Archives for category: Birmingham

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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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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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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As our first public event, Extinction Rebellion West Midlands will be holding a talk entitled: ‘Heading for extinction and what to do about it’.

The talk will outline the issues surrounding climate change and biodiversity loss, and how we can use our feelings of despair constructively to overwrite the cycle of ignorance and inactivity present in the policy making sphere.

George Monbiot encourages elders to stand in solidarity with the youth climate strikes:

By combining your determination and our experience, we can build a movement big enough to overthrow the life-denying system that has brought us to the brink of disaster – and beyond. Together, we must demand a different way, a life-giving system that defends the natural world on which we all depend. A system that honours you, our children, and values equally the lives of those who are not born.

Together, we will build a movement that must – and will – become irresistible”.

For more info on Extinction Rebellion: https://rebellion.earth/

At the event you will be able to find out more about our movement and the activities we have planned

Voluntary contributions are gratefully accepted on the door to help cover room hire costs.

Like us on facebook to keep updated with local activity: https://www.facebook.com/extinctionrebellionbirmingham/

 

 

 

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Open meeting: FOE Warehouse, 54 Allison St, B5 5TH on 28th February 5-7pm

A discussion of this question will opened by Christine Parkinson, author of Three Generations Left: human activity and the destruction of the planet.

She sent two papers which were circulated to WMNEG members in advance and any reader who wishes to see them should contact the editor via Comments. The papers were:

  • an introductory paper by Christine Parkinson
  • a summary of the IPCC 1.5°C report and some implications by Chris Martin (Central England Quakers – Low Carbon Commitment group)

A round table discussion

 

All welcome.

 

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

 

 

 

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