Birmingham has been named the most entrepreneurial city in the UK for four successive years – with more start-up businesses than anywhere outside of London. Data released by StartUp Britain shows that 17,473 new businesses were registered in Birmingham during 2016, an increase of 25% on the previous year. There are almost 114,000 self-employed people in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, according to the Office for National Statistics. It also won an award for business support

The leader of Birmingham Council, Cllr John Clancy, said: “Birmingham, known for years as the city of a thousand trades, remains a vibrant centre for entrepreneurs who are prepared to work hard, strike out on their own, and get businesses off the ground. 

There was an outcry when the Chancellor Philip Hammond unveiled a National Insurance hike for self-employed workers in the Budget – now postponed. Some 4.6 million people, around 15% of the workforce, are now self-employed and data from the Office for National Statistics show that two thirds of new jobs in the UK created in recent years are down to self-employment.

Cllr Clancy called on Mrs May immediately to overrule Chancellor Philip Hammond and rule out any increases in Class 4 NIC payments. He said the proposal would hit those who took risks to set up small businesses and create jobs.

Well-informed readers explain that – as long as the self-employed have a contribution record established – they get the standard state retirement pension and older self-employed workers attaining pension age today have, in many cases, some pension accrued as employees for a number of years of their life which the present generation will not have. Benefits the self-employed cannot access relate to holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave.

John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, has announced that Labour is to convene a summit to develop a new deal for self-employed workers and small businesses and develop Labour’s policy on self-employment. – recognising “that the world of work itself is changing”.

 

 

 

The government is to provide £14m to ten cities, including London, Birmingham and Coventry, to help with the installation of electric charge points.

A £300m plant by The London Taxi Company opened today in Coventry to produce electric black cabs for the UK and international markets. The taxpayer has given £16.1m towards the development of the site in Ansty, Coventry.

Peter Campbell (FT) reports that the government has spent £80m towards research and development at the site, help fund the installation of electric charging stations, and incentivise taxi drivers to buy the new, cleaner vehicles.

The 38,000 taxis currently in operation in the UK require replacing after around 15 years of service and some 23,000 black cabs, which run on diesel, are in use in London. The government is offering taxi drivers a grant of £7,500 towards every new electric car – at a total cost of £50m

From January 2018 the FT article alleges, all black cabs sold in the UK must be able to drive using electric technology, in an effort to improve the air quality of major cities, particularly the capital. A search does not reveal evidence for this, though Transport for London has passed such an order relating to the capital. 

 

 

 

The agenda will include RMT’s concern about driver-only-operated trains on Southern Railways and Northern railways. Pat Collins, former RMT Executive member, will speak on the industrial action being taken.

Quoted in an RMT report: “Only a fool would suggest that drivers can drive a train while sorting out drunken and/or antisocial behaviour in the carriages behind them”

The Department for Transport wants a significant expansion of Driver Only Operation (DOO), introducing it on the Northern and Great Western franchises, with a target of around 50%. Laura Kuenssberg (impartial BBC) reports that the ambition is to bring down the cost of rail travel for the tax payer and the train passenger – not to increase shareholder dividends.

A list of incidents given in a 2016 government dossier set out the risks associated with working on electrified lines, ending:

“These are only a sample of the 35 areas of safety responsible duties they perform. When there is an emergency the guard can take charge especially if the train driver is incapacitated”.

James Grant, an experienced train driver has highlighted questions as to whether drivers can safely close train doors at stations on ‘guardless’ trains – and other issues.

A recent issue of Private Eye said that Mr Grant doesn’t work for Southern but has taken the controls of many driver-only-operated (DOO) trains elsewhere. Earlier in his career as a British Rail guard, Mr Grant often had to put his safetv training to use.

“I ended up having to deal with fires on trains, fires on stations, hooligans trying to wreck the train, assaults on passengers, assaults on revenue protection staff, passengers taken ill, drunk passengers. passengers on drugs, attempted sexual assaults, passenger accidents and injuries and major disruption. l was able to stop a lot of incidents occurring however, just by my presence on the train, and where things did go wrong I was able to help stop the situation from becoming worse”. During prolonged delays he dissuaded passengers from jumping on to the track.

His verdict? DOO can be reasonably safe if the best monitoring equipment is priorities and properly maintained, so long as the stations always have staff available to help, railway police respond quickly to emergency calls from a DOO train and the trains are short: “A driver cannot be expected to be able to deal effectively with emergencies in vehicle 11 or 12 of a 12-car train. If the train is stopped on a curve or under a bridge, how can a driver even see if the last vehicle is on fire?”

Smaller stations do not have staff who could help the driver by acting as a guard before departure. Recently this writer was saved from being trapped by a guard bellowing from the platform at the rear of the train, as she was entering a door which was just about to close automatically. That station only has one member of staff, manning the ticket office downstairs – in off-peak hours there is no-one.

There have been numerous safety incidents on DOO services and RMT believes that the public is safer with a fully safety-trained guard on board who knows how the railway operates. The campaign to save the guards has been backed by numerous councillors, transport bodies, passenger groups, disability groups and MPs; after reading about Mr Grant’s experience and looking at the dossier, others will share their concern.

 

 

 

 

 

West Midlands New Economics Group

WMNEG chairman Alan Clawley will present extracts

from Jeremy Rifkin’s 2014 book,

‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society’

the internet of things,

the collaborative commons

and the eclipse of capitalism.

Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

Thursday 30th March 5-7 pm

All welcome.

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire.

.

.

.

.

Earlier this month, Cllr. Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills, stressed the importance of apprenticeships before addressing a National Apprenticeship Week event in Birmingham.

He said that the council aims to increase the number of apprentices at the city council, using the apprenticeship framework to reward existing staff through development opportunities. Wards where youth unemployment is at its highest will be targetted, providing meaningful apprenticeship opportunities that will enable people in time to secure permanent employment.

Good apprenticeship programmes combine shop-floor and college based training for an average of three years and require a long-term commitment from the employer. Experienced workers have to nurture the individual apprentice through the time-consuming process – a task which takes them away from their regular duties to some degree.

APS Metal Pressings in Hockley had two toolmaking apprentices last year: Aaron Wilks is in his second year and Ethan Wilkes completed his second year and started a HNC engineering course in September.

One problem is that some companies invest in training apprentices who graduate and then leave to join companies without a training programme who reap the benefits without investing time or money in apprenticeships. Setting out a clear career path, continual appraisals and pay scale increments for apprentices encourage commitment, but there is a case for clearly stated contractual tie-ins for an agreed period of time in order to protect the company’s investment.

On the WM Producers’ site there was news of other apprenticeships and the ‘graduation’ of Kirsty, Professional Polishing’s latest apprentice (left)was celebrated.

Cllr. O’Reilly highlighted the city’s drive to retain talent within Birmingham and  strengthen the local economy by ensuring  the right training and learning opportunities available for anyone who needs it. Skills level in the city region will have a major impact on future economic growth and ensure inclusive growth reaching out to citizens in all parts of our city.

To this end, the city council has developed its ‘Step Forward: Upskilling for Life’ strategy in partnership with the public, private and third sectors, working directly with employers to encourage upskilling of the workforce, co-ordinating support and guidance so people can choose the right qualifications for the career path they want to take.

Cllr. O’Reilly: “The goal is to leave nobody behind.”

 

 

 

 

David Lowe (Commercial Boat Operators Association) sends news of a noteworthy event, which preceded the ‘Hydrogen and Fuel Cells into the Mainstream’ Conference, covered on this site in February.

The programme brought together 11 European micro FC-CHP manufacturers into a common analysis framework to deliver trials across all of the available fuel cell CHP technologies. Fuel cell micro-CHP trials will be installed and actively monitored in dwellings across the range of European domestic heating markets, dwelling types and climatic zones, which will lead to an invaluable dataset on domestic energy consumption and micro-CHP applicability across Europe.

By learning the practicalities of installing and supporting a fleet of fuel cells with real customers, ene.field partners will take the final step before they can begin commercial roll-out. An increase in volume deployment for the manufacturers involved will stimulate cost reduction of the technology by enabling a move from hand-built products towards serial production and tooling.

The ene.field project brings together over 30 utilities, housing providers and municipalities to bring the products to market explore different business models for micro-CHP deployment.

It is the largest European demonstration project of the latest smart energy solution for private homes, micro-CHP. Up to 1,000 households across Europe will be able to experience the benefits of this new energy solution. The five-year project uses modern fuel cell technology to produce heat and electricity in households and empowers them in their electricity and heat choices. It is co-funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking  and brings together 27 partners, including 10 European manufacturers who will make the products available across 11 European countries.

“A step change in the volume of fuel cell micro-CHP deployment in Europe and a meaningful step towards commercialisation of the technology”.

 

 

 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade – because of gridlock on the motorways that superseded them, according to a study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”.

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found.

From our database, 2001-2016:

  • In Bromage N, Supply Management (UK) 5 Jul 2001 Vol 6 No 14: p. 34 (2 pages) there is a reference to transporting cardboard waste from London to a recycling mill in Birmingham.
  • In 2002 cardboard waste was carried from Leamore Business Parks (Walsall) via canal to a recycling plant in Saltley, Birmingham.
  • West Midlands Waterways joined forces with Brumcan, the Birmingham based community recycling business in 2004 for ‘The Big Recycle’ and moved waste textiles by boat from Brumcan’s headquarters in Saltley along the Birmingham Mainline Canal to Black Country Rags in Greets Green. The boat, named Aurega, then delivered glass to Birmingham’s waste transfer station at Lifford Lane.
  • Lynne Jones MP, for Birmingham Selly Oak, issued a press release: Support Water Freight; 11.08.06, calling for government action to shift the transport of freight from our roads to our waterways, supporting a Parliamentary motion backing the sector.
  • In 2007 Marks & Spencer employed barges to take waste cardboard boxes and packaging from its stores in London along the 157-mile Grand Union Canal to a recycling plant in Birmingham.
  • The 2007 West Midlands Freight Action Plan clearly identified 78 businesses in the Birmingham Study that have the potential for transporting waste & recycling, building & construction materials, steel and retail goods. It also identified 90 clusters of industrial estates and retail parks, 49 wharfs and 12 freight development sites.
  • Birmingham to the River Lee: in 2008 Richard Horne and Tim Collier loaded narrowboats Arundel and Betelgeuse with 110 steel piles, weighing 43.79 tonnes, from the company ALE Piling at Tyseley to be delivered to Lee Valley Marina at Walthamstow.
  • ALE Piling in Tyseley gave a barge company a contract to move steel piles from Birmingham to Walthamstow earlier that year. Progress was slowed through the Solihull area by silt, sunken tree boughs, supermarket trolleys and bicycles in the water. (CBOA newsletter)
  • Heathrow announced (2016) that it would accept, and in some cases exceed, all the environmental targets set out in the Airports Commission report. To this end Nick Platts, head of cargo, said he had been considering low-emission onward transport for freight, including using rail and barges on the nearby Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) which links central London with Birmingham.

Caption: ‘No congestion down here’

As Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported, the 2007research highlighted a series of environmental benefits from moving freight. Studies agree that waterborne transport is quieter, cleaner & more fuel efficient, reducing CO2 emissions by 75-80% compared with road transport. TV’s Waterworld programme made the startling claim that in one day a lorry used more fuel than a working barge would use in a year.

Next: City could use watertaxis – operating in other UK cities – to take passengers off congested roads

 

 

 

This news was sent by Aldo Mussi, Tutor-Activist in Health Promotion/Public Health, Public Health teaching team Birmingham City University. He writes:

“Climate change is not only a pressing public health, ecological and justice concern – it’s increasingly a financial worry. With fossils fuels increasingly seen as a liability, the shift by investors away from this old technology is growing”.

At the end of 2016 Arabella Advisors reported that 688 organizations ― including some charities, faith-based groups, universities and local governments ― and 58,399 individuals across 76 countries have committed to pulling their money out of oil, gas and coal companies.

In keeping with that trend, in November 2015 Aldo had welcomed reports that BCU was in the top 16 of British universities which had started ‘divesting’ from fossil fuels. (The top 10 were divesting completely, while the fund managers for BCU and others were merely fleeing tar sands & coal (the dirtiest fuels). Others have joined the trend since then, but BCU is still in the top 25% of universities who have made the move.

People & Planet (a national network of student eco-societies) publish a ‘green league table’ of British universities, and in the 2016 results, it’s good to see BCU placed 31 out of 150 institutions (top of the list of those awarded a ‘2.1’, but frustratingly just missing out on a ‘First’).

Birmingham City University People & Planet University League 2016 Scorecard:

1. Environmental Sustainability; Policy and Strategy 100

2. Human Resources for Sustainability 40

3. Environmental Auditing & Management Systems 100

4. Ethical Investment 0

5. Carbon Management 35

6. Workers Rights 15

7. Sustainable Food 60

8. Staff and Student Engagement 20

9. Education for Sustainable Development 35

10. Energy Sources 31

11. Waste and Recycling 76

12. Carbon Reduction 78

13. Water Reduction 50

Aldo comments, “A quick look at BCU’s scorecard (below) raises an obvious question: If we are at the forefront of divestment, why did we score a zero for ‘Ethical Investment’? It turns out that People & Planet’s criteria depend largely on being able to audit an institution’s published policies, including an Ethical Investment policy. BCU had not yet published one, so that counted against us. Interestingly, had it been published, our partial divestment would have counted for a score of 5% – possibly enough to push us up into a ‘First’ next time? It seems that BCU management may be addressing this in the near future, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to report even better news soon…”

 

 

 

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, is calling on the Government to guarantee that all EU nationals can stay in the UK after Brexit.

One million EU nationals live in London – they make a huge and welcome contribution to our city.

The Mayor’s message to them is clear: “You are Londoners, you are welcome here and you deserve a commitment from the Government that you can stay.”

Here is a film briefly featuring the people behind the statistics.

The West Midlands New Economic Group’s blog gives a link to a useful summary of these five omissions and focusses on one question asked by MacFarlane*: “What about the housing crisis?”

The Chancellor failed to mention housing even once, despite the fact that we are in the grip of a serious and escalating housing crisis. One of the things fuelling that crisis is the fact that the government is insisting on selling off public land rather than using it to help deliver more genuinely affordable housing.

At the current rate, the new homes target on sold-off public land will not be met until 2032, 12 years laer than promised. And the majority of homes being built on the land sold are out of reach for most people — only one in five will be classified as ‘affordable’. Even this figure is optimistic as it uses the government’s own widely criticised definition of affordability. If the government ended the public land fire sale they could use that land to partner with local authorities, small developers and communities themselves to deliver the more affordable homes people need.

According to the latest Nationwide House Price statistics, as most people cannot afford to buy now even with a mortgage, cash buyers such as second homeowners and buy to let landlords are propping up the market. Things are getting worse for people left at the mercy of this failing market. The Chancellor could have put a stop to the fire sale of public land yesterday, but instead he acted as if there were no housing crisis all.

*

*Laurie MacFarlane is an economist whose work focuses on reforming the financial sector and the economy to align with long term interests of society. Before joining NEF he was Head of Analysis at the Water Industry Commission for Scotland, an economic regulator which ensures that water customers receive value for money and led a small team of economists undertaking economic and financial analysis and engaging with industry stakeholders. He also spent one year in the Markets and Economics division at Ofwat, where he worked on establishing the recent water company price determinations. He has worked closely with Common Weal, a progressive Scottish think tank which aims to promote a new vision for economic, social and cultural development in Scotland and has a particular interest in analysing the links between UK housing crisis, the finance system and inequality.

Read more here: http://action.neweconomics