Leading figures from all the UK’s major parties will come together next Monday (8th February) to discuss how to achieve a proportional voting system for Westminster elections by 2021. It follows rumours that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are discussing a potential pact to secure PR after the next General Election, and a joint letter signed by several party leaders in the Independent on Sunday. The conference, organised by Make Votes Matter, draws together figures from across the spectrum, with a high-profile platform of speakers and participants:
- Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party
- Katie Ghose, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society
- Diane James, MEP for SE England, & Home Affairs Spokesperson, UKIP
- Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, Labour
- Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, Labour
- Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, Scottish National Party
- John Strafford, Vice Chairman, Conservative Action for Electoral Reform
- Lord Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrats
- Chuka Umunna, MP for Streatham, Labour
- Hywel Williams, MP and Parliamentary Leader, Plaid Cymru
Organisers see the event as an opportunity for all the main political parties, pro-PR organisations, representatives of local democracy groups and public figures to form alliances in order to secure a proportional voting system following the next General Election.
A spokesperson for Make Votes Matter:
“Last May’s General Election was the most disproportionate election ever in the UK. Votes per MP elected varied dramatically from party to party, ranging from just over 23,000 votes to almost 4 million, and when one quarter of voters are represented by 1.5% of Parliamentary seats, we cannot say we have real democracy.
“To secure a proportional voting system, all the pro-PR parties and organisations need to find the best way forward together, so we excited to be creating a space to start the conversation. The PR Alliance Building Conference is a historic opportunity to work collaboratively towards creating and implementing an effective strategy to get PR for Westminster by 2021.”
Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party:
“The fact that we have a government without any kind of democratic mandate – with only the support of 24% of eligible voters, combined with our unelected House of Lords, is doing serious damage to trust in our democratic process. It’s almost a century since the last significant change in Westminster. It was 1918 when women got the vote – we should not go past the anniversary of that without seeing a change to a fair, proportional electoral system, in both the Commons and the upper chamber.”
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society:
“Last year saw over half a million people and five political parties come together to sign and deliver petitions calling for a fair voting system, so this conference is a very welcome next step in the push for a truly democratic voting system.
“Nearly every European country uses a Proportional Representation (PR) system, and here in the UK, public support for PR is at an all-time high, with three quarters of the public in favour. It’s great to see citizens and leading political figures coming together to work out how best to secure a fair voting system.”
Lord Paul Tyler of the Liberal Democrats:
“The public are urging us to act together. This Government is throwing its weight around with the support of less than a quarter of the eligible electorate – they would brand any other government in the world with that level of mandate as illegitimate.”
Diane James MEP, UKIP Home Affairs and Justice Spokesperson:
“At the last general election, UKIP got 4 million votes and only one elected MP. This is patently untenable and things cannot go on like this. The first past the post electoral system is clearly bankrupt. We must have an electoral system where votes cast match seats allocated and introducing a proportional system will deliver a result that is both fair and more democratic.”
Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon, Labour:
“The First Past the Post electoral system distorts our democracy, encourages adversarial politics and divides people. With the constitutional foundations of our nation cracking the case for electoral reform has never been stronger. The PR alliance is a doughty campaigner on this vital issue, and I am honoured to have been invited to speak at this important event.”
John Strafford, Vice Chairman, Conservative Action for Electoral Reform:
“Our electoral system is bust. Parliament no longer represents all the people of the United Kingdom. This democratic deficit has to be addressed. It is time for our political parties to come together to create a fair electoral system that will ensure that the views of all the people are taken into account”.
Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, SNP:
“The current electoral system alienates people from politics and widens the divide between government and the governed. The first past the post system is unfair, undemocratic, and long past its sell by date.”
- 13:30 – 14:00 Arrival, refreshments and networking
- 14:00 – 14:40 Welcome from Owen Winter, Member of Youth Parliament and Make Votes Matter Spokesperson, followed by introductions
- 14:40 – 15:20 Keynote ideas about how each of the parties plans to get PR and how collaboration with other groups could make this more likely
- 15:20 – 16:00 Cream tea and bubbly: making connections for ongoing collaboration
- 16:00 – 16:40 Open Space: facilitated plenary session to establish working group topics
- 16:40 – 17:20 Working groups arising from plenary discussion
- 17:20 – 18:00 Closing circle – reports back from the working groups about what has been agreed and how their ideas will be taken forward
- 18:00 – 19:30 Press interviews, photo opportunities, drinks, nibbles and networking
Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?
Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?
Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.
Is Biofuel Green?
One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.
Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?
Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.
Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.
Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.
Benefits Of Biomass
The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.
Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.
7 Benefits You Should Consider Giving Your Energy Employees
As an energy startup, you’re always looking to offer the most competitive packages to entice top-tier talent. This can be tough, especially when trying to put something together that’s both affordable but also has perks that employees are after.
After all, this is an incredibly competitive field and one that’s constantly doing what it can to stay ahead. However, that’s why I’m bringing you a few helpful benefits that could be what bolsters you ahead of your competition. Check them out below:
One benefit commonly overlooked by companies is offering your employees financial advising services, which could help them tremendously in planning for their long-term goals with your firm. This includes anything from budgeting and savings plans to recommendations for credit repair services and investments. Try to take a look at if your energy company could bring on an extra person or two specifically for this role, as it will pay off tremendously regarding retention and employee happiness.
While often included in a lot of health benefits packages, offering your employees life insurance could be an excellent addition to your current perks. Although seldom used, life insurance is a small sign that shows you care about the life of their family beyond just office hours. Additionally, at such a low cost, this is a pretty simple aspect to add to your packages. Try contacting some brokers or insurance agents to see if you can find a policy that’s right for your firm.
Dedicated Time To Enjoy Their Hobbies
Although something seen more often in startups in Silicon Valley, having dedicated office time for employees to enjoy their passions is something that has shown great results. Whether it be learning the piano or taking on building a video game, having your team spend some time on the things they truly enjoy can translate to increased productivity. Why? Because giving them the ability to better themselves, they’ll in turn bring that to their work as well.
The Ability To Work Remotely
It’s no secret that a lot of employers despise the idea of letting their employees work remotely. However, it’s actually proven to hold some amazing benefits. According to Global Workplace Analytics, 95% of employers that allow their employees to telework reported an increased rate of retention, saving on both turnover and sick days. Depending on the needs of each individual role, this can be a strategy to implement either whenever your team wants or on assigned days. Either way, this is one perk almost everyone will love.
Even though it’s mandated for companies with over 50 employees, offering health insurance regardless is arguably a benefit well received across the board. In fact, as noted in research compiled by KFF, 28.6% of employers with less than 50 people still offered health care. Why is that the case? Because it shows you care about their well-being, and know that a healthy employee is one that doesn’t have to worry about astronomical medical bills.
Unlimited Time Off
This is a perk that almost no employer offers but should be regarded as something to consider. According to The Washington Post, only 1-2% of companies offer unlimited vacation, which it’s easy to see why. A true “unlimited vacation” program could be a firm’s worse nightmare, with employees skipping out every other week to enjoy themselves. However, with the right model in place that rewards hard work with days off, your employees will absolutely adore this policy.
A Full Pantry
Finally, having a pantry full of food can be one perk that’s not only relatively inexpensive but also adds to the value of the workplace. As noted by USA Today, when surveying employees who had snacks versus those who didn’t, 67% of those who did reported they were “very happy” with their work life. You’d be surprised at how much of a difference this could make, especially when considering the price point. Consider adding a kitchen to your office if you haven’t already, and always keep the snacks and drinks everyone wants fully stocked. Doing so will increase morale tremendously.
Compiling a great package for your energy company is going to take some time in looking at what you can afford versus what’s the most you can offer. While it might mean cutting back in other areas, having a workforce that feels like you genuinely want to take care of them can take you far. And with so many different benefits to include in your energy company’s package, which one is your favorite? Comment with your answers below!