By Sam Casey-Rerhaye, Green Party member of South Oxfordshire District Council.

The success of the Greens in recent elections here and abroad has led to some interesting and odd ideas roving around social media, one of them that Greens are scary.

It is clear the Green agenda is now to be a major influence in politics for the next four or five years (with or without the UK in the EU).

In South Oxfordshire, we have a newly created cabinet post: Deputy Leader for Climate and Ecological Crisis Response.

In the short time since David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion have been campaigning, attitudes have changed.

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Look a little deeper into the Green policies and see that these are no hair-shirt ideas, but should, applied rightly, offer great benefits to all of us.

A 32-hour week anyone? Saving carbon, more time to do stuff we want, to cook, eat fresh food, play and spend time with family and friends.

All of these are well-known to help with our mental and physical health. In fact, a shorter working week could be one of the biggest contributors to a healthier population.

And productivity, which has been falling in the UK for years now, need not be affected.

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Couple a shorter working week with investment in technology, green of course, which has been really lacking since the financial crisis, productivity should begin to recover. This is a self-funder.

Lower energy bills? What needs to be done in the UK is insulating and greening the energy we use in homes and at work.

All buildings need solar panels, good insulation, and new sources of heating – this revolution needs a coherent policy. This investment will bring energy bills right down, so will pay back in the long term.

We need to create a system whereby that saving is passed back to the investor. This type of Return on Investment model needs a coherent tax framework to ensure payment upfront by government is paid back later in taxes.

With interest rates at their lower bound it makes better sense than speculating in lower-quality housing stock to compensate for low returns from the bank.

And what about the end of growth? Intuitively many in South Oxfordshire and surrounding districts voted against the vast housing proposals the previous administrations proposed. It is quite clear on a local level that if growth means eroding green belt and over-burdening the infrastructure – transport, health or education – then the concept itself needs questioning.

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I sat in meetings about the new Local Plans for Oxfordshire where people were asking about hospitals, roads, buses, etc and queried the circular arguments put forward by previous councillors: "We need the houses to fund the infrastructure that we wouldn’t need if it wasn’t for the extra houses." Really?

There is no doubt that we need more homes as the population of Oxfordshire grows.

But it is a misunderstanding of economics to think that more houses alone will bring prices down. It won’t.

There are too many other factors at play. And we need good public transport and safe walking and cycling facilities.

A recent study from the Universities of Colorado Denver and New Mexico found that as more people cycled in cities in protected cycle lanes, deaths were reduced not only for cyclists but for drivers too.

Fewer accidents, less pollution, more exercise – what’s not to like?

We desperately need to recover nature and ecology. We know there are catastrophic reductions in insect pollinators as we speak. Leaving verges uncut for the early part of the year, planting trees and meadows, giving grants to organisations developing areas full of wildlife – these are massive positives that can hardly be called scary. Who’s afraid of some wild uncut grass and meadow flowers for goodness sake? Today we are more used to seeing large 'green deserts' instead.

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We do need to think big and long term. Local government has had swingeing cuts for 10 years. A report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows funding from central government has fallen by 21 per cent since 2010, with spending on planning, development & housing falling by more than 50 per cent, and cultural and leisure services by more than 40 per cent. The government’s ‘Fair Funding Review’ will look at local government funding, but it seems to envisage councils relying on council tax and business rates for most of their funding – and revenues from these taxes are unlikely to keep pace with rising costs and demands. Fair? Good for long term planning? Not really.

Councils have every incentive to increase the numbers of council tax and business rate payers in their areas just to fund the very basics.

But many councils, including South Oxfordshire, raided their reserves instead of increasing council tax, looking at the short-term popularity and ideological commitment to low taxes rather than the provision of decent services. Their popularity ran out and it won’t be long before the reserves do too; better financial management at South Oxfordshire is essential.

The Greens already have a proposal for a new fairer local tax – and it’s not scary at all.