Archives for category: Maldevelopment

 

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ann-pettifor-talks-on-a-moral-economy-tickets-33229654792 or contact johnbnightingale@hushmail.com/07811 128831

Many people in Birmingham will remember the speaker -Ann Pettifor. She was a founder and leading spirit of the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign which in 1998 brought a human chain of 70,000 people onto the streets of this city in a great expression of human concern for the cancellation of the unjust and unpayable debts of developing countries.

After 2000 Ann joined the New Economics Foundation where she headed their research unit, and became involved in Prime Economics. She also set up Advocacy International, a UK-based consultancy which advises governments and international organisations and has helped secure debt relief for the governments of Guyana, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Among her publications are the books “The Coming First World Debt Crisis” (2006) and “The Production of Money” this year. She has been part of the Green New Deal Group and in 2015 was appointed to the British Labour Party’s Economic Advisory Committee.

 

 

 

 

“Banks have been bailed out by taxpayers and the state continues to shower enormous gifts upon them”, thunders Professor Prem Sikka. “Despite this banks show no sense of social responsibility and continue to close local branches, leaving many without adequate financial services”.

The rate of branch closures accelerates and over the past five years more than 430 communities have lost their last bank.

Recently a reader saw a local butcher unable to make a sale because he hadn’t enough change to give his customer. He explained that two Lloyds Bank branches nearby by had closed, and now the nearest one – two miles away – had closed.

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Lloyds Lewes branch now closed

She remembered that the Post Office had offered routine services to the customers of Santander and the Co-op for some years but was not able to tell the butcher that this extended to his bank.

As he does not use a computer she searched on his behalf and found out that, during the days of a slightly kinder coalition government, the impact of these closures was mitigated when a deal was co-ordinated by Liberal Democrat Business Secretary Vince Cable.

In 2015, reportedly under Government pressure, the country’s major high street banks signed a pact  that allowed all their personal customers  and businesses with fewer than 50 employees access their banks at their local post office – putting the 11,500-strong Post Office network at the heart of local communities.

This move meant that bank customers are able to put cash and cheques into current accounts, check on balances and withdraw cash.

As this relatively young man had no idea these services existed and did not appear to know how to access information, one wonders how many small traders are struggling with cash transactions because they don’t realise that there are still some services available – unless of course further post office closures take place.

 

 

 

On BBC Radio 4 today it was reported that some supermarkets are limiting sales of fruit and vegetables.

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A newspaper elaborates: “Morrisons and Tesco have limited the amount of lettuce and broccoli after flooding and snow hit farms in Spain. Shortages of other household favourites – including cauliflower, cucumbers, courgettes, oranges, peppers and tomatoes – are also expected. Prices of some veg has rocketed 40% due to the freak weather. Sainsburys admitted weather has also affected its stocks”.

HortiDaily reports on frost in Europe in detail (one of many pictures below) and the search for supplies from Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia.

A former Greenpeace Economist foresees these and more persistent problems in his latest book, Progressive Protectionism.

Read on: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2017/02/03/seeking-food-supplies-from-turkey-time-for-change/

 

 

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i-daniel-blake-posterIn Bournville yesterday – and at other community screenings – people flock to see the film I, Daniel Blake which director Ken Loach hopes will be a catalyst for change. In it, a middle-aged carpenter who applies for benefits payments after a heart attack encounters a range of problems accessing state welfare payments.

His experience mirrors the experience of many over the years. An account of 82 people who have died or committed suicide soon after dealings with agencies such as ATOS and the government’s Department of Work and Pensions was recorded in the Dorset Eye. At the same time, reports of directors and other officers of the DWP receiving new year’s honours for ‘services to welfare reform’ were published.

The film compellingly shows the systematic inefficiency of automated phone systems (aka call queues) and the struggles of people who have never used a computer to apply online.

Catherine Pickford, an Anglican minister who had regularly worked in the Newcastle foodbank, seen in the film writes:

“I spoke to people exhausted from trudging the streets looking for jobs that they knew they would not have the physical stamina to carry out. I saw people so hungry that they sat in the foodbank eating straight from the tin. I watched people gradually deteriorate, physically and mentally, as insecure accommodation turned into full-blown homelessness. I also spoke to jobcentre employees, who were desperately trying to hang on to their sense of personal integrity while administering a system that they knew to be unjust”.

One Bournville viewer stated that the system is deliberately rigged to delay making due payments. When asked for proof by another at the event, she pointed out that the evidence was clear: although those designing the system are well aware that record numbers are successfully appealing against Government decisions to refuse personal independence payments and employment and support allowance, they do nothing to improve the system.

The film is being cited in many news reports about a planned overhaul of the system for assessing claimants for disability benefits.

SNP MP Mhairi Black has spoken to the House of Commons about “the brutal and sobering reality of what life is like for those struggling most in today’s society” shown in this film and her recommendation is: “Watch it, get angry, and do something to change this horrible system.”

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Note:

After the Bournville viewing a member of the audience spoke about The Project, based in Longbridge, which saw another increase in the number of people needing its services last year. Its website reports that the levels of support provided have increased in all areas, reflecting the current homelessness crisis facing Birmingham and the UK. It records research carried out by the Homeless Link charity which found that 5196 homeless applications were made just to Birmingham’s local authority during 2015 with 3416 people accepted as homeless. Government figures published in June 2016 showed that at the end of March 2016 there were 71,540 households across the UK living in temporary accommodation.

There will be another community screening in Stirchley Baths on Friday, 10 February 2017 from 19:30 to 22:30: watch this site or access https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/i-daniel-blake-community-screening-in-stirchley-tickets-31092593785

 

 

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Residents’ Rally 11.00am, Sunday 22nd January

Assemble In Top Field Entrance from Woodloes Road

Solihull Ratepayers are pressing for a reduction in the numbers of proposed new housing in the area and protection for public amenity land around the Woodlands and Badgers Estates

A rally to protect the council owned site is planned for 11.00am next Sunday 22nd January on the threatened section near the Woodloes Road Access to the fields (see photo below)

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The public amenity land around the Woodlands and Badgers estates

SRA’s Membership Secretary writes:

“Having lived and brought up my family on the Woodlands Estate I understand the importance of this longstanding public amenity area and the wooded corridor to the Bills Lane Bridleway to the health and well being of the local community and we mustn’t let it be swallowed up by development.

This section of land is owned by Solihull Council who represent us the community and they cannot blame greedy developers this time.

If you possibly can take time out on Sunday morning please attend for a photo shoot to demonstrate the level of public support to retain this reasonable section of green buffer around the South Shirley estates.

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Keep up with further developments on https://en-gb.facebook.com/solihullratepayers/ which may be read by unregistered people.

 

 

 

Seven Combined Authorities have already been established and a further seven proposed – read in detail here.

Why government – and employers – want a directly-elected mayor

A directly-elected mayor is a presidential form of local government, accountable only in direct elections every four years with no right of removal.  It means the government can deal with a single leader and one not tied to local political parties as a council leader is – an arrangement that suits the private sector too. Directly-elected mayors offer the possibility of a Tory mayor, or at least an independent, being elected in Labour-dominated urban areas. And they are ideally suited to the media’s fondness for reducing politics to personalities.

Democratise the Combined Authorities: London has an elected Assembly – why not the West Midlands?

 

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Richard Hatcher points out on BATC’s website that there is a precedent, the scrutiny arrangements in London: “There ongoing public accountability of the directly elected mayor and the Greater London Authority is ensured by a directly elected London Assembly.  The London Assembly has 25 elected members. They are not just existing councillors drafted onto a Scrutiny Committee, they are elected by citizens who vote for them specifically because they are going to fight for their interests. And they aren’t just reactive to policy, they act as champions for Londoners proactively investigating concerns through not just one but 15 issue-based committees and raising their findings and their policy demands with the Mayor and with the government itself”.

The Constitution of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) does not exclude the option of an elected Assembly, Hatcher asks “If it’s right for London why isn’t it right for the West Midlands?”. Three principles are laid down and seven positive steps – read on here.

Scrutiny?

His article written earlier this month describes the WMCA Scrutiny Committee as being ‘seriously incapable’ of carrying out that responsibility: “The Scrutiny Committee only has 12 councillor members. It is scheduled to have only four meetings during the year, for two hours each.  It is inconceivable that the Committee can engage with the huge range of activities of the WMCA, select issues to scrutinise and carry out a serious process of scrutiny in that time. (Each set of documentation for the monthly CA Board meetings typically amounts to a hundred pages or more, let alone those from the other dozen or more committees.)”

Be aware of conflicts of interest

The Scrutiny Committee allocates 3 places to representatives of the 3 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), the employer-led bodies representing business interests. Hatcher comments: “This is an extraordinary decision which seems unique among Combined Authorities”. For example, there are no LEP representatives on the Greater Manchester CA Scrutiny Committee. The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report into devolution and Combined Authorities, published in June 2016 said:

“It is alarming that LEPs are not meeting basic standards of governance and transparency, such as disclosing conflicts of interest to the public.

LEPs are led by the private sector, and stakeholders have raised concerns that they are dominated by vested interests that do not properly represent their business communities”.

So far two of the three LEP places have been taken up by named representatives. One is Sarah Windrum, founder and CEO of Warwickshire technology company The Emerald Group, on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP. The other is Black Country LEP Board Member Paul Brown, Director of Government Services for Ernst & Young, a global accountancy company.

Ernst and Young serves as auditor and tax adviser to Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon – the businesses which have come under the most fire for avoiding taxes. As its website says, it is closely involved in the formulation and delivery of policy “across a wide range of central Government departments”.  Given the controlling role of government in the WMCA, Hatcher thinks it inevitable that Paul Brown, as Director of Government Services, would be exercising scrutiny on behalf of the CA over policies which his employer, Ernst and Young, would have been involved in formulating and delivering.

Other members of the Black Country LEP have a direct interest in investment in land for construction. The Chair of the BC LEP is Simon Eastwood, Managing Director of Carillion Developments, Carillion Plc. Carillion plc is a British multinational facilities management and construction services company with its headquarters in Wolverhampton. It is one of the largest construction companies operating in the UK. Among its projects in the West Midlands is the redevelopment of Paradise Circus in Birmingham city centre. Read on here.

Hatcher concludes: “In the absence of an elected Assembly, the Scrutiny Committee is the only instrument of public accountability of the WMCA. Its credibility depends on there being no suspicion in the public mind that there are actual or potential conflicts of interest. For that reason we believe there should be no representatives of LEPs on the Scrutiny Committee”.

 

 

 

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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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The small but vibrant suburb of Stirchley is being invaded by supermarkets in a manner reminiscent of the long-resisted Asda development in ‘supermarket capital’ Shirley, which has sadly failed to deliver its undertaking to regenerate the high street.

In Stirchley, already served by a large Co-operative store, Aldi has applied for permission to build on a site less than a mile away and a Tesco store is being built nearby.

Two weeks ago the council’s planning committee had sensibly voted to reject plans to knock down the Fitness First gym and bowling alley in Pershore Road in order to build a Lidl store.

Many councillors and residents argue that the site would add to traffic problems and that knocking down a popular gym, the only one in the area, for yet another foodstore, sends out the wrong message.

It is now reported that officials fear the council would be vulnerable to a costly legal appeal by the supermarket.

The majority of councillors have reversed their decision, agreeing with officials’ advice that a refusal would not stand up to a challenge and voted by six to three in favour of the Lidl plan.

Is the well-being and preference of local residents less important than building yet another supermarket?

Is devolution a hollow undemocratic sham and corporate rule a reality?

See pages about Stirchley on this site

First response by email: “But how else will the starving people of Stirchley eat without another supermarket in the area?”

 

 

 Impressive image and political/corporate rhetoric but fearful reality

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After a series of violent incidents in recent months at HMP Lewes and HMP Bedford, four wings at high-security prison Winson Green had to be sealed after disturbances broke out. About 260 prisoners were involved.

Despite the record of G4S, which now runs five prisons in the UK, management of this prison was handed over to the private sector company in 2011. Unions opposed the deal which reduced staff numbers and pay rates.

So many public sector officers had to be drafted to ‘manage’ the Winson Green ‘dispute’ that control had to be transferred to the (public sector) HM Prison Service.

There have been sharp cuts to prison staff numbers as part of the 2010-15 coalition’s austerity drive even though the prison population has doubled since 1993 to more than 85,000. There are now 65 assaults behind bars every day and in the year to June, assaults on staff jumped 43% to 5,954, with 697 recorded as serious.

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Yesterday former Conservative Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove appeared to have a welcome change of heart. His words, reported in a recent speech, were: “I am convinced that we cannot provide the effective level of rehabilitation we need for offenders without either increasing expenditure significantly or reducing prisoner numbers overall, because overcrowded prisons are more likely to be academies of crime, brutalisers of the innocent and incubators of addiction rather than engines of self-improvement.”

 

 

 

Future world monument? Unlikely!

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New images which are said to show how the project will transform the city

The Express and Star quotes Argent’s claim that the new buildings – One and Two Chamberlain Square – will complement the existing civic buildings including the town hall, council house and the museum and art gallery. The Express and Star asks what readers think. First comment: comes from Jessmere:

“Yeah ‘stunning new CGI images’ of yet another nondescript glass, steel and concrete box”

These buildings will replace the Madin library (above) – the second-highest used in the country, listed in 2011 by the World Monuments Fund – as a significant building at risk.

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That library really did ‘complement the existing civic buildings’.