The Chancellor of the Exchequer recently announced that Warwick Manufacturing Group (University of Warwick) has been awarded £100m in Government funding for WMG’s work in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult.

It forms part of a £780 million announcement of which £270.9 million has been awarded to the West Midlands (to WMG and The Manufacturing Technology Centre, below) for their work in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and the Energy Systems Catapult in Birmingham.

The WMG centre’s HVM Catapult focuses on Low Emission Mobility, Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) and the supply chain. This is directly aligned to the Government’s ‘Road to Zero’ vision for the transport sector of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion, underpinned by WMG’s digital manufacturing capability that drives improvement in productivity and competitiveness across sectors.

The Warwick press release reports that in their first five years the catapults have supported around 3,000 small businesses to develop and exploit new technologies. They operate more than £850m world-class facilities and are also training hundreds of apprentices and doctoral students. Last year 900 apprentices gained valuable practical experience with cutting-edge technologies used in modern manufacturing at HVM Catapult.

A more cautious account was given last November in The Register, by Andrew Orlowski. Citing a report by Ernst and Young’s Catapult Review Steering Group to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, he summarised some of its conclusions.

The catapult agencies (aka the government’s elite network of Catapult Centres), which are formally private sector “independent research and technology organisations”, hoover up public money via Innovate UK.

The UK government’s network of “Catapult” innovation and technology agencies fall under its R&D spending umbrella – show dubious value for money. Governance structures are unhelpful the report finds. Innovate UK – the operating name of the government’s Technology Strategy Board, is an arms’-length body that falls under the Department for Business. Innovate can’t sit on Catapult boards or recommend appointments because “There are private and public sector clashes e.g. when Catapults are asked to deliver for Government, report on performance, and comply with government accounting rules”.

Orlowski adds that the report suggests the manufacturing and biotech catapults have had a positive economic impact. But the others? Not so much. three of the seven catapults have been put in the Last Chance Saloon: the “Transport Systems”, “Future Cities” and “Digital”.

EY adds: “With the Catapult network’s overall lack of a clearly articulated set of objectives, or a framework for measuring impact, and the current level of operational performance, it is unlikely that the impact of the network overall has been significant so far. . . “

“The “Transport Systems”, “Future Cities” and “Digital” Catapults urgently need to draw up new plans to justify their existence: funding should be halted if they can’t “prove confidence” with a clear new plan”.

Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair of Innovate UK, has a more positive view:

“In their first five years the catapults have supported around 3,000 small businesses to develop and exploit new technologies. They operate more than £850m world-class facilities and are also training hundreds of apprentices and doctoral students, such as at the High Value Manufacturing Catapult where in the last year 900 apprentices have gained invaluable practical experience with cutting-edge technologies used in modern manufacturing.”






In January this year the Climate Action Network West Midlands (CANWM) was launched. Its project goals: “to support and encourage better links and communication between community/environmental groups and activists in order to increase engagement in climate change at community level in the region” (See

A Bull Street event next week will include the premiere of a short video which CANWM commissioned, celebrating many climate and sustainability initiatives in our region.

Workshop Programme

6pm – 6.40 Registration / Informal Networking. Visit display boards from various groups and share a vegetarian sandwich buffet*.

6.40 – 6.45 Welcome and Objectives (Facilitator Andrew Lightheart)

6.45 – 7.05 CANWM Video and Project Outcomes

7.05 – 7.45 Speakers:

  • Councillor Julien Pritchard (Green Party), Druids Heath & Monyhull Ward
  • Peter Sims, Lucas Plan, Specialist in transition to a green economy
  • Shabana Parveen, Footsteps Network, Values-based approach

7.45 – 8.20 Workshop

Community level engagement action plan for 2019

8.20 – 8.45 Group Feedback and Next Steps, Close

9pm – Close

*Please email if you have special dietary needs





This Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group meeting has been called to discuss the state of the railway system in Britain today and the case for nationalisation.

7 pm Wednesday 24th October first floor room, the Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill City Centre

The front pages of the mainstream press have recently described the chaos in the British railways. Right-wing newspapers who have always supported the privatisation of the railways are now reflecting the dramatic failures of this system.

The Times 20.9.18. “Rail failings exposed by chaos over timetables” In which it informed its readers that “Nobody took charge of May’s timetable overhaul leading to the cancellation of 800 services a day.”

The Daily Mail headline on the same day was “Off the Rails!”. It said “Passengers are routinely being failed and the timetable chaos highlighted systemic weakness, poor leadership and lack of accountability.”

Two railways Northern Rail and Govia Rail have particularly failed and according to the BBC, 200 out of Northern Rail’s 3800 services are not running and 310 out of Govia Rail’s 4700 are not functioning. Both have tried to break the resistance of RMT members opposing driver only trains.


Ian Scott President Birmingham Trades Union Council

Pat Collins ex-member of the Executive Council RMT

Ian Scott will give a historical perspective, talking about the early history of the rail industry, the Beeching axing of a major part of the track in the 1960s and 1970s – vandalism mainly implemented by Labour governments. He will also relate the sorry story of the privatisation of the rail industry in the 1990s by the Major government with no attempt to reverse any of these changes by the new Blair government. He writes:

“One of the factors facing the railways & governments from the 1900’s to 1960’s was the failure to co-ordinate public transport services. Tramways & latterly ‘bus services in competition with railways left (mainly) branch lines in a state of decline pre war. The Second World War left Britain’s railways almost bankrupt with increasingly worn out rolling stock. Nationalisation saved them from collapse but only with loans from World Bank & taxpayers money to upgrade & modernise the rail system. Subsequent government policies (post 1948) led to one of cynical disinvestment, branches closed & unsurprisingly main lines suffered from loss of revenue. It was ideal for the Tory government of the 1950’s, whose minister Marples appointed Dr Beeching to carry out the deliberate destruction of the rail system to create the need for the motorcar.

The entry of Britain into the EU in 1974 led to many directives from the commission on our home-based industries & public services with its (EU) requirement to reduce public expenditures. The EU directive 91/440/EEC was for the breakup of a smaller (post Beeching) rail network, hence the situation we face today with a prospect of a Labour government taking back rail into public ownership 

Pat Collins, RMT local branch secretary will discuss the resistance of RMT members to the privatised rail companies. 


To contact Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group, ring Pete 0780 9406973 or Stuart 0777 156 7496,    




West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 25th October 5-7 pm

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

A round table discussion

All welcome.

The Zero Waste Economy: Is it possible? 

Hazel Clawley shares with the group the main themes of Paul Connett’s book The Zero Waste Solution as an opening to a group discussion on reasons for the successes and failures of the international Zero Waste movement.

The aim is to steer the discussion away from the individualistic approach (what one dedicated ‘greenie’ can do to slim down her/his ‘residuals’ – the non-reusable, non-recyclable bin contents – admirable though these pioneers are), and towards ways in which whole communities are being drawn in to the ZW solution in some unlikely parts of the world e.g. Sicily.

A previous WMNEG session (by Jane Green) showed how the drive towards incineration in the West Midlands stymies the ZW approach here (as in so many places) – so is there any hope for a Zero Waste West Midlands? 


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










A grandmother who made potted plant gardens in shop doorways, found dead in a car park. A 51-year-old man who killed himself the day before his temporary accommodation ran out. A man who was tipped into a bin lorry while he slept.

These are just a few of at least 449 people who have died while homeless in the UK in the last 12 months – more than one person per day. Some were as young as 18 and some as old as 94. They included a former soldier, a quantum physicist, a travelling musician, a father of two who volunteered in his community, and a chatty Big Issue seller. The Bureau thinks that the true number of such deaths is likely to be much higher.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed today that after learning that no official body counted the number of homeless people who have died, they set out to record all such deaths over the course of one year. Working with local journalists, charities and grassroots outreach groups to gather as much information as possible, the Bureau has compiled a first-of-its-kind database which lists the names of the dead and more importantly, tells their stories.

A few of those who died homeless

Some were found in shop doorways in the height of summer, others in tents hidden in winter woodland. Some were sent, terminally ill, to dingy hostels, while others died in temporary accommodation or hospital beds. Some lay dead for hours, weeks or months before anyone found them.

This investigation has prompted the Office for National Statistics to start producing its own figure on homeless deaths.




Birmingham Against the Cuts

Open Planning Meeting on Wednesday 10 October at 7pm

at the Wellington, 37 Bennetts Hill, Birmingham B2 5SN



  1. Attendance and apologies
  1. Notes of meeting of 19 September
  1. The campaign by BCC Home Care Workers in Unison against changes in contracts
  1. The campaign against the closure of 14 Council Day Nurseries
  1. The campaign against school funding cuts
  1. Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) update
  1. Library campaign update
  1. The local economy – including BCC’s ‘Municipal Socialism’ and ‘Local Wealth Building’ and the WMCA’s ‘Inclusive Growth’
  1. Local democracy – BCC’s plans for wards
  1. AOB
  1. Date and venue of next meeting




See the Birmingham Against the Cuts website for regular news and analysis a






 6:30pm in the tea room at Moseley Road Baths!

An invitation from Friends of Moseley Road Baths

Come along to hear what we’ve been doing over the past year as part of the ongoing campaign to save an internationally important Grade II* list swimming pool!

It’s also an opportunity to find out about future plans to keep swimming at the heart of Balsall Heath’s diverse community and to begin the process of repairing and restoring this beautiful Edwardian building.

Autumn Timetable

Did you know that there’s a new Autumn timetable at Moseley Road Baths?

Moseley Road Baths CIO are continuing to train more volunteer lifeguards and are working on a revised timetable with extended opening hours so keep an eye on their website for future announcements! 

Read more here:





As the prime minister speaks about a personal mission to fix our broken housing system. a Bournville reader asks several probing questions, adding ‘only time will tell’.

See the video of the PM’s speech to the National Housing Federation here.

“Since my very first day in Downing Street, I have made it my personal mission to fix our broken housing system and making sure that vision becomes a reality. We are already making good progress. In 2016/17, more than 217,000 additional homes were added across England. That represents a 15% increase on the previous year”.

Our reader asks “and how many were social rented homes?”

Mrs May adds that eight housing associations have already been given long-term funding deals, worth almost £600 million, paving the way for about15,000 new affordable homes. But again our readers challenges that word “affordable”:

He comments: “Are these homes truly affordable? Does she include in that figure truly affordable social rented homes? Please expand Mrs May.”

The Chartered Institute of Housing’s deputy chief executive, Gavin Smart defines affordable homes as those with the lowest social rents. He said:

“It’s crucial that Government investment helps housing associations to build the right kind of homes at the right prices.

“In practice this means building more homes at the lowest social rents – which is often the only truly affordable option for people on lower incomes”.

Mrs May announced a £2 billion initiative. Under the scheme, housing associations will be able to apply for funding stretching as far ahead as 2028/29. But housing consultant Joe Halewood pointed out that £2bn for the period of 2022 to 2028 is far lower than the funding housing associations were receiving from the government until it was slashed by George Osborne in 2010 to just £450m a year.

Was the £2 billion initiative a boost – or a mere 20% of the 2010 Labour funding in 2010?

“This new funding is one quarter of that amount and at £333m per year is just 20% of the £1.68bn housing funding the Tories inherited from Labour in 2010!” he blogged.

“A certain stigma still clings to social housing” (Mrs May)

Indeed, as Joe Halewood adds: ever since the Conservatives’ 1980 Right to Buy of council houses made renting a second-class, non-aspirational cultural phenomenon and led UK housing policy for the last 38 years – a policy which our Bournville reader points out is not being jettisoned?

Mrs May is at last paying lip-service to the concept of a mixed-tenure development

In 2005 Zenna Atkins chair of Places for People, a housing association, pointed out that traditional ideas about social housing persist. So amny years ago she advocated creating places people want to live in, encourage mixed economic communities, and create more ways for people to step on to (and off) the homeownership ladder. We need to be flexible in how people are able to access and fund these homes. Admittedly, this requires a radical shift in thinking. We would need to no longer build social housing places, but build affordable homes for people who could choose how they paid for them. The property should not brand you. How you pay for your home should not be public knowledge. the social housing should not be tucked away behind the private homes and “As you look from building to building, house to house, you should not be able to tell simply by looking which homes are affordable and which were sold at the market rate”.

But, as yet, no undertaking has been made to end the phenomenon of the “servant’s entrance”. Our reader adds: “we need government action to ban “poor doors” on developments”

Multimillion pound housing developments are using separate entrances to segregate the low-income tenants from wealthy home buyers – termed “poor doors” in the United States. In the US where it began, there are also separate rubbish and bicycle storage spaces.

Viability assessment rules are enabling developers to renege on their affordable housing commitments. Our Bournville correspondent calls for action to stop such evasion

As a paper by Guildhall Chambers puts it, politely: “Most frequently, VAs are used to seek a reduction in the amount of affordable housing which a Local Planning Authority’s policy would otherwise require. The LPA’s policy might, for example, dictate that 40% of the residential units created by a new development are sold at below market rates to support the provision of affordable housing. If the developer can show that this would make the development economically unviable, it can argue for an exception and a corresponding reduction”.

The chair of the Local Government Association, Lord Porter reminds us: “The last time this country built homes at the scale that we need now was in the 1970s when councils built more than 40% of them. Councils were trusted to get on and build homes that their communities needed, and they delivered, and they can do so again”

He pointed out that councils are actually hamstrung by Treasury restrictions which prevent them from borrowing against their existing housing stock, continuing:

“Access to funding for housing associations to employ more brickies and less bureaucrats and build more affordable homes is positive but does not go far enough”.

“Homes for affordable and social rent are desperately needed across the country now, not in 2022, and the measures announced today fail to provide the funding certainty councils also need to play a leading role in solving our housing crisis.

“If our country is to get back to building the 300,000 homes a year we need, the Government needs to ensure all areas of the country can borrow to invest in building new affordable homes and the necessary infrastructure to go with them”.






Following the recent news of CRT plans to facilitate a water taxi service from Icknield Port, the Canal & River Trust is working with Transport for the North on the potential of waterway freight. 

 As a West Yorkshire local government pdf explains:

In the Yorkshire Post, Rob Parsons commented: “Given the pressures that Leeds City Region is currently facing around traffic congestion and air quality, the use of waterborne freight could bring both commercial, environmental and health benefits.”

Following a recommendation from its Investment Committee, Leeds City Council has approved the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s planning application for a new, £3.37 million wharf facility at Stourton in Leeds.


The Canal & River Trust, in partnership with the Freight Transport Association and the NSR Interreg Project IWTS2.00, will be hosting this conference, which will bring together port operators, freight carriers, logistics specialists and public bodies, and will provide a unique opportunity to look closely at the potential of Inland Waterway Freight Transport in the UK and Europe. The conference will provide the opportunity to also learn about current policy and infrastructure developments that are making inland waterway freight transportation a realistic option for today and the future.

The event will include an optional site visit to see a site in Canal & River Trust ownership that has been earmarked for development as an Inland Port at Stourton (Leeds). See Waterway Freight article. If you would like to attend this free event, please register through the weblink: Freight by water conference 2018





A couple could face being separated after 67 years of marriage over a struggle to pay fees at their residential care home.

It is reported that Frank Springett, 91, and his wife Mary, 86, both have serious health problems. They lived independently in their own home until March when their family took the decision to move them into a care home due to their failing health. Mrs Springett has severe Alzheimer’s while her husband has arthritis and the muscle stiffness condition polymyalgia rheumatica and is almost totally deaf.

Their family says that Solihull council has offered to pay £500 a week towards Mrs Springett’s care but said her husband, a retired factory worker, was able to look after himself.

Their house in Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, was sold for £156,000 to help meet care costs running at £8,000 a month.

Their funds are running low.

The couple’s daughter Joanne Downes, 57, said social services have told her and her brother Roderick that their parents would be moved to different homes. “We fear if they are torn apart the strain will kill them,” she told the Sunday People. “It would devastate my mother if my father was not with her, and vice versa.”

The family is taking the case to an ombudsman after three appeals to social services all said their parents should be separated.

Readers write:

  • I cannot believe that a responsible social services department would seriously contemplate separating a couple who have been married for 67 years without giving due weight to the likely consequences.
  • What happened to the right to family life?
  • That’s only allowed if you are an Islamic terrorist threatened with deportation.

The council will doubtless end-up spending tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds on legal fees, ‘defending’ their decision to tear this couple apart.