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Local & State Governance

UK Greens And The ‘Balance Of Power’


UK Greens And The ‘Balance Of Power’
Accord With Conservatives On Energy And Conservation Program
by Mike Feinstein, advisor, International Committee of the Green Party of the United States

“This is a major success for the Green Party with national significance. In addition to huge carbon savings it will achieve, it is the first scheme in the country that gives free insulation to residents whatever their circumstances.”
– Andrew Cooper

Although the UK Greens don’t yet have a City Council majority, in the city of Kirklees (Yorkshire County), about 180 miles north of London, local Greens won their fourth seat on the 69-member Metropolitan Borough Council. This gave them ‘balance of power’ for the second term in a row, enabling them to leverage policy concessions in exchange for supporting the minority Tory administration (20 seats), together with the Lib Dems (18 seats).

In the just-concluded term, this cooperation led to a subsidy of £21 million (approximately $42 million) to insulate 40,000 homes. According to Green Councillor Andrew Cooper, “households will see their annual fuel bills reduce by an average £150 and at least £5 million will re-circulate back into the local economy each year rather than into the coffers of energy companies.” The scheme will see £10 million of Kirklees Council funding matched by £11 from the Scottish Power private utility, under their nationally-mandated Energy Efficiency Commitment requirement.”

“This is a major success for the Green Party with national significance,” said Cooper. “In addition to huge carbon savings it will achieve, it is the first scheme in the country that gives free insulation to residents whatever their circumstances. Furthermore, it is making the mandates under the Energy Efficiency Commitment workable and practical, because the geographically-focused scheme enables the utilities to deliver on their commitment in a timely, organized and large-scale fashion, compared to trying to find willing participants on a one-by-one basis.”

While cooperation with the Conservatives remains controversial within the Green Party, this success has led to its continuation for a second term, again based upon delivery of Green Party policy objectives.

This time according to Cooper, the party has gotten agreement on establishing an initial revolving loan fund of £3 million that will subsidize solar panels, biomass boilers and other home-based renewable energy sources, with payback based upon a charge against the sale of the house when sold, with the borough acting as guarantor until that point. Just as with the home insulation scheme, Cooper sees this program as groundbreaking for the UK, with the likelihood that as it proves to be workable, it would also attract private utility funds under the Energy Efficiency Commitment requirement.

By contrast, the Green Party has formally withdrawn from the coalition administration with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats that had run nearby Leeds for three years. Councillor David Blackburn, Green Group Leader said: “At the start of this new municipal year it is obvious that decisions have to come to a head on incineration and we cannot support a policy that takes us down the route of building an incinerator.”

Should the Greens continue these forms of cooperation? According to party Male Spokesperson Dr. Derek Wall, it’s important to remember that “these are not formal coalitions. Rather, each local Green Party decides who to work with, and the ‘confidence and supply’ model allows them to support specific policies, rather supporting formal coalitions with the ‘grey parties.’ Especially in Green strongholds like Oxford, Norwich and Lewisham, by providing a clear opposition to the grey parties, Greens are growing in seats with each passing year.”

Mike Feinstein

Mike Feinstein is a former Green Mayor and City Councilmember in Santa Monica, California; a co-founder of the Green Party of California and a 2018 Green candidate for California Secretary of State.

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