Archives for category: Trade

People passing the illuminated Bournville factory buildings late at night will have noted its 24-hour operation – evidence of a thriving enterprise.

The factory buildings in 1932: unchanged exterior

The FT’s John Murray Brown (paywall) reports from Bournville that Mondelez has completed a two-year modernisation programme, investing £75m in the chocolate maker’s flagship factory: “Shiny new production equipment has been installed at the “factory in a garden” built by Quaker George Cadbury in 1879 alongside houses for its workers who had relocated from Birmingham’s industrial belt.

Under the agreement, 1,300 workers at Bournville and two other Cadbury factories in the UK will receive a pay rise of 3.2% in 2017-18, and an increase in line with inflation in 2018-19. Joe Clarke of Unite says this is considerably higher than other recent settlements in the food and drinks industry, which have been about 2.4%.

Mr Clarke highlighted the chocolate maker’s “strong ethical traditions: “Cadbury has a long history of good industrial relations. We’ve got records which go back to the tea break agreement of 1922.” Cadbury established works councils, with management and employee representative meeting to discuss company plans, back in the 1930s. It was also one of the first companies to offer sick pay and pension rights for women.

The improvement in industrial relations at Cadbury came after controversy when the company was bought by Kraft Foods of the US in 2010. The Takeover Panel, the custodian of UK rules on mergers and acquisitions, after reneging on a promise not to shut Cadbury’s Somerdale plant at Keynsham near Bristol but it was made clear that the original decision had been made by Cadbury in 2007.

There have been 200 voluntary redundancies at Bournville under the modernisation programme, bringing the manufacturing workforce down to about 800. The four new production lines have led to ‘dramatic’ productivity improvements closing the gap with Mondelez’ German plant. In an embedded video, David Bailey, professor of industrial strategy at Aston University business school, said, “We hadn’t seen significant investment at Bournville for a long time. It was pretty dilapidated. Old plant and equipment. The focus on productivity is the only way any company manufacturing in a relatively high-cost economy can survive in the long run”.

The changes at Bournville mean manufacturing is assured “for a generation not just for the short term”, according to Glenn Caton, president of Mondelez’s northern Europe operations.  

 

 

 

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The city has at last gained a council leader who really cares for the 99% (search housing blogs) – the only one since Theresa Stewart was elected.  

Measures taken (2016-17) include:

Clancy also works effectively to maintain and increase economic prosperity for the city’s business community:

Does ‘Sir Humphrey’ resent his success?

Howard Beckett (Unite) points out: “Let no one lose focus here that this is a cuts agenda being forced through by a paid officer, Stella Manzie, who takes home £180,000 a year and in her last year at Rotherham claimed over £160,000 in expenses”. He stated:

“The Council have agreement with the unions for changes in a working week, shift patterns, increased waste revenue. The Labour Cabinet needs now to honour the Acas deal and in doing so do the right thing by workers and the people of Birmingham . . . the council needs to admit it did ratify it and stand by it – and if it doesn’t, it needs to be honest and admit it’s going back on its decision. This is a fair deal and the equal pay issues are made up”.

Is the civil service attempting to undermine the elected leader of the council? Technically no officers, including the interim chief executive, have the authority to overturn a cabinet vote  seven for three against according to a ‘senior Labour source’ at a council meeting on 17 August called to discuss the deal

Clancy’s ‘crime’: addressing a major overspend on the bins department which relied heavily on costly agency staff and overtime payments to fulfil its basic service and a potential equal pay liability that the Labour leadership inherited from the former Tory-Lib Dem council which oversaw the 2011 bin strike.

There will be a full council meeting on Tuesday, September 11 when two councillors with a minimal track record of achievement will table their vote of no confidence in the leader.

It should be overwhelmingly defeated.

 

 

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40 Vendors. 2 Days. Unlimited Coffee. Birmingham’s First Coffee Festival.

10am-6pm

From independent coffee houses and speciality roasters, to companies that are expanding across the UK, we will celebrate the gift that is the coffee bean.

Sipping, Shopping & Networking at the Custard Factory

Gibb St, Birmingham B9 4AA

​These two days will bring together the top 40 independent coffee shops and coffee culture experiences from the local area and beyond.

 You can sample specialty coffee and food from all around the world. Whether you are a coffee drinker, enjoy the coffee shop experience, or own a store, there is something for everyone. ​From finding your new favourite blend to picking your next machine supplier, we have it all.

Have a coffee, cake or lunch and relax in our seating area whilst listening to local musicians. Unlimited samples will be available from our partners as well as plenty of things to buy on the day.

In 2017 our chosen charity is the ‘The Black Country Kitchen’, a volunteer based organisation that helps provide a hot meal every week for the homeless and those in need. All our live music acts will be ‘busking’ and 100% of the money raised by them will go straight to the charity.

Get all the latest news and updates on the festival

on the Birmingham Coffee Festival website.

 

 

 

 

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On Saturday 13th May (12pm – 6pm), the inaugural Independent Birmingham Festival will be taking place at The Bond, Digbeth, showcasing the very best of Birmingham’s independent restaurants, bars, pubs, street food traders, local retailers and artists, designers, producers, in a day-long celebration. There will be an ‘ace programme’ of music and other entertainment.

Independent Birmingham has created the Independent Birmingham Membership Card. The IBcard is now owned by over 15,000 people, acting as a key to the city and entitling cardholders to fantastic discounts and deals at over 95 of the very best independents in Birmingham. The website and the Independent Birmingham Membership Card both act to encourage the people of Birmingham to support local, celebrate the unique and to Believe In Birmingham. Only those independents included on the Independent Birmingham Membership Card will be trading at the event.

Around 70,000-80,000 different people visit the Independent Birmingham website a month, along with a large social media following so we decided that the time has come to celebrate Brum’s marvellous independent culture in a way we’ve never done before.

More news as it comes on our events page.

Tickets cost just £8 (children under 12 go free – no ticket required) and can be purchased here.

 

 

 

 

 

As the council has been planning the development of the wholesale markets and Birmingham Smithfield, it is alleged that the indoor, outdoor and rag markets are no longer properly promoted, local roads have been closed, buses have been re-routed with drop-off points moved away from the markets, and so the traders have seen a marked reduction in their footfall and income.

Duncan Tift reports, in Business Desk, that stall-holders from Birmingham’s Bull Ring outdoor market (see history here) have filed a suit against the city council. Around 30 tenant traders have been in dispute with their local authority landlord since 2010, when their previous leases expired, and they claim all requests for new leases have since been ignored. Because the council won’t give them new leases they cannot sell their businesses, relocate or retire.

The 13 stall-holders involved are being advised on a pro-bono basis by Jonathan Owen, the founder and joint managing director of Quarterbridge Project Management, who will also act as an expert witness (see our reference in a 2011 markets blog). He knows the market, its traders and city centre well, having advised the Birmingham Alliance which delivered the £530m Bull Ring redevelopment. Mr Owen said the stall-holders, many of whom had been trading at the market for most of their working lives, had been shabbily treated by the council.

Liberal Democrat Mayoral candidate, Beverley Nielsen, visited the market and said afterwards: “I’d seen so much about the wholesale markets being relocated to The Hub, in Witton and wondered what was happening to the traders still using stalls around the Bullring. I was dismayed to discover they’d been in dispute with the council for years.”

Ms Nielsen’s proposal: ”The local authority should be using the market’s heritage to attract visitors to the city and use the facility as a tourist attraction in the same way as European cities such as Barcelona, Rotterdam (Ed: above) and Valencia”.

 

 

 

””””””””””””””””””””””””

David Lowe (Commercial Boat Operators Association) sends news of a noteworthy event, which preceded the ‘Hydrogen and Fuel Cells into the Mainstream’ Conference, covered on this site in February.

The programme brought together 11 European micro FC-CHP manufacturers into a common analysis framework to deliver trials across all of the available fuel cell CHP technologies. Fuel cell micro-CHP trials will be installed and actively monitored in dwellings across the range of European domestic heating markets, dwelling types and climatic zones, which will lead to an invaluable dataset on domestic energy consumption and micro-CHP applicability across Europe.

By learning the practicalities of installing and supporting a fleet of fuel cells with real customers, ene.field partners will take the final step before they can begin commercial roll-out. An increase in volume deployment for the manufacturers involved will stimulate cost reduction of the technology by enabling a move from hand-built products towards serial production and tooling.

The ene.field project brings together over 30 utilities, housing providers and municipalities to bring the products to market explore different business models for micro-CHP deployment.

It is the largest European demonstration project of the latest smart energy solution for private homes, micro-CHP. Up to 1,000 households across Europe will be able to experience the benefits of this new energy solution. The five-year project uses modern fuel cell technology to produce heat and electricity in households and empowers them in their electricity and heat choices. It is co-funded by the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking  and brings together 27 partners, including 10 European manufacturers who will make the products available across 11 European countries.

“A step change in the volume of fuel cell micro-CHP deployment in Europe and a meaningful step towards commercialisation of the technology”.

 

 

 

Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported that canals could regain their role as conduits for trade – because of gridlock on the motorways that superseded them, according to a study for West Midlands councils, the Highways Agency and British Waterways, which found “considerable potential for the reintroduction of freight on the canals”.

He added that the findings will resonate with any driver who has ever watched narrowboats putter past on nearby canals while stuck on a motorway. A canal freight shuttle service between the Black Country and Birmingham could move 175,000 tonnes annually and save 61,750 urban lorry miles, the study found.

From our database, 2001-2016:

  • In Bromage N, Supply Management (UK) 5 Jul 2001 Vol 6 No 14: p. 34 (2 pages) there is a reference to transporting cardboard waste from London to a recycling mill in Birmingham.
  • In 2002 cardboard waste was carried from Leamore Business Parks (Walsall) via canal to a recycling plant in Saltley, Birmingham.
  • West Midlands Waterways joined forces with Brumcan, the Birmingham based community recycling business in 2004 for ‘The Big Recycle’ and moved waste textiles by boat from Brumcan’s headquarters in Saltley along the Birmingham Mainline Canal to Black Country Rags in Greets Green. The boat, named Aurega, then delivered glass to Birmingham’s waste transfer station at Lifford Lane.
  • Lynne Jones MP, for Birmingham Selly Oak, issued a press release: Support Water Freight; 11.08.06, calling for government action to shift the transport of freight from our roads to our waterways, supporting a Parliamentary motion backing the sector.
  • In 2007 Marks & Spencer employed barges to take waste cardboard boxes and packaging from its stores in London along the 157-mile Grand Union Canal to a recycling plant in Birmingham.
  • The 2007 West Midlands Freight Action Plan clearly identified 78 businesses in the Birmingham Study that have the potential for transporting waste & recycling, building & construction materials, steel and retail goods. It also identified 90 clusters of industrial estates and retail parks, 49 wharfs and 12 freight development sites.
  • Birmingham to the River Lee: in 2008 Richard Horne and Tim Collier loaded narrowboats Arundel and Betelgeuse with 110 steel piles, weighing 43.79 tonnes, from the company ALE Piling at Tyseley to be delivered to Lee Valley Marina at Walthamstow.
  • ALE Piling in Tyseley gave a barge company a contract to move steel piles from Birmingham to Walthamstow earlier that year. Progress was slowed through the Solihull area by silt, sunken tree boughs, supermarket trolleys and bicycles in the water. (CBOA newsletter)
  • Heathrow announced (2016) that it would accept, and in some cases exceed, all the environmental targets set out in the Airports Commission report. To this end Nick Platts, head of cargo, said he had been considering low-emission onward transport for freight, including using rail and barges on the nearby Grand Union Canal (Paddington Branch) which links central London with Birmingham.

Caption: ‘No congestion down here’

As Jonathan Guthrie, Financial Times Enterprise Editor reported, the 2007research highlighted a series of environmental benefits from moving freight. Studies agree that waterborne transport is quieter, cleaner & more fuel efficient, reducing CO2 emissions by 75-80% compared with road transport. TV’s Waterworld programme made the startling claim that in one day a lorry used more fuel than a working barge would use in a year.

Next: City could use watertaxis – operating in other UK cities – to take passengers off congested roads

 

 

 

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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:

lwm-pound-text

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.

 

 

 

“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.

lloyds-bank-lewes-scene-image-2

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.

 

 

 

cadbury-2-birmingham-genericEarly in December, mainstream media reported that chocolate-maker Cadbury was proposing to change the way it works with Fairtrade – embarking on ‘a new global partnership’ between its Cocoa Life programme and Fairtrade that will support the rollout of Cocoa Life to Cadbury brands and others, including Suchard and Toblerone.

The partnership between Cadbury and Fairtrade has enabled the establishment of strong farmer organisations, provided training and support for farming communities and offered benefits such as loan schemes and agricultural tools. Some concern has now been expressed about Cadbury-Mondelez’s decision to move the Fairtrade mark to the back of Cadbury products and place the Cocoa Life label on the front.

Cocoa Life was created in 2012 by Mondelez to source all of its cocoa supply sustainably by working with communities who are setting their own ‘most value’ action plans. It is expected to secure a positive future for 200,000 farmers and 1 million community members in Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil by 2022. In the UK, five times as much Cadbury chocolate will now be made from sustainably sourced cocoa.

Today, Business Desk reports that Cadbury’s owner has agreed to sell most of its grocery business in Australia and New Zealand. The firm announced that the move will enable Mondelēz to make further investment in brands, including Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. It added that, starting in the UK and Ireland in May 2017 with a phased roll-out, Cocoa Life will be extended across Cadbury chocolate brands in key markets across the world.

An unmitigated disaster?

MSM reported the words of Paul Birch, secretary of Fairtrade Association Birmingham and chief executive of coffee co-op Revolver which carries the Fairtrade mark, who said: “This is in my view an unmitigated disaster. Cadbury were a shining light, a jewel in the crown, and they have abandoned their principles and abandoned the thousands of supporters of Fairtrade around the country.”

divine_ebenezer_withcocoapods-2One of Divine Chocolate’s farmers and his cocoa pods: from James Ramsden’s website

The Co-operative News  whilst acknowledging the ‘controversial’ nature of the decision, gave a more balanced account.

It reported that Divine Chocolate, another co-op that carries the Fairtrade mark, is worried that consumers will be unable to assess and compare the benefits to farmers being offered by the different chocolate brands if more companies follow suit. “It is however good to know that, through Cocoa Life, Mondelez is continuing to invest in working with farmers in Ghana. We hope that the continued association with Fairtrade means that they will continue to support smallholder farmers to build their organisations.”

Co-operatives UK’s secretary general Ed Mayo, who was involved in the launch of the Fairtrade mark before he joined the co-op, writing in a personal capacity, said: “The test of the Cadbury announcement will be whether cocoa farmers and their co-operatives are better off or worse off as a result of the decision”.

Michael Gidney, chief executive of the Fairtrade Foundation, said: “The evolution of our partnership with Cadbury and Cocoa Life is an exciting development as it embeds Fairtrade, our values, principles and unique relationships with farmer networks, into the whole programme. In doing so, together we can increase the scale and impact of Cocoa Life, towards a common goal – one in which cocoa farmers, their organisations and communities are empowered, can invest in their own future, and go from just surviving, to thriving.”

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Many in Birmingham will remember the sterling work of John Boyle (above) in collaborating with a wide range of organisations, outlets and companies, to achieve the Fairtrade City Mark and welcoming Cadbury’s adoption of the mark in 2012.

In these uncertain times it is good to see a company able to work round the clock and many people in Bournville will warm to the words of Glenn Caton, President, Northern Europe at Mondelēz International:

“Cocoa Life builds from Cadbury’s proud heritage of sourcing cocoa sustainably, which dates back to a hundred years ago, when the Cadbury family helped establish cocoa farming in Ghana.”