Archives for category: Birmingham

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.

Speakers

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 91/404/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. 

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To contact Birmingham Socialist Discussion Group, ring Pete 0780 9406973 or Stuart 0777 156 7496, ser14@btinternet.com    

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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Birmingham Against the Cuts

Open Planning Meeting on Wednesday 10 October at 7pm

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

 

     Agenda 

  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

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PLEASE NOTE THAT AIDED DISABLED ACCESS TO OUR MEETINGS IN THE WELLINGTON CAN BE ARRANGED WITH ADVANCE NOTICE. PLEASE EMAIL RICHARD.HATCHER@BCU.AC.UK

 

See the Birmingham Against the Cuts website for regular news and analysis ahttps://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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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.

INLAND WATERWAY FREIGHT TRANSPORT CONFERENCE – WEDNESDAY 10th OCTOBER, 2018, 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

 

 

 

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 West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 27th September 5-7 pm

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

Cllr Claire Spencer, Senior Policy Advisor – Public Services and Inclusive Growth, writes: We are using some of the models from Doughnut Economics to try and come up with a new way of judging the health of an economy. Currently, we take jobs, trade and GVA to be the measures, but that is giving us low pay, poor health and a highly problematic attitude to our human and environmental resources.

She recommends the Inclusive Growth Framework (iteration one) that went through WMCA Board on September 14th: “It’s early days, but the Board passed it, so it is a good indicator of trajectory, I hope”.

A round table discussion

All welcome. 

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

 

 

 

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Birmingham recently hosted world’s first zero emission vehicle summit where Chris Grayling, the transport secretary unveiled plans which related only to road traffic – despite a Birmingham university team pioneering the use of the hydrogen-fuelled barge, in a city blessed with a network of waterways.

The developers of Birmingham’s Icknield Port Loop – a joint venture involving Urban Splash, Places for People, the Canal & River Trust and Birmingham City Council – have today presented a site-wide masterplan showing family houses, apartments, business premises and leisure facilities. Birmingham Live reports that, following work on remediation and rebuilding of the canal walls started earlier this year, construction has started on the Icknield Port Loop scheme and the first homes are scheduled to be ready for occupation in Spring 2019 (artist’s impression above).

James Lazarus, Head of Property Development and of the joint venture at the Canal & River Trust, comments that more people will be encouraged to use the city’s canals and tow-paths to commute to and from work and travel to the city centre; he earlier wrote that C&RT is “aware of the potential to run a taxi service and provision is being made in the plans to facilitate this” (Email to CBOA chair, September 25, 2017).

Those attending the Recycling and Waste Management Exhibition at the NEC this week were given a CBOA presentation illustrated by series of slides showing the advantages of carrying materials and waste by water instead of road.

Will there be cleaner greener transport for Icknield Port materials, waste removal – and later for commuters?

 

 

 

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A day of celebration, commemoration and commitment, 10.30am – 5.30pm Saturday 29th September, around Birmingham & Midland Institute, 9 Margaret St, Birmingham B3 3BS (below, left).

There will be: workshops on Household Debt, Climate Debt and The New Debt Crisis in Africa; discussions and a stunt exploring the major debt issues of 2018 and the legacy of the Jubilee movement, including the 1998 human chain around Birmingham. Lunch and refreshments are included.

It will feature the well-known economist Ann Pettifor – who was the leading spirit of 1998, and Nick Dearden of Global Justice Now, with Tim Jones and Sarah-Jayne Clifton from Jubilee Debt Campaign.

Our informant writes: “We are asking for a voluntary contribution towards the costs of between £2-7 per person, depending on what you can afford. This will help us cover some of the costs of the day, such as room booking and providing a lunch.

“We don’t want cost to put anyone off, so only give what you can afford. Please book your ticket and make your donation by clicking here.

“It would also help us in Birmingham to know you are coming to this day of celebration, so please email me at johnbnightingale@hushmail.com. I can also make an electronic booking for anyone who does not do email”.

 

 

 

 

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Peter Walker, genial chairman of the thriving Stirchley Neighbourhood Forum, alerts people in flood-affected areas to a forthcoming event for business owners or residents affected by the floods in May.

They are invited to attend the world’s largest flood expo on the 12th and 13th of September at the NEC. Tickets are free; more information here http://www.thefloodexpo.co.uk/.

The flood coordinator for Selly Park South (John Clayton) is alerting people in neighbouring flood-affected areas and we extend this invitation to people in Solihull, from Nethercote Gardens, Dickens Heath and other flood-prone areas near the rivers Cole and Blythe.

The Flood Expo is the world’s largest exhibition and conference designed to help flood professionals and property owners to discover the latest innovative products, services and strategies that transform the way flooding is predicted, prevented, and managed.

A copy of the digital show-guide will be emailed to you before the show with full details of the seminar timetable and show features.

Please note that the show is not open to the general public; no under 18s or students will be allowed into the event. Any visitors found selling to exhibitors or to other visitors will be required to leave.

This is just one example of the wealth of information circulated by Mr Walker, whose work is ably supported by his Vice Chair & planning officer – Sandra Cooper, Secretary – Rowena Evans, IT officer, Mick Jones and treasurer – Paula Aubrey.

Such volunteers set a standard that members of our local and national government should emulate.

 

 

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FT View recalls that Theresa May made solving Britain’s housing crisis a personal mission when she became prime minister in 2016.

A copy of her ‘burning injustices’ speech hangs in the No 10 waiting room according to Matt Chorley (Times). He reports, however, that references to it may be ‘ditched’ to avoid damaging the party’s poll ratings and notes that Tory MPs are now discouraged from using it in their campaign leaflets.

Philip Collins reminded us in the Times: “Conservatives often give bold speeches which herald no action. After the expenses scandal David Cameron diagnosed all that was wrong with politics and proclaimed a radical plan to put it right, not a word of which ever materialised. In her first address as prime minister, Theresa May set out the array of social issues which would define her premiership. Mired in Brexit, we are still waiting.”

The FT asserts that current proposals fall far short of an answer: there are now more than 1m people on the waiting list for council housing and, according to the charity Shelter, 300,000 people without homes. The un-named FT journalist adds that after years of austerity many local councils cannot afford to replace the social housing sold to tenants under the right-to-buy rules brought in by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s and there is no new state money for housebuilding.

The new borrowing headroom they may be afforded looks limited and does not represent a rethinking of the ‘stifling’ constraints imposed on councils by Whitehall and the lack of subsidy for construction means sub-market-priced housing will continue to be subsidised through rents in the inefficient form of housing benefits.

So the state will continue to pay off the mortgages of private landlords rather than investing in the construction of an asset owned by either the state or a non-profit landlord

And the new rent settlement of inflation plus 1% to 2021 is grim at a time of stagnating incomes for tenants who have been tied to above-inflation rent rises for many years. Increasingly they cannot afford it.

Fast forward to Birmingham

 

A reader attended a Local Government Association breakfast meeting at a ‘costly’ hotel in the city with 9 others,  but with enough ‘luxury salmon etc’ to feed 30. As she handed out what was left over to the homeless lining the city centre, she heard ‘heart-breaking’ stories from some including one man who had winter frost-bite in one foot which was amputated, was released too soon and got frost bite in two other toes, so now is in a wheelchair. Her comment:

“What makes me fume is that there are 9,600 homeless in the city & 10k empty houses, so using special laws the council could requisition them & do them up with grants but instead their inefficient silo housing department evicts people instead of helping them”.

A search revealed that according to Government statistics (updated in May 2018) giving these figures for Birmingham:

  • the total number of empty homes in the city in 2017 was over 400,000
  • over 60,000 are local authority owned,
  • over 40,000 are owned by private registered providers (housing associations and social landlords)
  • and over 300,000 are privately owned.

According to a council report, more than 5,000 private homes in Birmingham have been empty for more than six months: of those 1,900 have been empty for three years. In many cases they have overgrown gardens, with litter, graffiti and broken windows blighting their neighbourhoods. But in June the Mail reported that the city council has set up a £4.6 million fund to buy empty homes and make them fit for use.

FT View summarises that at present, the emphasis remains doggedly on the right to buy what housing already exists

Worse still, today the FT reports that an analysis by Hamptons International, the estate agency, records that since the policy was introduced in 2013, more than 32,000 households have used the government’s Help to Buy scheme (a loan of up to 20% of the value of a newly built home in England, or 40% in London, interest-free for five years) to trade up for bigger properties rather than buying a first home. 

FT View’s verdict: “Britain needs a more proactive state to help solve its housing crisis. It looks unlikely that Mrs May’s government will deliver it”.

 

 

 

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After being awarded a 15-year contract in 2011, as part of a wider move to bring more competition into the prison service, G4S has been stripped of control over ‘failed’ HMP Birmingham jail (details here). This is the latest crisis of the decades-long move towards privatisation of public services.

Following the first ‘takeover’ for a privatised prison contract, David Gauke, justice secretary, is appointing a new governor and management team on the site and has compelled G4S to take on 30 extra staff to instigate various improvements.

300 of HMP Birmingham’s 1,330 inmates will also be moved to other jails

Ministers said that G4S, which had failed to run the prison safely, would continue to run the facility under the direct control of the Ministry of Justice for at least the next six months.

This is government’s first ‘step-in process’.

Though G4S also runs HMP Altcourse, HMP Parc, HMP Ryehill and HMP Oakwood, all of which are “performing well” according to the government, shares in G4S dropped 2.5% after the government assumed control of the prison. Other problems include:

  • the government’s 2003 installation of a new governor at HMP Ashfield, run by Premier Prison Services;
  • the criminal activity of some Serco staff at the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre;
  • problems with Capita’s NHS back-office functions for primary care providers;
  • in 2016 ministers took over the running of Medway, a youth custody centre, where a G4S contract was coming to an end;
  • construction and public services company Carillion collapsed in January
  • and the Stagecoach and Virgin Trains East Coast mainline service was recently nationalised.

The Financial Times reported that violence, drugs, suicide and self-harm, squalor and poor access to education were once again “prominent themes” in jails during the year to the end of March. in July, Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales, in a highly critical annual report, said that conditions in some UK prisons are “disgraceful” and “should not be accepted in 21st-century Britain”.

Education, health, prisons, transport: in how many other sectors is the private sector failing?

 

 

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