West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

5-7pm on Thursday 31st August at the John Lewis Community Hub, available to community groups.

It is located on the 4th floor of the John Lewis store over New Street station (lift and escalator). The hub is immediately off the area where television sets are being sold.

A draft of the presentation, LOCALISM & REGIONALISM, opens:

“With the gradual yielding of a collective to an individualist social ethos; with the hollowing out of local government power; with the weakening of trade union influence; with the decline of local and community newspapers … both individuals and nuclear families feel powerless before the Westminster run state . . .

“Meanwhile, modern states feel constrained before the imperatives of the neoliberal market. We are told that there is no alternative to ‘growing the economy’ – even though local jobs continue to be lost and goods once produced locally are imported over great distances . . .” 

‘Woody’ Woods, the author, has sent known contacts the draft of the intended presentation. He suggests that a fuller title would be: “Exploring Localism and Regionalism as roads to our empowerment.”  

 

Details of his earlier essay and book are given on the Planet Centred Forum website.

 

 

 

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Connectivity, though identified as such in the Midlands Connect strategy report,  is not the greatest transport problem

The Midlands Connect Partnership and the Department for Transport have developed a transport strategy that identifies the major infrastructure projects needed to improve the connectivity of the region’s key locations and drive economic growth, but it omits any reference to waterway passenger and freight potential. 

Its ‘Final Strategy’ paper (left, March) has no canal or waterway references, 12 to congestion and only one to air pollution.

Sir John Peace, the current Chair of Standard Chartered plc and Burberry Group plc, has been appointed as Chair of the Midlands Engine and will continue to chair Midlands Connect. As his experience is in financial services and retailing, he needs to draw on the wealth of experience in organisations such as Freight for London, the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) and the Canals and River Trust (CRT). Though employment opportunities abound in the inland waterway transport sectors in India, Uganda, South Sudan and continental Europe, according to online advertisements, Midlands Connect appears to be unaware of the transport potential of waterways. 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor, reported years ago that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade because of gridlock on the motorways according to a new study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”. What has changed?

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found. All valid points today. 

The CRT report, Transport energy, planning for inland waterways freight, records evidence given to the House of Commons Environment, Transport and Rural Affairs Committee (ETRAC) 38 suggesting that there is significant traffic potential. One barge company claimed that, “without trying at all”, there was half a million tonnes of freight that could be transferred from road transport and that the Aire & Calder Navigation could quite easily take 2,000 lorries a day off local roads.

To create a more comprehensive strategy, Sir John Peace and the partnership could co-opt a number of people with the right expertise. One of many is Tim West of Robert Wynn and Sons Ltd. He was consulted about low bridges restricting the ability of the inland waterways to accommodate some cargo on certain stretches and replied that his firm has been able to carry large abnormal loads to locations such as Worcester, Leeds, Nottingham, Rotherham, York, Preston and Manchester. The Inland Navigator (above) sailed down the River Ouse carrying a transformer to Drax power station, avoiding a possible 15 mile tailback on the motorways.

London’s River Bus Express (above) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities. The city is also moving large amounts of water and construction materials by water.

The CRT report points out that it is Government policy to promote alternatives to road transport for both passenger and freight movements, partly to reduce congestion and partly to reduce the environmental impact of road transport.  

Inland waterways have the potential to assist in both these objectives.

 

 

 

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Councillor Lisa Trickett, Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling, sent a message to Birmingham citizens to say that the pattern of industrial action changed on August 11. There are now three one-hour strikes each working day (7am-8am, then 10.30am-11.30am and finally 1.30pm-2.30pm):

“The travel time before and after each hour of industrial action along with crew breaks being taken at their depot – rather than out and about in the city – will have a significant impact on collections. In simple terms this will be much more than the three hours of strike action that Unite the union claim to be staging”.

She corrects the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers that are affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role ( “one of the two supervisors we currently have – in a crew that is only a three-person team”).

Those supervisors will be offered other permanent roles within the council that their skills are broadly suited to, with training on offer to help ensure they could move into the jobs as easily as possible.

The plan being discussed with the unions is based on the best practice used by other councils. Under the new model, more than 200 new permanent employees will be recruited to collect rubbish and recycling from our streets. This will bring stability to the service and improve efficiency.

Many readers will welcome the determination to move away from an over-reliance on agency staff and other in-house moves taken – notably the reduced use of Capita services.

To read the full message go to: http://birminghamnewsroom.com/refuse-collections-an-open-letter-to-citizens/

 

 

 

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Time-pressed residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock, Dudley, Coventry, Lichfield, Sandwell, South Staffs, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton who regularly scan their section of the Brummie site, appreciate the free service it gives, whatever their interests. Main news items covered, include a range of locally run websites, music and the arts, sport and business.

Links to them give those sites a wider readership than would otherwise have been possible. Until the final few months Mark was a helpful and courteous correspondent and this later lack of response was ascribed to pressure of other work, which involved travelling abroad. We now can see that there may have been health concerns claiming priority.

Three of many interests served: Our Birmingham, West Midlands Producers and Localise West Midlands thank him and hope that a way will be found to maintain the Brummie.

 

 

 

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Will passengers continue to face the removal of seats – and toilets – to enable more to stand sardine-fashion in West Midlands trains? Abellio promises standing room for 50,000 extra people on shorter rail journeys.

The West Midlands rail franchise has been awarded to a joint venture between East Japan Railway Company, Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co and Abellio –  the Dutch state rail operator’s international arm – which has a 70.1% stake. The nine-year contract will begin services on December 1.

London Midland reports to the Department for Transport but trains running only in the West Midlands area will now be jointly managed by the Department for Transport and West Midlands Rail, a consortium of 16 local councils.

Undertakings made on Abellio’s website

  • Nearly £1bn invested in services on the network over the course of the franchise with £700m of this going into investment in new and refurbished trains. 400 new carriages will be rolled out by 2021.
  • 20,000 extra rush hour seats for people in Birmingham and 10,000 for people in London. On top of this, standing room for 50,000 extra people in Birmingham, in metro style carriages for shorter cross-city journeys;
  • £70m invested in new and existing depots to improve train reliability;
  • Over £60m invested in station improvements, delivering over 1,000 new car parking spaces and over 2,500 cycle parking spaces. This is alongside new and refurbished waiting rooms, more seats at stations, and feasibility studies into developing new stations in the West Midlands;
  • A greater choice of travel options for passengers thanks to the introduction of new Sunday services by 2021. This includes services from Birmingham to Shrewsbury and between Bedford and Bletchley;
  • Greater provision of passenger information, with audio visual displays on all trains by the end of 2019, as well as 800 new digital screens across the network;
  • Free WI-FI on all trains by the end of December 2019;
  • The creation of over 900 new apprenticeships over the course of the franchise, with existing staff benefitting from a £13m investment in staff training and development; and
  • An investment of £1.25m into community rail initiatives.

Abellio promises, on its website, that this investment will bring significant improvements to the network. By the end of the franchise, space will have been created for 85,000 more passengers to travel to London and Birmingham during rush hour, with hugely improved stations and the widespread introduction of smart ticketing.

 

 

 

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Steve Beauchampé recalls the Cadbury Barn, a little known but once much-loved Birmingham building destroyed by fire last week.

There is some ambiguity surrounding the origins of the Cadbury Barn, burnt down in a suspected arson attack last week. Whilst the Birmingham Conservation Trust website states that it was erected in 1894 in the grounds of George Cadbury’s home at Northfield Manor House, set in Manor (formerly New House) Farm, the Bournville Works Magazine suggests otherwise (as does an 1893 Ordnance Survey map), indicating that the Barn, the work of company architect Alexander Harvey, was originally sited in Laurel Grove, where it was known as the Girls’ Gymnasium, and was relocated and re-assembled at Manor Farm in 1903 (a not uncommon practice, stands at both St Andrews and The Hawthorns were similarly relocated from their respective clubs’ earlier grounds around this time).

A wooden structure with a metal framework held in places by chains, and seating up to 700, the Barn became the focus of regular summer parties for Cadbury employees, their families and perhaps most famously poor children from throughout Birmingham and the Black Country. Speaking of these often joyous gatherings George Cadbury remarked: There could never be too many and they could never be too noisy. Children – up to fifty at a time – would be invited to swim in the nearby fish pond, girls before tea, boys after. The Barn was also used by Sunday School groups, the Mothers Union and members of Men’s and Women’s Adult Schools, as well as Scout Jamborees and Brownie Revels, with as many as 25,000 people using the facility each year. During the Second World War the Friends Ambulance Unit used the Barn as a training camp.

The Barn’s unusual rusticated timber detailing was a style seemingly specific to Cadbury’s with similar decoration also found on an original exposed section of the Cadbury Club (formerly the Girl’s Pavilion) on Bournville Lane. Its floor was tiled in red and grey terracotta with a single entrance at the rear (facing the main road) and a wider entrance and wide windows overlooking the park.

Following the death in 1951 of George’s wife, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, the family donated Manor Farm and its buildings to the city of Birmingham with the Barn continuing to be used by park visitors and other groups.

In recent years the Barn had served as a storage facility for the Parks Department but had become semi-derelict and partially boarded up.

In 2014 Birmingham Conservation Trust, in conjunction with Bournville Village Trust and the Friends of Manor Farm Park, began drawing up plans for a restoration of the Barn as part of plans for a multi-use community space including a cafe and involving several adjacent buildings. Sadly, following the fire which destroyed the Barn on the night of July 31st, should those plans come to fruition, it will not be part of them. 

The BirminghamPress.com

Steve Beauchampé

August 7th 2017

 

 

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Next post brings board game news from Ben, a resident of Kings Heath for some years, now in Uganda

 

 

 

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At the BMI recently it was a pleasure to meet Fiona Joseph from Acocks Green (right), who wrote BEATRICE The Cadbury Heiress Who Gave Away Her Fortune (2012) and Comforts For The Troops (2015). I wanted to hear more about her forthcoming book, focussing on the life and work of Godric Bader, remembering a visit to the company’s headquarters some years later and in particular his ad hoc hand account of thoughtful ethical/environmental decisions as we strolled round the grounds – and a reassurance about the nature of the chemicals used.

The title of Fiona’s book will be HELD IN TRUST: The Life of Godric Bader and the Scott Bader Commonwealth. It will describe the lifelong struggle of a socially-responsible CEO to defeat harmful capitalist practices and transform the business world into a fairer, peaceful and more just environment.

Part social history, part business primer, HELD IN TRUST will also be a manifesto for the ‘Common Trusteeship’ model, a bold alternative to unethical business practices which, all too often, place shareholder values over true social responsibility to the people and the planet.

Until 1951, Scott Bader Ltd was a traditional family-owned chemical company, specialising in polymers for plastics and paints, and competing ruthlessly against its rivals like Bakelite. But Godric Bader’s father Ernest decided the capitalist model of industry promoted greed and selfishness and set about transferring the ownership of Scott Bader to the workforce so the company could be run collectively as a Commonwealth (wealth-in-common).

Shortly afterwards Godric Bader was appointed as MD and Chairman of this new experiment in industrial democracy. So began his struggle to transform Scott Bader into a viable, profitable company, whilst trying to defeat the forces that threatened to undermine the values and vision of the Scott Bader Commonwealth.

Keeping the flame alive for future generations was never easy but Godric Bader has somehow managed it.

HELD IN TRUST is the frank and compelling account of this lifelong battle.

 “For me, there are no heroes in business – other than Scott Bader”. Anita Roddick, late founder of The Body Shop

“Godric Bader has clung with barnacle tenacity to the notion that one can be fair, moral, widely informed and behave with propriety – and still be successful – in the frequently ruthless groves of big business.” John Swinfield, former Business Columnist Evening Standard.

 

 

 

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A reader alerts all to National Express West Midlands’ review of Birmingham’s bus network. Here we focus on proposals in one area:

Its website says that traffic is getting worse, making journeys slower. Some routes are now 10 minutes slower than they were three years ago. This means fewer passengers, which is bad for the economy and social inclusion. Some might switch to cars, making congestion and pollution worse.

INITIAL IDEAS FOR FURTHER CONSULTATION, WHICH RUNS UNTIL 21 AUGUST 2017, INCLUDE:

Route 27 may not operate and could be replaced in some areas by changes to other routes, some of which may be run by other operators. This is particularly disturbing in that if this proposal goes ahead, it will leave a significant part of Bournville without any public transport. There would be no link up with Bournville Railway station which is a common stop for commuters from parts of Bournville who daily use the 27 to get to and from the railway station.

Stirchley and Bournville residents working in Northfield or visiting the banks and shopping centre there would also feel the impact of the loss of the 27, the only direct service.

Bournville Conservative Party has set up a petition to be submitted to National Express West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands: http://www.bournvilleconservatives.com/save-the-27-bus?t=1

One main route is proposed on the Pershore Road – the  76 being diverted to serve Cartland Road and Pineapple Road instead of Dogpool Lane.

Maypole and Shirley readers need to consider the impact of merging routes 2 & 3

There would be only one route 3 with all buses running via Stoney Ln in Sparkbrook, and Trittiford Rd, Priory Rd, School Rd, Ravenshill Rd and Priory Rd to the Slade Lane terminus.

Would the proposal to run route 49 via Highters Heath Ln, School Rd and Yardley Wood Rd between Maypole Ln and Solihull Lodge compensate?

All South Birmingham residents are invited to take part in a consultation: click this link to be taken to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/southbirminghambuses

 

 

 

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John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, speaking at the TAS Partnership, an employee owned transport company, said that wider levels of employee ownership could build an entrepreneurial state at a local level.

Workers threatened with closure or takeover should have first refusal on buying out and running their place of work. With two-thirds of Britain’s family businesses at risk of closure when their owners retire, employee ownership can help to solve a looming succession crisis.

Below: research by the Employee Ownership Association (EOA) and the White Rose Centre for Employee Ownership

Two local examples were not ‘rescue’ initiatives. Architects Design Partnership (ADP), founded in 1965, now has a base in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and studios in Delhi, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Oxford and Sherborne.

As the first step on the journey to becoming employee owned ADP adopted an employee ownership structure and the majority of the shares in the company, transferred to an Employee Owned Trust, are held in trust for all of ADP’s employees giving them a genuine say in the direction of the practice.

A building services specialist based in Aston, J S Wright, has been bought out by its senior management team, following the retirement of previous owners.

It currently employs more than 150 staff and was voted one of the UK’s Top Ten Specialist Contractors to Work For in the 2016 Construction Enquirer Awards. This means that it is part employee-owned – a management buyout.

It would be good to see other employees offered a stake in the company – see the model of common trusteeship, the Scott Bader Commonwealth, which Birmingham author Fiona Joseph will be portraying in her forthcoming biography of its president, Godric Bader, ‘Held in Trust’.

A chart of the Top 50 Employee Owned businesses – the largest – has been compiled by the Employee Ownership Association. It includes John Lewis and Arup.

Readers who would like to know more about the employee buyout process could click on a link to an 8-minute video in which Graeme Nuttall explains how an employee buyout can be an attractive alternative to a trade sale or management buyout. To access the FREE content, click on the ‘Buy Now’ button and follow the instructions to register as a New User and select ‘Invoice Me’; they will NOT be charged.

 

 

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