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 You are invited to quiz Corbyn – a Q&A with Jeremy

Time: Sunday, 2nd August, 4:30pm

Place: Muath Trust, The Bordesley Centre, Stratford Road, Camp Hill, Birmingham B11 1AR

jeremy corbyn (2)This is your chance to hear Jeremy outline his case for a different sort of leadership, to offer your own perspective and participate in what we hope will be a lively and inspiring discussion.

Places are limited so please register early to avoid disappointment.

We look forward to welcoming you there – please RSVP http://www.jeremyforlabour.com/quiz_corbyn_brum


Jeremy for Labour Campaign


From the Friend, 31 July 2015

Qu'ran fragment Woodbrooke

Both events occurred when Mark Rogers (now Birmingham’s Chief Executive and Director of Economy) was at the helm.

brasshouse 2

The renowned Brasshouse Language Centre, part of Birmingham Adult Education Services, and its landmark Birmingham building, has been under threat.

One of the Birmingham City Council officials – charged with tackling the massive local authority financial deficit – said that the building does not have ‘long-term viability’.

In May, students contacted the Post, claiming the centre was being starved of funds, that quality was in decline and that senior management figures were not being replaced. Entrepreneur Simon Nicholls said he strongly opposed the council cutting senior posts at the Brasshouse by 50% and a spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council admitted some staff had not been replaced, but was unable to provide exact figures.

Sheila Ward said:“There has been an increasing feeling that it was being allowed to run down deliberately to the point where someone, at some stage, would declare that it could not continue. Many might say that the building is possibly the least of the problems faced by Brasshouse. There has been a totally predictable reduction in the range and levels of languages on offer which can be attributed to decisions taken by those with little knowledge of or apparent interest in the valuable contribution the work of this centre can make to the regeneration and development of international trade in the whole region”.

brasshouse languages 30

The Brasshouse, which currently offers training in 30 languages, will operate as Brasshouse @ Library of Birmingham following the move in September 2016. The move will secure the future of the Brasshouse centre, which caters for 7,000 students and should improve the viability of the ailing Central Library project.

Yesterday, Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn MP, outlined his vision for a more productive and fairer economy for all at a policy seminar.

jc 2 report coverHe addressed ‘the Conservative myth’ that wealth creation is solely due to the dynamic risk-taking of private equity funds, entrepreneurs or billionaires bringing their investment to UK shores.

If believed, it is logical to cut taxes for the rich and big business, not to bother to invest in the workforce, and be intensely relaxed about the running down of public services as is happening.

He affirmed: “Where there are tough choices, we will always protect public services and support for the most vulnerable”.

Corbyn’s alternative, laid out in The Economy in 2020 and accessed via the campaign website, is to build a rebalanced, prosperity-focused economy, based on growth and high quality jobs.

His leadership campaign has no big private donors. He wants Labour to become a democratic social movement again, dedicated to real change:

jeremy corbyn (2)”Cuts are not the way to prosperity; Britain needs a publicly-led expansion and reconstruction of the economy, with a big rise in investment levels. We must ensure that our national housing, transport, digital and energy networks are among the best in the world.

“This requires the establishment of an National Investment Bank to promote infrastructure upgrades and support for innovation. Labour 2020 will make large reductions in the £93 billion of corporate tax relief and subsidies. These funds can be used to establish the National Investment Bank to head a multi-billion pound programme of infrastructure upgrades and support for high-tech and innovative industries”.

On taxation and tax justice, Jeremy argued: “Paying tax is not a burden. It is the subscription we pay to live in a civilised society. A collective payment we all make for the collective goods we all benefit from: schools, hospitals, libraries, street lights, pensions, the list is endless.

“Under these plans outlined today Labour 2020 will make the tax system more progressive, and follow a five-point plan to tackle tax avoidance and evasion:

  • Stronger anti-avoidance rules brought into UK tax law.
  • The aim of country-by-country reporting for multinational corporations.
  • Reform of small business taxation to tackle avoidance and evasion.
  • Enforce proper regulation of companies in the UK to ensure that they pay what they owe.
  • A reversal of the cuts to staff in HMRC and at Companies House, taking on more staff at both, to   ensure that HMRC can collect the taxes the country so badly needs.

“The UK has shifted from taxing income and wealth to taxing consumption; and from taxing corporations to taxing individuals. We must ensure that those with the most, pay the most, not just in monetary terms but proportionally too.”

“What responsible government committed to closing the deficit would give a tax break to the richest 4% of households?”

cameron bham 20.7.15First, the prime minister could help to bring about change by apologising for British and American extremism.

He conveniently omits to acknowledge the impact of the attack on Iraq in 1992 – well before 9/11/2001. It was followed by an illegal and ruinous invasion in 2003 and illegal detention and torture in Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and less well-known prisons.

He said: “I think we need a clarity of what we mean by extremism” – the actions mentioned above are extreme and over time an extreme response to them has materialised.

Then he added that we need is people involved in our schools who buy into British values of freedom, democracy, free speech :

Freedom: Babar Ahmad imprisoned in Britain without charge for years

Democracy: ignoring a million strong protest against the second Iraq war

Free speech: as long as it doesn’t ‘rock the boat’ & is politically correct.

Second, Mr Cameron should tone down his extreme support for Israel, which slaughtered over 2000 Palestinians in five weeks and has inflicted many hardships on those living in the occupied territories – except those living well in the illegal Israeli settlements.

children drone killed

Finally he can apologise for Britain’s part in executing young and old without trial by drone strike.

compass2-logoThe need for a broad left narrative was explored at yesterday’s Compass West Midlands meeting at the Blue Orange Theatre in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. One speaker recommended an article by Jonathan Freedland.

It described a series of mantras ‘unleashed’ when the Conservatives returned to power – assisted by ‘a press that almost uniformly leans to the right’ – ‘a megaphone amplifying their message’. Simple phrases have been repeated and accepted unquestioningly, becoming assimilated into the collective consciousness. They include:

  • the last government ‘maxed out’ the nation’s credit card;
  • Labour failed to mend the roof when the sun was shining.

And in their own favour:

  • we’re clearing up the mess we inherited;
  • we are determined to balance the books;
  • we will live within our means and
  • we are the party for hardworking families.

Freedland said that there was no memorable, easily understood response to the charge that Labour’s incontinent spending, rather than the global crash, had ballooned the deficit.

‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left. Kind regards and good luck, Liam.’

cameron byrne letter

But an attender at the Compass meeting suggested one: he said that when Liam Byrne left the traditional informal note to his Treasury successor (see Maudling’s missive) he should have added a truthful rider:

‘Dear chief secretary, I’m afraid to tell you there’s no money left, the bankers have had it all’.

However, as the Compass facilitator said, it is easy to criticise; what is needed is a positive, attractive broad left narrative.

Any offers?

 They might well not wish to admit they have no answer.

Public Health England

Public Health England

After it was reported that two Selly Oak councillors failed to answer a letter from their constituent, 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.

The study found that the pollutants were commonly found in fumes from diesel trucks, buses and cars and a significant amount of particulate pollution came from outside London, at sources such as power stations and other industrial plants on the continent. John Vidal, whose health has been affected by air pollution, describes this as a toxic soup of nitrogen oxide gases and minute particles of unburned carbon and chemicals, produced by vehicles and fossil fuel-burning central-heating systems:  “PM2.5s, which get deep into the lungs and bloodstream from exhaust fumes, can greatly worsen respiratory and heart conditions such as my own, trigger heart attacks and lead to brain damage, cancers, even nerve, liver and kidney diseases”.

Since 2010, beneficial measures taken in the capital include setting tighter low emission zone standards; age limits for taxis and more than 1,300 hybrid buses.

Microcab's fleet of zero emission H2Evs: 55mph top speed,180 mile range on full tank

Microcab’s fleet of zero emission H2Evs: 55mph top speed,180 mile range on full tank

Volumes are now worst in congested cities such as London, Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield. Professor Rex Harris is one of many working on clean technologies at the universities of Birmingham (below – link) and Coventry (above).

PROTIUM hydrogen barge

Professor Harris is concerned about ‘the ever present menace of diesel emissions in the City and, in particular, in New Street Station’:

“I was waiting for a local train last Sunday at around 11 pm and while waiting on platform 11, there were 3 diesel trains spewing out diesel emissions which must have exceeded any safety limits”. He asks:

  • Has the Environment Agency monitored the atmosphere on these platforms and assessed the health risks to the station staff and passengers?
  • How are these factors influenced by the refurbishment?
  • What is the particle count in the shopping area above?

ciraslogoSee an earlier exchange on a confidential reporting system, ‘a safety net for industry’: http://www.ciras.org.uk/report-library/train-operations/51127-diesel-fumes-at-birmingham-new-street/.

Professor Harris  refers to the supreme court’s order requiring the government to draw up a new UK air-quality plan; but though it has accepted that air pollution costs the economy up to £18bn a year, equal to a seventh of all NHS spending, John Vidal adds that government has told Europe that it will not meet legal NO2 limits in London, Birmingham and Leeds for 16 years, and in cities such as Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and Glasgow for 10.

State homicide?

Members of the unitary authority yesterday backed the “Case for Cornwall” which, the Council says, “sets out the increased powers and freedoms the Council wants to secure from the Government to enable Cornwall to take greater control over its own affairs.”

The vote was 64 in favour, 24 against and one abstention. The opponents were principally the Conservative and UKIP groups.

“Politics as usual” is no longer acceptable

dick cole 3
Councillor Dick Cole (leader of Mebyon Kernow the party for Cornwall,) made it clear that MK did not think the proposals went far enough and that the likely influence of unelected bodies such as the Local Enterprise Partnership was far too great. In his keynote speech at the Party’s 2014 Conference, held at New County Hall in Truro, he had described how the referendum campaign had energised Scottish voters and had shown that “politics as usual” is no longer acceptable.

Councillor Cole told the meeting yesterday that his party would continue to campaign for proper devolution for Cornwall, for a Cornish Assembly and an end to the growing unelected quangocracy.

There was a ‘closed session’ to see the “Devolution Deal” offered by central government, which had dictated that the debate could not be in public. The confidential “pink papers” were distributed in the meeting and collected at the end of the meeting. The councillors agreed to delegate authority to the Leader to sign the “Cornwall Devolution Deal” and Prime Minister David Cameron, who is to visit the Duchy today, has now confirmed that Cornwall will gain major powers devolved from central Government.

cameron cornwallThe Cornishman reports that Mr Cameron – a yearly visitor – said: “This devolution deal marks a major shift for the people who live and work in Cornwall – putting power in their hands and giving them the tools to take charge and make the most of the fantastic potential that Cornwall holds. ”

Under the terms of the deal, which is based on the proposals set out in the Case for Cornwall which were formally agreed by the full Council on Tuesday, Cornwall will have greater powers over areas of public spending which are currently controlled by London. The deal covers a range of key areas including transport, employment and skills, EU funding, business support, energy, health and social care, public estate, heritage and culture. Other areas include:

  • Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly given Intermediate Body (IB) status. Decisions on allocating €603.7m of European funding to projects will now be made locally rather than at Westminster;
  • an agreement to work with agencies in Cornwall on a number of proposals to improve employment and skills opportunities, reshaping training and learning provision, developing new apprenticeship opportunities and improving careers advice for young people;
  • an agreement to support Cornwall’s aim to create a low carbon Enterprise Zone and develop geothermal energy production, as well as working with partners to help address the current constraints on the national grid and to develop proposals to improve energy efficiency in homes;
  • and joining together funding for flood defences from a range of partners, including the Environment Agency and South West Water and the South West regional flood committee, providing a joint investment programme to improve coastal defences.

The final area of agreement is heritage and culture, with the Government pledging support for the creation of a Cornish Heritage Environment Forum.

Sources include:



They don’t answer correspondence.

traffic gridlock mail feb 15

As the Mail warns of a further traffic gridlock due to the ‘Super September’ festival, a ‘solid citizen’ passes on unanswered correspondence, addressed to two Selly Oak Labour councillors:

“I thought I should let you both know about the growing traffic chaos in Birmingham due largely to a combination of unrestricted parking and speed.

“This is well illustrated by my experience driving in to the University this morning. At around 11.00am (not rush hour) I approached the Bristol road along Eastern road. The last stretch was reduced to single lane because of extensive parking on both sides. On reaching the junction with the Bristol road I had no visibility of the on-coming traffic because there was continuous parking on either side of the junction which reduced the Bristol road to a single carriageway. All the vehicles moving in the westerly direction were moving at speeds considerably in excess of the statutory 40mph because of the non-functioning speed camera. This has been the case for a number of years. Having waited a long time for the traffic to clear I was forced to join the rapidly moving stream at considerable risk to life and limb. There has to be a serious accident if this situation is allowed to persist.

“It is my general impression that Birmingham is now very close to gridlock and the “blind-eye” policy of unauthorised parking and unregulated speed is worsening the situation.

“I know this situation can be attributed largely to government cuts but this would be of little consolation to a seriously injured cyclist or to the parents of a dead child. Can I, through you, urge the City Council to get a grip of this emergency and show some guts in tackling the ever-growing menace of the motor car. This will become evermore pressing with the impending crisis surrounding the urgent need to control diesel emissions and the recent Supreme Court ruling on this matter.

“I would appreciate a reply to this communication with, I hope, some indication of a long-range strategy concerning traffic in Birmingham. It would be reassuring to know that there is such a strategy and that we are not just faced with the prospect of the progressive destruction of our environment.

“I look forward to hearing from you”, etc, etc


“It is now over a month since I sent you the e-mail concerning the growing traffic chaos in Birmingham and I still have not received a reply, not even an acknowledgement.

“I appreciate that there might be a lack of response post-election but a month seems a bit excessive, particularly as the risk to life and limb grows ever more real.

Bristol Road traffic

Bristol Road traffic

“My experiences outlined in my previous e-mail have been repeated on a number of subsequent occasions and in particular, yesterday morning at 7.00am when we had to leave early for a funeral in Sheffield. Even at this fairly early hour the Bristol Road was a virtual car park and we had to take our life in our hands when crossing from the single lane Eastern Road across the single lane West bound carriageway of the Bristol road to join the single East-bound carriageway. Not a police-officer in sight and just disabled speed cameras.

“Clearly we survived this ordeal but surely it is only a matter of time before there is serious injury or even death as a consequence of this lack of governance on the part of the Council and the Police Authority. Is such a tragedy the only trigger for action?

“This time I would appreciate a response and please not the usual official gobbledegook”.

We ask:

Are local councillors obliged to answer their constituents? If not, why not?

And is the managing director of McCarthy & Stone’s Midlands Office, Darren Humphreys, well advised to ignore a constructive message about one of his developments, promptly and efficiently passed on by his head office?

International news agency Bloomberg* reported that a Birmingham project designed to divert unwanted items from landfill has over the last two years reused goods equivalent to the weight of an Airbus A340 aircraft.

reusers opening

Richard Beard (CEO of the Jericho Foundation) and Cllr James McKay (then Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart City) at the launch of the ReUsers in 2013.

The ReUsers, a social enterprise operating from premises adjacent to the Norris Way Household Recycling Centre (HRC) in Sutton Coldfield, is run in partnership with Birmingham City Council and managed by the Jericho Foundation, a Birmingham-based charity that works with disadvantaged individuals to help them break down barriers to employment.

reusersVisitors going to the Centre can donate re-useable but unwanted items to the ReUsers rather than letting them enter the waste stream. They are then prepared for sale in the ReUsers Megastore upon the same site. Rescued and restored items for sale include furniture, clothing, antiques, collectables, bric-a-brac, framed artworks and prints, tools, architectural salvage, toys, games, exercise equipment, camping outdoor/ leisure items and bicycles.

The Sutton Coldfield Observer adds that – working in partnership with the Jericho Foundation – Sutton Coldfield social enterprise Trikes and Bikes has now refurbished 259 bicycles, returning them into a roadworthy condition. The income generated from these donated bikes – sold by the ReUsers – has been contributed to Jericho’s Apprenticeship programme.

Cllr Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for a Green, Smart and Sustainable City at Birmingham City Council, said: “Our aim here in Birmingham is to eventually become a zero waste city, where we make every effort to find a new use for things that are no longer wanted or needed. This scheme is leading the way, and we are now looking at how similar ventures could operate elsewhere across the city.”

Jericho have now opened a second branch at their headquarters in Balsall Heath to accommodate some of the stock they do not have room for at Norris Way – enabling them to serve a customer base in a different part of the city. Since July 2014, a further 5,300kg of items have been sold at the second site.

Richard Craythorn, ReUsers Project Manager, said: “The project’s success is helping to change the way we view what is really waste and is encouraging people to consider second hand as a first choice. We hope encourage society to make, mend, and repurpose items that they may have considered throwing away”.

The address for public access is The ReUsers, Norris Way, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham, B75 7BB. Anyone interested in finding out more can call 0121 329 2797 or visit www.facebook.com/thereusers

*The Bloomberg link no longer works as the article has been cached. But here is a Google search record:




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