In 2012 a sister site published the case of Dr Mattu and also Julian Assange, both currently in the news, under the title, ‘Whistleblowers: so many have suffered – is the Public Disclosure Act being deliberately ignored?’

The editor briefly entered into a supportive correspondence with Dr Mattu. Today’s news, therefore, came as a heartwarming surprise.

The original article summarised:Raj-Mattu-_2994460c

The latest case in PCU ‘s crowded whistleblower folder is that of Dr Mattu, the cardiologist who warned that that overcrowded wards at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital had caused the deaths of at least two patients and was suspended on full pay for eight years before being dismissed in 2010 . . . (Ed: in copying from the original the changes were saved and she cannot find the missing text).

Five months after making his complaint, he was suspended from duty and a disciplinary file passed to the General Medical Council containing more than 200 allegations, including the bullying claims, was dismissed by the GMC in 2009 . . .

All this in the face of the so-called Whistleblowers Act, honoured only in the breach: the Public Disclosure Act. 

David Lewis, Professor of Employment Law at Middlesex, writing in the Industrial Law Journal,* had highlighted several weaknesses in the legislation, and – relevant to Dr Mattu’s case – it does not prevent employers from “blacklisting” and refusing to hire those who are known within the industry to have made disclosures in previous jobs.

And so it goes on at national and international level. 

It ended with: Justice for Dr Raj Mattu a people-power petition.

whistleblowers suffer

All must honour the whistleblower who is exposing genuine malpractice – however embarrassing or potentially expensive in terms of compensation.

*Lewis, David (1998). “The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998”. Industrial Law Journal (Industrial Law Society) 27, payment required to read Oxford Journal pdf text.

stirchley baths

Local people from this lively neighbourhood are taking a great interest in the Edwardian Stirchley Baths, lovingly restored and re-opened – hundreds coming to an open evening in December. If the fine front door is closed, visitors are asked to go to the side entrance at the left.

change kitchen logoThough there has been no advertising or promotion people are visiting ChangeKitchen (Tues. to Thurs., 10-3), which opened in January, to enjoy food made with local, organic and seasonal ingredients – see a LWM post.

Dishes on the menu that week included mushroom & spinach lasagna, Homity pie, baked potato with two fillings, croissants, mini pastries and ‘bacon’ and egg roll.

change 2 interior kitchen

ChangeKitchen is an award winning event caterer – a thriving social enterprise

Every platter of food is prepared ‘from scratch’ – shared and enjoyed by all, including the 80% of customers who are not vegetarian but nevertheless value ChangeKitchen’s delicious and nutritious vegetarian and vegan dishes at very reasonable prices. There is a growing awareness that producing the meat in our diet causes more carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide than transportation or industry.

change kitchen birgitDuring a recent visit, the writer met ChangeKitchen’s founder, Birgit Kehrer, and on its website we read that the story of ChangeKitchen goes back to her youth, growing organic vegetables from an early age with her father, and developing a passion for eating vegetarian food made from fresh home-grown produce. In her twenties Birgit learned to cook vegetarian food at the Goldene Gans Braeustueble restaurant in her home town of Augsburg and afterwards travelled to India where she picked up more ideas for world-class cuisine.

As the writer enjoyed her coffee, she heard about the community cinema which the film club is setting up, watched children coming in happily to enjoy a party, met Phil Banting of the newly formed Stirchley History Group, and – later – Justin Wiggan, from the Centre for Curious Sonic Investigation, who will be presenting a ‘sound piece’ at the Baths, with input from local children and also from a tape buried in a 1989 time capsule which, together with a 2015 time capsule, has been placed in a deep illuminated well under the pool and can be seen through a perspex window in the café.

Location and contact details:

Stirchley Baths, 2-4 Bournville Lane, Birmingham, B30 2JT

t: 0121 464 9072
e: hello@stirchleybaths.org

Background

tommy2-robinsonIn December, former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson (left) formed a UK branch of Pegida, a German organisation founded in Dresden. The International Business Times describes Pegida as an anti-immigration group set up to halt what it sees as the “Islamisation of the West”, holding well-attended protests across northern Europe. Their protests in the UK are said to have fared poorly to date.

On December 4th Robinson told IBTimesUK: “Birmingham is where most of the terrorists have been from, it’s where six Muslims who wanted to blow us up were from – the continued epicentre for terrorism is Birmingham.”

The decision to hold a Pegida UK rally in Birmingham has been condemned by the city’s leading politicians. A joint statement, issued on Monday 7 December, was signed by Council leader John Clancy Cllr Robert Alden (leader of the Birmingham Conservatives) and Cllr Paul Tilsley (leader of the Birmingham Liberal Democrats).

Tommy Robinson toned down his rhetoric:

“The rally – which we’re calling a ‘silent walk’ – will be a march in Birmingham on February 6th, with some speeches at the end. We don’t want any confrontation. There will be no alcohol allowed, no masks allowed and no racists allowed. If there are opposition rallies, we don’t want to go near them. We’ve asked the police where they think the best and safest place for us to march would be. We just want to walk peacefully through the streets. Why have these Birmingham councillors got a problem with that?”

Andrew-Smith 2Canon Andrew Smith (right: Director of Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham) has now circulated an appeal to Birmingham’s churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and temples, trade unions and community groups.

It calls on the police to explore whether this provocation amounts to an incitement to racial and/or religious hatred and to use all of their powers to prevent people of whatever background, from being intimidated in the city centre next Saturday, 6th February.

And ends: “As proud people of Birmingham, we wish to declare that Pegida are not welcome and have nothing to offer our city — apart from a huge bill for policing and the clear up operation after they have gone”.

As yet the only online access found for the text of this message is on this website, which carries a list of signatories to a pledge to affirmative action.

 

fas+2aid header

A reader sent news of this organisation in order to raise awareness of its work

Established in 2005 Fastaid provides and trains Community First Responders (CFRs) in the Solihull and Birmingham areas of the West Midlands.

CFRs are volunteers, trained to a nationally recognised medical standard, to provide lifesaving treatment to people in their local community. Responders are called out by West Midlands Ambulance Service if they can reach a life threatening situation quicker than an ambulance crew.

Community First Responders normally cover an area approximately of 7 minutes travelling time from their home or work place. They are always backed up by an ambulance.

fas+vehicleSytner Solihull, sponsored this BMW Mini FastAid Response Car

In the UK around 175,000 people have a heart attack each year, about one every three minutes. After a patient has collapsed following a heart attack, every minute a defibrillator is not used the chances of survival reduce by 10%. Each year Fastaid Community First Responders successfully resuscitate members of the public who wouldn’t be alive today without rapid intervention.

Volunteers should be:

  • Aged 18 +
  • Have a current driving licence
  • Be physically fit
  • Be able to attend incidents whilst at home or work
  • Have a caring nature,
  • Be willing to help raise the profile of the schemes in local areas and assist with fund-raising, as these schemes are designed to be self-supporting.

Successful applicants must pass a Criminal Records Bureau check and attend a training course for four weekends and complete training with ambulance crews and a community paramedic before going live.

People interested in becoming a local Community First Responder, should contact CFR Admin Office by email or call 01384 215855.

bmi 2 course title

From Thursday 18 Feb for 5 weeks, 18:00 – 20:30 at the BMI:

BMI best

More and more people are finding themselves needing to write code as part of their jobs, whether it’s updating HTML for a content management system or tweaking colours and layout for a company blog.

You might even find yourself wanting to know how to build your own website from scratch, or transfer skills from print/graphic design onto the web. Whatever the reason, learning HTML, CSS and JavaScript (the “holy trinity” of web development) is easy to get started with, fun to learn and a great tool to add to your skillset.

This five-week evening course will give you an introduction to these technologies and is ideal for anyone with a good level of computer experience who is curious about how the web works.

You will learn how HTML fits together and what some of the mysterious codes mean, how CSS can be used to give your webpages style, and when to use JavaScript to make interactive, dynamic webpages. You’ll need a laptop to work from, but besides that, no special software or skills are required. Come and learn about the building blocks of the web!

Thurs 18 Feb Session 1: Introduction / HTML We’ll learn about setting up your computer for coding, and meet HTML, the language of the web. Learn what all those weird tag names mean and why you should care!

Thurs 25 Feb Session 2: Basics of CSS We’ll look at writing CSS to give webpages style, and experiment with your web browser’s Developer Tools to tweak pages on the fly.

Thurs 3 Mar Session 3: Intermediate CSS We’ll learn how to do slightly more advanced things with CSS including page layout and even animations!

Thurs 10 Mar Session 4: Intro to JavaScript We’ll find out what JavaScript is useful for and make some basic webpage interactions happen.

Thurs 17 Mar Session 5: Putting it all together How do websites make it onto the internet? We’ll learn how to deploy something we’ve made to the web!

Matt Andrews will be running the course (you can follow him on Twitter at @mattpointblank) in partnership with the Birmingham & Midland Institute.

Matt is a web developer of over a decade who’s worked for the BBC and the Guardian and taught hundreds of students the basics of web development for the past four years. He studied English at university (so is keen to point out that learning to code isn’t solely for computer scientists!) and enjoys cycling, brewing beer and making music in his spare time. You can learn more at http://mattandrews.info

Discount is given on block bookings (10% discount if you book all 5 sessions at once) and also to the Members of the Birmingham & Midland Institute (membership details can be found here). To book a block select any date from the drop down menu and then click on ‘Tickets’, then select ‘All 5 Sessions’. Alternatively, you can book the sessions on a weekly basis although we do recommend that you attend all 5 sessions to make the most of Matt’s expertise.

bmi 2course map link

To book more easily use this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coding-for-the-web-101-tickets-20920815723?aff=mcivte

Birmingham & Midland Institute

9 Margaret Street

Birmingham, England

B3 3BS

david j baileyThe author of a recent article in The Conversation, David J. Bailey, is a politics lecturer at Birmingham University, whose research and teaching focuses on protest movements, political economy, and political participation. He receives funding from the Economic and Social Research Council, funded by the government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Bailey’s research, which coincides with the passage through parliament of new laws to restrict strikes, looks at protest events recorded in national newspapers since the late 1970s: “Figures show that the frequency and scale of protest is increasing, with 296 protest events last year compared with 154 in 2010 and 155 in 1980”.

He said that the main change over the past three decades was that workers were no longer the key protesters – though he then went on to instance the action of thousands of junior doctors – surely workers? – who struck over changes to their working conditions earlier this month and followed that by reports that the transport workers’ union, the RMT, is considering industrial action on the London underground against night shifts.

Bailey sees a new age of mass protest emerging as he surmises that more people than at any time since the late 1970s are becoming disillusioned with politicians and seek media attention.

*

Andrew Walton offers a more profound analysis, in Beyond Placards and Banners

andrew waltonHe writes, “Richard Swift, in his ‘No-nonsense guide to democracy’, captures the essence of our current political plight when he says that citizens have withdrawn from public life and instead replaced engagement with the pleasures of shopping and various passive entertainments. In his eyes: “People have abdicated their role as citizens and make up for their powerlessness in the public arena through these compensatory activities – jet skis, four-wheel-drive vehicles, computer paraphernalia and the latest designer clothing.”

Andrew comments: ”Birmingham city centre encapsulates this pretty well. Monoliths of commerce tower over people as models peer out from billboard images, smiling insidiously at passers by. They cast shadows over the little snippets of nature that remain there: pigeons and an occasional tree reminding us that we are in fact part of an ecosystem”.

As he urges citizens to re-enter public life and start treating politics as a way of life, not just a five yearly vote, he might have welcomed the public support for Jeremy Corbyn at meetings, in TV and radio audiences – and the focus on the government’s austerity measures with100,000 attendees at the People’s Assembly Against Austerity in June, 50,000 people protesting outside the Conservative Party Conference in October, 30,000 demonstrators calling for the government to do more to help refugees, and 50,000 environmentalists demonstrating in support of stronger government action at the Paris summit.

Meanwhile, complementing protest, we can see a host of innovative thinkers working for a stronger urban and bioregional economy in a healthier environment, ranging from the new council leader John Clancy, to Andrew Walton (Bioregion Birmingham) Ridhi Kalaria (Birmingham Pound), Friends of the Earth, and arch-localiser Karen Leach (Localise West Midlands). They address serious issues such as Birmingham’s youth unemployment, poor air quality, traffic congestion, waste disposal, lack of housing and dwindling food sovereignty.

Implementing their proposals would bring opportunities to the young unemployed and reverse the city’s social and environmental decline.

john clancy 4John Murray Brown reports that John Clancy, the new leader of Birmingham city council, wants to anchor the £11bn West Midlands local government pension fund in Birmingham and the surrounding region, creating a “West Midlands sovereign wealth fund” to be invested in new homes and infrastructure.

He also raised the prospect of Birmingham turning to the capital markets, selling Brummie Bonds (see The Stirrer) to fund projects and has discussed these ideas with Greg Clark, the communities and local government minister.

Mr Clancy explained that the first step is to change the rules on how local government pension funds are invested, to allow trustees to hold regional and local investment bonds, not just equities and government securities, as at present: “The current portfolio allocated to foreign shares could then be invested in local bonds, issued by regional banks, local councils, the new combined authorities and city-region authorities”.

Via the Brummie aggregator, we learn that the proposals have been welcomed by business leaders. Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce said they could tap into a ‘potentially great untapped asset.’

David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston Business School, said: “The ideas on using local government pension funds to invest locally are well worth exploring and long overdue in Birmingham. Birmingham really needs to build more affordable houses, and there is the potential for pension funds to deliver good returns to their members. This could also trigger investment in the city at a time when the council itself is under huge financial pressure”.

greater manchester pension fund logoHe added that Birmingham would be following the example of Manchester and other local authorities if it began to invest its pension fund locally:

“The Greater Manchester Pension Fund and the city council, for example, set up a £30m joint venture in 2014 that is building 240 homes for rent.”

Birmingham’s financial difficulties led previous administrations to sell council-owned property, including the National Exhibition Centre. Mr Clancy believes that rather than selling assets, the council and city should to use securitisation of the assets to promote revenue generation: “That’s a much better way to go”.

On his website, Cllr John Clancy, the Leader of Birmingham City Council, celebrates the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust development by Jessups in Nechells and Small Heath (below) – properties offered at an affordable rent.

bmht 2 small heath

BMHT, founded in 2009, aims to build attractive homes which are cheap to run. As fuel costs are a major factor in budgeting, its use of the latest ‘green technologies’ help to make running these homes as cheap as possible. They are carefully designed to meet the Building for Life standards and are all Secure by Design compliant, achieving a reduction of crime risk ‘by combining minimum standards of physical security and well-tested principles of natural surveillance and defensible space’.

Cllr Clancy writes: “Building housing here and now is our first priority.

“The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is building houses in the hundreds and I’m absolutely determined that the city as a whole must now move towards building thousands.

“Housing transforms lives, it transforms futures. It has an impact on people’s physical and mental health, it has impacts on education and much more. That’s why I make it my first priority in this city. Nationally Labour is looking to develop housing policies and BMHT shows how local authorities can play a major role in addressing the housing crisis.”

“This isn’t simply about bricks and mortar though, it’s about people and families. The Karem family have moved from a one-bedroom flat to a house with a front garden and a back garden and you could see the joy on their faces. It was an absolute joy to see how much the move has meant to the family and that’s down to the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust.”

empty 2 homes highgate

Central government will no doubt appreciate this work and ensure that every support can be given to enable further building and refurbishment of empty housing – like the potentially handsome terrace in Highgate (above).

Council leader John Clancy writes ‘Building housing here and now is our first priority’ and to this Our Birmingham adds a recommendation to reuse empty housing.

empty 2 homes highgate

Instead of looking at ‘developing’ green spaces in Sutton Coldfield, Harborne and on Solihull’s floodplains, why not renovate empty buildings such as this long-neglected Georgian terrace (above) sadly lining Highgate’s Moseley Road?

Justin Parkinson wrote an article in a December BBC News Magazine with a comprehensive account of empty housing in Britain from which this graph was taken.

housing 2empty 2015 graphFrom a study of government statistics for England by Empty Homes

empty homes text 2015

Councils in England can charge owners 50% extra in council tax if owners leave properties empty for two or more years – a deterrent for many, but by no means to the wealthiest investors.

Another power is a compulsory purchase order, applicable only if officials can show they’ve tried to encourage the owner to bring a building back to “acceptable” use.

Community Campus ’87 was formed by a group of concerned individuals who were motivated to do something about the growing crisis of youth homelessness on Teesside in the mid 1980’s.The primary aim was simply to provide housing with support, to enable homeless young people to gain the skills and experience to get and then keep their own place to live.

empty homes campus workers

Ian Cockerill, one of the founding members of Campus, reports that in 1987 they saw over 350,000 jobs disappear across the north east almost overnight. The life chances for the young were limited. Those who were young and homeless after a poor start in life, had even fewer. Housing accessible for homeless young people was in the private sector, expensive to the tax payer in housing benefit terms, lucrative for the provider but of desperately poor quality and security of tenure. He remembers:

“All around us empty property stared back, assets in our community, public and private, working for no one, wasting away. We decided we would do something about it and we did”.

empty homes campus project

In the early 1990’s, the Key Skills Project was born and developed in Middlesbrough – it later led to the formation of Community Campus Trading Ltd. The project focused on renovating empty properties which presented a working environment for homeless young people and the opportunity to gain valuable construction skills and qualifications in construction, building maintenance, painting and decorating services. Once the renovations were complete, good housing was available to these young people.

A model for Birmingham to consider – reminiscent of the early practice of Balsall Heath’s Jericho housing project.


Housing –1 may be seen here.

 

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