Archives for category: Legal issues

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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The air we breathe is a hugely important issue for Birmingham – in fact, around 900 premature deaths a year in the city can be attributed to poor air quality.

Izzy Knowles, Chair of the Moseley Forum, writes about a meeting on Tuesday 28th March – 7.30PM at the Moseley Exchange, 149-153 Alcester Road, Moseley Birmingham, B13 8JP

Anne Shaw, Assistant Director for Transportation and Connectivity will be this year’s guest speaker at the Moseley Forum Annual General Meeting. She will reflect upon the work Birmingham City Council is doing towards introducing a Clean Air Zone as well as the implications of a High Court ruling regarding the Government’s air quality plans.

Izzy continues:

We will be exploring:

  • What are the main sources of air pollution in Moseley
  • What we can do to help reduce air pollution levels
  • What can be done specifically in Moseley

If you have any questions on air pollution in Moseley, please send us an email in advance to moseleyforum@gmail.com or come prepared on the day.

We hope that you can join us and help shape the future of air quality in Moseley.

 

 

 

air-pollution-brum

Jeremy Corbyn’s Energy and Environment manifesto acknowledges that 29,000 people die early every year because of polluted air and one of his eight campaign proposals is for “Cleaner air – tackling the air pollution crisis in our big cities and committing to full   independent public inquiry into levels of air pollution”.

The government has agreed to improve their plan to curb emissions after a High Court ruling. Documents revealed during the case showed the Treasury had blocked plans to charge diesel cars to enter towns and cities blighted by air pollution, concerned about the political impact of angering motorists.

Following December’s review of the high incidence of ill-health and premature death in Birmingham and other cities, The Times today reports that nitrogen oxides from diesel engines are one of the main pollutants, inflaming the lungs, causing respiratory diseases such as asthma and are linked to a raised risk of heart attacks, strokes and cancer. Data from King’s College London showed that Brixton Road in south London breached nitrogen dioxide pollution limits for the entire year in the first five days of 2017.

Pollution also increases the risk of dementia for those living near a busy road, according to a study published this week.

Research published in the Lancet followed ‘emerging evidence’ which suggested that living near major roads might adversely affect mental activity. As little is known about its relationship with the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis, Health Canada, the Federal department responsible for helping Canadians maintain and improve their health, funded research investigating this association. It involved nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. The abstract (link above) describes the method used and gives the information that 243,611 cases of dementia were diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads. Compared with those living 300m away from a major road the risk was:

  • 7% higher within 50m
  • 4% higher between 50-100m
  • 2% higher between 101-200m

No association was found with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis.

As the BBC website reported, the Canadian analysis suggests 7-11% of dementia cases within 50m of a major road could be caused by traffic. It added that the researchers adjusted the data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking.

Whilst celebrating Birmingham City Council’s award which will be used to provide ‘state-of-the-art’ hydrogen fuel cell buses, more rapid and effective political action will be taken only when public awareness rises. To this end, a few references to the region’s research into cleaner modes of transport by road, rail and water follow:

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bmi-best

The Methodist Tax Justice Network and Jubilee Debt Campaign present ‘Tax & The Law’: Closing the gap between legality and morality on international tax: 7-9pm, Birmingham and Midland Institute, 9 Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BS

Joanna Gray, Professor of Financial Law and Regulation at the University of Birmingham, is to talk on Tax and the Law – the present laws, how they are evaded and what changes should be made.

The event was inspired by a quote from Dame Margaret Hodge, who remarked that when it comes to tax, ‘morality should always trump legality’, and we wanted to gauge how far this holds true in the tax law/accountancy communities, and potentially whether there is any way of implementing higher moral standards for tax as a corporate social responsibility issue.

For more information and to reserve a place, please contact Matthew Jones:  mtjncoordinator@gmail.com, 07972 194236

 

 

 

ruth cadburyA hundred years after conscientious objection to military service was legalised, Ruth Cadbury MP (right), a descendent of WW1 Quaker conscientious objectors affected by the 1916 clause, is introducing a Bill to extend this right into the tax system.

It would increase funding for peacebuilding, development and diplomacy work, more economical, ethical and efficient forms of security.

The 10-minute rule Bill will be read on 19 July 19 2016 by the Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth, who has been working closely with a campaigning organisation, Conscience: Taxes for Peace Not War, to secure the right to pay for peace, not war.

Birmingham Peace Tax stalwarts, Else and Joseph Pickvance, repeatedly had possessions seized and auctioned in lieu of taxes and Gloucester’s Arthur Windsor was imprisoned for 28 days in his seventies, only to receive a parliamentary welcome on his release, conveyed to the House by MP Dennis Canavan. Many people on PAYE made sure of withdrawing their war tax equivalent by making gift-aided charitable donations.

It is taken for granted that we contribute taxes for military preparations; this is conscription by proxy because we live in a country where civilian men are no longer required for military service. Military tax is an issue of conscience, not a political preference – this type of hypothecation could not therefore set a precedent for selective taxation.

At its Parliamentary launch, Ruth Cadbury endorsed the 10 minute rule bill by stating “I want to pay for our national security, in fact I want to strengthen it. The Taxes for Peace Bill does this by investing in the most effective form of defence – conflict prevention.” She continued: “In an age where more and more people are concerned about spending their money ethically, this is an idea whose time has come.”

Source: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/23247

An interesting list of 10 minute rule bills passed since 1945 may be seen here: https://web.archive.org/web/20100615142414/http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons/lib/research/briefings/snpc-04568.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around 29,000 people die prematurely each year in the UK because of air pollution, according to Public Health England in 2014. The worst affected cities in Britain are Birmingham, Leeds and London.

air pollution brum

Last week the FT reported on the findings of the World Health Organisation’s latest assessment of polluted air, a problem the body says is causing more than 3m premature deaths worldwide each year. It can cause breathing difficulties in vulnerable people, such as asthmatics and older adults and stunt the proper growth of lung function in children, according to Dr Annette Pruss-Ustun, a co-author of the WHO study. People get sore throats, headaches and breathing difficulties, “and that is just what you feel”, she said, adding air pollution had been linked to a higher risk of heart attacks and strokes:

“This really calls for a strong political will to recognise this as a major public health issue and do something about it.”

prof mackenzie air poll

A year ago, ITV News Consumer Editor Chris Choi reported from Birmingham. Professor Rob Mackenzie (above, Birmingham University) said that there is increasingly strong evidence of the effect of air pollution on hearts and lungs. ITV’s short video may be seen here.

ClientEarth: “We have the right to breathe clean air. It is a shame that our government doesn’t seem to agree.”

Another ITV News article quoted a spokesman for ClientEarth, an environmental law organisation which has been fighting a legal battle to improve air quality: “We think the government will need to get rid of the dirtiest diesel vehicles – perhaps with a network of ultra-low emission areas across the UK.” It was alleged that the main culprits are not private cars but older buses and diesel-powered trucks – a charge disputed by The Times.

After five years of litigation, the Government was ordered by the UK’s highest court to take immediate action over its obligations under European law on air pollution limits. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that government must submit new air quality plans to the EU no later than 31 December 2015.

However, ClientEarth believed the government was still in breach of its legal duty  to produce new air quality plans to bring air pollution down to legal levels in the “shortest possible time” and asked judges to strike down the plans released on 17 December, which, they contended, wouldn’t bring the UK within legal air pollution limits until 2025. They sought a court order requiring new plans and an undertaking that government will act on them. On April 28th this year, a judge at the High Court granted their request to pursue a Judicial Review against DEFRA.

ClientEarth lawyer Alan Andrews said: “The government’s new plans to tackle air pollution are woefully inadequate and won’t achieve legal limits for years to come. The longer they are allowed to dither and delay, the more people will suffer from serious illness or an early death.”

 

 

jdc2 header

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES EDM 68

Early Day Motion 58 put forward by Roger Godsiff, MP for Birmingham Sparkbrook and Small Heath, states:

That this House supports taking action to prevent debt crises taking place in developing countries, as these delay development and can cause great suffering; welcomes the $130 billion of developing country debt which was cancelled through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative; notes that lending to low-income countries has trebled since 2008, and that the IMF and World Bank state that 45 low-income countries are at moderate or high risk of not being able to pay their debts; further notes that multilateral institutions are responsible for 60% of loans to low income countries; in this context, urges the government to keep giving bilateral aid as grants rather than loans; further urges the Government to require the multilateral institutions that it funds to take further measures to ensure loans do not lead to unpayable debts; calls on the Government to support a UN Intergovernmental Tax Body to give developing countries a say in creating fairer global tax rules, and to support and implement the UN principles on responsible borrowing and lending; and further calls on the Government actively to support and participate in the UN negotiations to create new international bankruptcy rules for states which will indicate to the private sector that it will no longer be bailed out at taxpayer expense for reckless lending.

Other Birmingham MPs have yet to put their names to it. Some readers may decide to ask their MPs to sign it before the end of the session in May.

“FOOTSTEPS: FAITHS FOR A LOW CARBON FUTURE”

Sunday May 8 2-5pm

This is the first venture of the newly formed Birmingham “Footsteps: Faiths for a Low Carbon Future”, with speakers from the Muslim, Sikh and Christian Faiths. Venue to be announced. See what we can do to follow up Paris together. Other events to follow.


Contact John Nightingale, JDC Chairman and current producer of the newsletter via http://birmingham.jubileedebt.org.uk/

 

 

Years ago Noel Martin from Edgbaston in Birmingham was attacked by racists whilst working in Germany as a plasterer and was left with severe spinal injuries. He wanted to travel to Dignitas in Switzerland where he would be helped to end his life.

Mr Martin has spoken on the West Midlands Politics Show. Some misunderstanding of the proposal in Lord Joffe’s bill to legalise assisted dying emerged; in assisted dying the action is taken by the patient; the doctor providing a reliable means to end life at the patient’s request. This is not euthanasia, which means the ending of a person’s life by another’s act.

Mr Martin is now too unwell to travel to Switzerland. Will the new bill which would help him and others be passed?

The West Midlands Politics Show poll showed over 70 % in favour of legalising assisted dying.

dignitas panorama poll

Though national polls (above) continue to show that most people are overwhelmingly in favour a majority of British politicians and some religious and financial interests are not respecting public opinion.

On a sister site last year a Pretoria judge’s approval of the right to die with dignity was recorded. Breaching the evangelical Christian consensus, former archbishop, Lord Carey, and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu have declared themselves to be in favour of assisted dying for the terminally ill and those in a situation of intractable, unbearable suffering.

Journalist Katharine Whitehorn visited Oregon in 2008, one of the places in which assisted dying is legal – some American states, Switzerland, Denmark, Columbia, Holland and Belgium. She points out that far from the sad, the poor and the unwanted being ‘shuffled off into the hereafter’, it is mostly the strong-minded and competent who choose assisted dying, for more than one reason:

  • intractable pain,
  • increasing disability,
  • collapse of normal bodily functions, or
  • loss of dignity as others clean and feed them.

cambridge assisted dying video

Some readers might want to see the video of the Cambridge Union Society’s debate in January 2014. The proposition was ‘This House Would Legalise ‘Assisted Dying’. The speakers in favour of freedom of choice in “last matters” won the debate by a clear 207 to 67 votes (with 54 abstaining). When will UK politicians listen?

assisted dying trudeau

It was good to read that one of several good policies presented by the new Canadian premier, Justin Trudeau, is support for assisted dying. He said:

“The high court struck down the prohibition on doctor-assisted dying last February and gave the federal government a year to come up with a new law recognizing the right of clearly consenting adults who are enduring intolerable physical or mental suffering to seek medical help in ending their lives”.

Quebec already has its own law, which came into effect on December 10th. Since then, one patient in Quebec City’s university health-care network has received a doctor-assisted death.

dignitas logoDuring the last 14 years, over 300 Britons have travelled to Dignitas in Switzerland for a professional, medically supported and accompanied suicide.

These people would rather have had the choice of a self-determined end of suffering and life at home.

The law in the UK needs to change. Dignitas supports the campaign and new court case to change the law in England & Wales.

Though public opinion is overwhelmingly in favour, as past votes in the Lords and the Commons have shown, a majority of politicians and some religious and financial interests are not respecting public opinion.

Further court cases are needed to bring about change.

Solicitor and Partner Saimo Chahal, of London Law firm Bindmans, alerts readers to the fact that there is a legal campaign to change the law in England & Wales, started by Elaine Spector and two further individuals, who wish to remain anonymous – V and J. She previously acted for Debbie Purdy, Tony and Jane Nicklinson and Paul Lamb.

Many will echo the wish of the Dignitas team: “May we all live to see freedom of choice and human dignity, in life and at life’s end, in England & Wales and around the world”.


If you are interested in joining the legal campaign please email Saimo Chahal on s.chahal@bindmans.com.

In 2012 a sister site published the case of Dr Mattu and also Julian Assange, both currently in the news, under the title, ‘Whistleblowers: so many have suffered – is the Public Disclosure Act being deliberately ignored?’

The editor briefly entered into a supportive correspondence with Dr Mattu. Today’s news, therefore, came as a heartwarming surprise.

The original article summarised:Raj-Mattu-_2994460c

The latest case in PCU ‘s crowded whistleblower folder is that of Dr Mattu, the cardiologist who warned that that overcrowded wards at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital had caused the deaths of at least two patients and was suspended on full pay for eight years before being dismissed in 2010 . . . (Ed: in copying from the original the changes were saved and she cannot find the missing text).

Five months after making his complaint, he was suspended from duty and a disciplinary file passed to the General Medical Council containing more than 200 allegations, including the bullying claims, was dismissed by the GMC in 2009 . . .

All this in the face of the so-called Whistleblowers Act, honoured only in the breach: the Public Disclosure Act. 

David Lewis, Professor of Employment Law at Middlesex, writing in the Industrial Law Journal,* had highlighted several weaknesses in the legislation, and – relevant to Dr Mattu’s case – it does not prevent employers from “blacklisting” and refusing to hire those who are known within the industry to have made disclosures in previous jobs.

And so it goes on at national and international level. 

It ended with: Justice for Dr Raj Mattu a people-power petition.

whistleblowers suffer

All must honour the whistleblower who is exposing genuine malpractice – however embarrassing or potentially expensive in terms of compensation.

*Lewis, David (1998). “The Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998”. Industrial Law Journal (Industrial Law Society) 27, payment required to read Oxford Journal pdf text.

Background

tommy2-robinsonIn December, former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson (left) formed a UK branch of Pegida, a German organisation founded in Dresden. The International Business Times describes Pegida as an anti-immigration group set up to halt what it sees as the “Islamisation of the West”, holding well-attended protests across northern Europe. Their protests in the UK are said to have fared poorly to date.

On December 4th Robinson told IBTimesUK: “Birmingham is where most of the terrorists have been from, it’s where six Muslims who wanted to blow us up were from – the continued epicentre for terrorism is Birmingham.”

The decision to hold a Pegida UK rally in Birmingham has been condemned by the city’s leading politicians. A joint statement, issued on Monday 7 December, was signed by Council leader John Clancy Cllr Robert Alden (leader of the Birmingham Conservatives) and Cllr Paul Tilsley (leader of the Birmingham Liberal Democrats).

Tommy Robinson toned down his rhetoric:

“The rally – which we’re calling a ‘silent walk’ – will be a march in Birmingham on February 6th, with some speeches at the end. We don’t want any confrontation. There will be no alcohol allowed, no masks allowed and no racists allowed. If there are opposition rallies, we don’t want to go near them. We’ve asked the police where they think the best and safest place for us to march would be. We just want to walk peacefully through the streets. Why have these Birmingham councillors got a problem with that?”

Andrew-Smith 2Canon Andrew Smith (right: Director of Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham) has now circulated an appeal to Birmingham’s churches, mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and temples, trade unions and community groups.

It calls on the police to explore whether this provocation amounts to an incitement to racial and/or religious hatred and to use all of their powers to prevent people of whatever background, from being intimidated in the city centre next Saturday, 6th February.

And ends: “As proud people of Birmingham, we wish to declare that Pegida are not welcome and have nothing to offer our city — apart from a huge bill for policing and the clear up operation after they have gone”.

As yet the only online access found for the text of this message is on this website, which carries a list of signatories to a pledge to affirmative action.