Around 400 workers, previously employed by (Conservative-run) Norfolk County Council-owned company Norse, are threatening strike action due to a dispute about pay and conditions. Environmental service workers, responsible for street-cleaning and park maintenance, are due to transfer from Norse to an arms-lengths company run by Labour-controlled Norwich City Council.
by Sean Meleady
Norfolk-based education workers belonging to the National Education Union (NEU) have won a hard-won victory, after working with other trade unionists across England to force the government to close schools to the majority of students. This follows a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases, particularly amongst school-aged children.
Environmentalists and green activists in Norwich have been coming together to discuss ways in which the city could address climate breakdown, and how, in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city could ‘build back better’. Green New Deal UK’s Norwich hub is part of a nationwide network of groups hoping to combat climate breakdown. Describing a Green New Deal (GND) as ‘our map for a future worth fighting for’, they have five key goals they hope to achieve within the next decade, which they describe as ‘a fork in the road for humanity’.
By Sean Meleady
Norfolk people are rightly proud of the beautiful countryside and unique habitats which attract many tourists to the county. However, Norfolk’s environment and ecological sustainability are threatened by two planned developments located just outside Norwich: the Norwich Western Link road and a proposed new housing development near Thorpe St Andrew which threatens three local woodlands.
By Olivia Hanks
Between 2013 and 2019, an era of ‘austerity’, most of us noticed a marked deterioration in the quality of our public spaces and infrastructure – existing roads and pavements not maintained, school buildings getting shabbier, public facilities closing. During that period, Norfolk County Council oversaw at least £725m of funded infrastructure projects. Incredibly, more than £650m of this was for building or widening roads.
by Colin Hynson and Matthew White
Four years ago, on the north side of Norwich, a new community centre came into life. Before that the Silver Rooms had been owned and run by Norfolk County Council as a drop-in centre for local older residents. In 2010 Norfolk County Council announced that it was selling off the building as a response to cuts imposed by the coalition government. A group of local people fought back determined that the building should carry on benefiting the local community. In 2012, the building became an Asset of Community Value (later used in the campaign to save the Owl Sanctuary). Norfolk County Council then abandoned the auction and said that the building could be run for the benefit of the community and the rooms were leased to the community for 25 years for a peppercorn rent of £1.00 a year.
By Olivia Hanks
Like many people I know, I have felt vaguely guilty about flying for several years now, on an intellectual level. I knew it was bad for the environment, but I was living away from the UK for a while, which at the time seemed to serve as a sort of justification.
Recently, though, my response to this issue has become much more emotional, more gut-level. The widely used aphorism about needing three planets to support your lifestyle has slid into focus: we are stealing. Stealing resources from the poor, stealing the future from the unborn. The view implied by our government and our individual actions – that it’s all worth it for the sake of those £25 tickets to Croatia – is sickening if you think about it for long.
by Joe Burns
In the county council elections that took place last week, Labour unquestionably took Norwich. They won twelve of the thirteen wards in the city. Although it is good news that the Conservatives continue to play no part of governance in the city, it is a sad day for true progressives. Voter turnout was a shameful 34.51 percent and the voting system we have means that even though more people voted against the Tories than for them in the county, they won the most seats. Obviously, as Richard Bearman (Norwich Green Party) says, we need a proportional representation system, but that is a matter for another time.
At county level, the Conservatives had a predictably great day at the expense of UKIP, whose past supporters seem to favour the dishonesty and intolerance of the current Tory government. Indeed, the views of many UKIP supporters have now been adopted by the Tories, most notable their stance on the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union.
Although The Green Party won four seats in the 2013 county council elections (all in Norwich), the defection of Adrian Dearnley to the Conservatives late last year meant that Norwich Green Party were left with three seats to defend in this most recent county council election. Unfortunately, voters seem to have turned away in favour of Labour.
Having been a candidate in a local election last year, I spent a lot of time telling people ‘vote for me’, and as a candidate again this year, I’m doing much the same thing. The more I think about it however, it’s the first third of that phrase that is truly the most important part, and although local politics may not be all that exciting – it is something that affects everyone – above all we need to convince people simply to ‘vote’.
Part of this is acknowledging that the majority of people don’t even vote in local elections, and far fewer get excited about them. It’s a huge issue that turnout usually sits at well below 40% in local elections, but an issue that is difficult to examine as a political activist. In the run up to polling day I am surrounded by activists who (quite rightly) put a lot of time and effort into campaigning locally, and the dedication of my colleagues and political opponents never fails to impress me. As activists, we have to learn to accept that most voters don’t get quite as excited about it all. We need to view things from a different perspective if we want to see why turnout is so low and what we can do to improve it.
As another Christmas passes us by, society suddenly remembers about the people living their lives on the streets. The cold weather and family focus of this time of year always seems to bring about fresh discussion, reports, and news concerning the issues around homelessness. Thankfully, much of the talk on the subject – especially on social media – is rather positive. This year I’ve seen a considerable number of friends and colleagues on Twitter and Facebook talking about admirable projects that provide food, care and company to those without a home during the Christmas period.