bham 2air pollution

In July last year, The FT brought news of 9,400 premature London deaths in 2010 due to air pollution, according to a study by King’s College London academics.

More than 3,000 people were admitted to hospital with breathing and heart problems linked to air pollution in 2010.

The economic cost of all these health problems was estimated to range from £1.4bn to £3.7bn.

Lisa Rapaport, in an article for Reuters, reports that the byproducts of fossil fuel combustion have all been found to damage the lungs. She reviews the epidemiological findings of research published in the BMJ’s co-owned journal Thorax, one of the world’s leading respiratory medicine journals, which support the hypothesis that air pollution exposures after lung cancer diagnosis shorten survival rates.

Lead author Sandrah Eckel, a researcher at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, advises mitigating action:

“There are a number of common-sense precautions that anyone can take to reduce their exposures to air pollution, including monitoring daily air pollution alerts and reducing outdoor activities – especially outdoor exercise – during high pollution periods, using air filtration systems while indoors, and using the recirculate setting of your car ventilation system while traveling in heavy traffic.”

London’s mayor seeks structural change

The new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, records that in the past month, the biggest public consultation City Hall has ever seen was held. Almost 15,000 people gave their views on how toxic air can be ‘tackled’ to protect Londoners’ health. The mayor’s proposals include:

  • a ‘T-charge’ on the most polluting vehicles entering central London,
  • extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone so more of London is reserved for cleaner vehicles,
  • unveiling two of the planned low-emission bus zones in pollution hotspots and
  • the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street to make it cleaner, safer and more pleasant for shoppers and workers.

Can Birmingham adopt similar measures and also draw on the scientific and engineering talents in its universities which are pioneering clean hydrogen-fuelled forms of transport by road, canal and rail?



Birmingham University’s newspaper, Redbrick, reaches a wider audience, courtesy of the Brummie aggregator, which gives busy people a rapid overview of city news and opinion with the option of following up articles in depth by using the links. Some of last week’s visitors to this website –  from UK, US, India, Australia, EU, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey and Slovakia – may well have visited ‘Our Birmingham’ via the Brummie.

redbrick 2 reader

To read the whole text by Harry Tennison, 1st year Drama and Theatre Arts Student. Theatre critic. Librarian. Centre-Left. (@Harry_Tennison) go to

Harry writes:

I wonder whether Smith would be preaching the same economic message as Corbyn if it were not for the clear rejection of business-as-usual from Labour members when electing Corbyn in the first instance. In the twenty policies Smith announced, at least five of them appear in Corbyn’s list of policies. Both men want to repeal the Trade Union Act. Both men want to ban zero hour contracts. Both men want enormous scales of public investment – £200 billion from Smith, £500 billion from Corbyn. The argument is that these policies are popular with Corbyn supporters, who make up the majority of Labour members. Smith believes that by shifting himself further left, he can try to out-Corbyn Corbyn. But when this section of the membership does not find fault with the current leadership, this tactic will fail at deposing Corbyn.

This is a criticism of Smith, but it would be a criticism of whoever put themselves forward as the challenger. Corbyn remains popular and is buoyed by his supporters within the membership, as well as his beliefs. It is only a year since his election, and he can argue that this has been a successful year in which Labour have won every by-election, and numerous mayoral contests.

These have, however, come in largely metropolitan areas which tend to have a large portion of Labour voters and Labour controlled councils. Equally, the wins in by-elections have come in areas where either Labour have possessed large majorities, or the incumbent Labour MP has died. A Labour loss – given the circumstances –  would have been very untoward in each of these seats.

Smith and others can argue this shows no real victory for Labour; however, Corbyn’s supporters can argue that they did not suffer as badly as the Conservatives in the council elections – losing 18 seats to the Tories’ 48 – but is not losing as badly as the opposition really any sign of victory?

Whilst Corbyn clearly cannot currently lead the Parliamentary Labour Party, and the latest YouGov poll (4th August) places Labour 14 points behind the Conservatives, he has strictly speaking not failed yet. This is what causes his opponents problems. This is all – at least for the time being – conjecture, and given how unreliable pollsters have been of late, conjecture that many Labour members do not view with much importance.

Equally, the conflict arises between the desire to establish a true socialist party, and a party that can win an election. Owen Smith believes that the current plans under Corbyn’s leadership will lead Labour not to election success, but to substantial defeat. Supporters of the leadership claim that the social movement that Labour is undertaking is more important than winning an election.

As no supporter of Corbyn myself, I view this as one of the biggest questions of this argument, and the most defining in where my support lies. The Labour Party was created to ensure that the workers, the most vulnerable and those who needed support, had a voice in Parliament, to create social change via political means.

The current Labour leadership fails to address this: instead of targeting those whose minds need changing to ensure Labour can become strong again in parliament, they gather the converted and talk about how much they hate the Conservatives.

(Ed: If Harry opts to receive JC’s membership mailings he will see that this is very far from the truth)

This is no way for the Labour Party to function: whilst we are an ineffective opposition, we are abandoning those who need us.

We have left behind the families who have been brutally savaged by Tory cuts, the disabled who are being forced to work in jobs they cannot do, and the young people who are having their futures damaged.

This is unacceptable for any opposition, and so the Leader should resign since they are unable to hold the government to account.

(Ed: or the disloyal MPs who have placed the party in this position should respect the huge support for JC and his economic message and start to work together for the common good)

Unfortunately, Owen Smith cannot lead the Labour Party to this from this leadership election. Until the tumultuous polling comes to the very real consequence of large Labour losses, the pro-Corbyn camp will have the support of the membership. But if the hard left fails to succeed now, they will surely be forced to put their hands up and say ‘you know what, we can’t do it.’

The really interesting leadership election is not this one in 2016, but the one which will follow the next General Election, whenever that is called.

Harry says that supporters of the leadership claim the social movement being undertaken by Labour is more important than winning an election; so each person should ask, when listening to people on both sides of the Labour Party, if the common good or vested interest is paramount in their minds.





Saturday 10 September 10am – 4pm FREE ENTRY

As part of Heritage Open Days and Birmingham Heritage Week the Institute will open its doors to the general public for FREE tours, talks and workshops in its Grade II* listed building. Come meet our staff and volunteers and explore our building with a guided or even a self-guided tour! There will be things for you to do and see throughout the day:

DON’T MISS The History of the BMI: Talk and Guided Tour  with Dr Connie Wan 10 – 11.30am & 1 – 2.30pm LIMITED PLACESBook now

Join Dr Connie Wan for a talk on the history of the Institute, followed by a guided tour of our extensive building. There will be a unique opportunity to learn about the BMI’s illustrious history, see objects from our archives and spaces in the building not usually accessible to visitors.

Vintage Book, Stitch and Bake Sale! 10am – 4pm Help us raise funds to revamp our Library! Stalls will be in the building throughout the day. Our Coffee Lounge will be open too if you wanted a light refreshment (or even lunch!) to go with your cakes! Want to help or donate? Telephone Connie on 0121 2363591

Come and view The Birmingham Library 10am – 4pm Not to be confused with the Library of Birmingham, The Birmingham Library was founded in 1779 by the local button maker, John Lee. Come and learn more about its history and see our library collection which includes volumes dating back to the eighteenth century.

FREE Family Tree Workshop with the Birmingham and Midland Society for Genealogy and Heraldry 10am – 4pm Drop in, no need to book Learn how you can trace your family tree with our in-house experts! They will have a range of specialist publications on sale too.

Meet and greet the Society for the History of Astronomy 10am – 4pm Drop in, no need to book The SHA will be hosting visitors in the Sir Robert Ball Library, dedicated to books on the history of astronomy. Come and meet members of the society and see what their library holds.







A reader who attended Thursday’s Birmingham Hustings reports that she was amazed when, on returning home from the meeting, she switched on the TV news, only to find that their report on the meeting bore no resemblance to what had actually happened:

They focused on misreporting some comments by Jeremy Corbyn about a hypothetical situation that had been put to both speakers. This was: “What would they do if a member country of NATO was attacked?”

Owen Smith had no doubt that he would go to war with the aggressor, “as NATO countries are responsible for one another.” But Jeremy Corbyn gave a more matter-of-fact reply. He said he would call meetings with the countries involved and those neighbouring them, with the aim of resolving the issue without bloodshed.

She commented: “This was quoted totally out of context as him saying that he would not defend a fellow-NATO country.  Do these people have no conscience about the lies they report?”

More report-worthy issues were:

  1.  That Owen Smith would take us back into Europe.
  2.  That both candidates support HS2.

But these were not mentioned in the BBC TV news.


Waiting to enter the conference hall which was packed with (I was told) a ratio of 75:25 (JC:OS) supporters

We were asked in advance not to clap for too long, nor to show disrespect for the candidates but when OS was emphasising that 172 MPs, including himself, had had a vote of no confidence in JC’s leadership.  This provoked great anger in the audience and a lot of booing and shouting, in my mind, fully justified, as the PLP action has constantly undermined JC’s attempts to lead the party.

This wasn’t the only time Owen Smith deliberately attacked Jeremy Corbyn during the debate but he received no personal attacks in return.

They were asked many questions selected from 13,000 which had been sent into head office. Unfortunately, only one of the questions they selected was from a West Midlands member.

The over-riding assessment for me was not on how the candidates answered the questions – for the majority their response was similar – but on body language. OS came over as more dynamic and very bold; JC played the elder statesman, a little weary and irritated about having to go through this process and very laid back. This may be what upsets MPs, who would like to see him boldly challenging the Conservatives on a range of issues. On this basis OS would be their candidate – bold and dynamic, if a little inexperienced.  JC on the other hand gave matter-of-fact responses to all the questions, drawing on his broad experience in the House of Commons and showing his concern for ordinary people and their opinions.

Jeremy Corbyn received a standing ovation after his summing-up speech but Owen Smith did not

People had come from all over the West Midlands and several had brought placards to welcome and show support for JC (see attached). I gather that OS got heckled very aggressively on his way into the conference hall – he arrived very early and had to run the gauntlet of people waiting to welcome JC.

I’m glad I went as the whole set up was quite exciting.  The sting in the tail was the media’s inaccurate reporting and their failure to report on the bigger issues and on the huge support for Jeremy Corbyn.




solihull mbc large logoIn July it was reported that a Solihull Council consultation asked: ‘Do you agree that working age people in Solihull who are liable to pay council tax should be asked to pay a minimum of 15% cent towards their council tax?’. Cllr James Burn pointed out that the document did not make it clear that the proposal applied only to Solihull’s most vulnerable residents who are least able to pay, nor that this rise of 15% should be compared with a proposed rise of only 1% for those on a higher income.

Dismal alternatives presented in an internal council advisory document but omitted from the consultation included:

  • reducing the amount of savings people can have before they qualify for support;
  • removing a discount people can receive if a second adult in the household is on a low income;
  • and technical changes to how people are assessed as being eligible for support.

james_burn_144Mr Burn, Green Party councillor for Chelmsley Wood and leader of Solihull Council’s official opposition party, described as ‘unfair and illogical’ changes which ‘raid the back pockets of the most vulnerable. He said: “If the Conservatives enact this plan, it’ll mean they put the council tax of the most vulnerable up by the cost of 18 loaves of bread a month, but everyone else’s up by the cost of just one loaf of bread. Putting more pressure on the most vulnerable will only mean they have to use council and health services more, which will just cost tax-payers more in the long run”.

Historically, national council tax benefit regulations were managed by the Government. However, in April 2013 this was abolished and Westminster handed over control of council tax support – also known as council tax reduction (CTR) – to local authorities.

Lauren Clarke now reports that a solicitor acting on behalf of a borough resident, who would face a council tax rise of more than £100 a year, complained to the council

In a letter leaked to the Observer, the lawyer from the Central England Law Centre, raised ‘significant concern about the nature and extent of the information provided in the online consultation document.’

The lawyer argued the ‘flaws’ in the initial consultation rendered it ‘unlawful’ and urged the council to amend the ‘deficiencies’ in the consultation material, notify all those who had responded to the consultation of the changes, and extend it.

Solihull Council’s consultation into increasing council tax has been extended and re-launched. A final decision will be made by the full council in December and any changes to the scheme will take effect from April 2017.

bham commlaw centre logoThe work of the Central England Law Centre is so important in a climate where many feel that – after long delays on phone and grappling with obscure, frequently redesigned municipal websites – in the words of Pete North:

“Somewhere along the line we stopped being citizens and became livestock to be managed by people appointed over us, who we must pay for, without ever having consented – and without democratic recourse. To even question the wisdom of our rulers is impertinent. Our complaints go into a black hole, and while we can vote in another councillor, we cannot fire the council CEOcracy who stay in post for years, accumulating obscene pensions and payouts”.




Calls for a progressive alliance are coming from several quarters. Today, a Green House alert included news that the case for cross-party working and why it could be a game-changer will be examined on 2-4 September at the University of Birmingham (Edgbaston campus).

This discussion will be included in the Green Party’s Autumn Conference and Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, will be joined on the panel by Labour MP Lisa Nandy, former Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Chris Bowers, Neil Lawson, Chair of Compass, and Rupert Read, Chair of the Green House think-tank.

The panel, to be held at 18.30 on 2 September and chaired by leading Guardian journalist Zoe Williams, will open with contributions from panel members followed by an opportunity for members and supporters to share their thoughts on potential progressive alliances.

The panel will launch a new book entitled The Alternative, which has been co-edited by three of the panellists. It will also launch the Green House report, The Green Case For A Progressive Pact, written before the EU referendum.





jess phillipsWhat a crew! Steve McCabe writes dismal letters about his leader, Tom Watson gripes about Shami Chakrabarti‘s recognition and today we hear from Yardley MP Jess Phillips. 

Left, ready for lunch with a Spectator journalist: “I swoon as she sashays away to serve it to both sides. That’s Jess Phillips, MP. She’s going to be leader of the Labour party one day!”

We read that Jess Phillips threatens to scream if she hears another Labour member lambasting  leadership contender Owen Smith for having worked in the private sector – “one that lots of people would seize, given the chance”.

But – on the other hand – lots of people would firmly rule out applying to the two companies he worked for.

Smith’s past employers: fraudulent marketing and kickbacks

First, Pfizer which reached a $2.3 billion settlement with the US government in 2009 for fraudulent marketing and kickbacks paid to doctors who prescribed Lyrica and other Pfizer products and $400 million to settle a shareholder lawsuit over this case.

Privatisation (though Ms Phillips says Smith “wants to protect the NHS”)

As head of government affairs for Pfizer, which involved lobbying and public relations for the US drug company, Owen Smith

  • endorsed a Pfizer-backed report offering patients a choice between NHS services and private-sector healthcare providers and
  • helped the drugs company to strike the sort of exclusive distribution agreement which the OFT’s chief executive warned “could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds while reducing standards of service”.

Then to Amgen who had to pay out for its products’ side effects

Mr Smith then decided to move on to work as head of corporate affairs at the biotech company Amgen until 2015, company recovering ground after its anti-anemia blockbusters, Aranesp and Epogen, had been hampered by losses due to concerns about side effects, regulatory issues and insurance trouble.

Jess: how many London-based vegetarians were in this Liverpool crowd?

corbyn2 liverpool 8.16

After a few snide references to vegetarians and ‘purist ideals’ Ms Phillips plays the well-worn ‘out of touch, London-based’ card, disregarding approaching a million demonstrably ‘ordinary’ people who have flocked to hear Corbyn during the last seven days.

She continues: “People do not want to feel guilty for wanting comfort for their families” – but precious little comfort is offered by Conservative and Labour austerity addicts cutting benefits to those who need them most.

Showing little faith in her constituents – or realistically assessing her deserts – she fears:

“If Mr Corbyn wins we will be a party where people like me are hunted out and no longer welcome”. And ends:

“There is no value in basking in the glow of principled opinion. When the Labour leadership and wider party stop believing their own hype . . . we can get this show back on the road”.


Lesley Docksey, on the other hand, speaks as one who recently joined the Labour Party; she is mystified by the fact that none of the mainstream Labour MPs seemed to take on board the fact that Corbyn has never sought power; he seeks power for the people, the poor and helpless, the disenfranchised . . .

What is important are the values and vision that he has connected people to. If it is not too over-the-top, she writes, he has become the hillside down which we are all tumbling towards some kind of unity and people-power.

She has also been puzzled by the inability of so many Labour MPs to understand that the party, which they think they run, is actually made up of members who all have the right to speak and many of whom are following the vision that Corbyn has offered.

She – and others – believe that whatever the outcome of this turmoil, Corbyn’s election has been a beneficial ‘watershed’ moment in British political history.



unisonA Lancashire UNISON reader mentioned this recently and an online search confirmed information which I had found hard to believe:

Government proposals to force the 89 local government pension funds to invest in infrastructure projects have prompted over 100,000 people to sign a petition calling for a debate in Parliament.

The proposals are part of the government’s attempt to create six new multi-billion pound British wealth funds. UNISON is concerned that the move could take away funds’ ability to invest in the best interests of local government pension scheme (LGPS) members.

If these changes come into force, it could mean the new funds replace government funding for roads, bridges and railways, which might not give LGPS members the best possible return, says UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s time ministers granted a debate in Parliament on the future of the local government pension scheme. No other pension fund in the UK has this level of interference, and it’s important that MPs can scrutinise proposals affecting one of the largest schemes in the UK.

“There must be proper consultation on the introduction of the new wealth funds, one that must involve unions in any investment decisions.

“Ministers must allow council pension funds to make their own decisions on where they invest the current and future pension pots of care workers, teaching assistants and social workers, and allow them to get the best return.”

The ‘thin end of the wedge’?

From the government’s response to the petition here:

We have recently consulted on proposals to grant the Secretary of State a power of intervention . . .

(Department for Communities and Local Government) Councils must invest local government pension scheme funds in the best interests of scheme members. The Government has no intention of setting targets for infrastructure investment or removing the right of individual pension fund authorities to make their own decisions about strategic asset allocation. However, the pooling scheme assets announced at the July 2015 Budget will improve their capacity to invest in infrastructure, as well as achieving significant cost savings, while maintaining returns. (Ed: weasel words follow)

weasel words cartoonWe have recently consulted on proposals to grant the Secretary of State a power of intervention which would further protect members’ and taxpayers’ interests. We expect that the power to intervene would be used exceptionally when there was clear evidence that a pension fund authority was not acting reasonably and lawfully.

The Government is currently considering the responses to the consultation.

– The text of the parliamentary petition is available here. Nearly 103,000 people have currently signed the petition.

Media contacts:

Alan Weaver T: 0207 121 5555 M: 07939 143310 E:

Liz Chinchen T: 0207 121 5463 M: 07778 158175 E:




In the FT, Robert Skidelsky (below right), Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, advocates the issuing of Gesell money to consumers in parallel with the monetary financing of a public investment programme.

Gesell money?

skidelskyHe recalls that Silvio Gesell’s idea was to give cash directly to households and to give people an incentive to spend the money and not hoard it – just as much of the cash already issued under QE lies idle.- unspent currency notes would have to be stamped each month by the post office, with a charge to the holder for stamping them.

How can this be done today?

Skidelsky points out that smart cards could be created with £1,000 for each person on the electoral register. The cards could be programmed to reduce the value of the balance automatically each week and this would boost its multiplier effect: “There are 46m voters on the register in the UK. Thus £46bn of new money might be injected into the economy (and) the effect on sales and prices would be widespread”.

John Maynard Keynes advocated a public works programmes which would get money into the pockets of workers who would be guaranteed to spend most of what they received from the jobs created and thus generate further spending. The tax on Gesell money does the same. Skidelski continues:

“The issuing of Gesell money to consumers should, therefore, be done in parallel with the monetary financing of a public investment programme. The government should pay for, say, an investment programme not by issuing debt to the public but by borrowing from the central bank. This will increase the government’s deficit, but not the national debt, since a loan by the central bank to the government is not intended to be repaid. Thus the government acquires an asset but no corresponding liability”.

For example, a £50bn programme of transport, housing, hospital, and school-building would not just restore capacity in the construction industry, it would simultaneously increase demand in the retail sector. If you build a new school or hospital you set up a demand for all the equipment needed for them to work.

However, as the prolonged recession and mediocre recovery has destroyed a great deal of industrial capacity, increased consumer demand ideally means increasing the economy’s capacity to meet that demand.

To limit the leakage of the extra spending power into imports, the government should give preference to British firms. An infrastructure programme financed by borrowing from the Bank of England that gives preference to British manufacturers would give Mrs May the industrial policy she is looking for.

The investment programme and Gesell money initiative together spread over, say, two to three years, would inject a total of £100bn of extra spending power into the economy — £50bn on consumer goods, £50bn on producer goods.

Here is a two-pronged strategy both for fighting the next recession and for rebalancing the British economy. And if it is a step too far for a Treasury still mired in Osbornian austerity thinking, it should be taken up by the Labour party.

See also on the Political Concern site: Shinzo Abe and Jeremy Corbyn advocate increased public investment, lower taxation & a high wage policy




They aim to work for the common good, rather than focussing on furthering the interests of the most fortunate.

On this site alone at least seventeen articles have highlighted the public-spirited mindset of John Clancy, dating back to 2012.

More low key – only ten references on this site – but earning recognition in local government, transition and regeneration circles, is the work of Localise West Midlands, co-ordinated and upheld by Karen Leach – eight references since 2003. Its most notable work, supported by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, may be seen here:

As news of the London attacks by a 19 year old broke this morning, I read an article sent recently by a Norfolk reader. It came from the late lamented Stirrer, now archived by the Birmingham Press.

stirrer header

Headed: IT’S THE ECONOMY, STUPID, it reflected on “the knife and gun crimes which have become endemic in our inner cities” it continued:

 “The latest spate of violence committed by the young against the young was described in a recent broadcast as ‘casual, murderous violence’. David Cameron said it was due to family breakdown and a Labour minister placed the blame on community breakdown.

“These verdicts delivered from ‘on high’ seem to condemn society in general. Apart from a few soundbites and strategy announcements the situation is not addressed and gets worse.

“In fact those at the top of the financial, political, commercial, industrial trees have created and applauded an economic system which led to gradual changes in society after the Second World War – when incomes and living standards were far lower, but so too was violent crime”.

After describing those changes, which have left about 10% of people in this country without a respected place in it, the article continued:

“Our youngsters are growing up in a world which has no use or place for them unless their academic attainment reaches a certain level. Whereas earlier few of the poor and unemployed turned to crime, television now repeatedly imprints on young hearts and minds images of an expensive, status-offering ‘good life’, which they cannot hope to get by legal means.

“How many of us, growing up with such lack of hope for the future, would resist the temptation to escape into a drug-soothed world or to take what we cannot earn?”

Some will feel anger, rather than depression – new economics could offer all a far better life:

lwm loc prosp 4

Individuals like John Clancy and Karen Leach – and many others working for the common good in the city (see recent unifying action by Richard Tetlow) – should be given every support in their work to end the cycles of deprivation-related violence by building a more prosperous and harmonious city.









Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 117 other followers