Archives for category: Localisation

Proposals for Brummie Bonds were first put forward by former Greenpeace economist Colin Hines at the end of 2004 (Birmingham Post – Comment: 5.2.04), at the end of 2004 by then Conservative council leader Mike Whitby mentioned here, advocated in the Stirrer (2008) and frequently by John Clancy (right), before he became Labour council leader (most eloquently in 2011).

Clancy acts, 2017

Professor David Bailey (Aston Business School, Birmingham) welcomed the news that the City has found a new way to finance house-building – John Clancy’s first issue of Brummie Bonds (more detail here):

“The City Council is already building more new council houses than any other local authority in the country – with the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust building 30% of all new homes in the city last year. But that’s still not enough and using Brummie Bonds to raise £45m to help finance more house building is welcome news. Clancy has talked of Brummie Bonds opening up new funding streams to deliver a “step change” in building homes”.

The Council has stated that the interest rate it will pay on the Brummie Bonds is actually lower than that charged by the Public Works Loan Board (or PWLB – a government body that provides loans to local authorities mainly for capital projects).

Pensions and life assurance specialists Phoenix Life, which employs around 600 people in Wythall, has agreed to invest in a ‘Brummie Bond’ and there is the prospect of other investors coming in. The West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund and other union and business pension funds could take up future issues.

Hines goes further, seeing municipal bonds as a safe haven for ‘People’s Pensions’ – just as when, following the Housing Act of 1919, the London County Council and other local borough councils began to sell housing bonds to the public to raise money for public housing. schemes. He also advocates that, in due course, such bonds would also fund the retrofitting of houses and clean modes of transport.

As Professor Bailey ends: “Hats off to Birmingham City Council for pulling this off. A “confident act of local economic self-determination”? Yes”.

 

 

 

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Peter Madeley (Express and Star) writes, On the face of it, £392 million sounds like a fair amount of money to fire up the Midlands Engine”. This is, however, covering four years’ expenditure spread thinly across the Government-defined Midlands area which takes in the entire middle of England, stretching from The Marches close to the Welsh border to East Lincolnshire on the North Sea coast.

Sajid Javid who will be overseeing the Midlands Engine

George Morran’s first comment on this article is that without the right investment the so-called Midland Engine will soon begin to stutter and run out of steam. He suspects that for the vast majority of people in the West Midlands it hasn’t even started. He continues:

The proposals announced last week which gave the chancellor some photos opportunities are tiny in relation to the region’s needs and the cuts in public expenditure already made since 2010 and more to come.

The measures are the creation of Whitehall and their business-led agents working behind closed doors. They have absolutely no local ownership outside the political and business elites. I suspect most local councillors haven’t a clue what’s going on so what chance have voters?

Whitehall’s support for a Midlands delivery agent for its ideas goes back to the 1990s as a counter to New Labour’s aim to establish eight Regional Assemblies and Development Agencies across England outside London including the West and East Midlands. Whitehall’s motive was and is to keep control and not to allow real power to be put in the hands of those it regards as unsafe.

The needs of the West Midlands and the other English Regions will only be realised if there is a real transfer of power and elected representation from Westminster to the regions and a far more localised local government underpinned by a more proportional voting system to ensure cross party and geographical support.

Voters in Scotland look likely to have another chance to go independent. A counter would be to offer the nations and the English Regions equal status in a new Federal UK

And a refocused and smaller Westminster.

A significant omission

This letter was published in the Express and Star but a key paragraph (above, in bold) was omitted. George wrote again:

These measures were edited out of my original text and may have implied taking government away from the local. My intention is that powers and representative Government have to be moved from London to the Region and the local as part of a new democratically accountable settlement replacing the increasingly opaque, distant and anonymous government taking decisions about our future.

I would be grateful if you would correct the impression that was given.

 

 

 

 

The Planner reported last year that 73 Councils in England are now piloting the new brownfield registers in an attempt to bring forward derelict and underused land for new homes. Dudley’s register may be seen here.

The Government’s brownfield land register project is intended to help to bring forward previously developed land for new homes and fulfil its pledge to get planning permission in place on 90% of suitable brownfield sites for housing.  

Leeds City Council’s website records that it has put together a pilot register of suitable sites able to accommodate 5 or more dwellings or be at least 0.25 hectares in size, with the capacity for building 20,000 new homes. Details, with a map of 84 sites in the six separate zones, are published on the Council’s Open Data platform Data Mill North

Developments include the Climate Innovation District at Low Fold, which will offer 312 zero-carbon apartments, and mixed tenure communities, including local authority-owned housing such as East Bank (Saxton Gardens).

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Leeds has one of the fastest growing economies and workforces in the UK with 140,000 people working in the city centre alone. Transforming our brownfield sites into these attractive communities supports regeneration, continued economic growth and public services, helping to avoid the problems that some cities have faced of low levels of occupation of the city centre at weekends.

The authority is looking to work in partnership with the private sector with funding models including pump priming, patient investments and grant funding, as well as looking at ways it can underwrite risk.

Councillor John Clancy, leader of Birmingham City Council. “By expanding our partnership working and targeting funding to revive brownfield sites, either by financing infrastructure or supporting individual schemes, we can give developers and investors the confidence to get to work and provide badly needed homes.”

Since 2012, the council has been developing new homes on the estate – a brownfield site – where a clearance programme of poor quality housing has been ongoing for a period of years.  Rebranded as Abbey Fields, one of three schemes being undertaken as part of the council’s Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust programme. The first phases of the redevelopment are now completed providing 141 new family homes. Of these 76 were for outright sale and 65 for social rent as new council homes. Income generated by the sale of these homes will be reinvested into the council’s own housing stock.

A new four year programme will see small and medium sized house builders working for Birmingham City Council’s house building arm – Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust. It was launched on 22nd March at Birmingham’s Council House.

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month, Cllr. Brett O’Reilly, cabinet member for jobs and skills, stressed the importance of apprenticeships before addressing a National Apprenticeship Week event in Birmingham.

He said that the council aims to increase the number of apprentices at the city council, using the apprenticeship framework to reward existing staff through development opportunities. Wards where youth unemployment is at its highest will be targetted, providing meaningful apprenticeship opportunities that will enable people in time to secure permanent employment.

Good apprenticeship programmes combine shop-floor and college based training for an average of three years and require a long-term commitment from the employer. Experienced workers have to nurture the individual apprentice through the time-consuming process – a task which takes them away from their regular duties to some degree.

APS Metal Pressings in Hockley had two toolmaking apprentices last year: Aaron Wilks is in his second year and Ethan Wilkes completed his second year and started a HNC engineering course in September.

One problem is that some companies invest in training apprentices who graduate and then leave to join companies without a training programme who reap the benefits without investing time or money in apprenticeships. Setting out a clear career path, continual appraisals and pay scale increments for apprentices encourage commitment, but there is a case for clearly stated contractual tie-ins for an agreed period of time in order to protect the company’s investment.

On the WM Producers’ site there was news of other apprenticeships and the ‘graduation’ of Kirsty, Professional Polishing’s latest apprentice (left)was celebrated.

Cllr. O’Reilly highlighted the city’s drive to retain talent within Birmingham and  strengthen the local economy by ensuring  the right training and learning opportunities available for anyone who needs it. Skills level in the city region will have a major impact on future economic growth and ensure inclusive growth reaching out to citizens in all parts of our city.

To this end, the city council has developed its ‘Step Forward: Upskilling for Life’ strategy in partnership with the public, private and third sectors, working directly with employers to encourage upskilling of the workforce, co-ordinating support and guidance so people can choose the right qualifications for the career path they want to take.

Cllr. O’Reilly: “The goal is to leave nobody behind.”

 

 

 

 

Groups in the city concerned about the cuts/austerity are demonstrating against these measures which oblige the poorest in our society to pay the price for the 2008 financial crisis, for which successive governments and the banking hierarchy were responsible.

They may be interested to see the long-term approach advocated by 22 councils in England and Scotland to address these shared concerns.

Susan Press of the Co-operative News reports that Birmingham is the latest council to express an interest (article was only seen in hard copy at the time of writing). 

Read on here.

 

 

 

 

 An April event: advance notice for those with a crowded schedule

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Received: news about an invitation to an open meeting on March 27th 5.30pm in Colmore Row. This updates information about the Attwood award on this site. The news included this dialogue box:

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Browsing the website as invited we learn that there will be ‘an opportunity to  collectively identify how to progress the Birmingham Pound after hearing about the inspiration for and potential of the project and the nuts and bolts of how the currency could be run’.

The meeting will then be opened to discussion, with questions, comments and hopefully agreement on whether the Birmingham Pound goes ahead.

This will involve agreeing on what model is used and who can commit to taking it forward. It will only go ahead if there is a robust way of making it self-sufficient and that it will be effective in its aims of making an inclusive, equitable and diverse Birmingham economy.

Book your place here.