Wearing her BFOE ‘chief fixer, troubleshooter, painter, drain unblocker, gofer and dogsbody’ hat – after a 16 year stint with Warehouse tenant Localise WM – Karen Leach writes

Recent visitors to Birmingham Friends of the Earth Warehouse notice that it is looking pretty fine as we have now managed to complete the last major renovation stage: a refurbishment of the ‘Top Office.’ It has a much better workspace and we owe a big debt of thanks to many volunteers.

We’re just finishing refurbishment of the last room, suitable as an office for two people or a therapy room if anyone is interested in joining the Warehouse as a tenant.

Ethical retail row along the ground floor

Sprocket Cycles has a variety of new and used bikes for sale, including mountain bikes, BMX, road bikes, fixed gear and single speed, city and touring bikes, and children’s bikes. Sprocket specialises in Dawes bikes, but has other brands in stock too. Its website says: “We will shortly be stocking Frog children’s bikes (frogbikes.com). We have a wide selection of tools and components to help you keep your bike on the road”. For opening times and directions click here.

The Warehouse Cafe is back up and running as a worker co-operative. We selected this operator because they proposed not only a quality vegetarian cafe but also a brilliant programme of the sorts of activist events and arts space that this building should be all about, with more of a ‘cafe bar’ feel in the evenings. The new team are now delivering on this promise – please come and check out the cosier atmosphere, the food, the beers and wines, the coffee, the radical bookshop, the stunning vegan baking, the workshops and the talks. It won’t disappoint you. Read on here.

Another exciting new tenant is Well Rooted Wholefoods CIC – a new vegetarian and vegan wholefood shop in the old reception which donates a portion of profits to existing food based charities in Birmingham. Rachael and Susan stock a range of wholefoods, household cleaners, snacks and tinned goods, sourced ethically. They are also keeping Warehouse staff and tenants well supplied with flapjacks and are open Tues-Sat 10am – 5pm. More information here.

Good ‘accessibility’ news: a lift has been installed so that everyone can now visit both floors of the Warehouse.








BirminghamLive, the digital channel of the Birmingham Mail, presented news about one prospective candidate, Neena Gill, in February, briefly noting that activists in the region are involved in selecting their party’s candidate, while voters take part in the election of the mayor. On 14th June, the Chamberlain Files asked “Who will face Mr Street on 7 May 2020?”  After referring to other candidates it notes an early endorsement of Mr Byrne from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, saying that this came as a surprise to many.

In the Birmingham Post David Bailey and John Clancy examine more closely the process by which the leadership of ‘by far the biggest Mayoral Combined Authority in the country’ is elected. The headline:


“It has to be done right. It also has to be a break from the past in the party in relation to selections: specifically away from discredited, old-school, machine politics”.

Buttons pressed, and levers pulled from afar, especially from outside the region must be consigned to the dustbin. We all know this has had far too ready a presence in the West Midlands over the years.

Candidates from all parts of Labour’s very broad church party should obviously be welcome. M.P.s and former ministers should quite rightly be interested. It is not, however, a pre-requisite and some would see it as a hindrance.

But let’s be clear: it’s probably best not to call in apparent national top-of-the-party ‘endorsements’ when there is a membership-wide ballot to choose a Labour nomination. That feels to us very much like a blast from the past. It can also, more importantly, be misinterpreted.

Liam has strong experience, a clear record, and a well-known history – without necessarily having to call into aid London big guns.

Do other candidates without London political bubble experience, but who are just as strong and able really have to battle with big name national endorsements? They can’t compete almost by dint of being so local. And, for the record, neither of us is seeking this nomination.

This could and should be one of the most open, most fair selections in the party in this region for a very long time, and with a wide range of highly able candidates. This will hopefully set a strong precedent across the party. Let’s keep it open and local for as long as possible.

As a link to the article was not found, read it in full here.





In June 2018, Birmingham City Council cabinet met and worked through an agenda of around 1080 pages covering important items requiring a decision to be made.

Amongst these were two which were very important for Birmingham’s environment. The first was making a decision to move ahead with a ‘clean air zone’, the second was proposing “improvements” to Dudley Road that could cost around £28 million.

BFOE responded to both consultations giving critical support to the first but expressing deep concern with the second.

The plans for Dudley Road are a throwback to 1960s mentality that supported the free movement of car and other vehicle users.

The plans are to widen the road to a full dual carriageway and some junctions to 5 lanes width. There were also some half-hearted ideas for cyclists sharing (busy) pavements with pedestrians as well as some segregated cycle lanes. There were no measures to encourage the use of buses or walking or to improve the generally poor environment along the road. Moreover, the increase in vehicles along Dudley Road would lead to more cars entering the central clean air zone.

David Gaussen, Adam McCusker and Martin Stride demonstrate against the widening scheme. Birmingham Friends of the Earth

BFOE discussed these proposals at our meetings and agreed to start a campaign against the plans. While taking our petition round we realised that local people and businesses did not seem to be very aware of the plans and were not supportive of them.

We also emailed Cllr Waseem Zaffar, the Cabinet member for Transport and the environment.

BFOE were then were invited to a meeting with council officers in March to discuss this. We had naively hoped that the council would use the Birmingham Connected policy as the foundation for the changes but this was rapidly found to be untrue. We found out that the officers were not aware of the five very progressive core aims of Birmingham Connected.

They did offer some limited improvements for cyclists and mentioned that the traffic lights would be set up to allow priority for approaching buses. We were told that the scheme’s financial viability had partly been shaped in order to attract funding from the DfT which is heavily biased in favour of cars and other vehicles.

Feeling disappointed by this meeting, we have written again to Cllr Zaffar, but have received a reply which in essence suggests that there will be a lot of growth in population in this part of Birmingham and that therefore road widening is the only solution.

We have previously been very impressed by Cllr Zaffar speaking at a number of transport meetings and heard him strongly arguing the case for better public transport and measures to persuade a switch from our car dominated environment to one where people were encouraged to walk, cycle or use public transport.

We still believe there is time for the council to think this through again and will continue campaigning against these environmentally damaging plans.



Written by David Gaussen as a member of Birmingham Friends of the Earth

Source: http://www.birminghamfoe.org.uk/what-we-do/issues-we-work-on/transport/dudley-road-improvements/





Evac+Chair International  has been manufacturing in Sparkhill, since 1985, constructing evacuation chairs for stairway descent during an emergency.

The Sparkhill company has 43 employees and Evac+Chair has also expanded nationally and internationally, building a worldwide distribution network.

It is recommended that high-rise buildings have temporary places of refuge in each stairwell and evacuation chairs so that elderly people and those with disabilities or mobility difficulties can be safely removed if fire breaks out.

Evac+Chair sells to large and small venues, corporations, residential buildings, hotels, sports stadia, hospitals, outdoor clothing and equipment retailers, office buildings, schools, assisted living facilities, residential and commercial high-rise buildings.

Storage lockers used in a sports stadium 

Its customers include the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Cotswold Outdoors and Bristol Water.

Everton football club, which has future plans to relocate to a new stadium at Bramley Moore Dock on the Liverpool waterfront, has invested in four 300H Evac+Chairs evacuation chairs, bringing the total number of evacuation chairs up to 16 to make the stadium fully compliant.

Royal Caribbean takes safety very seriously and is now equipping their vessels with the Evac+Chair Power 800 (above, centre), so they are ready for any eventuality.

Exhibiting at the NEC’s annual Health & Safety Events, Evac+Chair demonstrations attract large crowds and in 2015 the company won an award for ‘Most Interactive Stand’.

First published on West Midlands Producers







West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 27th June, 5-7 pm

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

 Woody will give a presentation entitled “The Population Issue in Context”

There is a written script but this will not be circulated in advance.  Various diagrams and charts will be handed out during the talk.

The sub-themes will cover:

  • recognising our concerns as still a minority position;
  • how best to respond to what is coming;
  • the sheer scale of human impact;
  • breaking down the factors;
  • human population as a factor;
  • the position of Population Matters reviewed and some radical challenges to its assumptions
    and strategies.


A round table discussion

All welcome.

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire






Birmingham Jubilee Debt Campaign – Fair Tax Week 2019: Tax for the Common Good 

Meeting: Wed. July 10th, 7 till 8.30 pm, Bertha Wright room, Carrs Lane Church, B4 7SX

The Birmingham Jubilee Debt Campaign is part of the national Jubilee Debt Campaign, which is calling for an end to the scandal of poor countries paying money to the rich world and 100% cancellation of unpayable and unfair poor country debts. See the national Jubilee Debt Campaign website for more details.






Dr Alex Ashman, of National Health Action, draws attention to a Health Service Journal article. It reports that University Hospitals Birmingham Foundation Trust, which provides medical services across South Birmingham, East Birmingham, Solihull, Sutton Coldfield, Tamworth and South Staffordshire, has entered into talks with Babylon Health, owner of the GP at Hand app, currently used in Rwanda and London.

The app’s artificial intelligence is intended to reduce footfall within the Trust’s A&E Department by performing triage – the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.

The talks are said to be exploring the possibility of using the apps’ video software to provide virtual outpatient appointments. Dr Ashman and many of his colleagues believe that use of the GP at Hand app poses a risk to patient safety and the integrity of general practice.

 According to some of Babylon’s own doctors, the chatbot’s advice is often wrong

In December last year, Forbes magazine – though describing the NHS’s motivations to save money and produce better health outcomes for patients as clear and noble – reported a problem. According to some of Babylon’s own doctors, the bot’s advice was often wrong. To prove their point, the doctors carried out an audit on their own initiative, according to two insiders who asked not to be named for fear of legal repercussions.

Forbes cartoon

They found that around 10% to 15% of the chatbot’s 100 most frequently suggested outcomes, such as a chest infection, either missed warning signs of a more serious condition like cancer or sepsis or were just flat-out wrong.

Hamish Fraser, a Brown University biomedical informatics professor also disputed Babylon’s assertions in a recent article in The Lancet. He points out that Babylon’s software had answered only 15 of the 50 exam problems and was allowed to give three answers to each question. “When doctors do this test, you get one right answer,” he says.

Users can choose to subscribe to a monthly fee and gain unlimited virtual access to GPs or opt for a pay-as-you-go model. Read more here.

Patients who use GP at Hand leave their current practices in order to register with the app and 85% of the current apps users are aged between 20 and 39 years of age Practices across London using this service have less funding for the care of more costly patients as the money brought by younger healthier people is used to provide care to the elderly, those who are disabled and those who have complex needs.  As younger patients who use GP at Hand leave their current practices in order to register with the app.

Pulse Today reports that this CCG has had to be bailed out by neighbouring London CCGs

This was done in order to avoid the closure of local services, according to the Health Service Journal, as people transferred registration from other north west London CCGs to Hammersmith and Fulham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which has seen the number of patients registered with the app soar to 51,000.

Dr Seth Dassanayake – who chairs the Local Medical Committee in Hammersmith and Fulham – has described delays to Ipsos Mori’s impact assessment and the long wait for an up-to-date Care Quality Commission rating for the service as ‘irresponsible’ adding that he was ‘uncomfortable’ about the level of information to support the video consultation service. The local MP Andy Slaughter has called for a Select Committee investigation into the app – a call which has now been echoed by the local council in a letter to the Guardian.

NHS England reversed its earlier decision to block Babylon Health

In February the Health Service Journal reported that Babylon’s remote video consultation service in Birmingham will be expanded to Birmingham after NHS England reversed its decision to block it, though – as GP online reports – an independent report into the safety of the app and its effects upon general practice still has not been released  – and Its artificial intelligence has been criticised by clinicians and in peer reviewed research published in the Lancet.

Dr Ashman adds that Birmingham and Solihull CCG and GPs across Birmingham have made it clear that they do not want GP at Hand to be rolled out to the city. BMA GP committee chair Richard Vautrey called the announcement “incredibly disappointing” and “premature.”





A Bournville resident draws attention to plans for a pilot project to provide high-speed 5G wireless internet in Brussels, which have been halted due to fears for the health of citizens

The Brussels Times, Belgium’s premier daily online newspaper in English, reports that in July, the government concluded an agreement with three telecom operators to relax the strict radiation standards in Brussels.

However, the region has found it ‘impossible’ to estimate the radiation from the antennas required for the service. 

“I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen, are not respected, 5G or not,” Environment minister Céline Fremault (right) said, “The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit. We cannot leave anything to doubt.”

A pilot project is not feasible with the current radiation standards, and Céline Fremault has said that she does not intend to make an exception.

The Brussels region has particularly strict radiation standards for telecom applications. The standard of 6 volts per metre has already led to problems in the past with providing fast mobile internet via 4G in the capital.

In March, the various governments in Belgium failed to reach agreement on the auctioning of the 5G licences. It will be up to the next government to handle the proposal, said Telecom Minister Philippe De Backer.

Today news of a Gloucestershire-based 38 degrees petition has been received. It urges political leaders to challenge 5G, invoking the Precautionary Principle, and to delay Gloucestershire’s 5G expansion until it can be verified through reputable, independent and peer-reviewed studies that 5G and the total radiation levels caused by RF-EMF (i.e. 5G, together with 2G, 3G, 4G, and WiFi) will not be harmful for the environment or to the citizens of Gloucestershire –especially infants, children and pregnant women.





West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 23rd May, 5-7 pm

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

Anne Britton-Munoz will open the discussion
‘Food is a Weapon’


Episode 041 – Food is a Weapon : The Corbett Report

Description: What do the Rockefellers, the Gates, Monsanto, the Norwegian government and other nefarious entities have to do with the doomsday seed vault? And what is their endgame. Let’s connect the dots and find out who the enemy really is …

A round table discussion

All welcome.

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire





West Midlands New Economics Group

Andrew Lydon will open a discussion on the Yellow Vest movement in France.

Open meeting, Thursday 25th April 5-7 pm: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH

Andrew has been closely following parts of the Yellow Vest movement, mainly through social media. He also visited one of the Saturday actions in January in the northern French town of Arras.

Part of the march performed a little ritual in front of the Bank of France building in Arras. Andrew Lydon visible on the extreme right of photo.

A round table discussion – all welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire