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Labour Party response to questions to candidates

5 May 2015

I’m pleased to respond on behalf of York Labour Council candidates. In particular improving air quality and increasing the stock of Council housing would be key priorities for a Labour Council.

What is your party doing to encourage large-scale renewable energy? Would you seek to implement this locally, and how?

One of Labour’s first acts in office was to ensure solar panels were installed on the new Council Offices roof, and we have delivered solar panels for over 500 homes. In our most recent budget we included funding to investigate setting up a Council energy company, both to provide York residents with lower cost energy and to sell energy from the Council’s own renewable energy generation and potentially other local renewable facilities.

We will develop work that has already started to explore the potential for energy generation at Council buildings and sites like the Park & Rides and major developments such as the Community Stadium and York Central. We would also continue to drive down the Council’s own energy consumption.

This would help reduce the Council’s carbon emissions, save residents money, and generate a return that can be recycled into other Council services.

What are your proposals to reduce air pollution in York?

Under Labour, City of York Council adopted the country’s first overarching Low Emissions Strategy for improving air quality, and we recently approved an Air Quality Action Plan to build on it. Under this Action Plan, we would:

  • Increase the number of electric buses, taxis and private vehicles. We introduced the North’s first fleet of electric buses, the world’s first retrofitted electric tour bus is in operation here, we have one of the only low emission taxi incentive schemes in the country, and one of the most extensive electric vehicle charging networks. We believe there is potential for even greater proportion of electric vehicles and we would pursue this.
  • Introduce low emission planning guidance that would require new developments to mitigate their air quality impact. This could include provision of electric vehicle charging points, emission controls during construction, auto finance your contribution towards the cost of improving air quality.
  • Reduce emissions from the Council’s own fleet of vehicles, building on the one third reduction of mileage we have already achieved.  – Introduce a Clean Air Zone to regulate buses in the city centre.
  • Run an anti-idling campaign including improved signage, marketing and, if necessary, enforcement action.
  • Require ECO-stars scheme membership for any operator wishing to provide a CYC funded transport service or that undertakes a service on behalf of the council which involves using a large fleet of vehicles.
  • Deliver a Compressed Natural Gas refuelling station and freight transhipment centre to reduce the emissions of delivery vehicles.
  • Establish a cross-party, independently-led Congestion Commission to engage the public and make recommendations on how to tackle York’s long standing traffic and air quality challenges.

Do you feel the Lendal Bridge trial points to ways forward for further transport change?

We believe that the main lesson learnt from the Lendal Bridge trial is the need to engage the public with the difficult transport choices facing the city and win hearts and minds. Transport needs to stop being a political football in York, which is why we will establish a cross-party independently-led Congestion Commission to produce recommendations that will deal with York’s traffic problems once and for all.

Do you see ways to enhance biodiversity and the natural environment within new development in the city?

Labour included a Biodiversity Action Plan and ambitious green infrastructure policies in the emerging Local Plan. We will deliver a Green Infrastructure Strategy to establish a long term vision for the planning and management of green infrastructure across York, identifying where the protection and enhancement of green spaces and natural elements can be achieved, improvement in connectivity between places realised, and focal points for community and business involvement established. This will ensure an improved biodiversity and natural environment for all York residents, and to this end we particularly value the importance of green corridors, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.

Would you propose to build council housing, and if so how?

Labour delivered the first council homes in York in more than 20 years. As part of Phase 1 of our council homes building plans, we are beating our building targets with more than 70 homes, all meeting very high standards of environmental sustainability and accessibility.

As part of Phase 2 we will deliver a similar number of homes. We will do this by making use of a £10m Housing Investment Fund and using capital receipts to cross-subsidise the delivery of new council homes.

We will explore different vehicles to deliver ambitious numbers of new affordable homes in the city and will retain targets for affordable homes in private developments.

David Levene
Secretary, York Labour

…and from the parliamentary candidates:-

Thank you for your e-mail of 29 April on behalf of York Environment Forum in which you ask for our views on Climate Change, HS2 and the shortage of affordable housing.  We are replying as follows:

Climate Change

The Labour Party will work for a climate change deal at the Paris conference which is taking place in December. Climate change is one of the most serious and complex challenges of the 21st Century and we need concerted, immediate and sustained action to reduce carbon emissions and to avert the potentially serious environmental consequences we face if we fail to take action.  Labour has always warned that climate change threatens national security because of the consequences for destabilisation of entire regions of the world, mass migration of millions of people and conflict over water or food supplies.

The previous Labour Government introduced the 2008 Climate Change Act, which set a legally binding target to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050, and a range of measures to improve energy efficiency, increase renewable energy and build a low carbon economy. We are very proud of our record on this.  The current Government is failing to take climate change seriously. Disagreement and inconsistent messages from Ministers, as well as policy uncertainty on decarbonisation and support for renewables is undermining the leadership that Labour established in the past. Investment in renewables has collapsed and important measures such as a clear target to decarbonise our electricity supply by 2030 have been opposed. A future Labour government will put in place a clear plan to mitigate and manage the impact of climate change. That will mean taking action on prevention through the 2030 decarbonisation target and an ambitious EU emissions reduction target, building our resilience to extreme weather conditions and making the most of the opportunity presented by a growing green economy.  We would also strengthen the Green Investment Bank with borrowing powers.

A UN climate agreement is a vital foundation for the proposed Sustainable Development Goals, and the link between climate action and poverty reduction needs to be recognised.

A Labour Government would play an active role in delivering.   We would introduce one million new green jobs and also grow the economy on the back of a sustainable agenda.  We would also ensure that Department for International Development funding is resilient, and work closely with developing countries to support innovation and sustain global momentum in fighting climate change.  If we are elected as MPs, we will make sure that tackling climate change is a key priority.  It is right that wealthier nations do everything we can to help people living in global poverty, whether this is caused by climate change or by other factors.

HS2/3 Rail

We think there is a need for a full scale review of these proposals.  There is a need to look at the evidence both for and against HS2/3 and look at the most recent estimates of the cost.  We share your concern that this is not the best use of funding for transport and believe it may be more beneficial to rail passengers to improve the existing rail network.  We are also concerned that HS2 could lead to more economic growth in London and the South East of the country rather than York and the north of England.  We would also like to see improvements made to the east west rail network as we believe these services do not receive adequate investment.  They are largely ignored in favour of improvements to services to London and the north.

National Housing shortage.

The Labour Party believes that everyone should be able to live in a home they can afford and in the communities where they have their roots. We also know that the housing crisis cannot be tackled unless we start building many more homes than are built now. A future Labour Government will give our communities the powers they need to get Britain building again, ensuring at least 200,000 new homes a year by 2020 – almost double the current level. We will tackle land banking so that developers with planning permission have to use it, and give local authorities powers to ensure that local first time buyers  are able to take advantage of new homes that are built in their area.

We will also create a fairer private rented sector, so that in future, renting is a more secure long term option for families and individuals who cannot or prefer not to buy. We will legislate for rights to longer term lets, with predictable rents, to provide affordability, stability and security. And we will end the injustice of prospective tenants being hit with hundreds of pounds of unfair charges by regulating letting agents and banning rip-off letting agent fees on tenants.

We share your concern about the lack of affordable homes in York and across the country.  In York, the Labour council have been working to develop a citywide plan to support the city’s economic growth, address the shortage of housing and help shape future development.  This is in line with the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework which was introduced last year.  York does not currently have a defined Green belt and the draft Local Plan defined this for the first time whilst securing homes and jobs for the future.  However, the Department for Communities and Local Government have recently released new figures which have provoked a disagreement within the political parties over how many new houses York needs and where they should be built.

If we are elected as the MPs for York on Thursday, we will work with all the political parties to ensure that people in York get the housing they need and in the right locations.  Everyone deserves somewhere decent to live at a price which is affordable.  If we are elected the need for more housing will be a key priority and we will do everything we can to help.

Yours sincerely,

Rachael Maskell
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for York Central &

Joe Riches
Labour Parliamentary Candidate for York Outer.

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