Sustainability thoughts from the UK Local Elections
I suppose you could also call this blog “why I haven’t blogged for goodness knows how many weeks.” Regular readers will know that I’m a also a Liberal Democrat Councillor for the hyper marginal ward of Ouseburn in Newcastle – recent majorities have included 12, 53 and last Thursday we won a second seat by just 25, so every election is a full on arm-wrestle.
Looking at the big picture, the Lib Dems secured the most gains in seats across the country, followed by the Greens. The latter started from a much lower base so have shown a more dramatic change in fortunes. Here in Newcastle, however, the Greens came third in their single target seat, having switched from their normal target Ward – they had hit a ceiling there which wasn’t enough under our brutal (and undemocratic) first past the post voting system. In our Ward, the Green vote was its usual 10% with no campaigning. I know for a fact that many more than 10% of the electorate believes Sustainability is a crucial issue so obviously they trust other parties to deliver on the green agenda.
In terms of Sustainability issues, the ‘Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN)’ was ostensibly one of the hot topics across the nation, but our LTN was mysteriously delayed until after the election so it never became a moot point. From what feedback we have received, those living within the LTN boundaries can’t wait for it, those outside who habitually use those roads in their daily routine, less so. Both the active political parties within our ward (Labour and ourselves) support the LTN, so it was never going to become a big ding-dong. In fact, we attacked our opponents’ failure to deliver a long-promised ‘school street’ to restrict traffic around our primary school.
This isn’t the case elsewhere in the country with candidates of all political colours and none going anti-LTN. There is a subtlety here in that, like anything, there are good-LTNs and badly-designed LTNs, but whether the anti-LTN campaigners are protesting about the design or tapping into NIMBY-ism is moot point. Analysis suggests that being against LTNs didn’t translate into votes, with no single issue anti-LTN candidates getting elected. I’ve always said that in 18 years’ of local politics, I have NEVER been asked to re-open either the 3 streets that were closed to motor traffic in the 1970s or the two residential streets we have ‘filtered’ in recent years. A sixth largely non-residential street was filtered by the Council during the pandemic and I’ve had just one resident grumble about it to me.
Lastly, my new cargobike came into its own during the campaign distributing leaflets to deliverers (and taking spares for recycling). It’s just a joy to get around the area by bike and the electric assist makes it feasible too. My new ward colleague is also a cargo bike user (without a motor, but he doesn’t live in a valley like me), so we’re blazing a trail here in Ouseburn Ward.