Archives for category: Uncategorized


A grandmother who made potted plant gardens in shop doorways, found dead in a car park. A 51-year-old man who killed himself the day before his temporary accommodation ran out. A man who was tipped into a bin lorry while he slept.

These are just a few of at least 449 people who have died while homeless in the UK in the last 12 months – more than one person per day. Some were as young as 18 and some as old as 94. They included a former soldier, a quantum physicist, a travelling musician, a father of two who volunteered in his community, and a chatty Big Issue seller. The Bureau thinks that the true number of such deaths is likely to be much higher.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed today that after learning that no official body counted the number of homeless people who have died, they set out to record all such deaths over the course of one year. Working with local journalists, charities and grassroots outreach groups to gather as much information as possible, the Bureau has compiled a first-of-its-kind database which lists the names of the dead and more importantly, tells their stories.

A few of those who died homeless

Some were found in shop doorways in the height of summer, others in tents hidden in winter woodland. Some were sent, terminally ill, to dingy hostels, while others died in temporary accommodation or hospital beds. Some lay dead for hours, weeks or months before anyone found them.

This investigation has prompted the Office for National Statistics to start producing its own figure on homeless deaths.

 

 

o

Advertisements

As Birmingham City council managers spend £12million on consultants to tell them how to merge the service with NHS services in 2019/20, they propose to save a mere £2million at the expense of care workers’ working conditions.

Social care, home care, community care, is needed by the young disabled, post-operative patients, and frail elders. Dave Prentis (Unison) reported earlier this year that after seven years of austerity the social care workforce in Birmingham has fallen from 7,000 to just 2,000.

Birmingham City Council has 280 staff working for the ‘enablement service’ which helps vulnerable and elderly people regain their independence at home after a spell in hospital.

They are in dispute with council over new working patterns and are threatened with redundancy unless they conform.

They wanted undertakings that there would be:

  • no compulsory redundancies,
  • a joint management and union working party to develop the service
  • and the withdrawal of a rota proposal that involves triple split shifts, leaving workers effectively on duty from 7am – 10pm, because the two hourly gaps between shift – after travelling – would rarely allow them any useful time at home

Full timers will given a choice of taking reduced hours, taking redundancy or moving to another job within the city council.

Labour council cabinet member for health and social care, Paulette Hamilton, said the service is currently very inefficient – a management responsibility – but the proposed reforms will make it inhumane and unworkable.  She said:

  • staff spend 40% of their time away from patients,
  • and only 20% of clients are independent after receiving the service.

Though the government is responsible for these and so many other cuts to the lowest paid, Birmingham City Council managers appear to be squandering £12 on ‘advice’ from highly paid consultants, whilst saving a mere £2m by imposing poorer conditions on those who do the actual work.


The latest march and strike rally to defend the Homecare service will be held next Saturday 15th September 12 noon in Victoria Square, Birmingham. http://www.birminghamunison.co.uk/news.aspx/New-home-care-strike-and-protest

 

 

 

 

o

A Shirley reader writes that the Flood Expo event is “particularly relevant to our needs at present because Nethercote Gardens was flooded during the summer”.

 Flooding in Peterbrook Road Solihull Lodge

The Mail reported that storms over the Bank Holiday weekend left a trail of destruction around Solihull, with calls for a thorough investigation into the flooding problems experienced across the borough. Rising water turned roads to rivers and swept into people’s homes after a month’s worth of rain fell during the course of an hour on Sunday afternoon. Residents in over 80 affected households across Shirley, Solihull Lodge, Dickens Heath, Cheswick Green and Earlswood in Dickens Heath, bore the brunt of the deluge, with some homeowners left facing weeks of disruption ahead.

The Solihull Ratepayers News Bulletin (August 2018) brings news that Tidbury Green Parish Council is applying to protect an important ancient coppice on Dickens Heath Road with a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). Protecting this coppice, with its ponds and large ditches, would greatly help mitigate flooding across the highway from overflowing into residents’ homes on the new Bellway Dickens Manor Estate.

The Woodland Coppice fronting Dickens Heath Road on the further side of Birchy Leasowes Lane in Dickens Heath Parish is already protected by a Tree Preservation Order ref TPO 300 dating right back to August 1993.

Woodland Coppice at Dickens Heath Road to Junction of Birchy Leasowes Lane & Dickens Heath Road. In May’s severe storms floodwater overflowed the highway causing severe damage to people’s homes – the photo (above right) is typical of an earlier contained flooding.  

The TPO application is supported by Solihull Ratepayers Group and the Solihull Tree Wardens Group, which monitors tree protection measures across the Solihull Borough. Other supporters include Dickens Heath Parish Council, whose residents’ homes are directly affected and the Warwickshire Branch of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE).

The Mail reported that more than 322 property owners reported flooding to Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. During a meeting of the council on Thursday, July 12, Tony Diciccio, cabinet member for environment and housing, said an investigation was underway into the May bank holiday floods. A report is expected to be finished in October. He added that, although an investigation is being carried out, it may still be some time before the people of Solihull get any answers.

(Ed) Indeed, for years affected residents and parish councils have urged SMBC, Severn Trent and the Environment Agency to investigate and address these problems – but the response has been unsatisfactory. Meanwhile, a council rate rebate would be the least SMBC should offer.

Residents who want to support the Tree Preservation Application may email Solihull Planning at planning@solihull.gov.uk or write to the Solihull Planning Dept. Council House Manor Square Solihull B91 3QB Quoting Ref TPO/01170 Woodland at Dickens Heath Road.

 

 

 

o

As the council’s consultation closes today (Friday, August 17th) reports indicate a total omission of any reference to the city’s ‘Blue Roads’. 

Though the city’s roads are seriously congested and air pollution is illegally high, it may well fail to consider using its network of inland waterways unlike many other British cities – see list here – though all could do more.

A Birmingham University team has for some years pioneered the use of clean, hydrogen fuelled transport, building a prototype rail engine and converting a barge (below) –  but civic ears have been deaf to these developments.

The Dutch government is investing in transport of goods and people on inland waterways with the precondition that the inland shipping fleet becomes cleaner.

As Kees de Vries of the Dutch Inland Navigation Information Agency, in the Dutch government’s Blue Road report, points out: congested roads, environmental damage and the likelihood that the climate is changing due to excessive CO 2 emissions were decisive reasons for their modal shift to rail and especially inland navigation.

This combination of various modes of transport is called multimodal transport, meaning that the best mode is selected for each segment of the transport activity. To summarise points made:

Inland navigation stands out as an environmentally friendly, climate-friendly and safe mode of transport.

  • Its safety record is excellent.
  • Waterway transport uses relatively little fuel.
  • It emits fewer harmful nitrogen oxides, particulates and carbon dioxide (CO 2) than any other transport mode.
  • Use of inland navigation will therefore help to reduce temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather (floods, severe drought).

The last mile concept: as much freight as possible should be diverted from the region’s congested motorways as the CBOA stresses (Page 4):

The Passenger Transport Executive Group (PTEG) has highlighted the need for a significant increase in the freight tonnage carried within major city areas.  Every opportunity should be made for freight to make its way into urban areas by rail or water. The ‘last mile’ journeys into urban areas should be achieved by using low or zero emission transport with as little environmental impact as possible.

As Birmingham Live reports, the Environmental charity Client Earth took the UK Government to court – for the third time – over its failure to cut emissions and won, meaning pollution has to be cut to safe levels by 2020.

As a result the Government has given five cities, including Birmingham, until September 2018 to draw up plans for a clean air zone. The council was to unveil proposals in February, but withdrew them saying they had not carried out adequate assessments. Critics claimed they were waiting until after the May local election. The plan was eventually revealed on June 26 and put out to consultation, which closed on August 17.

Will the plan to be drawn up and sent to DEFRA in September for final approval include use of the city’s network of blue roads?

And will the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Waterways, with his awareness of the potential environmental and commercial advantages of a ‘modal shift’ to waterways, make an effective contribution to the debate?

 

 

 

o

A few months ago (Housing 31), this site touched on the promotion of community housing and community land trusts by Pat Conaty, remembered in Birmingham for his co-founding of the Aston Reinvestment Trust and the Debt Advice Centre at the Birmingham Settlement.

At the Co-op Congress last July, he was asked to chair the Reimagine Housing session which led to further meetings.

One – due to his Commons Sense report on garden city opportunities – was with people working in the Midlands on the use of brownfield land to develop new garden cities.

An online search found that the coalition government had announced plans in 2014 to build homes for 45,000 people in garden cities to help to deal with the housing shortage.

The planned Black Country Garden City would be the biggest regeneration of brownfield sites in the country. Pockets of eco-housing, with easy access to green space, were to be built in Dudley Port, The Lye, Willenhall and Wolverhampton’s Canal Quarter. Development was to begin later that year and be completed by 2025.

In January 2017, the Post reported a ‘snub’ –  the Government had rejected an application for funding put forward by the four Black Country councils.

Two months later, however, Inside Housing announced that government funding for this development would be given, as part of a £392m investment into its Midlands Engine scheme.

The Black Country LEP’s video in March 2017 said that government and private investment has ‘levered in’ £6bn investment

European Regional Development Funds

The Express and Star (March 2018) reported that Wolverhampton council had secured a £681,000 boost from the European Regional Development Fund for the Bilston Urban Village Open Space Development Strategy. It adds that the no-longer-snubbed Garden City programme has secured £100 million to buy and clean up former industrial sites – part of £350m signed off for homes in the West Midlands by Chancellor Philip Hammond.

Landscaping has already begun, with woodland management, development of ground flora, meadow creation, tree planting, hedge planting, development of the attenuation pond, possible creation of a community orchard, provision of bird and bat boxes, and actions to increase biodiversity along the edges of the canal. Read on here.

More detail is given on the website of FPCR Environment and Design Ltd – including the following sketch.

A National Brownfield Land Research Centre will be set up on the University of Wolverhampton’s Springfield campus, housing a team of specialist researchers, consultants and industry experts to advise on all aspects of brownfield development from dealing with contaminated land to repurposing buildings and sites.

 

 

 

o

Redbrick’s Comment Writer Tom Moran argues that NATO must display more willingness to act against hybrid warfare.

Wikipedia describes hybrid warfare as a military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyberwarfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention. 

In response to the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, NATO decided to develop ‘a set of tools to deter and defend against adversaries waging hybrid warfare’.

NATO Watch’s latest news on this subject is that US Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Thom Tillis (below) relaunched the Senate NATO Observer Group, a bipartisan group of lawmakers aiming to strengthen congressional ties with NATO, more than a decade after it was disbanded. Shaheen, a Democrat, said “Now more than ever, it’s imperative that the United States work closely with NATO to respond to the ever-evolving threats to Western democracies, particularly from the Kremlin.

The July Brussels Summit Declaration issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council included: “We face a dangerous, unpredictable, and fluid security environment, with enduring challenges and threats from all strategic directions; from state and non-state actors; from military forces; and from terrorist, cyber, and hybrid attacks . . . including disinformation campaigns and malicious cyber activities . . .  Russia is also challenging Euro-Atlantic security and stability through hybrid actions, including attempted interference in the election processes’.

Trump’s relationship with NATO and Putin

Probably touching on the Shaheen-Tillis concerns, Tom Moran commented, “NATO’s Brussels summit was hardly short of controversy with Trump, unsurprisingly, at the centre of this; whether that be in his questionable commitment to the alliance, his questionable understanding of it, or shortly following this, his questionable off-the-records meeting with Putin”.

He continues: ‘Russia never really invaded the Crimea; instead they used special forces, cyber-attacks, their “little green men” (to stop political protests) and fake news. Similarly, in Syria there is the same level of confusion. Against whom have Russia carried out attacks? Does Assad still have chemical weapons? And, have they been used since he supposedly gave them up? The ambiguity makes the fake news indistinguishable from the truth and in turn the confusion is the weapon of war’.

Moran is aware that Russian goals have not changed significantly over the last three hundred years: “Imperial, Soviet and modern Russia have all searched to protect their western borders through some form of buffer between them and the rest of Europe . . . NATO expansion since the end of the Cold War has, rightfully, concerned Russia as they no longer have that buffer”.

Despite this awareness, he ends by expressing the belief that it is crucial for NATO to succeed in pursuing their interests (‘expansion’) and continue to curtail Russia gaining both a buffer and further expansion in Eastern Europe.

Baffling.

The only winners following that course of action will be pork-barrel politicians and the arms & ‘defence’ electronics industry.

 

 

 

o

WEST MIDLANDS NEW ECONOMICS GROUP

The next meeting, on Thursday 26th July, will be held at the John Lewis Community Hub, from 5 to 7pm.

After a round the table exchange, during which each person gives his or her news, Alan Clawley’s draft manifesto of some 18 years ago will be discussed. The manifesto can be found here.

A programme for the current year will then be planned.

The John Lewis Community Hub is located on the 4th floor of the John Lewis store over Birmingham Grand Central Railway Station aka New Street Station (lift and escalator), immediately off the area where television sets are being sold.

 

 

o

 

Alan was trained as an architect and lived in Birmingham for several decades, providing technical support to a wide variety of community projects. He was a member of the Green Party, founder and secretary of Friends of Central Library and chairman of West Midlands Economics Group (WMNEG).

The writer first met him at meetings of Birmingham Green Party in the 80s and later both attended the 1994 gathering organised by George Heron (left), a supporter of the New Economics Foundation (NEF) George circulated all the NEF supporters living in the West Midlands and an inaugural meeting was held in which the constitution of an unincorporated voluntary association was adopted.

Since the structure of the NEF did not allow for branches as such, it was agreed that WMNEG would be independent of the NEF but share its values and interests. A management committee planned the programme of activities and George was its chairman until he moved to Manchester in 1997. Paul Baptie took the chair for a short period followed by Alan Clawley. A website was created and contact with supporters was maintained by email.

Trawling through her documents the writer found several records of work not mentioned in the widely appreciated tributes by Steve Beauchampé and Neil Elkes. A summary follows.

Read on here.

 

 

 

o

After publishing this post on June 2nd and signing a letter to Chris Grayling the writer has heard that this campaign is moving to Westminster. An event will be held there and it is hoped that as many MPs as possible will be there.

Readers may decide to invite their MP by emailing the following message:

Subject:

Invitation: Save Our Arches, 12 June in Parliament

Dear [INSERT MP’S NAME],

The Guardians of the Arches is a newly formed group of traders representing the thousands of small businesses based in railway arches around the country. On 12 June they are coming to Parliament to put their case against Network Rail’s planned sale of its arches this summer. As one of your constituents, and someone who is concerned about the sell-off’s threat to local businesses, I would like to invite you to hear the traders’ story and to pledge your support if you can.

Date: Tuesday 12 June

Time: 6.30pm to 8pm

Location: Committee Room 10, Palace of Westminster

RSVP: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/save-our-arches-12th-june-in-parliament-tickets-46603969728

By the end of August, Network Rail plans to have sold its 5,500 railway arches in a single deal thought to be worth around £1.2bn. After facing in-year rent increases of as much as 500%, many of Network Rail’s tenants – garages, hairdressers, bakers, gyms, brewers, metalshop workers and everything in between – are scared for their future. And many have already been forced to close up or move on as a result.

The traders have organised an open letter to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling asking him to halt the sale of their premises and to talk to them about reaching a sustainable settlement for the future. As a supporter of small businesses and of strong, vibrant local economies, I ask that you try to attend our meeting on 12 June and show your support for our cause.

And if you cannot make it but would like to support us, please sign our letter at  bit.ly/SaveOurArches  and show your support on social media  #SaveOurArches

.

 

Yours sincerely,

[Add your name and postal address, so it is clear you are a constituent]

 

 

 

 

o

 


 

 

 

o