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Tuesday, 3rd Oct 2017

Green Cllr raises concerns over Council and Home Office targeting of migrants

Migrants, mostly from the European Economic Area (EEA), make up a significant percentage of privately renting tenants in Bristol. Many struggle with high and increasing rents as well as sub-standard living conditions, and due to their often precarious living circumstances may be reluctant to come forward to report problems or seek support, which can also lead to homelessness. Green Councillor Cleo Lake has raised concerns at new funding received by Bristol City Council which she fears could be used to further marginalise vulnerable and homeless migrants, betraying Bristol’s status as a ‘Sanctuary City’.

£180,000 from the Government’s Controlling Migration Fund is going to the City Council to address migration (which includes people coming from the EEA) as well as a further sum of over £300,000, ostensibly to focus on rogue landlords. This will be done through a scheme where migrants are encouraged to report inadequate living conditions – but in doing so may then face deportation.

Through this fund not only will immigrant rough sleepers be supported to ‘accept offers of reconnection’ to their native lands, but the Home Office will also fund random raids of properties based on citizen ‘tip offs’ to deport immigrants under the guise of outlawing rogue landlords. To quote the BCC website:

“The officers will work with partners including Avon and Somerset Police and Immigration Compliance Enforcement (ICE) to identify properties where there are likely to be high levels of exploitation and trafficking. Officers will carry out proactive inspections of these premises, using our powers of entry to gain access to all dwellings.…It is estimated that approximately 1,200 inspections will be undertaken over the two year period, equivalent to approximately 312 streets being covered across the city.”

 Cleo Lake, Green party councillor for Cotham, posed a question at Cabinet on August 15th concerning the number of immigrant rough sleepers, requesting a breakdown of:

- Place of origin

- Immigration status and outcome

- How many people were been brought off the street through the City Initiative

Councillor Lake says the follow up answer she eventually received gave her cause for concern:

“EEA rough sleepers seen regularly by Bristol Outreach are ineligible to access supported pathways off the streets. Without realistic potential to find or sustain work e.g. because of substance misuse, many in time will accept an offer of reconnection. Once a client consents, it is more efficient to employ our written protocol with the Home Office to facilitate voluntary administrative removals. This joined-up approach provides the Home Office with valuable intelligence about potential returnees…. funding also provides for a full-time Bristol City Council Streetwise Officer specifically to:

• build a stronger intelligence picture of migrant rough sleeping

• liaise with ICE and Police to target detention of individuals subject to enforced removal

• liaise with Outreach around supportive interventions/voluntary reconnection”

 Commenting on the response, Councillor Lake said:

“The data given suggests that the vast majority of rough sleepers are UK citizens. Out of a recorded 295, 148 were recorded as ‘white British’, 8 as ‘Black’ or ‘Black British: African’ and 97 were ‘Origin Unknown’. The information goes on to suggest that there will be a target of “64 reconnections per year (total for enforced/voluntary administrative removals, voluntary reconnections), pro rata for first year.

“Human trafficking and exploitation is extremely concerning and must be confronted, along with rogue landlords which the information suggests go hand in hand with this exploitation. It is only right to target rogue landlords – they are a blight on our community and should be challenged across the board. However homeless people are, by the very nature of their being, extremely vulnerable, and should have our unconditional support.

“Whilst I do not condone illegal migration I am minded to also reflect on the reasons that people risk their lives and often put themselves into severe debt to come to the UK. Whether it’s to seek asylum, opportunity or to join family, Bristol is supposed to be a City of Sanctuary but it seems to me that there is a danger of a lack of separation between vital support and immigration enforcement which could jeopardise that City status. Support for homeless migrants or those living in substandard accommodation cannot come with the threat of deportation or we risk further marginalising some of the most vulnerable people in society. I hope that positives do come out of this but I will be watching closely to see what is really happening.”

NB: Bristol was officially recognised as a City of Sanctuary in 2011 – for more information see https://bristol.cityofsanctuary.org/

Councillors propose planning policy to protect music venues

Councillors propose planning policy to protect music venues

In response to a spate of local music venues raising the alarm about being faced with closure, Green Party Councillors in Bristol have called on the city’s elected Labour Mayor to adopt a planning policy known as the ‘agent of change’ principle. This principle, recently adopted by London Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan,(1) puts the onus for soundproofing on new residential developments, which must shoulder responsibility for compliance when situated near an existing music venue. Similarly, if a music venue opens in a residential area, it too would be responsible for complying with residential requirements. According to the London Mayor, “developers building flats near existing venues will need to ensure that residents are not unduly affected by sound from the venue, and that may include paying for soundproofing.”

Brexit breakthrough Comment from Bristols MEP

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Commenting on news of an apparent breakthrough in negotiations between the UK and EU and that Brexit discussions will now move on to the next phase, Molly Scott Cato MEP, Green Party speaker on Brexit, said: “Brexit should not be about winners and losers but about ensuring that all citizens currently in the EU, including the British ones, are safe and secure after March 2019.

Bristol MEP and QC launch legal proceedings against government over Brexit sectoral studies

Bristol MEP and QC launch legal proceedings against government over Brexit sectoral studies

Molly Scott Cato, Bristol's Green MEP and Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Society, have today applied for judicial review in the High Court over the government’s refusal to release sectoral studies carried out by DExEU into the impacts of Brexit, and a Treasury study into the effects of leaving the customs union.

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Responding to this morning's evidence session of the DExEU committee and David Davis's comment that the Brexit impact studies do not in fact exist, Molly Scott Cato, and MEP who is about to launch judicial review proceedings to force the publication of the studies, said: "I have been seeking to know the content of these studies since April and in September Brexit minister Steve Baker responded to my letter demanding release explicitly on behalf of the Secretary of State and acknowledging that the Department had 'conducted analysis of over 50 sectors of the economy'. Now David Davis claims these studies do not in fact exist.

Job Advert Local Party Organiser in Bristol

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The Local Party Organiser will be responsible for supporting Bristol Green Party officers and volunteers in the implementation of Bristol Green Party strategies, plans and day to day operations. The role will support the officers and volunteers to coordinate their work, check on progress and achievements.

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Today, Bristol’s Labour Mayor has decided out of the blue to end the cross-party cabinet, effectively firing Green Cabinet Member Fi Hance and Tory Cabinet Member Claire Hiscott.

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Three of the city's MEPs are raising concerns with the European Commission about Russian interference in the EU referendum in an ‘unprecedented display of unity’. Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has teamed up with Labour’s Clare Moody MEP and former Conservative MEP, Julie Girling, to write to the Commission about their concerns.

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Over eighty students from Bristol and South Gloucestershire secondary schools are taking the lead in debating the landmark Paris Climate Change Agreement, and discussing with local leaders what more can be done in their area to reduce carbon emissions.

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Bristol's Green MEP has accused government ministers of saddling consumers with higher energy bills because they have had their ‘heads stuck in the radioactive sand’ over Hinkley and has issued a challenge to Bristol's MPs to unite against the folly of Hinkley and back a renewable energy revolution.

Bristol MEP begins legal proceedings to release Brexit studies

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Lawyers representing Molly Scott Cato, Bristol's Green MEP, and Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project have written again to David Davis and Philip Hammond giving them 14 days to release in full government studies into the economic impacts of Brexit. If they refuse to make the documents publicly available, they will start judicial review proceedings in the High Court.

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Councillor Fi Hance today attended the annual COP23 climate conference in Bonn and spoke on behalf of Bristol. As Cabinet member for Energy, Cllr Hance was there to represent Bristol at the Climate event and was asked what action the city is taking on climate change.

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On the same week that Bristol hosts its annual Festival of Economics, Green Councillors in Bristol have put forward a motion for Tuesday’s Full Council supporting a Financial Transactions Tax, also known as a ‘Robin Hood Tax’ or ‘Tobin Tax’.

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At Cabinet today Green Councillors challenged the Labour administration to commit to protecting the Council Tax support scheme for the remainder of the Mayor’s term to 2020.

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In an unprecedented step, Bristol’s three opposition parties have united in calling on the Council’s External Auditor to step in and investigate the circumstances surrounding the controversial departure of the former Chief Executive, Anna Klonowski.

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The Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset should investigate alleged illegal spending in the lead up to the 2016 EU referendum, claims Molly Scott Cato, Bristol's Green MEP.

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Green Councillor and Bristol City Cabinet member responsible for energy policy, Fi Hance, has today welcomed the news that Bristol City Council is ahead of its targets for reducing its carbon emissions.

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Bristols MEP demands to see official findings of investigation into Brexit Leave campaign

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Bristol's Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, is demanding the Electoral Commission reveal the extent to which they have investigated alleged illegal spending intended to influence the 2016 EU referendum result. She has written to the Commission asking if their enquiries are now complete and, if so, asking it to publish the findings.

Green MEP to Theresa May support an EUwide suspension of arms exports to Saudi Arabia

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Following calls from leaders of four political groups in the European Parliament urging the EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, for an EU-wide ban of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, Green parliamentarians including Bristol's Green MEP Molly Scott Cato have written to the UK Prime Minister urging her to “immediately suspend all arms exports to Saudi Arabia until the human rights of the people of Yemen can be fully guaranteed”.

Green MEP defends Bristols universities against challenge to academic freedom

Green MEP defends Bristol's universities against ‘challenge to academic freedom’

Molly Scott Cato MEP, has made clear she will stand by universities in Bristol that refuse to respond to the request made by Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris, asking them for details of names of those ‘teaching European Affairs, with particular reference to Brexit’. The letter also asks for ‘the syllabus and links to the online lectures which relate to this area’.

Green councillor presses Mayor over continued payout secrecy

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Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke has twice pressed the Mayor to establish the full truth behind the payment made to departed CEO Anna Klonowski.

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In a short video Caroline Lucas MP, responds to the news that the Mayor will not cut the Council Tax Reduction Scheme in Bristol, for this year. Caroline she says she is "delighted" the Mayor backed down on his plans but it "beggars belief that a Labour administration was even contemplating hitting the poorest families hardest".

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Greens welcome Mayor's u-turn on council tax scheme

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Bristol's Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has today thrown down a challenge to the region’s sitting MPs to back a ban on Nuclear Weapons. The challenge comes after none of the regions MPs backed an Early Day Motion (EDM) tabled by Green Party Co-Leader, Caroline Lucas MP [1].

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We must "Stop Brexit" says Bristol's Green MEP

Molly Scott Cato, Bristol's Green MEP and Green Party speaker on Brexit, has reaffirmed a commitment to a ratification referendum at the Party’s conference in Harrogate and has told members it is the best way to reverse the decision to leave the EU.

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Bristol’s Green councillors today called on the council to provide evidence to support its decision to continue with a controversial consultation on cuts to council tax support.

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