john clancyThe West Midlands New Economics Group looks forward to hearing and questioning invited speaker Cllr John Clancy, on Saturday, April 6, 10.15-12.00 AM, FOE Warehouse, Allison St, Digbeth. This is a public meeting, open to all.           

The discussion will probably be city-centred, but John Clancy’s experience in the world of venture capital has informed a devastating critique of hedge funds  – “better described as ‘Edge Funds’ as they often operate at the edges of the market, of regulation and, indeed, of the rule of law “ – and some pertinent advice to China’s leaders.

His proposals are consistently directed towards building up the economic and social well-being of the city’s people – particularly the less prosperous. For years he has advocated the use of Brummie Bonds – “a confident act of economic diversification” to community shares and bondsfinance big projects, offering the average person a more satisfactory savings deal. This would be a ”local sourcing of local wealth to invest in regional business and infrastructure”  – instead of individuals, companies and UK pension funds moving funds abroad – but designed on more inclusive basis than the Transport for London bonds. On a smaller scale there are now hundreds of examples of community shares and bonds, information here.

Small and medium businesses at the heart of a rebalancing and relocalising economy

Manufacturing is coming back to the city as the trend to outsourcing is reversing, with wages rising in Asia and the increasing cost of transporting goods. In a videoed address to the council, Cllr Clancy advocates halting the allocation of industrial land to office and retail building, in order to meet the industrial needs of this rebalancing and relocalising economy. Instead of continuing to build global retail, financial markets and office space, a more economically and socially successful city would be built from thousands of small and medium businesses.

Cllr Clancy deplores the situation in which contracts for services, which could have been provided by local small and medium sized businesses, are awarded to ‘outside’ corporates like Capita, Serco, Amey, G4S and VT.

Unemployment

Another videoed address last year recorded his focus on the city’s long-term unemployment ‘iceberg’ – up 49% during the last 12 months – which might well be increased by the decision to move the wholesale markets, “the city’s most long-lasting SME cluster”. Cllr Clancy asserts that the council’s treatment of the markets has impaired the vision of a global city with a local heart, again proposing less emphasis on the global and more on the local, placing the wholesale markets at the heart of Birmingham’s economy.

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Earlier this month, before the report on the markets was available, he described the decision to move the wholesale markets out of their city centre site, as a ‘momentous, colossal mistake’, with catastrophic knock-on effects on the retail markets. He warns against “perpetuating the “old” regime of big business, big finance, mega-retail, big commercial property that got us into the mess in the first place”

Cllr Clancy has focussed on “this hapless government’s LEP creation in the city” which has failed to show “courage and foresight and originality”. Instead of seeing the city’s markets as key to the future and planning for massive investment in the quarter, the council has borrowed £125 million for massive buildings of commercial property – a gamble, with any losses underwritten by the city’s taxpayers.

Change on the horizon?

In this week’s Post (28.3.13, not yet online) he notes with satisfaction that the case for bonds and local investment, which he has been making for several years, is now gaining ground. Greg Clark, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has said that he would like to see city banks taking deposits from local people and meeting local investment opportunities and that government is working to lower the barriers to entry. The Labour Party is also ‘throwing its future weight’ behind the policy of regional development banks.

Many of these subjects will be debated and discussed on Saturday.

 

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