Archives for category: Economy

For an analysis of the current position of the UK’s car industry, the range of pressures and issues it faces and its likely shape after any form of Brexit from a range of perspectives, turn to Keeping the Wheels on the Road, the third in the Bite-Sized Brexit books, edited by Professor David Bailey, the foremost commentator on the UK auto industry, Professor Alex De Ruyter, at the Centre for Brexit Studies, Birmingham City University, Neil Fowler and John Mair.

In a major contribution to the Brexit debate, seasoned industry experts, observers, commentators and representatives of the industry’s unions, provide arguments for cautious optimism through to rather shocked pessimism.

From Chapter 5: Just-in-time listening required

Co-authored by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Motor Group and David Bailey, Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School.

They have no doubt that the future of automotive does not lie with internal combustion engines – whether diesel or petrol – and stress the vital importance of effective management of the transition

Their counter-intuitive assertion that decimating the market for new diesel engines has brought with it damaging if unintended consequences to the protection of the planet – contributing to the first aggregate rise in the greenhouse gases produced by new cars in more than a decade – sent the writer to search for an explanation online:

Ministerial mixed messages over diesel has undermined the capacity of manufacturers to manage that transition.

The industrial impact of failing to manage the transition threatens to be severe too, with UK engine plants of manufacturers like BMW, Ford and JLR all currently heavily dependent on diesel production.

Messages from ministers have been mixed: recent reductions in plug-in car grants standing in stark contrast to the incentives offered to motorists to buy zero-emission vehicles in counties like Norway. But efforts are now being made by the Government to mandate the expansion of the UK’s vehicle charging infrastructure which should include      on-street charging and monitoring of the performance of public charging points. The authors emphasise:

“A successful transition requires more clarity from the Government in support of both the production and take up of the electric and other alternatively powered vehicles that will be the future of the sector.”

The fact that a number of major manufacturers have yet to confirm plans to build in the UK the next generations of models sends out serious warnings signals that would be foolish in the extreme to ignore.

Ministers could show they are listening:

  • by reducing Brexit uncertainty through ruling out no deal,
  • ending mixed messages over modern diesel
  • and showing much more dynamism in supporting the transition to a connected, autonomous and alternatively powered automotive future,

Burden & Bailey insist that the innovative capacity and diversity that has made the UK automotive sector the success story it has become over the past decade remain in place and David Bailey, in his second chapter, asks for an upgrading in how the UK develops its future manufacturing plans:

“There is a strong case for UK industrial strategy to be afforded an institutional status similar to both UK monetary and fiscal policies. At the very least, it should be the subject of regular strategic long-term reviews. By giving it that sort of priority, the new government would send out the kind of powerful message that British industry and foreign investors need to hear given recent uncertainty.”

 

 

 

 

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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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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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 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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Read more about the Priory Rooms here.

Join Ann Pettifor, economist, Manuel Cortes, TSSA general secretary, Zoe Williams, journalist, Marina Prentoulis, former Syriza activist and Another Europe is Possible.

Brexit is all-out attack on the rights, freedoms and prosperity of the communities that the left is supposed to represent. The closer we get, the clearer it becomes that:

Brexit is:

  • an attempt to deregulate our economy,
  • sign our future over to dodgy trade deals
  • and attack on the rights, freedoms and prosperity of working class built on an agenda of racist scapegoating.

Tue 31 July 2018: 19:00 – 21:00 BST

The Priory Rooms Meeting & Conference Centre

40 Bull Street

Birmingham

B4 6AF

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For more about the tour, including more locations, go to https://www.anothereurope.org/tour/

Booking https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-left-against-brexit-birmingham-tickets-47305520084

 

 

 

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After the leader of Birmingham City Council welcomed the 2018 Local Government Association Conference to Birmingham (ICC, 3-5 July) Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, spoke.

An extract from his keynote speech, published on the Local Government website

 I know that the state of Council finances keeps many of us up at night. Making the bottom line work for you will continue to be a priority for the LGA’s lobbying.

The money local government has for vital day-to-day services is running out fast. There is also huge uncertainty about how local services are going to be funded beyond 2020.

Councils can no longer be expected to run our local services on a shoestring. We must shout from the roof tops for local government to be put back on a sustainable financial footing.

We’ve protected government for a long time by making sure all the cuts thrown our way were implemented in a way that shielded our residents as much as possible.

But if austerity is coming to an end, then, as we were in the front of the queue when it started, we must also be at the front of the queue for more money when it ends. Only with adequate funding and the right powers can Councils help the Government tackle the challenges facing our nation.

Lord Porter (left) added that the cap on council tax also needs to be lifted: “Let us be clear, every penny in local taxation collected locally must be kept by local government and spent on our public services”.

Stroud District Council is the first council in Gloucestershire to lose its revenue support grant from the Government – a grant that has been paid in some form or another to all local councils for more than 50 years. In 2019/20 it must pay back £549,000, due to a ‘tariff adjustment’. This will be the largest sum paid by any Gloucestershire council and marks a new relationship between central and local government.

In July the FT pointed out that between 2015 and 2020, the Revenue Support Grant will have shrunk 77p in the pound, the Local Government Association the UK government plans to slash their core funding 77%. Almost half of all councils — 168 — will no longer receive any core central government funding in the 2019/20 budgetary year, according to the LGA, adding:

“The LGA says it is impossible to cut any further. It estimates a £5.8bn funding gap in 2020 — even if councils stopped filling in potholes, maintaining parks and open spaces, closed all children’s centres, libraries, museums, leisure centres, turned off every street light and shut all discretionary bus routes”. 

 

 

 

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In a report published this week, the  Centre for Cities, noting that many high streets are full of boarded-up shops, advises local authorities to ‘reimagine’ the space for offices, homes and leisure:

“These places should focus on making their city centres better places to live, work and play in. For example, taking steps to repurpose surplus shops for amenities, housing, public space or parkland, will create a more attractive space for people to spend time or live in — which in turn will create more footfall for retail, restaurants and cafes”.

Centre for Cities describes Birmingham as having a strong city centre but low-skilled suburbs

When true socialist Theresa Stewart became leader of Birmingham council in 1993, acting on her belief that the council should spend its money on education, housing and social services, she backed The Living over the Shop (LOTS) project.

It was set up in 1989 to demonstrate the feasibility of using vacant space above shops and offices and ways in which wasted space can be brought back into use, usually for affordable rented housing and creating a range of employment opportunities. It was estimated that at least 250,000 homes could be created from these vacant areas. This would repopulate urban areas that were often empty and desolate during evenings and at weekends.

Though young occupiers were keen to buy into the new wave of urban living and these flats above shops were, on average, 20% cheaper than equivalent sized homes in buildings without ground floor retail premises, families wanted facilities like schools, play areas, doctors’ surgeries and green spaces. Parking was often a problem.

Home reports that overall, 1 in 7 shops in Britain are now vacant. The internet has acquired a massive slice of our regular spending, supermarkets offer a widening range of products, out of town centres have sprung up and shops are now open for more days each week and more hours every day.


In some cities, such as Sheffield and Bradford, over a quarter of shops are empty in areas where the demand for shop premises will never rebound. Home says that, “With the constant cry of a major housing shortage in this country, it seems obvious that …… these shops should be converted into homes. They generally have good ground floor access that is ideal for any wheelchair users and for babies still in prams and offer a challenge to architects to use the infrastructure of the buildings in a more imaginative way”.

More proactive planning procedures are needed in order to convert these spaces to much-needed housing. Local Development Orders can change the designated uses of buildings. Home continues:

“Shop properties could then provide up to 420,000 new homes in Britain. A double success story by any standards and successes in the housing market are rare finds these days!”

 

 

 

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UK aviation policy is primarily predicated on the requirements of airport operators, major airlines and the Treasury – the needs of passengers come last says Steve Beauchampé.

The governments long-awaited – and unsurprising – decision to proceed with construction of a third runway at London Heathrow is fundamentally flawed, supported with redundant arguments and highly questionable financial assessments. If the UK had a comprehensive and comprehensible national aviation strategy Heathrow would not be operating at anything like 95% of capacity.

That it does so is the result of a system that essentially forces millions of UK passengers per annum to travel long distances, often in arduous and stressful conditions, to use both Heathrow and London’s two other main airports (Gatwick and Stansted) at great cost both to themselves and the environment. rather than utilising their local airports, many of which are working to a fraction of their capability.

.bham airport logo

Birmingham International Airport handled 12.9m passengers in 2017 but could cope with around double that number. Meanwhile, Nottingham East Midlands welcomed a paltry 4.88m whilst major population centres such as in the North East, South West, South Wales and along the south coast are all but bereft of decent flight choices. This is not only down to the London-centric approach which blights so many activities in the UK, but the failure of successive governments to challenge and take on the vested interests of London airports and the major airlines.

Two key arguments put forward in favour of a third runway at Heathrow are particularly fallacious: the first is that Heathrow must continue developing as a ‘hub’ airport, competing for passengers not with Birmingham, Manchester or even Gatwick, Stansted and Luton, but with Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Dublin and increasingly Dubai!

So a third (and later probably fourth and fifth) runway at Heathrow is essentially required to allow the airport’s operator Heathrow Airport Holdings to attract passengers who will never leave the airport environs but whose visit is solely to transfer from one aeroplane to another, Great news for HAH, who enjoy increased landing fees as a result, and good news for the Treasury, who collect airport tax each time that a passenger takes a flight.

But it is hardly good news for UK travellers who are not being provided with flights from their local airports to the locations that they want and at a time when they want to fly. Indeed the hub strategy encourages those in the north of England, Northern Island and Scotland to take domestic flights to Heathrow and then transfer planes to reach their ultimate destination.

Yet hub airports may soon be an outdated concept, with technological improvements meaning that modern aeroplanes will be able to fly further (and faster) without the need to refuel (its already possible to fly non-stop from London to Sydney). Point-to-point flying seems more likely to be the way ahead. 

The second argument in favour of Heathrow runway expansion is that many airlines do not want to fly out of the UK’s ‘regional’ airports (with the possible exception of Manchester, which handled 27.7m passengers in 2017) and would be unwilling to give up valuable landing slots at Heathrow.

But this argument is unacceptable. We would not tolerate train operators refusing to serve smaller stations nor bus companies running services only on main routes. To combat this attitude the number of slots available at Heathrow needs to be limited rather than endlessly expanded, whilst the national airport strategy that Conservative MP and anti-Heathrow Runway 3 campaigner Justine Greening called for earlier this week should focus on ways to create an environment which encourages airlines to relocate services outside of London and the South East. This is particularly apposite given that both Birmingham and Manchester airports will be stops on the HS2 network by 2030. And whilst there is a real risk that limiting slots at Heathrow will result in some airlines pulling routes and services out of the UK altogether, the country is a large enough aviation market to offer sufficient paths to profit that most such withdrawals will likely be less than crucial and, in some cases, perhaps temporary.

In agreeing to support Heathrow’s third runway the government have committed to paying £2.6bn in compensation to those communities near to the airport that will be destroyed or significantly affected by the project. To which can be added an estimated £10bn in public funding for the new infrastructure and environmental measures required to support the expansion.

How much better to invest this money throughout the UK to create a national airport infrastructure to meet the needs of the travelling public, and one befitting the worlds fifth largest economy.

 

Steve Beauchampé

June 7th 2018

First published on http://thebirminghampress.com/2018/06/airport-2018/ 

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In 2014, the world’s first research centre for Cryogenic Energy Storage at the University of Birmingham established a five-year research chair appointment under the leadership of Professor Yulong Ding. The Royal Academy of Engineering and Highview Power Storage created and funded the Chair to explore the limits of this emerging technology, which could drive the development of variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, converting excess/off-peak electricity into multi megawatts of stored energy. 

Andy Bounds now reports in the FT that this partnership has developed the world’s first liquid air energy storage plant which will open today in Bury near Manchester:

“The Pilsworth liquid air energy storage (LAES) plant, owned by Highview Power, will act as a giant rechargeable battery, soaking up excess energy and releasing it when needed. This is particularly useful with the rapid growth in renewable energy, which accounted for 29% of all electricity generated in the UK in 2017. It generates excess power when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing but is not reliable at times of peak demand. Coal-fired power stations that typically handled peak electricity demand are being shut down and National Grid, which owns and operates the electricity transmission network, pays small gas and diesel generators to bridge the gap”. According to Gareth Brett, chief executive of Highview Power. “LAES is arguably the only viable, non-polluting, long-duration, locatable energy storage technology available”.

The Highview system has already attracted interest from potential customers, including Enel, the Italian utility. Gianluca Gigliuci, head of energy storage Innovation at Enel Green Power, said storage technologies were needed to “enable renewables to satisfy baseload”. These storage systems need durability, long useful life, flexibility and reliability. Highview’s LAES is one of the more promising solutions we have seen.”

 

 

 

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