jobs of the future.  We don’t talk much about food waste in our manifesto, because there is already a legal requirement for food waste to be collected and recycled by 2023.

The difference between the two manifestos is about how to pay for these policies.

The Green Party seems to be relying on the Conservative Government’s promises of funding.  That’s just not very wise. Remember the Green Homes Grant Scheme? The Government promised £3 billion for retrofitting , then after a few months closed down the scheme and took back £1 billion of the funding.  You can’t put your faith in Tory Party press releases, and Swindon Labour will not do so.  We have thought long and hard about the problem of retrofitting our housing stock and we are committed to setting up a loan scheme to help local residents retrofit their homes.  We have also supported the setting up of a Community Interest Company to source funding to provide residents with energy advice.

We are agreed about the need to restore comprehensive bus services.

But the Green Party say they are going to “access the £170m the government has pledged to restore lost services and improve the regularity of buses”. What £170m? A few minutes research shows that £50m of that has already been awarded to two lucky “electric bus towns” and another £20m is for a trial of uber-style buses in rural areas, which Swindon isn’t.  Of the remaining £100m, only £30m is for restoring and improving services. Leaving out London there are 115 upper-tier local authorities in England – so what would Swindon’s share amount to?  Never believe a Tory press release! The Labour Group always looks for practical solutions. We have already discussed with Stagecoach the need to reinstate the Greenbridge Park & Ride as a way of reducing private car use on the roads into Swindon. And while we’re looking at the Greens’ bus policy, what’s this about the National Grid planning to be zero carbon by 2025?  That’s another press release that needs closer scrutiny.  The National Grid Electricity System Operator (a separate company) is aiming by 2025 to be able to operate a zero-carbon system whenever enough zero-carbon electricity is being generated.  Which is great news, but does not mean that all our electricity is going to be green by 2025.

Then there’s cycling.

The Green Party refer to a Tory Government announcement of £2 billion for cycling.  Some of this has already been wasted on schemes which were hastily assembled ahead of absurd Government deadlines and have had to be dismantled.  Swindon Labour will not rely on handouts from a capricious government.  We will ringfence a percentage of the Highways budget for cycling, starting with 4%.  This radical approach will not just provide reliable funding for cycling infrastructure but it will show that Swindon has a serious commitment to cycling and that will enable us to approach outside bodies for funding.

Wildlife corridors?

Where Labour controls parishes, we are already working on these.  South Swindon Parish is laying out a green corridor all the way from the Shaftesbury Lake to Mannington, and has mapped out areas where the grass won’t be cut this year, allowing wildflowers to take hold.  If Labour controlled the Borough Council we could spread these policies across the town.

Labour’s policies also include installing air pollution monitors outside schools and introducing more 20mph speed limits.

As part of our procurement process reform, we will favour local companies with strong green credentials and we believe this will encourage local companies to get their carbon emissions down.  We are committed to deep reductions in carbon emissions across the borough by 2030.  It is surprising that there is no such commitment in the Green Party manifesto.

Labour’s message is clear.

On 6th May, if you want to keep the Conservatives in power, vote Green. If you want a Swindon Council with green policies AND practical plans to implement them, vote Labour.