Pete Dixon

Pete Dixon

petedixon

Pete Dixon is a town councillor for Moor ward in North Hykeham, a member of the Green Party and Chair of the local branch. He works for the NHS at Lincoln County Hospital. Father of a young daughter, he's also a keen biker and enjoys watching Moto GP or a glass of Islay malt.


Buzzwords are all well and good, except when their meanings are manipulated to suit the messenger and their message. “Sustainable” is one such word. Victim of soundbites and policies being implemented at all levels of government. Locally, our councils are as guilty as any.

Geographically we, the people of Lincoln and surrounding villages, aren’t best placed to attract a wide range of employers. Certainly where infrastructure is an issue we are at a disadvantage. As such, I suspect our representatives in local government have to work harder than elsewhere in order to attract businesses to the region. Why then I wonder does our City Council seem keener than ever to encourage the expansion and building of supermarkets and “express” stores on every patch of ground that becomes available?

Where is sustainability provided by granting planning permission to leaders of an industry that controls 97% of the grocery market, and is directly responsible for the closure of around 80% of our local shops? Supermarkets and those who support their expansion argue that every new store creates jobs for local people. Maybe so, but the evidence shows that as a result, 276 jobs are lost locally as a result. How does this promote sustainability in the local economy?

Leaders of the City Council take every opportunity to tell us that they are working to support small businesses, that they want to promote sustainable growth and revitalise the city centre and High Street. With the presence of a brand convenience store and the imminent opening of yet another supermarket chain’s branch, I doubt the owners and employees of those businesses on Newark Road in Bracebridge will be convinced by the methodology of council planners.

Far from contributing to the community and local economy, supermarkets suck out its lifeblood. An independent retailer will effectively plough 50% of his or her turnover back into the local community. By comparison, only 5% of a supermarket’s revenue stays within the local area. How can such a disparity be justified as contributing towards sustainable growth in a local community?

Another popular myth is that supermarkets offer consumers greater choice. Possibly but at what cost? In an increasingly competitive industry, waste has never been greater and the quality of the produce has arguably never been worse. Processed food and TV dinners, massed produced and squirted onto trays for convenience have been found in high profile cases recently not to contain “exactly what it says on the tin”. Aside from consumer wastage, the demand for uniformity and acceptable appearance leads to almost 30% of the UK’s vegetable crop being discarded annually.

Where is the sustainability for the population or our environment in purchasing produce transported dozens and dozens or hundreds of miles via distribution centres when we could choose dairy products, meat, vegetables and seasonal fruit grown right on our doorstep?

Perhaps of greater significance are the marketing strategies employed to entice the consumer to buy based on pleasure rather than health or necessity. The cumulative effects are all around us. The overwhelming majority of us, children included, are clinically obese, many of us classified as morbidly so. As we succumb to the advertisers’ mantra, obesity, once a rich man’s preserve, will, with its implications for individual health, place ever greater strain on the budget of a health service that the government tells us is operating at unsustainable levels. Which patient group will suffer next?

They say charity begins at home. In an economy that will never be less than challenging for most, the same must surely apply to truly sustainable growth. By putting the health, wealth and happiness of our own communities first.

Pete Dixon is a town councillor for Moor ward in North Hykeham, a member of the Green Party and Chair of the local branch. He works for the NHS at Lincoln County Hospital. Father of a young daughter, he's also a keen biker and enjoys watching Moto GP or a glass of Islay malt.

When was the last time the people, buildings or streets of this nation were savaged by an act of terrorism? The last one to my knowledge was the shocking murder on a Woolwich street in May 2013 of Guardsman Lee Rigby. Before that, according to Wikipedia it was a lone ” Islamist extremist” in Exeter in 2008 and before that, June 2007 for the Glasgow Airport bombing. In Exeter, only the would be perpetrator was injured and in Glasgow there were no fatalities or serious injuries suffered.

Thankfully, most of us, the people we know, the people they know, and the people they know, will never ever witness the atrocity of a successful act of terrorism.

There’s more chance of being struck by lightning and then knocked down by a bus when you get up again than being caught up in an act of terrorism.

Apart from creating the need to manufacture and sell arms, why do our leaders constantly overplay the threat? Why do they use the fear of child stalking paedophiles to cajole us into meekly accepting a law that allows politicians, with cross party support, to store our personal communications over a minimum 12 month period, and be available to wholly inappropriate bodies for examination if considered necessary?

The government insists that its excessively intrusive Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill (DRIP) is vital to the security of the nation. Made law on July 17, why was this bill rushed through parliament despite having been struck down by the European Court of Justice in April this year as a disproportionate abuse of our basic rights?

Liberty, the leading rights and freedoms group in our country has challenged the government’s assertion that emergency legislation is required and argues that DRIP ignores the EU Court of Justice judgement that neutralized the Data Retention Regulations 2009 and in fact reintroduces wide ranging new powers that were proposed and rejected in the Draft Communications Data Bill.

 “If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear”. What nonsense, this argument repeatedly peddled by those who seek greater control over us. We all have things we want to keep private.

What if someone wanted to expose fraudulent behaviour, or a product or process that is found to be responsible for a rise in childhood tumours or environmental damage? Who can they discuss it with or take advice from knowing their communications are stored and available to anyone with the right connections? What about those of us who are trade unionists, campaigning for the rights of others against the poor practices of a corporate employer.

This law isn’t about protecting the citizens of the United Kingdom from terrorists. It isn’t about protecting our children from sexual predators. It’s a cloak and dagger exercise with the government of the day serving the corporate desire to exert greater control over us.

The recent Gagging Law which effectively prevents civil society and opposition groups campaigning against government policy in the run up to an election, has now been backed up by a law, rushed through parliament with total disregard for the democratic process, that enables the powerful elite to access private conversations and communications made by anyone they consider to be a threat.

DRIP will enable, and will be used in the corporate interest to monitor the activities, not only of so called radical protest groups but also civil society. Charities and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s), who on a daily basis are struggling to help the most vulnerable in our communities cope with political dogma that frowns upon their very existence, will struggle to run brand damaging campaigns against inequality and social injustice. The end of the wedge gets thicker by the day!

Pete Dixon is a town councillor for Moor ward in North Hykeham, a member of the Green Party and Chair of the local branch. He works for the NHS at Lincoln County Hospital. Father of a young daughter, he's also a keen biker and enjoys watching Moto GP or a glass of Islay malt.

To a mixed response, I served up a meal with vegetarian sausages recently. My daughter has never much liked meat anyway and I’m becoming increasingly averse to being party to the cruelty suffered by factory farmed animals.

Joining the Green Party had nothing to do with animal welfare at the time, though it’s an issue that increasingly concerns me. I’ve always eaten meat, ask my wife. I cook a good Sunday roast, don’t burn the BBQ, and have never refused the opportunity of a good fry up!

Learning to provide meals without that portion of animal flesh isn’t easy, but I’m determined to keep trying so long as we’re achieving a healthy diet. There’s a compromise in place in that we’ll continue to consume meat produced from genuinely well looked after, locally bred animals. By that I mean respect for the creature’s welfare and natural instincts.

The tide for me has turned and it’s time to make changes. I’m no expert but I accept now that every time I buy a cheap pack of bacon, minced beef or chicken breasts I’m contributing to animal cruelty. Cruelty that, until recently, as long I couldn’t see it, has been acceptable. Manipulative marketing boffins call it wilful ignorance and, hands up, I’m guilty as charged. Given the choice of firing a bolt into an animal’s brain or letting it go, I’d choose the latter and I’m pretty sure most people would too.

Truth be told, much of the meat we consume is produced from animals so intensely farmed, their flesh isn’t worth the bone it’s stripped from. Bred indoors or in cages or spaces with artificial light and no opportunity for exercise. Fed and drugged up with God knows what in order to promote rapid weight gain. Furthermore, the final leg of the wretched lives of many of these animals takes places crammed into crates and cages in lorry trailers and driven dozens if not hundreds of miles overland to a distressing slaughter they must realise awaits them.

We proclaim ourselves a nation of animal lovers apparently insisting on minimum welfare standards. Yet our supermarket shelves are stacked high with meat imported from countries where producers, eager for contracts to supply, operate with scant regard for the animals they farm. And why does this happen? Profit margins!

Supermarkets are forced to compete for market share and have to satisfy investors who demand profitable returns. Importing meat is generally cheaper, animal welfare adds to production costs and abroad, producers are not subject to the same standards we demand of our own farmers. Granted, British meat costs more but it’s worth it and we, the consumer, must create the demand for it to dominate our shelves in place of imported meat.

Buying meat bred in this country brings many benefits in terms of animal welfare economic and environmental issues. For a start it means employment. For those employed, it means a disposable income and spending power which brings more jobs and more money creating real wealth in our local economy. British meat isn’t the cheapest but it’s far better than most. The animals it’s produced from are bred in far better environments than their foreign farmed cousins. Using a local butcher may not be 100% risk free in terms of animal welfare, but we can feel much more confident about how the animal has been farmed.

The best thing we can do to improve things for ourselves, our families and these animals is to use the power that exists in our pockets to buy British. Better still, buy local and actively support change without actually doing anything different at all.

Pete Dixon is a town councillor for Moor ward in North Hykeham, a member of the Green Party and Chair of the local branch. He works for the NHS at Lincoln County Hospital. Father of a young daughter, he's also a keen biker and enjoys watching Moto GP or a glass of Islay malt.

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