Archives for category: Economy

In 2015, Welfare Weekly reported that research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that 2.6million working families on Universal Credit would lose £1,600 a year from the changes and 1.9 million would be £1,400 a year better off.

Analysis from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility suggested the changes to universal credit would save the chancellor close to £3bn by 2019-20 – a figure quoted by Public Finance.

Graph from House of Commons Library blog, last November, ‘Jam Tomorrow’

In March this year a study by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the IPPR thinktank that a series of cuts and changes have left the government’s flagship welfare overhaul failing to meet its original aims.

Although universal credit was intended to boost household incomes by strengthening incentives for claimants to move into work or take on more hours, the study says that more families will be worse off than under the scheme’s original design.

Families with children are the biggest losers under the cuts made to universal credit since it was first established. Lone parent families will be on average £2,380 a year worse off, while families with two children lose £1,100 on average and those with three youngsters lose £2,540. Lone parents and couples where one parent works part-time to care for young children are hit particularly hard and face having have to find up to two days’ extra work a week to meet the shortfall in income from the cuts.

Currently just 450,000 people are on universal credit, which is not expected to be fully operational across the country until 2022. At that point, according to estimates by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2.1 million families will be worse off under the new system, and 1.8 million better off.

David Hencke quotes Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, who said:

“My office has been deluged with complaints from constituents about a Universal Credit system that is clearly struggling to cope and failing to deliver the support that claimants need in anything like an orderly or timely fashion”.

She reveals a very sorry picture. The new IT system means people can’t talk to a human. It has a verification process that requires claimants to produce photographic identification such as a passport or driving licence, “which many simply do not possess and certainly cannot afford”. She adds:

“There are numerous examples of Universal Credit claims being shut down before they should be; of documentation being provided to the DWP, at the constituent’s cost, and repeatedly being lost or even destroyed; and of totally conflicting, often incorrect, information being provided to constituents about their claims.” A list of other problems may be seen here.

Precisely the case seen repeatedly 20 years ago when the writer (David Hencke) was a volunteer in a local night-shelter.

Hencke ends, “What this shows to me is a growing disconnect between the people at the top – who are computer savvy, have nice centrally heated homes, no problems with bills, can afford expensive holidays, and can’t conceive of anyone not having a passport – designing a system for poor, dispossessed, desperate people without any understanding of how the world works for them.

 

 

 

 

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The city has at last gained a council leader who really cares for the 99% (search housing blogs) – the only one since Theresa Stewart was elected.  

Measures taken (2016-17) include:

Clancy also works effectively to maintain and increase economic prosperity for the city’s business community:

Does ‘Sir Humphrey’ resent his success?

Howard Beckett (Unite) points out: “Let no one lose focus here that this is a cuts agenda being forced through by a paid officer, Stella Manzie, who takes home £180,000 a year and in her last year at Rotherham claimed over £160,000 in expenses”. He stated:

“The Council have agreement with the unions for changes in a working week, shift patterns, increased waste revenue. The Labour Cabinet needs now to honour the Acas deal and in doing so do the right thing by workers and the people of Birmingham . . . the council needs to admit it did ratify it and stand by it – and if it doesn’t, it needs to be honest and admit it’s going back on its decision. This is a fair deal and the equal pay issues are made up”.

Is the civil service attempting to undermine the elected leader of the council? Technically no officers, including the interim chief executive, have the authority to overturn a cabinet vote  seven for three against according to a ‘senior Labour source’ at a council meeting on 17 August called to discuss the deal

Clancy’s ‘crime’: addressing a major overspend on the bins department which relied heavily on costly agency staff and overtime payments to fulfil its basic service and a potential equal pay liability that the Labour leadership inherited from the former Tory-Lib Dem council which oversaw the 2011 bin strike.

There will be a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 11 when two councillors with a minimal track record of achievement will table their vote of no confidence in the leader.

It should be overwhelmingly defeated.

 

 

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Thursday 14th September, 5.30 for 6pm start.

UNISON Regional Office, 24 Livery Street, B32PA (next to the Old Contemptibles and opposite Snow Hill Station)

Lucy Seymour-Smith writes:

In times of austerity, services, organisations and communities are being starved of the funds needed to survive and grow.

We cannot regenerate or communities by relying on large organisations who can, and do relocate according to their own financially driven agenda.

Instead we need a new approach to regeneration framed around co-operative values of self-help, participation, social responsibility and democratic accountability that is led by organisations that have a genuine long-term stake in our communities.

In celebration of the Co-op Party centenary this event is an absolute must for all those interested in transforming the West Midlands region by reorganising local economies and supporting communities to help themselves.

First outing at the 2017 Durham Miners’ Gala

Panel speakers include:

Liam Byrne MP

Claire Campbell, UNISON Head of Local Government

Anna Birley, Coop party policy officer and Labour/Coop Party Cabinet Member in Lambeth

 *Spaces limited so sign up quickly*

nibbles and networking

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/how-can-west-midlands-councils-build-community-wealth-tickets-37093770466

 

 

 

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West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

5-7pm on Thursday 31st August 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.

A draft of the presentation, LOCALISM & REGIONALISM, opens:

“With the gradual yielding of a collective to an individualist social ethos; with the hollowing out of local government power; with the weakening of trade union influence; with the decline of local and community newspapers … both individuals and nuclear families feel powerless before the Westminster run state . . .

“Meanwhile, modern states feel constrained before the imperatives of the neoliberal market. We are told that there is no alternative to ‘growing the economy’ – even though local jobs continue to be lost and goods once produced locally are imported over great distances . . .” 

‘Woody’ Woods, the author, has sent known contacts the draft of the intended presentation. He suggests that a fuller title would be: “Exploring Localism and Regionalism as roads to our empowerment.”  

 

Details of his earlier essay and book are given on the Planet Centred Forum website.

 

 

 

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Time-pressed residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock, Dudley, Coventry, Lichfield, Sandwell, South Staffs, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton who regularly scan their section of the Brummie site, appreciate the free service it gives, whatever their interests. Main news items covered, include a range of locally run websites, music and the arts, sport and business.

Links to them give those sites a wider readership than would otherwise have been possible. Until the final few months Mark was a helpful and courteous correspondent and this later lack of response was ascribed to pressure of other work, which involved travelling abroad. We now can see that there may have been health concerns claiming priority.

Three of many interests served: Our Birmingham, West Midlands Producers and Localise West Midlands thank him and hope that a way will be found to maintain the Brummie.

 

 

 

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Birmingham City Council’s cabinet has approved a proposal to enable the development of new homes for self and custom build in the City; read more here.

‘Incentivising self-build in the city’, signed by Council leader John Clancy and Waheed Nazir Corporate Director (Economy), puts forward a series of proposals to enable the development of new homes for self and custom build in Birmingham, identifying and disposing of suitable council-owned sites and applying for grants and loan funding to support self and custom build. Self-build schemes currently deliver around 10,000 homes per year in the UK – see the government’s research briefing.

The Birmingham Newsroom release points out that the Government has taken steps to raise the profile of self-build, easing constraints in the planning systems, cutting taxes for self-build developments, providing a number of funds to assist individuals and communities to self-build and releasing public land for self-build projects. In 2016 councils became legally obliged to keep a register of potential self and custom builders and to facilitate access to suitable sites for interested parties. In 2014, a Guardian article refers to Eric Pickles as initiator and gives news of continental self-build.

The news release explains that ‘self-build’ is when the end user directly organises the design and construction of their home: “The most traditional is where the self-builder selects the design and undertakes much of the actual construction work themselves. However, self-build also includes projects where the self-builder arranges for an architect/ contractor to build their home for them; and those which are delivered by kit home companies. Some community-led projects are also defined as self-builds as the members may organise and undertake a proportion of the construction work themselves”.   There is a Self and Custom Build webpage on the Council’s website with five documents, one of which gives information about applications for self-build by individuals or associations.

As most online images were of individually designed houses in rural settings this Lancaster co-housing scene (small houses, with communal facilities and storage areas) was chosen – not ‘pure’ self-build, but the group designed it and did ‘site preparation on the periphery’.

As Brandon Lewis, when Housing and Planning Minister (2014-16) said, many other countries have a track record of delivering large numbers of local homes through self-build and there is now a determination to ensure significant growth in self housebuilding.

Long-forgotten references were revisited:

The Walter Segall Self-Build Trust has a website, not updated of late. In the late 1970s the ‘Segal method’ was adopted by Lewisham Council for a self-building housing project across four sites and in March 2016 the Architectural Association’s School of Architecture held an exhibition concentrating on two of the streets, Walter’s Way and Segal Close, built under Segal’s personal guidance.

A search updated news gf Mary Kelly, architect, self-builder and teacher who for ten years co-ordinating the activities of the Walter Segal Self Build Trust. She is now living and teaching in Northumberland, building her own house.

Habitat for Humanity, backing self- build in Peckham, has an online directory with a section for the Midlands.

The Self-build Book – Broome & Richardson – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Self-build-Book-Enjoy-Designing-Building/dp/1870098234

Selfbuild 123 – timber frame houses www.selfbuild123.co.uk

Green Building Store https://www.greenbuildingstore.co.uk/

Self build houses: http://www.selfbuildit.co.uk/

 

 

 

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40 Vendors. 2 Days. Unlimited Coffee. Birmingham’s First Coffee Festival.

10am-6pm

From independent coffee houses and speciality roasters, to companies that are expanding across the UK, we will celebrate the gift that is the coffee bean.

Sipping, Shopping & Networking at the Custard Factory

Gibb St, Birmingham B9 4AA

​These two days will bring together the top 40 independent coffee shops and coffee culture experiences from the local area and beyond.

 You can sample specialty coffee and food from all around the world. Whether you are a coffee drinker, enjoy the coffee shop experience, or own a store, there is something for everyone. ​From finding your new favourite blend to picking your next machine supplier, we have it all.

Have a coffee, cake or lunch and relax in our seating area whilst listening to local musicians. Unlimited samples will be available from our partners as well as plenty of things to buy on the day.

In 2017 our chosen charity is the ‘The Black Country Kitchen’, a volunteer based organisation that helps provide a hot meal every week for the homeless and those in need. All our live music acts will be ‘busking’ and 100% of the money raised by them will go straight to the charity.

Get all the latest news and updates on the festival

on the Birmingham Coffee Festival website.

 

 

 

 

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A scientist recently asked in a private email message: “Just how much of a scientific rationalist is Jeremy Corbyn? As far as I know he has never distanced himself publicly from his climate-denialist brother Piers”. He was recommended to read Corbyn’s reports Protecting our Planet & Environment and Energy and to see his video (snapshot right):

It has welcome input from the excellent Alan Simpson, a former Nottingham MP, about the Robin Hood energy co-operative.

More recently Kate Aronoff in the Guardian sees hope for real progress on climate change lying in its appeal to the interests of the 99% (our term, replacing her use of ‘populism’).  

It’s one of history’s greatest “us v them” scenarios, pitting a handful of oligarchs and profit-hungry fossil fuel CEOs against the rest of humanity”.

She continues: “The brand of climate denial that informs Trump and the Republican party line is the result of one of the global elite’s most effective projects yet. It’s been multinational corporations funding the campaign to cast doubt on scientific consensus. ExxonMobil, for instance, has poured at least $33m into such efforts since the Kyoto protocol was launched in 1997”.

Despite this long-running disinformation campaign, Kate notes that the majority of voters in every state support the United States’ participation in the agreement” and today we read about the critical response from some major industrialists and about several US states deciding to ‘go it alone’ after the president refused to be part of the Paris accord. Representatives of American cities, states and companies are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions targets under the Paris climate accord, despite President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement. The group (to date) includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses. Read more in the New York Times.

Kate points out – as Hines, Green New Deal convenor has long asserted, that any reasonable solution to climate change will require massive amounts of job creation, putting people to work doing everything from installing solar panels to insulating houses to updating the country’s electric grid to nursing and teaching, jobs in two of the country’s already low-carbon sectors.

She quotes climate scientist Kevin Anderson, who said earlier this year that shifting to a low-carbon society within the timeframe we have is an absolute agenda for jobs, “You are guaranteeing full employment for 30 years if we think climate change is a serious issue. If we don’t, we can carry on with structural unemployment.”

Her tactical advice: “Don’t chide Trump and the rest of his party for denying climate change when they pull out of the Paris agreement. Chide them for denying millions of Americans the well-paying jobs and stable future they deserve”.

Corbyn summarises: “A Labour government, under my leadership, will deliver an energy policy for the 60 million, not the Big 6 energy companies, championing community-owned renewable energy”.

 

 

 

 

 In February Pat Thomas wrote an articleLet’s get UK chefs talking about GMOs’.

San Carlo is ahead of the game. 

Outside its restaurant in Temple Street, Birmingham San Carlo’s menu sheets open with the declaration (photographed in driving rain): “We are advised by all our suppliers that all their products are GM free”

 San Carlo is one of the restaurants founded by Carlo di Stefano which have won more than thirty regional national awards – to read more go to: https://sancarlo.co.uk/our-story/. There are sixteen in Britain and a growing number overseas. Not only is it ‘GM wise’ but – as visitors from Mumbai last Wednesday all agreed – lunch there was delicious.

This year ‘Beyond GM’ is introducing ‘GMO conversation’ to chefs, caterers, restaurateurs, hoteliers and others in the British food service industry.

Pat Thomas (below left) noted in March that in the US, chefs like Alice Waters and Tom Colicchio are leading the public discussion on GMOs. But in the UK our chefs, caterers, hoteliers and restaurateurs are largely silent – and possibly not well-informed. She adds that concern in Europe is already growing. In France, an open letter about GMOs and the corporate takeover of the food has been signed (so far) by 330 chefs, hoteliers, restaurateurs and others in the food industry. The letter was launched on gastronomy news website Atabula and initiated by its founder and editor, Franck Pinay-Rabaroust, a former editor of the Michelin Guide.

A survey (now closed) was organized which focussed on preferences and informed choice when eating out and its early results will be brought to a roundtable on provenance hosted by Chef Cyrus Todiwala. It will also inform a report being produced on GMOs in the restaurant and catering food chain and this, in turn, will form the basis of talks planned for later in the year.

 

 

 

 

An emboldened Conservative government would indeed be good news for ‘Strong and Stable’ funeral directors, as:

  • air pollution continues unabated,
  • the health service deteriorates,
  • the incidence of adult depression and mental illness in children grows apace
  • ‘moral fibre’ rots: latest indication:10,000 Britons signed up to one of the world’s largest paedophile internet networks
  • and others are debt-ridden due to the daily onslaught of consumerist advertising,
  • sedated by inane, often BBC-provided TV quiz shows
  • or led astray by a violent TV/online diet.

Tom Young says May’s ‘Strong and Stable Government’: (is) More Than a Tagline – indeed it is and a Conservative stabilisation unit would, in future, see an increasingly  heavy workload.

New claimants with a disability have just been hit by a £30 a week cut in benefits to save the government £1bn over four years even though their living costs are higher because of the need for assisted travel, hospital appointments, extra heating, etc., and they are likely to take far longer to find a job.

A Hall Green friend who intends to vote Labour writes of his issue with the Labour message: “it remains too rooted in struggle and injustice, and not enough in giving people a reason to vote if they don’t suffer or struggle”.

But many well-placed voters are deeply concerned when seeing others in difficulties. And a far larger swathe of the population is struggling than he seems to think:

  • graduates in formerly secure jobs are being made redundant,
  • people in their twenties and twenties now see no option but to live with their parents,
  • many people are suffering from urban air pollution and miserable traffic congestion,
  • education cuts will affect their children as the Public Accounts Committee has warned,
  • in some areas people in need of healthcare are affected by a declining NHS service.
  • mental illness, no doubt in part due to one of more of these factors, is rising rapidly in both children and adults.

Professor Prem Sikka sees the positive, constructive Labour message; U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn plans:

  • to raise corporation tax by more than a third over the next three years and plough the £6bn proceeds into schools and universities,
  • restore maintenance grants for the poorest students,
  • abolish university tuition fees
  • guarantee that five, six and seven-year olds will not be taught in classes of more than 30.
  • creating a National Education Service to equip Britain’s workers for the post-Brexit economy,
  • extend free adult education to allow workers to upgrade their skills,
  • raise the cap on NHS wages, and
  • to build up to a million new homes, many of them council houses.

If ‘the sums don’t add up’, a standard Conservative knee-jerk reaction:

Withdraw subsidies from fossil fuel & nuclear companies and arms exporters, jettison HS2 and redirect investment to improving rail and waterway transport links.

Sikka rightly ends: People are our biggest asset and only they can build a nation. We have a choice: Tax cuts for the rich or investment in our future to enable people to realise their potential.