I’ve had a number of residents contact me recently regarding fracking, and whether there’ll be any taking place in the Colchester area. Having looked into the issue, it looks very unlikely that there’ll be any taking place in East Anglia, as the geology of this area means it’s very unlikely to contain any shale gas – or, at least, any significant amounts that would be economically viable to explore for and extract.
However, if someone decided they wanted to try, they’d have to first get themselves approved by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to explore and extract gas. A license to do so in this area would then have to be granted by Essex County Council who are responsible for minerals extraction – this normally involves quarrying in this area, but would include other mining operations if someone wanted to try them – and finally, Colchester Borough Council would have to grant planning permission for any surface works involved in the operation. So, even if there were deposits here that might be accessible by fracking, there’d be plenty of opportunities for the public to have their say before anything began.
As for the principle of fracking itself, I’m still waiting to see something conclusive from the evidence. As I understand it, burning gas for power produces fewer greenhouse gases than burning coal or oil for the equivalent amount of power, but the supposed cost benefits of shale gas are not likely to be that great – from what I’ve read, gas prices dropped in the US after shale gas production started because it’s mostly separate from the global gas market, so a surge in production there affected the domestic price. However, the UK and Europe are an integral part of that market, so increases in production won’t have as big an effect on the overall market price. There’s also the question of what effect such production has on the local environment.
However, beyond those considerations, there’s the global effect of continuing to extract carbon-based fuels from the ground and release that carbon into the atmosphere. This article provides a good overview of how we’re heading for a massive overshoot of carbon targets, and even if gas does release less carbon than oil or coal, if the oil and coal it displaces in the short term is still burnt, then it all goes into the atmosphere in the long run. For me, it seems that fracking is a minor distraction in the wider vision of how we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release before it’s far too late.
These are the results for Colchester in the Essex County Council elections. Full results can be found on the Essex County Council website.
Abbey: Lib Dem (Margaret Fisher) 1273, UKIP 786, Labour 519, Green 467, Conservative 395. LD hold
Constable: Conservative (Anne Brown) 2075, UKIP 1471, Labour 504, Green 387, Lib Dem (Carolyn Catney) 303. Con hold.
Drury: Conservative (Sue Lissimore) 1957, Lib Dem (Nick Cope) 1127, UKIP 951, Labour 527, Green 314. Con hold.
Maypole: Labour (Dave Harris) 1665, Lib Dem (Lyn Barton) 933, UKIP 573, Conservative 475, Green 143. Labour gain from Lib Dem.
Mersea and Tiptree: Conservative (John Jowers) 1913, UKIP 1134, Labour 629, Green 216, Lib Dem (Gill Collings) 181. Con hold.
Mile End and Highwoods: Lib Dem (Anne Turrell) 1417, Conservative 888, UKIP 725, Labour 408, Green 180. Lib Dem hold.
Parsons Heath and East Gates: Lib Dem (Theresa Higgins) 1259, UKIP 809, Conservative 609, Labour 489, Green 192. Lib Dem hold.
Stanway and Pyefleet: Conservative (Kevin Bentley) 1723, UKIP 929, Lib Dem (Jessica Scott-Boutell) 829, Labour 491, Green 247. Conservative hold.
Wivenhoe St Andrew: Labour (Julie Young) 1895, UKIP 599, Conservative 562, Lib Dem (Shaun Boughton) 383, Green 248. Labour hold.
Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and his comments on Essex County Council’s Tories are worth noting:
Tory-controlled Essex County Council decided this week not to sue their disgraced former leader Lord Hanningfield for the £287,000 of ratepayers’ money he spent flying around the world with cronies and dining in style. This is a rash move.
In four and a half months, the council is up for re-election. I am appalled that Essex Tories have such a cavalier view of financial accountability. Anyone who votes to put them back into office next May is mad.
I also believe that Labour voted with the Tories at last week’s Essex County Council meeting to block the Liberal Democrat motion on this.
Here’s an interesting bit of local history for you all, going all the way back to when I was born in 1972. This was a year of many interesting events, and also the 1972 Local Government Act which brought about wholesale changes to the way large parts of the country were governed. It brought in the two-tier system of local government (counties and districts/boroughs) that’s been continually tampered with since, and also carved many new counties out of the old borders. I grew up in Redditch, so was under the auspices of the county of ‘Hereford and Worcester’ for a while, though if things had gone slightly differently I could have known it as Malvernshire or the County of Wyvern.
But today, we’re not looking at H&W, Avon, Humberside or any of the odd agglomerations that were created then, but one that was proposed and never came about – Colchester becoming part of Suffolk.
Read the rest of this entry
News is just coming through from various people on Twitter that Paul White, Lord Hanningfield – former leader of Essex County Council and Conservative frontbench spokesman in the Lords – has been found guilty of six counts of false accounting. Sentencing will take place in three weeks, apparently.
UPDATE: There’s now a report on BBC News.
You may have heard that Paul White (aka Lord Hanningfield), the former leader of Essex County Council, is currently on trial on charges of false accounting in Chelmsford.
While I’m not going to comment on the substance of the trial until after it’s concluded, there’s one comment of his that’s been reported that does deserve some attention:
He said: “Essex is as big as Northern Ireland. So my job is something like the equivalent of being prime minister of Northern Ireland. It is bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia.
Leaving aside the different roles of the Northern Ireland Executive and the leadership of a County Council, let’s look at the ‘bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia’ part.
The population of the part of Essex governed by the County Council (Southend and Thurrock are unitary authorities) is, according to Wikipedia 1,396,300, in an area of 3,465 square kilometres.
Croatia, by contrast, has a population of 4,483,804 and an area of 56,594 sq km. (source)
Lithuania has a population of 3,535,547 and an area of 65,300 sq km (source)
And Latvia has a population of 2,204,708 and an area of 64,589 sq km (source)
Again, leaving aside the difference between running an English County Council and an entire nation-state, I can’t quite see how one can claim Essex as being bigger than any of those countries. I think it’s clear that neither geography nor mathematics are amongst Lord Hanningfield’s strong points, which may go some way to explaining why he is where he is today.
Essex County Council tweeted excitedly this morning that they’ve been given £5.3m extra from the Government to deal with potholes. That’s good news, and I look forward to seeing some of the potholes I’ve reported recently to them being filled in.
Just in case anyone from the County Council happens to drop by, here are three of the worst that they could be getting on with fixing:
First, in Priory Street
In West Stockwell Street
And at the junction of Serpentine Walk and Catchpool Road
As I’ve talked about before, Essex County Council are now holding a consultation on library opening hours, now they’ve announced how much certain libraries’ opening hours are being cut.
You can go here and have your say, and it won’t take you very long as you’ll only be asked two questions. One about which library you want to comment on – for Colchester Borough, that’s Colchester central library, Prettygate, Greenstead and Stanway – and then another about which proposed set of opening hours you prefer. No chance to make any other comments, suggest alternatives or even any attempt to get any demographic data from respondents. So, the responses won’t be able to be weighted by age, gender, location, amount of times people use the library or anything like that. So, if there’s a specific group that might be adversely affected by one set of opening times, there’ll be no way for the consultation to show that.
The choices for the central library are:
Option A – opening from 9am-6.30pm Monday-Friday, 9am-5.30pm on Saturday and 1pm-4pm on Sunday
Option B – opening from 8.30am-7pm Monday-Thursday and 8.30pm-5pm Friday-Saturday. The library would then be closed all day Sunday.
And that’s your choice, so make sure you have your say on which you’d prefer.
Still no details of the consultation, but Essex County Council have now published the papers for their next Cabinet meeting which will discuss reduced hours of opening for libraries and other cuts (pdf file) – including 21 staff – to save nearly £2m a year from the libraries budget.
A further paper indicates how many hours will be cut from each library. Of local interest:
Colchester Central Library: Currently open for 67.5 hours a week, will reduce to 59 (a reduction of 8.5)
Greenstead Library: Currently 38, reducing to 34 (reduction of 4)
Prettygate: Currently 47, reducing to 34 (reduction of 13)
Stanway: Remains at 16 hours per week
West Mersea: Remains at 23 hours per week
Wivenhoe: Remains at 19 hours per week
As far as I can see, there’s been no consultation on these reductions and the consultation that will take place will be entirely on how you want these reductions in opening hours to take place, not whether you want them to happen at all.
I’m off to find out more, but please let me know what you think about these reductions using the comments.
I was in Colchester Library this afternoon picking up some books and noticed a poster there from the County Council about a forthcoming consultation about reducing the opening hours of libraries to make budget savings. No real details on what’s being proposed or consulted on, but the consultation’s apparently not starting until February 14th – no details yet on the Essex Libraries website or the County’s consultation portal, though.
I’m asking around to see if I can get some more information, but for now I thought I’d put it up here to see if anyone out there knows anything about it that they want to share.