Archives for category: Maldevelopment

Reading Christian Wolmar’s article: ‘Rail’s dirty secret’, recalled last year’s  question on this site: ‘How many lungs and hearts will be damaged by air pollution before action is taken?’

There is concern about the levels of diesel-generated air-pollution on Grand Central (New Street) platforms experienced by travellers like Professor Rex Harris (Birmingham) whose work includes the promotion of a hydrogen fuelled transport system for rail and waterways.

Professor Thorne’s student monitoring air pollutants at Grand Central

Research conducted by Professor John Thorne (Birmingham) found almost seven times the annual average EU limit of particulate matter on one platform.

The TV programme Dispatches then visited New Street Station with its own monitors and found “high levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulates on one of the platforms… way above EU annual limits”. Network Rail told the programme it wanted the station to be a “safe and healthy environment” and that in the coming years it “will shift to less polluting electric trains”. Wolmar writes:

In the Rail Engineer, Malcolm Dobell wrote about a hydrogen fuel cell locomotive he saw four years ago; a team from Birmingham University had designed, constructed and entered a fuel cell powered one-fifth scale locomotive in the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Railway challenge.

He reported that Alstom’s new train, the Coradia iLint (above), which runs on hydrogen power rather than diesel, has had its first successful test run. It is the first low floor passenger train in the world to be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell.

The hydrogen used for the test runs is the by-product of an industrial process, which is reasonably reused as a waste product, but because Germany has invested heavily in wind turbine technology as part of its energy mix, it will also be able to use the energy generated by the wind turbines to make hydrogen when electricity demand is low.

As Dobell mentioned, the Birmingham Centre for Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Research undertook a cross-disciplinary venture with a number of Birmingham Energy Institute academics and Birmingham Centre for Railway Research and Education, to design and construct the UK’s first practical hydrogen-powered locomotive.  The Centre’s website adds that there will be a requirement for such autonomously powered trains to serve non-electrified lines.

Hydrogen-powered locomotives, cars and boats, emitting only steam and condensed water, Dobell comments, are better for the environment, more pleasant for passengers and less disruptive to communities.

Time for change.

 

 

 

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The Financial Times has reported that John Healey, shadow housing minister, has set out Labour’s plans to tighten a housebuilding loophole introduced by the Conservatives that has been blamed for halving the number of “affordable homes” built in Britain over the past five years by making it too easy for property developers to “dodge their obligations” by being allowed to haggle over the number of social homes they build.

Inside Housing adds that recent research by Shelter covering 11 local authorities found viability assessments had been used to deliver a 79% reduction in affordable housing built, compared to what council policies would demand.

Carol Wilcox Secretary of the Labour Land Campaign, Christchurch, Dorset, commented in the FT that Labour should instead be arguing for Section 106 Agreements to be scrapped rather than reformed.

She cites a study by Oxford Brookes university, which found that the number of affordable homes delivered through Section 106 dropped from 28,972 in 2010-11 to just 16,452 in 2015-16 — contributing to the wider downward trend, continuing:

“The whole system is open to corruption. There are websites that describe, for the amateur, how to negotiate with local authorities to avoid more than just the affordable homes obligation (one here). These agreements, together with their younger sibling, the Community Infrastructure Levy, are in effect just another misguided attempt to capture the uplift in value from change of use to residential”.

Her alternative: a comprehensive land value tax system which could easily finance public investment in goods and services up front and capture the rising land value from the resulting revenue stream. Increased public spending would lead to increased land value, leading to increased land value tax, leading to increased public investment

 — a virtuous circle in fact.

 

 

 

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“DEBT AND ECONOMICS: EDUCATION FOR ACTION” WORKSHOP

The Jubilee Debt Campaign invites all to an interactive, informative, educational day-long workshop from 11 – 16.30 on Saturday 7th October at the Islamic Relief Academy, 22-24 Sampson Road North, Birmingham B11 1BL.

The registration page for this long awaited debt workshop now live. For further details click here  – (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/debt-economics-education-for-action-tickets-36539325105 – or call Clare Walden, JDC on 0207 324 4729.

Most of the buses going towards Solihull and Shirley from the city centre (particularly numbers 37, 6 and 2) stop at the beginning of Stratford Road which is a few minutes’ walk from the IR Academy (below).

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This day-long workshop is totally FREE and is part of a series taking place in cities across the UK, to be delivered by debt expert and facilitator Fanny Malinen.

Inequality and debt are on the rise – eight men now own as much wealth as half the world’s population. The debt payments of impoverished countries are increasing rapidly and are at the highest level for a decade. Closer to home, PFI debt is having a huge impact on NHS finances and students leaving UK universities now face higher average debts than American students, with the average student graduating with more than £44,000 debt.

Come and discuss whether debts should always be paid and understand more about the historical and current connections between debt and inequality. Learn about why Ghana’s debt is higher now than it was in 2005 – even after a large write-off – and how NHS debt is linked to global south debt through Public Private Partnerships. Importantly, come and hear about debt resistance, positive alternatives and how you can be a part of a global and national movement for debt justice!

There will be a one-hour lunchbreak, and smaller breaks during the day. We will provide refreshments throughout the day but please bring your own lunch or money to buy lunch.

If you have any accessibility needs you would like to discuss please get in touch with clare@jubileedebt.org.uk. This venue is wheelchair accessible.

 

 

 

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West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

5-7pm on Thursday 31st August at the John Lewis Community Hub, available to community groups.

It is located on the 4th floor of the John Lewis store over New Street station (lift and escalator). The hub is immediately off the area where television sets are being sold.

A draft of the presentation, LOCALISM & REGIONALISM, opens:

“With the gradual yielding of a collective to an individualist social ethos; with the hollowing out of local government power; with the weakening of trade union influence; with the decline of local and community newspapers … both individuals and nuclear families feel powerless before the Westminster run state . . .

“Meanwhile, modern states feel constrained before the imperatives of the neoliberal market. We are told that there is no alternative to ‘growing the economy’ – even though local jobs continue to be lost and goods once produced locally are imported over great distances . . .” 

‘Woody’ Woods, the author, has sent known contacts the draft of the intended presentation. He suggests that a fuller title would be: “Exploring Localism and Regionalism as roads to our empowerment.”  

 

Details of his earlier essay and book are given on the Planet Centred Forum website.

 

 

 

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Deeply troubling? Is this democracy? Is this sovereignty? 

Should not political decisions be taken in the interests of the 99% ?

The Guardian article refers to troubling revelations by Carole Cadwalladr in the Observer and notes that the Electoral Commission is now investigating the role played by US billionaire Robert Mercer in our EU referendum – adding ruefully, “But if it discovers any breaches of the rules, the penalties are feeble”.

Journalist George Monbiot goes on to highlight the use of ’dark’ money that does not seek to influence elections directly, but to change the broader political landscape.  

He explains that dark money is funding used, without public knowledge, by front groups and some thinktanks which resemble ‘covertly funded lobbyists’. The research group Transparify ranks these “thinktanks” by their openness about their funding and the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Adam Smith Institute and Policy Exchange are rated as “highly opaque”. But though they refuse to reveal their sponsors, they are often invited to speak by the BBC – in the Today programme, Question Time, (IEA’s Jamie Whyte on 5-Live today) and other media.

Monbiot cites the tobacco industry, which has sponsored the IEA since 1963 – a fact only revealed when a legal settlement forced open its archives. Last week the IEA published a report critical of the UK’s smoking ban and tobacco packaging law which was covered in the media, but with no reference to the institute’s funding-related bias.

Though the Conservative Party manifesto outlines a plan to “lead international action against climate change”, it also pledges to ensure oil and gas plays a “critical role” in UK energy provision. 

Ben Chapman in The Independent points out that the Electoral Commission files show oil and gas corporates’ donors to the May government including:

  • Ayman Asfari, the chief executive of Jersey-registered oil and gas firm, Petrofac, who gave £90,000 in December.
  • Ian Taylor, chief executive of the world’s largest oil trader, Vitol. He has personally given the Conservatives £47,000 since Ms May won the party leadership in July last year, adding to hundreds of thousands he had previously donated.
  • Former Vitol partner Matthew Ferrey has also given £124,000 to the Tories since last July. He has now set up his own investment company which invests in the sector.
  • Alexander Temerko, Ukrainian-born former deputy chairman of the Russian Yukos Oil Company, who has donated £63,800.
  • Amjad Bseisu, the Palestinian-born boss of energy company EnQuest who previously worked for Petrofac has given £28,500 to the Tories under Ms May, while
  • Abdul-Majid Jafar, chief executive of United Arab Emirates-based Crescent Petroleum, gave £28,000 in December.

The Independent article records accusations made against some of those listed, a legal case pending and a conviction and Monbiot ends:

“Why has there been no effective action on climate change? Why are we choking on air pollution? Why is the junk food industry able to exploit our children? Because governments and their agencies have rolled over and let such people make a mockery of informed consent. Now the whole democratic system is sliding, and the Electoral Commission is neither equipped nor willing to stop it. There’s an urgent, unmet need for new laws to defend democracy”.

 

 

 

 

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Local author Christine Parkinson, who will be speaking about the United Nations’ role in addressing climate change, is a biologist who worked in medical research before coming to this city where she has co-founded regeneration projects, the most well-known being the Jericho Employment Project based in Balsall Heath.

Her latest book: “Three Generations Left? Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”, outlines how so-called progress has combined with a host of other factors, including free trade, a market economy, population increase and the development of a super-rich minority owning most of the wealth of the planet, to bring about global warming and climate change which could lead to a loss of many species and mass human extinction before the end of this century.

Her target audience is aged 15-18 and any adult new to the subject.

It is quite constructive, despite its title and her positive recommendations for change were recently posted on an economic and political website and the West Midlands New Economics Blog.

A former deputy head’s response was: “I sat and read for the whole afternoon. All the time saying how much I agree with this and how it should be reading matter for every sixth former in the land!”

A UNA reviewer called her book a wake-up call, continuing: “A succession of well-researched and wide-ranging facts substantiate its warning. She addresses readers who are likely to remain sceptical of her predictions, piling fact upon fact, ending with the entreaty, “Look at the evidence”, and adding:

“However sceptical the reader may be, a close consideration of the evidence set out by Dr Parkinson must surely cause such a reader to reconsider his or her opinion”.

“Three generations Left” can be ordered direct from the publishers, using this link. Any profits from the sale of this book will be used to fund the work of Dr Parkinson’s son Ben, amongst slum children in Uganda.  Last year was a difficult one for this project (Chrysalis Youth Empowerment Network), due to the devaluation of the pound post-Brexit.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

veg-2shortage

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