Freedom of Information request revelation:

A £10.5 million payment for the 3 acres of Shirley Park and taxpayer owned adjacent landholdings was laid down in the 2004 Development Agreement with Asda-Parkgate developers, Shirley Advance.

bluebells near ring of oaks

Residents were shocked to discover that there would be no payment for their land holdings transferred to Shirley Advance and that the premium was now deemed a ‘nil value’ as part of the council’s support for Parkgate during the recent downturn.

In its hard copy, this week’s Solihull News reports that Solihull Council has now decided to close all but four of its children’s centres.

Lower attendance levels allegedly due to a deteriorating out-sourced service

A council spokeswoman correctly said: “Some of these buildings have fairly low attendance levels”. Local residents explain that the centres were well used until privatised. A typical experience was that of the purpose-built Monkspath centre after the transfer, when user-families found that current activities were not maintained and services there were considerably reduced.

For sale?

chris williams latestCouncillor Chris Williams was quoted in the Solihull News: “If these services are run from other venues like community halls, I can’t see them being able to offer the same service . . .The centres, many of which are attached to schools and run by various charity organisations, would either be leased or sold”.

‘The greatest financial saving’: a false economy – short-termism

An experienced local parent reminds us that children from affluent areas can have ‘time-poor’ parents and – just like their contemporaries in ‘deprived areas’ – in later life become addicted to drugs, or acutely depressed or turn to crime.

As the council’s website said – at the time of writing – the children’s centres, in purely financial terms, give children the best start in life, with less expensive intervention and demand on other public services later when more serious problems arise.

Green and Liberal Democrat councillors are supporting calls for a reintroduction of the ring-fenced grant, upholding government’s instruction to local authorities that Sure Start should be prioritised.

asda shirley larger

Should corporate interests be preferred to those of the people Solihull Council were elected to serve?


centre for london header

Launching today: the Manifesto for London, written by Ben Rogers, director of the Centre for London, formerly a policy strategist for the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and Department for Communities and Local Government.

george osborneAs the chancellor belatedly woos our ‘great northern cities’, Mr Rogers told the Financial Times that London was in danger of becoming invisible in the debate over devolution in the wake of the Scottish referendum.

“London is hardly ever talked about. It is all about Scotland, Wales and to some extent the cities of the north.” Ben Rogers continues:

ben rogers“None of the three party leaders has ever given a speech about London since they were elected, despite the fact that it is a leading world city and arguably a global superpower.

“No one wants to be London’s friend.”

Centre for London calls for a radical transfer of powers from Whitehall to City Hall giving London more power over its taxes – particularly property taxes – to ensure that it can meet its housing needs, improve its public services and invest in its infrastructure.


 A few days ago a 24 year old visitor from London cycled three miles from the station to his destination. His verdict on our local condition: far more dangerous than cycling in London, car drivers are not so used to sharing the road with cyclists.

In a recent FT article, Anthony Impey who runs Optimity, which installs and runs “superfast” wireless broadband for offices across London, said, “Our ability to get around London is fundamentally important,(“No end in sight to traffic jam misery”, October 18). “If a customer has lost their broadband connection and we’re delayed by half an hour, that’s half an hour that an office of, say, 50 people, can’t work.

boris bike“We’ve had to put our engineers on Boris Bikes to get to clients because that’s been the fastest way. Some days traffic congestion is appalling – it’s by far the biggest external challenge we face.”

Professor Stephen Glaister, president of the RAC Foundation solution believes:

“[A] national system of time- and distance-based pay-as-you-go driving will eventually have to replace existing motoring taxation.

“It is hard to see any other mechanism that would simultaneously help cut congestion, reduce carbon emissions and address the Treasury’s long-term decline in fuel duty income as the vehicle fleet gets greener.”

Timothy Waller’s FT verdict:

“It strikes me that this is an extremely innovative approach to making sure that Anthony Impey manages to operate within whatever service levels he has agreed with his clients. Mr Impey should be congratulated rather commiserated with. I travel from Liverpool Street to Canary Wharf most days with my trusty fold-up, and at 15 to 20 minutes’ cycling time it’s the healthiest and swiftest way of getting about”.

bfoe header

Catherine Palgrave, a cyclist and BFOE campaigner, said: “30% of households in Birmingham cannot afford access to a car, making little or no contribution to problems such as air pollution which disproportionately affects them.

“There is only one way to increase low numbers of cycling in the city, and truly make it a form of transport for all Brummies. This is to invest in cycling infrastructure, which makes cycling safer and more appealing, and at the same time cutting congestion and helping clean-up the city’s air.

“This is why our Let’s Get Moving campaign is calling on Birmingham City Council to invest £10 per person per year for at least 10 years, to truly make us a cycling and walking city, and tackle our air pollution and congestion problems.”


katen award 2

City architect Joe Holyoak (last year’s awardee) presented the award. Other local recipients of the award include the Aston Reinvestment Trust, Kirsty Davies of Professional Polishing Services and the Green New Deal designers.

karen 1Localise West Midlands’ chairman. Jon Morris, spoke about Karen’s work inspiring others to take action by her commitment, her logic, her actions, her integrity and her persistence.

For ten years Karen has been the organisation’s cornerstone. Jon thought that one of the achievements that most typifies Karen is the Alliance for a Better Economy. Read more here.

There is a range of groups across the country working for a fairer and better local economy and which see localisation as at least an element in this.

Though they all have different approaches and at times compete for resources and attention, Karen believed they could be more effective by working together to create and promote a common voice for a common aim.  Having gathered and arrived at an agreed aim, the alliance is now collaborating more.

mced coverKaren was at the heart of work for the Barrow Cadbury Trust on mainstreaming community economic development, which is all about strengthening the local economy and creating greater social inclusion. This work has attracted widespread interest and support and now has a dedicated website: ‘Localising Prosperity’.

Jon ended with a few appreciative words about Karen’s support for his LWM consultancy work and as the Chair of LWM.


These were the words of a reader on hearing the news that Mondelez International – ‘delicious world’ – have announced job losses (est. 350 according to UNITE). A document called “High Performing Bournville is this for me?”, has described a £75 million programme of investment in the factory to replace ageing equipment.

cadbury factory

Jon Griffin recently noted in the Post that, until now, “the management style appeared to attempt to reflect the paternalistic approach which had owed so much to the Cadbury family and the Quaker heritage”.

Some Cadbury-Mondelez employees, writing in ‘careers community’  Glassdoor, qualify this. One entry:

“The greatest challenge is now to ensure your face fits within the team, as if it doesn’t then ruthless behaviours are practiced to make you feel uncomfortable to the point of moving on. It’s really disheartening to see and feel this as decisions, however unpopular, should always be communicated by ensuring the employee/individual is afforded integrity. This is now lacking when under Cadbury it was always evident”.

The takeover of Cadbury, as Griffin said, was wanted by nobody, apart from the bosses at Kraft and a few institutional shareholders. He concludes that, with an expired moratorium on manufacturing job losses, and even accepting the analysis that Bournville needs to change its ways, there is still more to any workplace than job security.

Glassdoor: “treat your employees with the dignity and respect they deserve”.


Is not the extrajudicial destruction of life of paramount importance?

 drone strike yemen wedding

Website: “The sixth University of Birmingham Policy Commission looks beyond the controversies surrounding the use of armed drones in the Global War on Terror; the Commission considers the ways in which new developments in science and technology transform the landscape of security and defence and the implications this has for UK public policy in a national, regional, and international context”.


An invitation to read the Birmingham Brief:
‘The security impact of drones: challenges and opportunities for the UK’ written by the Commission Academic Lead: Professor Nicholas J Wheeler.
Birmingham Perspective:
How does drone warfare change the debate?
The Conversation:
Prepare for more drones, and less all-out war

The use of drones in the UK will rise over the next 20 years, raising “significant safety, security, and privacy concerns”

The University of Birmingham Policy Commission Report raised the prospect that the aircraft could be used by terror groups to attack public events. It called for “urgent” measures to safeguard British airspace and privacy.

The research into Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) was led by Sir David Omand, a former head of the UK’s intelligence centre, GCHQ. It stated: “The security threat posed by individuals misusing RPA is a serious one, whether for criminal or terrorist purposes… more thought needs to be given to their employment for malign purposes in the domestic environment.”

It continued: “Vulnerable targets might be hardened to withstand attack from outside, but it is entirely possible that in a public space like a shopping centre or sporting stadium, an attack could be launched from within. Crowds at sporting events or rallies could be vulnerable in a similar way if a future terrorist group were to look for means of dispersing chemical or biological agents. While such a scenario has so far not posed a real danger to UK citizens… it is a threat that the UK authorities took seriously during the 2012 Olympics.”

The commission called for “urgent” measures to safeguard British airspace and the privacy of citizens to cope with civil and commercial use, which it expected to be more widespread by 2035.


Following the Scottish referendum, devolution to England is once more on the UK political agenda.

With greater local/regional powers up for debate is a ‘Greater Birmingham’ City-Region enough, or do we need elected regional government – with or without a West Midlands Boris (or Ken)?

Join speakers with national, regional and local policy experience at the University of Birmingham’s Michael Tippett Room to discuss what sort of voice the West Midlands requires to better meet the needs of its 5.2 million people.

wm devo meeting poster4


ORC flyer

The Organic Producer Conference is getting closer! We have a great line-up already with more to come! See the latest programme here. Together with the Soil Association’s National Soil Symposium (25th November), which will be focusing on resilience, it should be an inspiring three days.

ORC organisers

The ORC Organic Producers’ Conference has producer-focused technical, business and policy workshops on the first day (26th November), and a more specific focus on current research and innovation activities on the second day (27th November), with the aim of bringing producers, researchers, advisers and students together to make change happen!

Residential packages including the Symposium and ORC Conference are available from £188 +VAT. Day tickets from £56 +VAT. There are further discounts available for eligible English producers for both events through the RDPE. Bursaries are available on application. Please note the early bird closing date of 31st October 2014 with all prices increasing by 20% from 1st November 2014. More on the conference here.

Bursaries available

ernest cook logoWe have funds from various sources, including the Organic Growers Alliance and the Ernest Cook Trust, to enable young people (students/apprentices/new entrants) with limited means to attend the conference.

We have also secured bursaries for young people living in Berkshire. If you are 26 or under, resident in Berkshire and training (student/apprentice) to or starting a career in agriculture, you may qualify for one of our Gordon Palmer Memorial Trust bursaries.

greenham common logoBursary funding is also available from the Greenham Common Trust for young people (aged 18-26) from West Berkshire who are registered on an existing FE/HE course in agriculture, horticulture or related topic, or engaged in a relevant work-experience placement or apprenticeship scheme, or at an early stage of a career in a food or farming related business.

If you think you may qualify for any of the above bursaries, please e-mail Gillian Woodward with details of your address, age and circumstances to check your eligibility.


prof keith osman bcuAs government offers £12m for affordable home-building, Professor Keith Osman, Director of Research at Birmingham City University, is urging the Government to take long-term perspective and use a more integrated strategy in future planning.

He claims that the building or zero carbon EXEMPT homes, announced by Prime Minister David Cameron last month, is a “short-sighted approach that misses a major opportunity to reduce significantly the carbon emissions of much-needed new homes . . . Ignoring climate change and easing regulations to reduce construction costs in the short term is a false economy for planners when planning to build new homes on this scale”.

The Zero Carbon Buildings policy forms part of Government’s wider strategy to achieving the Climate Change Act 2008 target, improving energy security and reducing fuel poverty. The commitment was reiterated in the Queen’s speech this year. It is now seen as being ‘under threat’. For details read:

Affordable housing with unaffordable energy bills?

Despite this, the government is currently proposing to build zero-carbon exempt homes as part of a scheme to provide more affordable housing for 100,000 first time buyers.

According to Professor Osman, the enhanced modelling capability being developed through the KIC-Transitions (KIC-T) project, which brings together data, modelling and visualisation tools to provide a comprehensive simulation framework that will assist strategic planning, enables “plug-in” to a wide range of information sets for analysis of key environmental impacts, including energy needs, noise pollution or carbon emissions. It will allow planners, designers, local authorities and house-dwellers to understand the full implications of planning decisions and be applied to all building projects around the world.”

The government in Cyprus did this many years ago by requiring all new ‘state-built’ housing to have solar thermal water heating. The first systems were imported from Israel in 1956 but Cyprus has now become a leader in their use and construction. 92% of households are equipped with solar water heaters and 53% of hotels have installed large solar water heating systems.

A wise British government would require the use of suitably oriented roofs and/or garden space for solar harvesting in new housing to be the norm.


Primary source: – a Social Housing and Local Government news website, featuring original and exclusive content, combined with press releases loaded direct by housing associations, local authorities, charities and other relevant organisations. Launched in October 2005, now has a dedicated audience of more than 62,000 unique users a month, including more than 6,000 registered users. (Source: Google Analytics).



By email from Balsall Heath:

John Christophers has claimed that the cost per square metre of his zero carbon house Birmingham was no more than a similar sized conventional house (£1,575 /sqm of internal floor area)


Ben Parkinson writes:

Children in Kampala run to demonstrate their commitment to education and sport, while at the same time celebrate their ability in running. The Slum Run is a highlight in the year for the children in the Acholi Quarter and some are supported to run by people all around the world.

In Birmingham, the run is more local and could be duplicated in any location in the UK. Runners are sponsored to support the children in Kampala. In Small Heath, the cup was won by Steve Green, a leader in Birmingham Boys’ Brigade. 12 year old Nicholas Fieldhouse was the worthy winner of the youth race.

slum run small heath

Every year the Run has developed and we had more runners than ever before. This year, the money we are raising is going into three areas:

Education support - this could be school fees or, more likely, requirements for school for some of the most disadvantaged slum children in the world. Staff at Chrysalis personally know the individual stories of all of the runners and make sure that the money makes the greatest social impact.

Activities and Services for Chrysalis Centre childrenmoney raised goes to a variety of activities, including athletics, participation in which has grown the self esteem of so many children since the Slum Run was launched. We run weekly art sessions, other sports and games, personal safety and hygiene sessions and provide washing facilities and first aid for all children.

Children’s Own Projects. This year we have started to engage children who visit our centre in social projects, which enable them to devise their own solutions to social problems in the slum area. Almost 40% of our regular members are undertaking social projects, at the same time learning empathy, leadership skills, accountability and ICT. Even young children are coming up with important projects, which will see them become role models for others in a changing Uganda.

In Kampala the Run was won by 13 year old Ivan Lubangakene, a name to watch for the future. Ivan is forced by circumstance to work in the quarry for his school requirements at the weekends and your support will keep him out of the quarry throughout this year. The first girl was Gloria Ayaa, who aged 12, fought off the challenge of much older girls this year.

slum run uganda

Even the local Chief of Police ran with the youngsters in Kampala and children lined the route around the circuit, as it was such an occasion! There were over 70 runners and you can find many photographs at the new Kampala Slum Run web-site.

It’s not too late to support the Slum Run 2014 via the website or you can simply send a cheque to the registered charity CYEN at 31 Prince of Wales Lane, Yardley Wood, Birmingham, B14 4lB. We still have money coming in from the Birmingham Run, but we would dearly love to reach our £3000 target for this year.


Read more about the work here:



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