Research has shown that traffic congestion cost the British economy almost £8 billion last year and that air pollution is ‘emerging’ as a public health issue. Dozens of councils will face legal action after failing to tackle toxic gas from diesels.

Yesterday the West Midlands Combined Authority approved a trial which will provide motorists with money – up to £3,000 a year – to be spent on public transport, electric car hire and bike sharing schemes in exchange for giving up their vehicle. The project will be launched in Coventry this year before being expanded across the West Midlands and elsewhere if it proves successful.

Cash credits will be loaded on to a smartphone app or a Swift card, which is similar to London’s Oyster card but can be spent on public transport, car sharing or green hire schemes.

Andy Street, the Conservative mayor of the West Midlands, said: “We want to make it quick, easy and cheap for everyone to travel around the region by creating a range of reliable alternatives to private car ownership . . . This is a bold, ambitious vision for the future, and we’re confident we can prove the concept in the West Midlands and

The project will be funded as part of a £20 million government “future mobility” grant but taxpayer support will eventually be replaced by long-term funding from private companies including electric car clubs and bus or train operators.

One reader commented that any serious attempt to reduce car usage (congestion and pollution) would involve improving public transport – a far more costly undertaking.

Another, who lived in Stuttgart for two years writes, “Car ownership is much higher in Germany, but their owners are willing to leave them at home and use public transport where it’s a better choice. Unfortunately, in the UK our public transport outside London is not integrated, generally not frequent and not cheap – and this would take decades of investment to put right.

 

 

 

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 West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 28th March 5-7 pm

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

Margaret Okole will open the discussion. She writes:

Recent years have seen several cases of mass action in response to issues which people feel strongly about. Examples in this country are the poll tax riots, Stop the War, and the Occupy movement. The relatively small scale poll tax riots are credited with bringing down Margaret Thatcher; the Stop the War march, despite involving a much larger number of people, failed to stop Tony Blair declaring war; the Occupy movement, which began in the US in 2011 and spread to many other countries including the UK, gained a lot of attention in the UK from 2011 to about 2014 but does not appear to have made any dent in the “capitalist” system (for want of a better word) which it blames for rising and intolerable inequality.

Extinction Rebellion seems to have a lot in common with the Occupy movement in its international focus and its organisation or lack of it. The interesting question is whether it can achieve any more than Occupy has done.

I will aim to first compare these different actions and consider why they did or did not succeed.

Secondly I will look at how Extinction Rebellion is organised (clearly it has drawn from the Occupy template) and what methods it uses. Here I will give a subjective account of being involved as a member. Finally I will speculate on whether Extinction Rebellion can achieve its aims.

To find out what Extinction Rebellion’s aims are, go to https://rebellion.earth

A round table discussion

All welcome. 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

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A Yardley Wood resident asks, “Will Birmingham play its part in the national effort?”

20,000 signatures from Birmingham residents will lead to a climate emergency debate in full council. To see, and hopefully sign the petition, click here.

London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol and 23 smaller local authorities in the UK have already passed motions declaring a climate emergency.

The effects of climate change are already being felt around the world. In the UK, we have seen increased levels of drought, flooding, storm damage, and this February even wildfire. In order to reduce the chance of runaway Global Warming and limit the effects of Climate Breakdown, we need to reduce our CO2 equivalent emissions by all means possible as quickly as possible.

The IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming, published last October, describes the enormous harm that a 2°C temperature rise is likely to cause compared to a 1.5°C rise. It states that limiting Global Warming to 1.5°C may still be possible with ambitious action from authorities, but we only have 12 years (to 2030) to achieve this: see https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

City Councils around the world are responding by declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and committing resources to address it.

 

 

 

 

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A Bournville reader has drawn attention to the research findings revealed in a BBC programme.

The BBC’s Shared Data Unit, used freedom of information requests and Land Registry data to obtain information on 92,000 Right to Buy sales across England, Scotland and Wales recording an average of £69,000 each from the scheme since 2000, according to the Times. The biggest profits were in London, with buyers in Islington making almost £100,000 each on average.

From the data gathered, it was calculated that 140 tenants bought and resold their council homes within a month, generating a collective profit of £3 million or £21,000 each.

In one case, a former council tenant in Solihull purchased his/her council home for £8,000 and sold it for £285,000 nine days later. Did s/he and others pay back some or all of the discount they received – as those who sell within five years of purchasing are required to?

State of play until 2013: source, Ampp3d, a data-journalism website for Trinity Mirror 

In January 2017, Right to Buy was halted in Wales, as it was in Scotland in 2016 after 37 years.

The devolved administrations argued that its cost to the social housing supply has been too great. Despite central government pledges to replace homes sold through Right to Buy, most receipts have been returned to the Treasury rather than reinvested in affordable housing.

The Financial Times noted that some 40% of right-to-buy homes pass into the private rented sector, where they may continue to absorb government funds through housing benefit.

The Chartered Institute of Housing once again repeated its call for Right to Buy to be suspended in England.

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Our reader commented that George Cadbury encountered similar profiteering in the early days of Bournville and set up the Bournville Village Trust to administer the project. See Bournville, Model Village to Garden Suburb, Harrison pp 44 Publisher Phillimore, ISBN 1 86077 117 3.

Extract from Management and Organisational Behaviour by Laurie J. Mullins 

 

 

 

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August, who lives in Moseley, sends a first-hand account of Birmingham students’ march against climate change. 

He writes:

More than five hundred Birmingham students bunked off school today to march against climate change.

All Birmingham-based photographs reproduced with permission: copyright August Goff

Youth Strike 4 Climate coordinated young people from various educational establishments across the city who met up in the city centre.

They marched from Victoria Square, down New Street, through Pigeon Park and back to Victoria Square to protest against the inaction of governments to tackle climate change.

The march was organised by Katie Riley, a Birmingham student. She spoke at the rally, saying:

“Educate the youth of tomorrow and the parliament of today because people who don’t know what climate change is about don’t know how dangerous it is. Some people think the topic is dull and boring because the curriculum makes it like that. So, we need to change how people view climate change in order to get the change we deserve.”

Councillors from local political parties attended, as did Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Yardley.

Similar events have taken place in 100 British towns and other cities including London, Edinburgh, Canterbury, Oxford and Cambridge, calling for urgent action to tackle climate change, cut emissions and switch to renewable energy.

A few hours later a message was received from Irish colleagues, sending a podcast with messages from two 11-year-olds, Eve O’Connor and Beth Malone, who are involved in the schools climate strikes movementThousands turned out in Dublin and demonstrations were held in many towns.

 

 

 

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For an analysis of the current position of the UK’s car industry, the range of pressures and issues it faces and its likely shape after any form of Brexit from a range of perspectives, turn to Keeping the Wheels on the Road, the third in the Bite-Sized Brexit books, edited by Professor David Bailey, the foremost commentator on the UK auto industry, Professor Alex De Ruyter, at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, Neil Fowler and John Mair.

In a major contribution to the Brexit debate, seasoned industry experts, observers, commentators and representatives of the industry’s unions, provide arguments for cautious optimism through to rather shocked pessimism.

From Chapter 5: Just-in-time listening required

Co-authored by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School.

They have no doubt that the future of automotive does not lie with internal combustion engines – whether diesel or petrol – and stress the vital importance of effective management of the transition

Their counter-intuitive assertion that decimating the market for new diesel engines has brought with it damaging if unintended consequences to the protection of the planet – contributing to the first aggregate rise in the greenhouse gases produced by new cars in more than a decade – sent the writer to search for an explanation online:

Ministerial mixed messages over diesel has undermined the capacity of manufacturers to manage that transition.

The industrial impact of failing to manage the transition threatens to be severe too, with UK engine plants of manufacturers like BMW, Ford and JLR all currently heavily dependent on diesel production.

Messages from ministers have been mixed: recent reductions in plug-in car grants standing in stark contrast to the incentives offered to motorists to buy zero-emission vehicles in counties like Norway. But efforts are now being made by the Government to mandate the expansion of the UK’s vehicle charging infrastructure which should include      on-street charging and monitoring of the performance of public charging points. The authors emphasise:

“A successful transition requires more clarity from the Government in support of both the production and take up of the electric and other alternatively powered vehicles that will be the future of the sector.”

The fact that a number of major manufacturers have yet to confirm plans to build in the UK the next generations of models sends out serious warnings signals that would be foolish in the extreme to ignore.

Ministers could show they are listening:

  • by reducing Brexit uncertainty through ruling out no deal,
  • ending mixed messages over modern diesel
  • and showing much more dynamism in supporting the transition to a connected, autonomous and alternatively powered automotive future,

Burden & Bailey insist that the innovative capacity and diversity that has made the UK automotive sector the success story it has become over the past decade remain in place and David Bailey, in his second chapter, asks for an upgrading in how the UK develops its future manufacturing plans:

“There is a strong case for UK industrial strategy to be afforded an institutional status similar to both UK monetary and fiscal policies. At the very least, it should be the subject of regular strategic long-term reviews. By giving it that sort of priority, the new government would send out the kind of powerful message that British industry and foreign investors need to hear given recent uncertainty.”

 

 

 

 

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In February, the Mayor of London issued high pollution alerts across social media, bus stop signs, road-side displays and at Tube stations. It’s the tenth time Sadiq Khan has used the system since becoming Mayor and shows why he’s working hard to tackle London’s toxic air.   

We’re now just one month away from the launch of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in central London. The 24/7 ULEZ begins on 8 April to help clean up London’s dangerously toxic air. It will replace the current T-Charge and operate within the Congestion Charge Zone.

In central London. The 24/7 ULEZ begins on 8 April to help clean up London’s dangerously toxic air. It will replace the current T-Charge and operate within the Congestion Charge Zone. ULEZ is a world first, it’s expected to cut harmful emissions in the zone by up to 45% in just two years. The Mayor is calling on London’s drivers to check if their vehicles will meet the new tighter emission standards.

SCRAPPAGE SCHEME OPEN FOR BUSINESS

Applications are now open for £23m van scrappage scheme to help London’s microbusinesses and charities get ready for ULEZ. Funding will help them scrap older, polluting vans and minibuses and switch to cleaner vehicles. The Mayor will later launch a £25m scheme to help low income Londoners scrap non-compliant vehicles

E-FLEX – FLEXIBLE SMARTER EV CHARGING

The Mayor wants to help more people switch to electric vehicles (EVs). That’s why we’re now working with partners on a vehicle-to-grid charging project that rethinks EV batteries as a two-way energy source. It uses bidirectional chargers that both charge the EV and make smart use of unused electricity in the battery when it’s stationary. We’re now looking for commercial fleet operators with EVs to join the trial.

SOLAR TOGETHER HITS 500

Solar Together London uses group-buying to help Londoners get high quality, affordable solar panels on their homes. The scheme’s now reached 500 installations, helping to supply London with more low cost, renewable energy. To find out more about the Mayor’s ambitions for solar in London, see his Solar Action Plan..

MAYOR’S ENTREPRENEUR WOMEN4CLIMATE MENTEES

Ten talented Mayor’s Entrepreneur applicants have received mentoring through C40’s Women4Climate programme over the last year. The mentoring has helped them develop their business ideas and get their careers off the ground. Seven of the group also went to the recent Women4Climate conference in Paris to represent City Hall. Mayor’s Entrepreneur awards take place on 25 March. We’ll be revealing details of the winners soon.

Read the eight sections about Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme, which will come into operation on 1 January 2020, here.

 

 

 

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A Bournville resident sent a link to an article summarising new research commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) Cambridge Economics.

Its conclusion: building 100,000 government-funded social rent homes a year over the past two decades would have cut ‘billions’ from the housing benefit bill.

In 1997, over a third of households lived in council housing, compared with just one in 10 today. The number of homes built for social rent each year has fallen from over 40,000 in 1997 to 6,000 in 2017. Successive governments imposed rules and restrictions hampering the ability of councils to replace homes sold through Right to Buy.

If 100,000 government-funded social rent homes had been built each year over the past two decades, tenants would have had a higher disposable income and ‘significant economic returns’ would have been generated for councils.

The LGA add that this loss of social housing has led to more and more individuals and families finding themselves ‘pushed’ into the private rented sector. As a result, the housing benefit bill paid to private landlords has more than doubled since the early 2000s.

Conclusions

  • Building 100,000 social rent homes each year for the past 20 years would have enabled all housing benefit claimants living in the private rented sector to move to social rent homes by 2016
    • The housing benefit claimants that would have moved from the private rented sector to social rent homes would have benefited of £1.8bn in extra disposable income over the period
    • Overall, the government would have had to borrow an additional £152bn in 2017 prices to build the homes over the 20-year period.
    • The rising proportion of housing benefit caseloads in the private rented sector has cost an extra £7bn in real terms over the last decade

On the report, Cllr Martin Tett, LGA Housing spokesman, added: “By scrapping the housing borrowing cap, the government showed it had heard our argument that councils must be part of the solution to our chronic housing shortage”. The LGA states that if councils are to truly fulfil their ‘historic role’ as major housebuilders then the government needs to allow councils to keep 100% of Right to Buy receipts and set discounts locally to replace every home sold, as well as setting out sustainable long-term funding and a commitment to social housing in the Spending Review.

The Local Government Association said its new research provides evidence for why the government should use the Spending Review to work with councils to ensure the success of the renaissance in council housebuilding needed to increase housing supply and reduce homelessness.

Further reading:

Jeremy Corbyn’s housing policy document

John Healey, shadow secretary of state for housing and planning

 

 

 

 

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ART (the Aston Reinvestment Trust) has been providing finance for small and medium businesses and social enterprises for over 20 years in situations where the banks have been unable to meet the full loan needs of their customers.

In this video, Dr Steve Walker, chief executive, draws attention to the latest opportunity to invest in its new Community Shares Offer to help ART Business Loans to support more businesses across the West Midlands.

ART currently lends around £2.5m a year but there is a demand for more, so it is looking to raise an additional £500,000.

Why invest in the local economy? Because putting your money to work, helping businesses to access the finance they need to survive and grow, protect and create jobs has to be good for the long-term future of those who live and work in the region.

Investments in ART also qualify for Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR), which offers 5% per annum of the sum invested in tax relief (on income tax or corporation tax liabilities) over five years. At the end of that time, investors can choose to withdraw their money or reinvest in ART.

  • ART now has a strong track record and balance sheet and has lent over £25m to date;
  • ART has an existing loan portfolio in excess of £5.5m, original social share investors’ share funds are still safe and for over eight years ART has generated sufficient income to cover all overheads;
  • Through the British Business Bank ART now has a public sector guarantee that can cover bad debt cover of up to 15% of the loans made;
  • ART now lends throughout the entire West Midlands, although it still targets underserved sectors and communities;
  • With substantial regulation introduced to protect investors, ART’s new offer is made through the social investment platform ETHEX.

Full details of ART’s Community Share Offer, which closes on 24th March, can be found at www.ethex.org.uk/ART2019

 

 

 

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Thousands of care workers across England and Wales are – in effect – being paid less than the national minimum wage because councils aren’t insisting that homecare companies pay for time spent travelling between visits. Using a Freedom of Information request, UNISON found that 54% of local authorities in England don’t state in their contracts that firms must pay employees for time spent travelling between visits.

President of Birmingham TUC Ian Scott writes:

Birmingham TUC and Birmingham against the Cuts are pleased to announce that they will hold a lobby of the 26th February Council meeting calling on the Council to cease using the Tory anti-union legislation against the legal industrial action by Unison Homecare workers and Unite Bin workers.

This follows a letter from 23 Birmingham Labour councillors including the ex-leader Sir Albert Bore and echoed in a television interview by Labour MP Khalid Mahmood. The Birmingham TUC and the national Trade Union Congress has long opposed the implementation of Tory anti-union legislation.

The treatment of the Unison Homecare workers has been particularly disgraceful with an attempt by the Council to force them to accept part-time contracts which involve major cuts in income. This directly contradicts Labour’s national policy of paying workers a living wage.

The attempt to impose a deal is in complete contradiction to Labour’s commitment to a new framework of workers’ rights. The refusal of the Labour cabinet to appropriately negotiate with the Unite Bin workers will lead to increased public hostility towards the Council.#

The lobby will be from 1pm Tuesday 26th February outside the Council House Victoria Square B1 1BB. Reps from the 23 critical Labour councillors, including councillor Majid Mahmood, and reps from Unison and Unite will be speaking at the event. For further details ring Stuart 0777 156 7496 or ser14@btinternet.com

(Ed: surely homecare workers should be paid the minimum wage – better still, a living wage – for every hour worked)

 

 

 

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