Archives for category: Finance

A Bournville reader has drawn attention to the research findings revealed in a BBC programme.

The BBC’s Shared Data Unit, used freedom of information requests and Land Registry data to obtain information on 92,000 Right to Buy sales across England, Scotland and Wales recording an average of £69,000 each from the scheme since 2000, according to the Times. The biggest profits were in London, with buyers in Islington making almost £100,000 each on average.

From the data gathered, it was calculated that 140 tenants bought and resold their council homes within a month, generating a collective profit of £3 million or £21,000 each.

In one case, a former council tenant in Solihull purchased his/her council home for £8,000 and sold it for £285,000 nine days later. Did s/he and others pay back some or all of the discount they received – as those who sell within five years of purchasing are required to?

State of play until 2013: source, Ampp3d, a data-journalism website for Trinity Mirror 

In January 2017, Right to Buy was halted in Wales, as it was in Scotland in 2016 after 37 years.

The devolved administrations argued that its cost to the social housing supply has been too great. Despite central government pledges to replace homes sold through Right to Buy, most receipts have been returned to the Treasury rather than reinvested in affordable housing.

The Financial Times noted that some 40% of right-to-buy homes pass into the private rented sector, where they may continue to absorb government funds through housing benefit.

The Chartered Institute of Housing once again repeated its call for Right to Buy to be suspended in England.

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Our reader commented that George Cadbury encountered similar profiteering in the early days of Bournville and set up the Bournville Village Trust to administer the project. See Bournville, Model Village to Garden Suburb, Harrison pp 44 Publisher Phillimore, ISBN 1 86077 117 3.

Extract from Management and Organisational Behaviour by Laurie J. Mullins 

 

 

 

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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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Why aren’t we, the electorate, consulted about the whole Council Budget, not just the proposed cuts?

 

 A recent BATC article asked this question and continued:

“The Council’s Budget Consultation is not a consultation about the whole Budget, only about the Council’s planned cuts. On 19 December the Council held a public Budget Consultation meeting.  But it was a rigged consultation because we weren’t given the full Budget plans, only the proposals for the cuts that the Council leadership wants to make.

“The cuts the Council has decided on amount to £50 million this year. But the Council’s total Controllable Expenditure is £1.1billion. The planned savings amount to just 4.5% of the total Council Budget.

  • Where are the plans for the remaining 95.5%? There isn’t a word about them in the consultation document.
  • Why are they kept secret and not spelled out in the report?

“(Of course the Council will say they aren’t secret, they are published somewhere – but this is meaningless if they don’t say where to find them.)”

Smoke and mirrors? 

In 2011, the late Alan Clawley, a tenacious scrutineer, spent several days poring over the 166-page Budget Book and saw that public services were indeed being cut – as publicised – but that civic spending was actually set to increase. 

He was so surprised by this finding that he emailed the council to check the figures, thinking that he must have made a mistake. He referred to these findings in the Birmingham Press after setting them out in great detail at a WM New Economics Group meeting, adding his proposals for an alternative budget. He continued: 

“When I looked at the overall cost of running the Council I saw that it is to INCREASE by £14 million, i.e. from £3,513 million in 2010/11 to £3,527 million in 2011/12.  

“To arrive at this bottom line the council has made CUTS of £149 million but INCREASES of £164 million, which includes £14 million extra for the Leader’s budget.  

“I can’t see where the much-publicised cut of £212 million comes from.  

“The CAPITAL BUDGET has been reduced by £16 million but this consists of a £95 million CUT and a £79 million INCREASE on projects such as the Library of Birmingham, Harborne Pool, Sparkhill Pool, Alexander Stadium, Safety works to parks Highways Maintenance, Big City Plan, High Speed 2, New Street Gateway, Eastside, and Icknield Port Loop”.

The council’s tables were published in an article with the relevant facts highlighted and  Alan Clawley ended by asking:

“How can we (non-experts) know if Birmingham City Council is telling us the truth when it says that the government is forcing it to cut the cost of services by over £200 million next year?  

“How many of us will study the 166-page Budget Book or by spend time scrutinising even the simplified version of the accounts that come with the Council Tax bill”.

 

Fast forward to 2019

The BATC article continues: ”The Council leadership says ‘The purpose of this consultation is… to invite the public and partners to consider these savings proposals, provide feedback and, if they wish, make alternative suggestions’ .” (Report to Cabinet 13 November).  

“But how can we make alternative suggestions if we aren’t given the full picture? 

“The Council Budget Equality Impact Assessment document says explicitly that the cuts they propose will hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. Here’s just one shocking statistic: more than 2 in 5 children in Birmingham live in poverty. 

“There must be savings that can be made out of the 92% of the hidden budget that will cause less damage to these children and their families than the cuts the Council leadership plans”.

The writer asks if the councillors really believe that if the Council leadership consulted on the whole 100% of the Budget, not just its selected four and a half percent, the citizens of Birmingham would say they want to cut:

  • Travel Assist for pupils in need,
  • school crossing patrols,
  • half the libraries’ books budget,
  • the Legal Entitlement & Advice Service accessed by some of the most vulnerable people of Birmingham,
  • privatise or close Council day nurseries
  • the hours of low paid Home Care workers
  • and other damaging cuts in the proposed Budget.

“That is one reason why it is a token consultation. But there is another. The introduction to the Budget Consultation 2019+ November 2018 by Councillors Ian Ward and Brigid Jones says “We know that the decisions laid out in this document will affect many of your lives, which is why it is so important for us to hear from you, and that you take the time to talk to us.”  The Report to Cabinet (13 November) says “Comments from the public will be invited at face-to-face meetings with the public….” Note it says “meetings” plural. And yet they arranged just one solitary consultation meeting. A leaflet given out at the meeting from BATC, Save Our Nurseries and Birmingham Keep Our NHS Public says:

  1. We call for open local meetings to be set up across the city by the Council, to which ordinary citizens, community and campaigning groups are invited to participate.
  2. They would have the aim of drawing up a charter of service needs, campaigning for Birmingham’s money to be returned and developing a vision for a new people’s city, a new Birmingham.

These meetings could be the catalyst for a mass campaign, led by the Council, against the Government austerity policies which are the cause of the relentless cuts in the Council’s budgets. 

2011 https://politicalcleanup.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/newspaper-headlines-shouted-council-cuts-but-what-actually-happened

2019 https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2019/01/01/why-arent-we-consulted-about-the-whole-council-budget-not-just-the-proposed-cuts/#more-10301

 

 

 

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Though the NHS’s funding formula is designed to provide more money to the neediest areas, an FT article reported last week that – according to data analysed by the Nuffield Trust for the Financial Times – some poorer communities being “left behind” when accessing GP services.

Sarah Neville, Global Pharmaceuticals Editor, summarising the data, reports that rich and poor people in England receive different standards of care from the UK’s universal free health service.

Despite the higher burden of ill health in lower socio-economic groups, there are markedly fewer GPs per head in poorer areas of England than in richer areas. More details are given here.

Market Place, Tipton

National Health Service Sandwell residents feel health concerns go unheeded. The FT reports that data from the Sandwell and West Birmingham clinical commissioning group (CCG), which holds the budget for treating the local population, shows that 45.6% reported seeing their preferred GP always or most of the time, compared with a national average of 54.9%. The percentage not able to get a GP appointment stood at 17.1, compared with 11.4% nationally.

Pam Jones, who used to chair Healthwatch, described a kind of vicious circle for local surgeries: “Because they haven’t got enough GPs, they have to employ locums. They employ locums and then it takes more money out of their practice.”

Andy Williams, who heads the Sandwell and West Birmingham clinical commissioning group as its accountable officer, acknowledged that, despite measures to make more GP appointments available, he still receives feedback complaining that it is difficult to get an appointment, “ . . . so we know we’ve got a lot more to do. But we’re taking a much, much more diverse and imaginative approach now”.

He said recruitment has become much harder in the past two years, as a new generation of medical school graduates no longer want to make a mortgage-sized commitment to buy an equity share in a practice to which they are then tied to financially for their working life.

Local GP Ray Sullivan who chairs the local medical committee of the British Medical Association, said he was struggling with a relentless increase in workload without an equivalent increase in funding. He still receives “£150 per patient to do everything” and adds: “That’s the same as I got ten years ago. And the burden of work has gone up incrementally every year since.”

The findings increase pressure on the NHS to outline measures to reduce health inequalities when it publishes its long-awaited spending plan next month.

 

 

 

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Peter Beck wrote to the Birmingham Post on Thursday December 6th 2018:

While agreeing that “the Paradise Project is a fiasco” (no name and address Post letter 29 Nov 2018) I draw a somewhat different conclusion as to who is to blame. I also think that Jonathon Walker’s article (Post 29th Nov) should perhaps have been titled “Council anger with Amey”.  However Carl Jackson’s article (Post 22 Nov 2018) is very revealing and there is so much for us to learn from this disaster of a development.


https//:www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown

It is of course questionable as to whether Birmingham City Council (BCC) should be seeking partnerships with, or to employ the likes of Capita, Carillion, and Amey.  They have proved a very costly exercise. 

And why should we trust Argent, the present managers of this development?  Such companies and unelected organisations such as the LEP and PCLP (mysterious bodies to most of us) are out of BCC control, and unaccountable to the residents of Birmingham.

It does beg the question as to why we continue to demolish perfectly good existing buildings and spaces (offices, hotels, parking spaces, public spaces, shops, restaurants and cafes etc) only to replace them with the same.

After all, this requires a huge amount of embedded energy and contributes to climate change.  A good example is the Central Library. The original plan of architect John Madin for its setting was ignored, it was done on the cheap, and then successive administrations (Tory, Lib Dem and Labour) neglected and failed to maintain it.  Even so, the cost of refurbishing was estimated at £38m while the new one has so far cost more than £100m.

The new one has resulted in a drastic reduction in staff hours with an opening time of 11.00 a.m. – hardly a “world class” facility/service as originally claimed!  Further, it has led to the closure of the unique Brasshouse Languages Centre building and the transfer of its language classes (with the recent loss of English as a Foreign Language classes).  The fee payments are presumably helping to fund the Library but the classrooms do not adequately meet the students’ needs.

Another farcical aspect of the Paradise Project is its treatment of public spaces.  Centenary Square is being dug up yet again but the new version will be quite inferior to its original “gardens” ancestor.

My conclusion is that BCC should avoid private/public joint ventures and it should restrain those senior officers who currently work hand in glove with developers. We should once again give the councils the in-house resources they need to carry out the restoration, reuse, recycling, repair, refurbishment and maintenance of existing buildings. Lots of permanent jobs would then be created. 

 

 

 

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Community Energy Birmingham  co-operatives offer shares in order to fund the installation of solar photovoltaic arrays on community buildings in Moseley and Small Heath, Birmingham – see a 2015 post. 

Community Energy Birmingham (CEB) has some exciting news!

“We’re looking to grow our existing portfolio of renewable energy generation on community energy buildings in Birmingham, and have just launched a new share offer in November 2018. Our plan is to put a large solar roof (163 panels) on the housing association building in the centre of Castle Vale. This will be our largest solar roof to date, with a peak capacity of 50 kW. The total investment opportunity is around £44,000. We have already raised several thousand pounds”.

CEB aims to do this before the Feed in Tariff scheme closes in early 2019. CEB has already installed 6 solar PV on roofs belonging to community buildings where the organisations receive the benefit of clean and reduced cost electricity.

One example of its work is the installation of another 10 kilowatts of solar panels on the main roof of the Moseley Exchange building, joining the 8.5 kw on the sloping roof to the rear. The new panels cannot be seen, since they lie flat behind the parapet of this historic old Post Office building in the centre of Moseley. Since the building is in use almost every day, the solar energy will be consumed within the building, which is used by many Moseley community groups.

CEB ethical investors have been paid 4% this year on their shares 

Shares are from £250 to £10,000. CEB prefers investment from people living in or near Birmingham.  The new Share offer closes on 31 Dec 2018, but they would love to hear right away if you want to know more.

Email enquiry@communityenergybirmingham.coop

Full details are available in their Share Offer document and for those seeking shares, an Application Form may be filled out and returned.

 

 

 

 

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