Archives for category: Birmingham

West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

Andrew Lydon will open a discussion on the issue of political and economic power.

How can power be used to achieve change, and how can it be used to prevent change? Andrew writes: “There are two sides of power that have been of concern to thinking people over the last hundred years. how can political and social power be used to direct change? How has power been used to frustrate and subvert change?”

5-7pm on Thursday 26th October 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.

 

 

 

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People passing the illuminated Bournville factory buildings late at night will have noted its 24-hour operation – evidence of a thriving enterprise.

The factory buildings in 1932: unchanged exterior

The FT’s John Murray Brown (paywall) reports from Bournville that Mondelez has completed a two-year modernisation programme, investing £75m in the chocolate maker’s flagship factory: “Shiny new production equipment has been installed at the “factory in a garden” built by Quaker George Cadbury in 1879 alongside houses for its workers who had relocated from Birmingham’s industrial belt.

Under the agreement, 1,300 workers at Bournville and two other Cadbury factories in the UK will receive a pay rise of 3.2% in 2017-18, and an increase in line with inflation in 2018-19. Joe Clarke of Unite says this is considerably higher than other recent settlements in the food and drinks industry, which have been about 2.4%.

Mr Clarke highlighted the chocolate maker’s “strong ethical traditions: “Cadbury has a long history of good industrial relations. We’ve got records which go back to the tea break agreement of 1922.” Cadbury established works councils, with management and employee representative meeting to discuss company plans, back in the 1930s. It was also one of the first companies to offer sick pay and pension rights for women.

The improvement in industrial relations at Cadbury came after controversy when the company was bought by Kraft Foods of the US in 2010. The Takeover Panel, the custodian of UK rules on mergers and acquisitions, after reneging on a promise not to shut Cadbury’s Somerdale plant at Keynsham near Bristol but it was made clear that the original decision had been made by Cadbury in 2007.

There have been 200 voluntary redundancies at Bournville under the modernisation programme, bringing the manufacturing workforce down to about 800. The four new production lines have led to ‘dramatic’ productivity improvements closing the gap with Mondelez’ German plant. In an embedded video, David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston University business school, said, “We hadn’t seen significant investment at Bournville for a long time. It was pretty dilapidated. Old plant and equipment. The focus on productivity is the only way any company manufacturing in a relatively high-cost economy can survive in the long run”.

The changes at Bournville mean manufacturing is assured “for a generation not just for the short term”, according to Glenn Caton, president of Mondelez’s northern Europe operations.  

 

 

 

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Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature. As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”.   Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’,  eventually having to leave because of alcohol or debt problems.

Trinity Centre in nearby Camp Hill, was highlighted on this site in 2014, as numbers of ex-servicemen were living rough in the city. It housed many more homeless people than Tabor House – which of course we congratulate. There were three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week.

All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat at the top of the church.

The mayor of WM Combined Authority may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or go the centre in Cambridge, which is the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing, workshops and a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people are all on the same site. A secular organisation, its strength is that it is ready to welcome back those who need another chance – no closed doors.

 

Trinity Centre is for sale: could it become the city’s first Emmaus?

 

 

 

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Moseley Road Baths is one of the nation’s most significant heritage swimming pools – it is the oldest Grade II* Listed baths still open for public swimming. Last year nearly 80,000 people swam in this community pool.

The Baths were earmarked for closure last July but a community campaign and the support of heritage organisations led to Birmingham City Council granting a reprieve.

Next April Moseley Road Baths action group, who have formed a Community Interest Company (CIC), will take over the running of the baths from Council. The company’s business plan shows that MRBCIC can break even within three years but in the first year it needs to raise £75,000 to help to pay for essentials like staffing, heat, light and water. The company is seeking grant funding for some of this, but the group is also calling on support from anyone reading this appeal to add to this, helping us to meet two critical costs (swim trainers and lifeguard volunteers).

MRBCIC has nine months to develop a workable model for swimming, with the aim of taking over operational responsibility for water activity from April 2018. Since then it has been working hard – liaising with heritage partners, bringing in advisers, understanding the community swimming need and producing a business plan which shows that MRBCIC can break even within three years.  Click here to read the business plan.

Our initial target is to raise £13,552 to train 8 volunteers in lifeguarding and teaching as well as in customer service skills, health and safety, etc. Each volunteer must be trained so that  safe swimming can be offered at all times.  Crowdfunding is the first stage in raising the funds needed to ensure they have a fully trained team ready to go. Read more on their website.

Please spread the word – and if willing and able – donate by following the link.

 

 

 

 

 

Political Concern comments on Druids Heath and the role of the modern council

The presenter of this BBC radio programme, Adrian Goldberg, grew up on the Druids Heath council estate in Birmingham, the home of the ‘municipalism’ pioneered by Joseph Chamberlain when he was Mayor of Birmingham – summarised by Walsall MP John McShane in the Commons in 1930:

“A young person today lives in a municipal house, and he washes himself … in municipal water. He rides on a municipal tram or omnibus, and I have no doubt that before long he will be riding in a municipal aeroplane. He walks on a municipal road; he is educated in a municipal school. He reads in a municipal library and he has his sport on a municipal recreation ground. When he is ill he is doctored and nursed in a municipal hospital and when he dies he is buried in a municipal cemetery.”

Adrian is described as being an ideal candidate to judge the changing nature of the local council, because when he and his family moved there the local authority provided a range of services. He comments, “Today the situation is much more complex”- follow the link to read more.

Political Concern adds:

Inside Housing reports the housing minister’s description of sprinkler systems for high rise blocks as “additional rather than essential”, refusing a council’s request for funding offered after the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

And comments: “Strangely, the conservative Prime Minister expresses admiration for Joseph Chamberlain”.

Mayor of Birmingham in 1873, city MP in 1876, Joseph Chamberlain directed the construction of good housing for the poorest, libraries, municipal swimming pools and schools. Unlike Ms May and colleagues, he was not in favour of a market economy, arguing for tariffs on goods from countries outside the British Empire. He was also an ‘economic interventionist’ (see Lewis Goodall, Newsnight), described as a “gas and water socialist”. He took profit-making private enterprises into public hands, declaring that “profit was irrelevant”.

In no way is she following the example of her hero. Ms May’s government continues to implement a series of cuts affecting the lives of the country’s poorest and most disabled with might and main. Ironically the contemporary politician sharing Chamberlain’s principles is the opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn, whose policies she echoes but does not implement.

 

 

 

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In a recent programme largely focussing on Port Sunlight in the Wirral, the presenter of the Juniper production for BBC Radio 4, Lynsey Hanley, rather gleefully noted the overturning of the Victorian ban on alcohol in the village of Bournville – a conservation area.

The Quaker Cadbury family, who practised temperance, ruled in 1895 that alcohol could not be consumed or sold within Bournville, in order to help workers to stay healthy.

 

Ms Hanley is advised to read the accurate statement in the Birmingham Post which explains that the 120-year-old ban on alcohol sales in Bournville remains in place.

Speaking after the decision at the council’s licensing sub-committee meeting, Peter Roach, the chief executive of the Bournville Village Trust, said that media reports had been “seeking to make a clear connection between George Cadbury’s Bournville Estate and the premises at Mary Vale Road which now have a licence to sell alcohol. He explained that the permission for a new off-licence changes nothing as the shop is outside the historic boundary of the Bournville Estate originally set by George Cadbury. 

Researchers, please note.

 

 

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Sam Metcalf reports that the leading business event for SMEs, SME2017, is fast approaching. Next week, thousands of SME decision makers will gather at the NEC for two days of expert insight, inspiration, innovation and networking.

The free-to-attend event brings together over 100 speakers across six seminar theatres to present, discuss and debate hot topics around the core sectors for business growth: Finance, Funding, Business Tech, Marketing, Outsourcing and Innovation (IT?).

A heavy emphasis on marketing and finance is noted in the text and cloud, cyber security, process optimisation and mobile are described as key themes running across the Business IT theatre.

  • OCT 3rd: 9am to 5pm (then 5pm to 7pm networking reception) • OCT 4th: 9am to 4pm

There are over 100 exhibitors including Google, NatWest, Department for International Trade, Santander, Samsung, Konica Minolta, British Business Bank, Start Up Loans & Unity Trust Bank.

No reference is made to reshoring, training and apprenticeships or reinvestment – features of so many successful West Midlands SMEs.

 

To register for your FREE ticket visit here www.sme2017.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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Following an apology for the company’s mistakes in London by Uber’s chief executive and promises to change if its licence is renewed, Raj Khalid writes to the Financial Times from Bandra, Mumbai, India.

His stance is that Uber has changed the market, providing more convenient and cheaper rides to people across the world, adding:

“In India passengers were held to ransom by the ubiquitous black-and-yellow cabs. Mumbai was the only city on the sub-continent where they ran on meters. In Delhi the meter was very neatly covered by a small towel so the passenger never saw the fare. Even today in Mumbai taking a pre-paid a cab from the airport involves a hefty booking fee and extras for luggage.

“The Uber takes all your luggage, provides a comfortable ride in an air-conditioned vehicle. In India where street names keep changing and there is no proper numbering of houses, the Uber uses GPS to take passengers perfectly to their destination”.

Khalid points out that when responding to protests, a minister welcomed any system that:

  • provided jobs to thousands of people,
  • helped them to earn a reasonable income
  • and reduced personal cars.

In London, which is choking under diesel smog, Khalid argues the case for banning private vehicles and allowing Uber to operate, adding: “Maybe the car parks would lose money but there would be fewer cars on the road”.

 

 

Birmingham (see 15 blogs) please note.

 

 

 

 

https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014-2017-birmingham-air-pollution-blogs/

 

The BBC reports that, at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Fraser dismissed the council’s argument that Mr Clancy had no authority to make a deal at ACAS with Unite.

He said that he was ‘more than satisfied’ there is enough evidence about what was referred to in court as the ‘Clancy Agreement’ to be tested at a full trial. He also dismissed a submission by Birmingham City Council’s legal team that a trial would not be in the public interest.

An interim injunction was granted against the bid – favoured by council officers – to make refuse collectors in Birmingham redundant.

The union is calling for Ms Stella Manzie, the authority’s interim chief executive, who had been leading the negotiating team, to stand down.

Justice Fraser said that documents made clear an internal rift at the council and read out an email sent on 15 August from the interim chief executive Stella Manzie to ex-leader Mr Clancy saying the council could not look weak and “as if it’s being walked over”.

On 11th August Cllr Lisa Trickett had corrected the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role  “one of the two supervisors in 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”.

John Clancy said in July that the council is ‘bending over backwards’ to reform the inefficient bins service inherited from the previous administration, without making job losses:

“We are giving the leading hands every opportunity to further their careers elsewhere in the city council with at least the same basic salary.”  He pointed out that 220 more permanent bin jobs will be created to replace the expensive agency staff currently used.

The conciliation service ACAS said on 16 August the council had accepted the workers’ case and restored the jobs of grade three workers, who are responsible for safety at the back of refuse vehicles. However, a council report said the deal struck by UNITE and the council was unaffordable.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said refuse workers would now return to a full working day until the five-day court hearing.

 

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SUPPORTIVE COMMENTS ON THE BBC WEBSITE

  • So council bosses want to get rid of 120 binmen but not their huge wages and pensions. No surprise there then.
  • Why not scrap a couple of councillor jobs and pay for the service The council tax should cover bin collection costs, not pay rises for the suits
  • It’s costing the council more to pay for agency staff to clear the rubbish than it would for them to accept the deal brokered by ACAS with Clancy.
  • They could find £188 million to build a library, and no doubt have spent millions more on other vanity projects, but want to save money collecting peoples rubbish.
  • As with most councils, they have their priorities all wrong. https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/sheffield-councillors-vote-to-end-35-year-veolia-contract/ I live in Sheffield & I can tell you first hand Veolia are 100% inadequately staffed and just as poorly managed and led by their corporate offices. Privatization of a service that should be ‘in house’ to any local authority is a huge financial gamble – as proven here.
  • That is the issue – tenders being brought in by councils that cost more in the long run to fund than staffing with their own paid employees. Look at Veolia – Google search to see the muck ups they make & their costs.
  • A simpler way to save the money would be to get rid of Stella Manzie, the interim CEO who has been sent to Birmingham by the government to do a hatchet job on our local authority. She is well known for being parachuted into ‘difficult’ local authorities who are not following Conservative government rules. She is the one who scuppered the agreement between Unite and the council leader John Clancy.
  • Birmingham City Council has behaved appallingly in this dispute. They did not consult properly with the bin men from the start. The council leader then agreed a deal that would change shift patterns but removed the threat of redundancy. The council then reneged on the deal. The interim CEO (a government stooge) was behind the report to scupper the deal. They then issued redundancy notices!
  • The right decision. Workers’ rights have been eroded to the core as it is but central government is the problem here. Birmingham, like most councils, has had its funding cut severely. If they don’t save the money here they will be forced, by the government, to save it somewhere else.

 

  • Be clear here. Bin men were not being made redundant to end up on the dole. Their jobs were being made redundant, & the men were offered replacement jobs elsewhere in the council work-places on the SAME PAY grade as they were on.

 

 

 

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Courage and principle. These are precisely what the Labour “moderates”, the heirs to Tony Blair’s “third way” politics, are said to lack. It was said they trashed principle in the pursuit of power”. So wrote former Conservative MP, Matthew Parris, in The Times last year.

Birmingham has lost a talented and caring leader due to its ‘moderate’ MPS, councillors and ‘support’ staff.

Earlier this month, Steven Walker blogged that councillors had denied the deal agreed with the Unite union and issued summary redundancy notices.

But an email from council leader John Clancy to depot managers confirmed the agreement and began its implementation. It may be seen in Walker’s article, republished on the BATC site.

Birmingham bin strike: cabinet DID support Clancy deal

A senior Birmingham Labour source told Walker that a cabinet meeting did take place on 17 August to discuss the deal, the day before Clancy’s email to the union went out. It was an official, formal ‘Part 2’ meeting and John Clancy’s proposed agreement with the bin workers was passed by cabinet with a clear majority in support.

Leave it to management – for how long?

The city’s equivalent of ‘Sir Humphrey’ is said, on returning from her holiday, to have applied ‘all kinds of pressure’ to the cabinet members to row back on the decision. A Mail article reports that the CEO told the elected leader of the council it was not appropriate for him to ‘interfere in a management disciplinary matter”.

The Labour councillors have now made a new statement saying: “A just settlement must be found as quickly as possible to the Birmingham bin dispute. Bin workers deserve justice on pay and our city deserves a high-quality service”.

But a just settlement was reached – along the very lines they now advocate – and they wrecked it. The Unite union is calling for the council to honour that deal struck by its able and honest council leader John Clancy in August.

 

 

 

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