Archives for category: Employment

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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CoStar reports that through Rothschild & Co (condor.enquiries@rothschild.com), Network Rail has begun to sell its commercial estate and most of this property is located in railway arches.

They will be sold as leasehold with Network Rail retaining the freehold to ensure maintenance access rights continue. Project Condor is expected to raise more than £1bn and Mark Carne, Network Rail’s chief executive said: “This deal will bring more investment into the commercial estate for the benefit of the local communities and it will help fund a better railway. I hope to see areas around the railway positively transformed with new and refurbished shops, amenities, and extra facilities for local people and passengers.”

A mailing from the New Economics Foundation recalls that in 2015 Network Rail struck a bargain with chancellor George Osborne: “give us the funds we need for infrastructure upgrades, and we’ll sell off a big chunk of our assets. The railway arches are one of those assets”.

Around 80% of the property is located in London, with much of the rest in Manchester and Birmingham. Occupiers of railway arches include restaurants, bars, offices, retail, leisure operators, breweries, car washes, gyms and healthcare centres.

We were unable to contact Tom Maher, co-founder of Birmingham’s Original Patty Men, who serves locally sourced longhorn beef burgers – and more – to appreciative customers in one of Digbeth’s railway bridge arches (above) in Shaw’s Passage.  Last year the Mail described its expansion plans to expand into the premises on the right, retaining the outdoor seating area in the space between the bar and restaurant with a bakery at the back.

Will the OPM be adversely affected? We hope not.

Network Rail’s sale is expected to attract attention from private equity and sovereign wealth funds who would find the average rents – at around £8 to £9 per sq ft – rather low, but CoStar reports that Network Rail has met stern resistance from small business owners, notably in Hackney, E1, and Brixton, SW9.


Supported by the New Economics Foundation and the East End Trades Guild, a group of arches tenants from around the country (three above and many more pictures here) has formed Guardians of the Arches to oppose the sale and seek a viable settlement for the future.

They are organising an open letter to Chris Grayling asking him to halt the sale and meet them to talk about the future of the arches. Thousands have signed this letter in just the first few days, and the group are planning a lobby of parliamentarians in June. Readers may sign as suggested below.

The NEF article ends: “Like many public asset sales, it makes little sense no matter how you look at it. In financial terms, selling off the asset means Network Rail – and by extension the public – will no longer benefit from the steady annual rental yields generated by the portfolio. And it’s no excuse to say there’s no other way of funding infrastructure improvements. The Government is currently able to borrow at historically low interest rates, but instead they are forcing public bodies to sell income-generating assets to fund investment”. 

 Click here to sign the Guardians’ letter to the Secretary of State for Transport.

 

 

 

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The West Midlands Economy: Why We Need a Strategy for Inclusive Growth’, BTUC Conference

10 March 1.30-4.30,

Unite offices, Birmingham

See website for slightly clearer print.

 

 

 

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Some time ago West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street travelled to Finland – thought to be the only country in Europe where homelessness is falling.

He said: “We have got to be realistic about this. This can’t be about a sticking plaster. We have got to ask ourselves the question, are we prepared to make a similar commitment?”

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation of the long-term homeless, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature.

As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”. Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’ and eventually have to leave because of alcohol, drug or debt problems.

Mayor:  travel to Cambridge Emmaus to see the homeless rehabilitated

The mayor of Birmingham may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or better still, go the centre in Cambridge, the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing and workshops are on the same site – and also a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people.

The secular Emmaus movement flourishes on the continent where it was started in 1945 by a French priest to help homeless ex-servicemen to repair war-damaged houses.

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

Those who had an alcohol addiction, go out for a drink but are expected to behave acceptably. Even if they are asked to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.

The four storey Trinity Centre (a former church, a listed building) in Camp Hill near the city centre, highlighted on this site in 2014, would offer a suitable site, as Emmaus prefers to have the residential, working and retail activities on the same site.. It housed many homeless ex-servicemen and workers displaced by machinery.

The ground floor was a dormitory, with three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week. All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat on the top storey.

When the Centre was put up for sale some local people suggested that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community.

 

Could Trinity Centre become the city’s first Emmaus?

Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner: should the Mayor contact him?

 

 

 

enquiries@emmauscoventry.org.uk

 

– though in Coventry this has not been possible.

Mayor Andy Street and Bishop David Urquhart could begin to address homelessness

Some time ago West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street travelled to Finland – thought to be the only country in Europe where homelessness is falling.

He said: “We have got to be realistic about this. This can’t be about a sticking plaster. We have got to ask ourselves the question, are we prepared to make a similar commitment?”

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation of the long-term homeless, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature.

As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”. Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’ and eventually have to leave because of alcohol, drug or debt problems.

Mayor Andy Street:  travel to Cambridge Emmaus to see the homeless rehabilitated

The mayor of Birmingham may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or better still, go the centre in Cambridge, the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing and workshops are on the same site – and also a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people.

The Emmaus movement flourishes on the continent where it was started in 1945 by a French priest to help homeless ex-servicemen to repair war-damaged houses.

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

Those who had an alcohol addiction, go out for a drink but are expected to behave acceptably. Even if they are asked to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.

The four storey Trinity Centre (a former church, a listed building) in Camp Hill near the city centre, highlighted on this site in 2014, would offer a suitable site, as Emmaus prefers to have the residential, working and retail activities on the same site.. It housed many homeless ex-servicemen and workers displaced by machinery.

The ground floor was a dormitory, with three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week. All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat on the top storey.

When the Centre was put up for sale some local people suggested that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community.

 

Could Trinity Centre become the city’s first Emmaus?

Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner: should the Mayor contact him?

 

 

 

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Localise West Midlands recently commissioned a video which highlights four local projects that stimulate local economies and decentralise economic power. It was filmed, produced and edited by Susan Jones, Redhead Business Films with funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

After seeing the video people who want more information should go to the LWM blog which has details of the four projects and the people involved.

The new Midland Metropolitan hospital ‘anchoring prosperity in the community’ hopes that one of its retail units will be taken by a social enterprise; it would not only sell locally produced goods but act as a “concierge” type service for busy staff and visiting families, to access the services they need from local businesses. It would aim to make stronger links with local people and help towards regenerating local neighbourhoods, Ladywood, Soho and Smethwick in the same way as Citizen Home in the Jewellery Quarter.

Inclusive business support ecosystems in Balsall Heath: Citizens UK and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship have been working together with business people in Lozells, Small Heath and Sparkbrook to achieve better engagement with support agencies, aiming to generate an inclusive business support ecosystem in these areas. 

Energy Capital is about collaborative sector development, in which energy innovation delivers on the needs of real people and the environment, with locally owned businesses involved at every level. RentE Cars is one of the local businesses that is taking advantage of electric car charging innovations.

Social care, rather than being a problem, can be a positive force for inclusive economics that could help the West Midlands Combined Authority achieve its stated aims of sharing prosperity more widely – as a report by NEF for LWM outlines. Crossroads Care is an example of a locally accountable and adaptable enterprise delivering social care and economic opportunity.

Localise West Midlands explores better ways to do economics – creating an economy which is lively and diverse & in which more people have a stake – meeting local needs with local resources.

 

 

Birmingham’s Professor Rex Harris (FREng) is drawing attention to a recent article in the Guardian Review on wind energy giving an up-beat view of off-shore wind farms which, he agrees, are showing a lot of promise, particularly compared with the very expensive and increasingly problematic nuclear option. He comments:

“However, in this article, there was no mention of the vital role played by NdFeB-type permanent magnets in the direct drive generators provided by companies such as Siemens”.

The untutored writer consulted a second engineer who said that readers may have noticed wind turbines of rather different shapes starting to appear. The more traditional ones have a nacelle behind the rotor – the gearbox to convert slow rotation to a higher speed required by the generator.

He continued: “These gearboxes are expensive and heavy, bringing new problems to solve. One solution is the turbine with NdFeB, otherwise known as rare earth magnets. They eliminate the need for the gearbox, driving the generator directly at the speed of the blades. They can be recognised by a large ring structure behind the blades. (The traditional gearbox opposite has the low speed shaft to the left. It makes the high speed shaft to the right turn approximately 50 times faster than the low speed shaft.)

Stanford Magnets reports on the emergence – over the last two years – of commercial-scale & direct drive permanent magnet generator systems with the hub directly connected to the generator (right). Being direct drive, these turbines have significant advantages over the geared variety:

  • significantly increased reliability,
  • reduced maintenance costs,
  • reduced downtime for maintenance
  • improved efficiencies in the power conversion process and
  • greater efficiencies when wind speeds are not at full rating.

The second engineer warns that “engineering is always a compromise and there is a clue in the name RARE earth: these generators need a large quantity to make the magnets required. There is a limited amount of these materials and they are predominantly found in China”. 

Mineral reserves: resources known to be economically feasible for extraction economically and technically feasible to extract. Note that the New Scientist reports that in what is said to be the first detailed report on the country’s supply, the US has 13 million tonnes of rare earth metals –  but it would take years to extract them.

Source: https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/critical-metals-investing/rare-earth-investing/rare-earth-reserves-country/.

Professor Harris and his colleagues David Kennedy and Adrian Arbib end: “With this medium to long term threat to the magnet supply very much in mind, the West, including Europe and the USA, should recreate its previous manufacturing capacity for the production of NdFeB-type sintered magnets, start to exploit alternative rare earth reserves and develop and support NdFeB-type magnet recycling. Simply leaving matters to market forces will certainly not be sufficient”.

 

 

 

 

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There is a substantial and interesting article about the work of Joseph Chamberlain on the website of the Centre for Retail Research.

It ends with the reflection that Chamberlain’s ideas about the need to protect people in lower income groups from oppression and bad faith seem resonant today and continues:

What does Chamberlainism mean for Mrs May and industry?

Probably a recalibration of policy with a much greater focus on work, opportunities and living standards using an expansionist industry policy. We can discern five themes relevant to today:

  • A comprehensive industrial strategy, based on local needs and using local knowledge intended to replace imports and create the vital supply chains needed by British business.
  • New housing, potentially a provider of 1mn new jobs and a swift way of improving the living standards and opportunities. 
  • For education, an increased focus on science, maths, technical subjects and foreign languages; abandoning the current emphasis on university as the only useful goal for young people; and increased focus on vocational training, retraining and part-time study for adults. 
  • A concern for manufacturing industry and jobs once again, rather than assuming that retail, service industries, banking and the City of London are all one needs to worry about to provide work.
  • Requiring Government permission before a significant UK business is purchased by a foreign company.

Read the whole article here: http://www.retailresearch.org/chamberlain.php

 

 

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Corbyn’s core philosophy

We must recognise that every single child in this country has talents and every single child deserves the chance to flourish and thrive to their maximum potential in whichever field suits them best. That focus on the individual child is what drives our determination to reduce class sizes. We know that half a million children have been landed in super-size classes of 31 pupils or more.

He opened by setting out an all-embracing programme:

  • a government for the many not the few
  • invest in our economy and public services.
  • give the richest and largest corporations tax hand-outs worth tens of billions.
  • The NHS and social care have been pushed into a state of emergency.
  • Housebuilding has fallen to its lowest peacetime rate since the 1920s.
  • Schools across the country face real terms cuts in funding per pupil,
  • and class sizes are rising –
  • while those young people who want to go to university face huge debts.

His undertakings:

Labour will introduce a National Education Service, ensuring excellent learning opportunities for all from early years to adult education and halt closures of Sure Start centres and increase the funding for them.

Universal free school meals for pupils at primary schools will be introduced to help teachers who will see the benefits of improved concentration and improved attainment in the classroom. It will also help parents who will not only save money but have the peace of mind in knowing that their child is getting a healthy school meal during the day. Investing in the health of our nation’s children, is investing in our nation’s future.

If we are to build an economy worthy of the 21st century, we need a schools system that looks forwards, and not backwards to the failed models of the past.

The task is clear: we must build an education system that suits the needs of our children and the opportunities they will have in the jobs market of tomorrow.

 

Read the full text here: https://watershed2015.wordpress.com/articles-addresses-worth-reading/jeremy-corbyns-2017-election-address-to-head-teachers/

 

 

 

In July, Birmingham City Council reneged on an ACAS-mediated, cabinet-approved agreement between the Unite union and Birmingham’s talented Council Leader, John Clancy, which was to end the seven-week refuse collection dispute.

The well-paid BCC chief executive (right) was seeking to downgrade 106 Grade 3 jobs to a Grade 2, which meant that workers would lose £3,500-5,000 from their already low salaries of around £20,000.

And when BCC reneged on the Unite/Clancy deal, they also issued redundancy notices to the Grade 3 workers. These were later banned in the High Court when Mr Justice Fraser spoke at length about the “extraordinary” and “astonishing” state of affairs at Birmingham City Council with “chaos” between senior personnel. Read more about his reflections here.

Council leader Ian Ward (left) told a BBC reporter: “The cost of the (three month) dispute, yes that’s cost in excess of £6m”.

This ‘new’ version of the original deal (details here), described by union insiders as a ‘total climb-down’, was agreed at a special meeting of the BCC cabinet on Friday.

 ITV reports that yesterday Birmingham bin workers voted to accept the council deal.

So a seven week dispute was allowed to go on for three months, regardless of health and safety implications, losing £6m of ratepayers’ money – and the wrong head rolled.

 

 

 

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People passing the illuminated Bournville factory buildings late at night will have noted its 24-hour operation – evidence of a thriving enterprise.

The factory buildings in 1932: unchanged exterior

The FT’s John Murray Brown (paywall) reports from Bournville that Mondelez has completed a two-year modernisation programme, investing £75m in the chocolate maker’s flagship factory: “Shiny new production equipment has been installed at the “factory in a garden” built by Quaker George Cadbury in 1879 alongside houses for its workers who had relocated from Birmingham’s industrial belt.

Under the agreement, 1,300 workers at Bournville and two other Cadbury factories in the UK will receive a pay rise of 3.2% in 2017-18, and an increase in line with inflation in 2018-19. Joe Clarke of Unite says this is considerably higher than other recent settlements in the food and drinks industry, which have been about 2.4%.

Mr Clarke highlighted the chocolate maker’s “strong ethical traditions: “Cadbury has a long history of good industrial relations. We’ve got records which go back to the tea break agreement of 1922.” Cadbury established works councils, with management and employee representative meeting to discuss company plans, back in the 1930s. It was also one of the first companies to offer sick pay and pension rights for women.

The improvement in industrial relations at Cadbury came after controversy when the company was bought by Kraft Foods of the US in 2010. The Takeover Panel, the custodian of UK rules on mergers and acquisitions, after reneging on a promise not to shut Cadbury’s Somerdale plant at Keynsham near Bristol but it was made clear that the original decision had been made by Cadbury in 2007.

There have been 200 voluntary redundancies at Bournville under the modernisation programme, bringing the manufacturing workforce down to about 800. The four new production lines have led to ‘dramatic’ productivity improvements closing the gap with Mondelez’ German plant. In an embedded video, David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston University business school, said, “We hadn’t seen significant investment at Bournville for a long time. It was pretty dilapidated. Old plant and equipment. The focus on productivity is the only way any company manufacturing in a relatively high-cost economy can survive in the long run”.

The changes at Bournville mean manufacturing is assured “for a generation not just for the short term”, according to Glenn Caton, president of Mondelez’s northern Europe operations.  

 

 

 

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