Archives for category: City Council

The Birmingham Trades Union Council invites you all to our annual May Day rally; open to all trade unionists their families & friends to commemorate historic, industrial, political & peace struggles around the world.  

 12.30 pm Saturday 29th April: committee rooms 3 and 4

Council House Victoria Square B1 1BB 

Speakers 

         Frank Keogh,  UNITE Health sector  

         Patrick Highton, Birmingham Keep NHS Public 

         Stephen Brown, Musicians Union regional secretary 

         Neil Vernon, formerly branch secretary Birmingham UCATT (now part of Unite) 

         Gill Ogilvie, regional organiser GMB on school funding cuts 

          Speaker from the Friends of the Birmingham Libraries 

The speakers will discuss the crisis in the NHS, the massive cuts in funding for local schools leading to widespread redundancies of classroom assistants and teachers and the destruction of Birmingham’s library service. Neil will be speaking about the use of umbrella companies to exploit employees. There will be plenty of time for discussion from the floor. 

Refreshments will be provided and unions and political campaigns are invited to have stalls at the event. 

For further details and to book a stall contact the Birmingham TUC secretary: 

btucsec@hotmail.com

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As the council has been planning the development of the wholesale markets and Birmingham Smithfield, it is alleged that the indoor, outdoor and rag markets are no longer properly promoted, local roads have been closed, buses have been re-routed with drop-off points moved away from the markets, and so the traders have seen a marked reduction in their footfall and income.

Duncan Tift reports, in Business Desk, that stall-holders from Birmingham’s Bull Ring outdoor market (see history here) have filed a suit against the city council. Around 30 tenant traders have been in dispute with their local authority landlord since 2010, when their previous leases expired, and they claim all requests for new leases have since been ignored. Because the council won’t give them new leases they cannot sell their businesses, relocate or retire.

The 13 stall-holders involved are being advised on a pro-bono basis by Jonathan Owen, the founder and joint managing director of Quarterbridge Project Management, who will also act as an expert witness (see our reference in a 2011 markets blog). He knows the market, its traders and city centre well, having advised the Birmingham Alliance which delivered the £530m Bull Ring redevelopment. Mr Owen said the stall-holders, many of whom had been trading at the market for most of their working lives, had been shabbily treated by the council.

Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate, Beverley Nielsen, visited the market and said afterwards: “I’d seen so much about the wholesale markets being relocated to The Hub, in Witton and wondered what was happening to the traders still using stalls around the Bullring. I was dismayed to discover they’d been in dispute with the council for years.”

Ms Nielsen’s proposal: ”The local authority should be using the market’s heritage to attract visitors to the city and use the facility as a tourist attraction in the same way as European cities such as Barcelona, Rotterdam (Ed: above) and Valencia”.

 

 

 

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Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.

 

The Planner reported last year that 73 Councils in England are now piloting the new brownfield registers in an attempt to bring forward derelict and underused land for new homes. Dudley’s register may be seen here.

The Government’s brownfield land register project is intended to help to bring forward previously developed land for new homes and fulfil its pledge to get planning permission in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites for housing.  

Leeds City Council’s website records that it has put together a pilot register of suitable sites able to accommodate 5 or more dwellings or be at least 0.25 hectares in size, with the capacity for building 20,000 new homes. Details, with a map of 84 sites in the six separate zones, are published on the Council’s Open Data platform Data Mill North

Developments include the Climate Innovation District at Low Fold, which will offer 312 zero-carbon apartments, and mixed tenure communities, including local authority-owned housing such as East Bank (Saxton Gardens).

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds has one of the fastest growing economies and workforces in the UK with 140,000 people working in the city centre alone. Transforming our brownfield sites into these attractive communities supports regeneration, continued economic growth and public services, helping to avoid the problems that some cities have faced of low levels of occupation of the city centre at weekends.

The authority is looking to work in partnership with the private sector with funding models including pump priming, patient investments and grant funding, as well as looking at ways it can underwrite risk.

Councillor John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council. “By expanding our partnership working and targeting funding to revive brownfield sites, either by financing infrastructure or supporting individual schemes, we can give developers and investors the confidence to get to work and provide badly needed homes.”

Since 2012, the council has been developing new homes on the estate – a brownfield site – where a clearance programme of poor quality housing has been ongoing for a period of years.  Rebranded as Abbey Fields, one of three schemes being undertaken as part of the council’s Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust programme. The first phases of the redevelopment are now completed providing 141 new family homes. Of these 76 were for outright sale and 65 for social rent as new council homes. Income generated by the sale of these homes will be reinvested into the council’s own housing stock.

A new four year programme will see small and medium sized house builders working for Birmingham City Council’s house building arm – Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. It was launched on 22nd March at Birmingham’s Council House.

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month, Cllr. Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills, stressed the importance of apprenticeships before addressing a National Apprenticeship Week event in Birmingham.

He said that the council aims to increase the number of apprentices at the city council, using the apprenticeship framework to reward existing staff through development opportunities. Wards where youth unemployment is at its highest will be targetted, providing meaningful apprenticeship opportunities that will enable people in time to secure permanent employment.

Good apprenticeship programmes combine shop-floor and college based training for an average of three years and require a long-term commitment from the employer. Experienced workers have to nurture the individual apprentice through the time-consuming process – a task which takes them away from their regular duties to some degree.

APS Metal Pressings in Hockley had two toolmaking apprentices last year: Aaron Wilks is in his second year and Ethan Wilkes completed his second year and started a HNC engineering course in September.

One problem is that some companies invest in training apprentices who graduate and then leave to join companies without a training programme who reap the benefits without investing time or money in apprenticeships. Setting out a clear career path, continual appraisals and pay scale increments for apprentices encourage commitment, but there is a case for clearly stated contractual tie-ins for an agreed period of time in order to protect the company’s investment.

On the WM Producers’ site there was news of other apprenticeships and the ‘graduation’ of Kirsty, Professional Polishing’s latest apprentice (left)was celebrated.

Cllr. O’Reilly highlighted the city’s drive to retain talent within Birmingham and  strengthen the local economy by ensuring  the right training and learning opportunities available for anyone who needs it. Skills level in the city region will have a major impact on future economic growth and ensure inclusive growth reaching out to citizens in all parts of our city.

To this end, the city council has developed its ‘Step Forward: Upskilling for Life’ strategy in partnership with the public, private and third sectors, working directly with employers to encourage upskilling of the workforce, co-ordinating support and guidance so people can choose the right qualifications for the career path they want to take.

Cllr. O’Reilly: “The goal is to leave nobody behind.”

 

 

 

 

A link was sent today by a Bournville reader and followed by Cllr John Clancy’s message: “I know we have to do more to deliver the houses our citizens desperately need and deserve. This is an absolute priority for me and the cabinet. We are already building at a scale unheard of for decades and delivering the housing this city needs.

wake-green-prefabsValued homes: Grade 2 listed Phoenix prefabs in Wake Green Road, Moseley

The reader’s link led to an article by Reuter’s  Astrid Zweynert. After a brief account of post-war prefab building, she writes: “Faced with a chronic, new housing shortage, Britain is once more embracing prefabrication as it struggles to meet its promise to build a million homes in England by 2020. In a major policy announcement last month, the government said it supported off-site construction, promised financial support for prefabs and to make public land available for “modular schemes”, as they are known now”.

An online search will reveal many expensive and stylish prefabricated houses and fewer low cost models – but such options do exist. Building Design highlighted three prefabricated solutions to the housing crisis in 2016.

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The first design (above), by Urban Splash, was one of the new range of low-cost prefabricated housing solutions being ‘rolled out’ across the country with the potential to help tackle Britain’s affordable housing crisis.

 

 

 

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The Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the leaders of Derby, Nottingham, Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton have written to Theresa May urgently calling for:

  • making vehicle manufacturers more accountable for emissions – with a zero-tolerance approach to malpractice, following the recent Volkswagen scandal;
  • national minimum emissions standards for private hire vehicles to ensure local requirements are not undermined;
  • greater regulation powers over the use of diesel generators;
  • a new 21st century Clean Air Act which will update existing legislation;
  • enshrining the ‘right to clean air’ in law after the UK leaves the European Union; and
  • unlocking new powers for local authorities, particularly regarding limiting construction and river emissions.

The letter describes the government’s current £3 million fund for local authorities to clean up their air as “woefully inadequate” and criticises the uncertainty around funding for transport schemes for preventing accurate and detailed planning in the long-term. It explains that:

“Local authorities need government to devolve powerful fiscal incentives such as Vehicle Excise Duty and create a national diesel vehicle scrappage fund”.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As city leaders, we are doing what we can to tackle this problem, but the fact is we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs and lasting progress will only be made if national government matches the ambitious action we are taking. The time for urgent action is now.”

Councillor John Clancy, Leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “Air pollution is now a public health crisis in this country and we need real leadership from the Government. Our towns and cities are keen to tackle this issue but we must be given the tools and funding needed to secure the future health of our citizens. The time for action is now.”

Following the recent High Court ruling against the government previous plan, a consultation on a new national air quality plan to meet legal limits for nitrogen dioxide as soon as possible.

 

 

 

West Midlands New Economics Group

Thursday 23rd February 5-7 pm

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

bfoe-warehouse

What are the economic policies of the mayoral candidates for the West Midlands Combined Authority? – presented by Ann Wackett.

The election takes place on 4 May. Are the candidates promising anything different from the parties that they represent?

All welcome.  

Contributions of £2 to cover the cost of room hire

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Long after the high quality housing programme initiated by Mayor Ken Livingstone – monuments to socialism at its best (see specifications in Chapter 2 here) – we read that homelessness is soaring in the capital as “immaculate houses in central London lie empty, used as assets in buy-to-leave schemes and three quarters of luxury new builds were snapped up by foreign investors last year”.

Birmingham’s Labour-led City Council won ‘Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards 2016 for the work done by the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT) programme, citing recent projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. The city was also a finalist in the 2016 APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) housing sector award. Last year BMHT won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment.

bmht-2-small-heath

Small Heath, 2015

Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), set up in January 2009 to lead the development of the Council’s new build housing programme, is currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands.

BMHT completed its 2,000 home in March – 1,125 homes for rent and almost 900 for sale. More than 200 homes for rent are currently under construction on 17 sites and the council is to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020.

It was good to hear commonsense from the Shadow Secretary of State for Housing and Planning John Healey on Radio 4 recently

john_healey_cihHe deplored the spending of £2.3bn a year on housing benefit going to private landlords renting out sub-standard homes: “The last Labour government brought in the decent homes standard for council and housing association homes, the next Labour government will make it a national mission to end unsafe and sub-standard private rented housing.” When he visited new council-built homes in Birmingham, Councillor John Clancy told him: “Building housing here and now is our first priority. The Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust is building houses in the hundreds and I’m absolutely determined that the city as a whole must now move towards building thousands”. In a recent Birmingham Newsroom post, John Clancy said:

“We now need the Housing Minister to emphasise that local government’s role should include the provision of new social housing as well as providing homes for private rental, and that the Government is serious about affordable home ownership”.

Endnotes:

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.

According to a council report, more than 5,000 private homes in Birmingham have been empty for more than six months and 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.

Further afield came news of an Irish initiative:

About 12% of Co Louth’s residential stock is vacant and during 2016 the council placed CPOs on 26 houses in Dundalk and purchased the units for between €30,000 and €40,000 each, spending a further €60,000 on each unit to bring them back into use.

In January an FT editorial recommended a bigger contribution from the public sector. To this end local authorities should be enabled to:

  • set planning fees,
  • levy taxes on idle land
  • borrow in order to fund social housing developments,
  • make better use of brownfield sites
  • and release public land for development.

It ended: “Shame then that Osborne reduced massively Housing Associations capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction pa for 5 years”.

 

 

 

gavin-2-stamp“To give so much to a grand country house (Wentworth Woodhouse) and nothing to Moseley Road Baths (or other neglected listed buildings) suggests a snobbery about “heritage”. Municipal baths are as important a part of our history – social and architectural – as aristocratic seats”.

So wrote architectural historian.Gavin Stamp (right) this week.

He asks if Birmingham City Council is happy to contemplate the loss of the fine and well-used swimming pool at Moseley Road Baths (below) – one of only three swimming pool structures still in operation listed at Grade II* and well-supported by an active and enterprising ‘Friends’ association.

Country: United Kingdom Site: Moseley Road Baths Caption: Second Class Pool Image Date: April 20, 2007 Photographer: Vivienne Harrison/World Monuments Fund Provenance: 2016 Watch Nomination Original: from Watch team

Professor Stamp points out that Birmingham city council had for years ’run, neglected and threatened to shul the complex’. Moreover, in 2012 the Heritage Lottery Fund offered £5m towards its restoration, but the council to refused to contribute the matching £3m – which Stamp finds ‘particularly reprehensible’’.

Our readers from further afield (yesterday coming from UK, USA, Mexico, Germany, Azerbaijan, India and Ireland) may read more about this in the Birmingham Post.

Stamp describes the Baths as one of the finest Edwardian bath buildings anywhere, with two fine swimming pools covered by arched iron and glass ceilings and two ‘unique survivals’, an intact set of private washing baths and a set of steam-heated drying racks.

moseley-road-baths-2-larger

The first class men’s pool above – considered by Simon Inglis, historian of swimming pools, as “the mosl dramatic Edwardian pool hall in Britain” – closed in 2003 but survives intact.

Stamp concedes that historic baths are expensive to run and maintain, but can be restored to stay in use, as the pools in Camberwell and Kentish Town demonstrate.

In the words of the World Monuments Fund, if Moseley Road Baths were restored, it “would continue to serve a diverse urban community in the 21st century and would join other destinations in Birmingham that proudly recount the social history of the city.”

Main source: Gavin Stamp as ‘Piloti’ in Issue 1436, Private Eye.