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“As Britain heads out the door of the European Union, where’s the game plan for how we thrive in the brave new world that’s coming, asks Labour’s Liam Byrne?”  

And how do we thrive now?

The official purpose of the Presidents Club Charity Dinner last Thursday was to raise money for good causes such as the Great Ormond Street Hospital for children. It was attended by 360 figures from the business world, politics, finance and the entertainment world – politicians, oligarchs, property tycoons, film producers, financiers and chief executives.

Auction lots advertised included a lunch with foreign secretary Boris Johnson hosted by Ian Botham and tea with Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England.

It was a black tie evening – men only invited – with 130 specially hired hostesses. Attendees included David Meller, a non-executive director at the Department for Education and one of the trustees of the Presidents Club and Nadhim Zahawi, Minister for Children and Families in the Department for Education. A Downing Street spokesman said Mr Zahawi had “attended briefly and felt uncomfortable at what had begun to happen.”

Other media outlets have reported the depressing details itemised in the Financial Times.

The BoE said: “The Bank of England did not approve any prize for auction on the occasion described nor would it have for that organisation under its guidelines for charitable giving.” It was today announced that David Meller has stepped down from his Government role. Advertising corporate WPP, which had sponsored a table at the dinner, and the Bank of England have now both severed all ties with the charity organisation. Great Ormond Street hospital, one of the beneficiaries of the dinner, will return donations from the organisation’s charitable trust as a result of the “wholly unacceptable nature of the event”.

Meanwhile in the same week, the Financial Times reported twice on the aid being given to Yemen by Saudi Arabia but not the lethal assistance given by Britain’s friend and ally to the Yemen national army to ‘neutralise’ a Houthi group. The Jerusalem Post reports that an air strike in north-west Yemen killed eight civilians on January 22nd, including four children and two women, as part of the new offensive launched in December.





Saturday 2nd December, 2-7pm

Bournville Village Council will oversee the traditional switching on of the landmark Christmas tree lights 6pm. Duncan Cadbury will open the event.

This will be followed by music from Kings Norton’s Birmingham Rock School.

Come to the Visitor Centre – open until 7pm – and vote for your favourite Christmas Music. The top 5 will be played between 5:30.

There will be live music and lantern-making, street food, a festive market and the Village Green shops offer their seasonal gifts.





West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

Robert Kornreich’s introduction to a discussion on Molly Scott Cato’s book: Green Economics: An Introduction to Theory, Policy and Practice will include PowerPoint slides.

Meeting: 5-7pm on Thursday 30th November, at the John Lewis Community Hub, available to community groups.

The community hub is 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.

All welcome.






Theresa May: “the government wants people to be able to manage their own (universal credit) budgets”

Yet again, the vulnerable suffer. Due to successive governments many now in need  have been ill-educated, ill-nourished and under stress because they could not find work.  In similar circumstances Mrs May and few of her colleagues would be managing their budgets well.

The introduction of universally paying housing benefit direct to landlord (stopped in 2008) was extremely helpful to those not able (or willing) to budget. It has been retained under universal credit and actually adds to the problems of landlords and tenants alike.

Quoting from a letter circulated by GAP Property during PMQs, Jeremy Corbyn said: “Will the prime minister pause universal credit so it can be fixed? Or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they are about to be evicted because they are in rent arrears because of universal credit?”

GAP Property said the introduction of universal credit would affect the vast majority of its tenants and it needed to take action to avoid a slew of rent arrears, which could put it out of business.

The company’s owner, Guy Piggott, said the letter was not intended to be threatening and he was pleased it had been highlighted by Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

“We are not planning to throw people out, but the prime minister should read this and recognise the problems . . . the majority of his tenants were on an average household income of about £17,000 a year. “People are already living hand to mouth . . . At best, if they need to wait six weeks to be paid, it will be the end of February before it comes, and by then they might have spent the money they had on feeding their families or heating their homes”.

Paragraphs from a snapshot of the letter:

Piggott said many landlords would soon refuse to take people who were on universal credit. “A lot of landlords are now saying enough is enough”.

Jeremy Corbyn said: “Will the prime minister pause universal credit so it can be fixed? Or does she think it is right to put thousands of families through Christmas in the trauma of knowing they are about to be evicted because they are in rent arrears because of universal credit?”

Mrs May replied that she wanted to “look at the issue of this particular case” but said the government wanted people to be able to manage their own budgets and expressed less than impressive hopes that the government could act next week to cut the six-week wait for payments to five.





The Employee Ownership Association (EOA) 12th Annual Conference represents organisations which are employee owned or transitioning to employee ownership. This growing sector employs over 200,000 employee owners across the UK. More than 700 attendees are expected to gather on the 27 and 28 November at the NEC Hilton Metropole. The programme, including news of awards to be presented, may be downloaded here.

One of several case-studies:

Page\Park is an architectural firm based in Glasgow that made the transition to employee ownership in December 2013. Since then, the business has recruited 12 new employee-owners, increasing its staff to a total of 54, to meet the growth in demand for their services – a positive commercial upturn which owners attribute in part to their transition to employee ownership.

This year’s conference will present the contribution employee owned businesses make to the economy – offering increased productivity, growth, resilience and good corporate behaviour. Delegates will hear from and share best practice with SMEs and global businesses that are employee owned or are exploring employee ownership and meet experts in subjects linked to employee ownership, from funding finance to engagement.

Founded in 1979 by journalist Robert Oakeshott and originally called Job Ownership Ltd (JOL), the EOA was established with the help of companies such as the John Lewis Partnership and international polymers manufacturer Scott Bader.

The EOA campaigns on behalf of members, with policy makers, the media, Government and a range of other audiences, winning the support of all three main political parties.





The committee of the Solihull Ratepayers Association (SRA) attended the eviction of travellers from Shirley Park on Saturday 2nd September 2017 and made a photographic record of the occupation and eviction.

The travellers pulled out after a police arrest threat, as there was CCTV evidence of criminal damage, cutting through fencing by the Aldi supermarket and of a confrontation with residents.

The Ratepayers are calling for better control of such travellers and the incorporation of effective measures under the current Local Plan. This was discussed at a Forum Meeting 2.00pm on Friday 8th September at the Shirley Centre.

An online search shows several other incursions and a council document states that this particular group of travellers are more persistent than Solihull has experienced in recent years and are frequently changing in numbers and tactics. It gives a brief account of their movements:

In March, ITV reported that they set up their caravans near a 24-hour Tesco, before moving over to gym and spa over a mile away – in the grounds of the Virgin Active health club on private land owned by Richard Branson in Blythe Park, Shirley, near Solihull.

After being evicted in May, travellers returned early in August after being moved on from Bentley Heath where they were said to have been throwing stones at passersby. Undeterred by a council-dug trench, 20 caravans with 30 occupants, horses and babies reoccupied a field outside Streetsbrook Road in Solihull.

On 11 August an unauthorised encampment recently located at Shirley Park were escorted out of Solihull borough, however, they returned the same evening and forced entry onto Palmers Rough Recreation Ground. senior officers and councillors of Solihull Council are working hard to address the recent incursion on Palmers Rough. The Chief Executive has seen the site and has been speaking to local residents to reassure them that the Council is doing all that it can to move the travelling community on as quickly as possible.

This particular group of travellers are more persistent than Solihull has experienced in recent years and are frequently changing in numbers and tactics. The Council is working closely with the police and undertaking the necessary legal actions to move them on as soon as possible. They recorded the events. Recent entries include::

  • 15 August: the unauthorised encampment were escorted out of Solihull borough yesterday evening, however, some returned the same evening and forced entry onto land just off Rothwell Drive. This area was still covered by the eviction order and they have therefore now been moved on.
  • The community then entered land on Kixley Lane, Knowle and established an unauthorised encampment. This land is privately owned, therefore we will work alongside the police and the land owner to advise and assist in managing the situation.
  • 3:30pm Monday 14 August: A Court Order has now been served to the unauthorised encampment.  Should they fail to leave the site within 24hrs, the formal eviction process will begin.
  • On 16 August, the unauthorised encampment left the land on Kixley Lane, Knowle.

When an unauthorised encampment leaves a site the council undertakes to clean up and assess how the site may be secured to guard against any future incursions To support council evidence-gathering and help to build a picture of the situation for the court to consider when the case is presented, the council stresses the importance of local residents reporting any anti-social or criminal behaviour to the police: call 101 or go to

The subject of transit sites was comprehensively aired in Solihull Local Development Framework: Gypsy and Traveller Site Allocations Development Plan Document Options Paper Consultation – July and August 2011 but no agreement on the need for such a site was reached.

There is one site in Castle Vale, Birmingham and the SRA understands that Solihull Council is now to make provision for a stop-over site.





A reader alerts all to National Express West Midlands’ review of Birmingham’s bus network. Here we focus on proposals in one area:

Its website says that traffic is getting worse, making journeys slower. Some routes are now 10 minutes slower than they were three years ago. This means fewer passengers, which is bad for the economy and social inclusion. Some might switch to cars, making congestion and pollution worse.


Route 27 may not operate and could be replaced in some areas by changes to other routes, some of which may be run by other operators. This is particularly disturbing in that if this proposal goes ahead, it will leave a significant part of Bournville without any public transport. There would be no link up with Bournville Railway station which is a common stop for commuters from parts of Bournville who daily use the 27 to get to and from the railway station.

Stirchley and Bournville residents working in Northfield or visiting the banks and shopping centre there would also feel the impact of the loss of the 27, the only direct service.

Bournville Conservative Party has set up a petition to be submitted to National Express West Midlands, Birmingham City Council and Transport for West Midlands:

One main route is proposed on the Pershore Road – the  76 being diverted to serve Cartland Road and Pineapple Road instead of Dogpool Lane.

Maypole and Shirley readers need to consider the impact of merging routes 2 & 3

There would be only one route 3 with all buses running via Stoney Ln in Sparkbrook, and Trittiford Rd, Priory Rd, School Rd, Ravenshill Rd and Priory Rd to the Slade Lane terminus.

Would the proposal to run route 49 via Highters Heath Ln, School Rd and Yardley Wood Rd between Maypole Ln and Solihull Lodge compensate?

All South Birmingham residents are invited to take part in a consultation: click this link to be taken to the survey:





Travelling menageries were popular in the 19th Century but Dr Helen Cowie, a historian at the University of York, says they “were not too preoccupied” with security and there were “an alarming number” of escapes and accidents.

In 1899 a young black-maned Nubian lion escaped from Bostock and Wombwell’s Menagerie in Aston. A report which has just been unearthed in the Pall Mall Gazette on September 28, 1889, said: “Men, women and children scampered off in all directions as the lion dashed across the ground, hotly pursued by the men from Wombwell’s. A group of children were in its path, but it cleared them at a bound.”

The lion made for a stream, before taking refuge in a sewer. Chief lion tamer Marcus Orenz heard the lion’s roar, crawled through a manhole and began to pursue the animal. A trap was set with a cage over the drain opening and Orenzo, ‘armed with a heavy revolver and accompanied by a boarhound’ approached the lion, firing two shots.


  Illustration of men putting a cage over a manhole in an attempt to trap the lion  

The Mail (2015) ended there with its capture but a 2017 post on a BBC News website has a more dashing account. Frank C Bostock, the owner of a menagerie, and his team were preparing for a show when one of his lions jumped over its keeper, pushed through a rip in the circus tent, and prowled off towards Birmingham city centre “as free and untrammelled as when in his native wilds”.

According to Bostock’s account in his book The Training of Wild Animals, the lion came across one of the openings to the sewerage system and “down he sprang, looking up at the crowd of people and roaring at the top of his voice. As he made his way through the sewers, he stopped at every man-hole he came to, and there sent up a succession of roars, driving some people nearly wild with terror.”

As the public became very alarmed, rather than trying to quell the volatile crowd, Bostock put a second lion in a cloth-covered cage and sneaked it out on the back of a lorry. He then returned, blowing his horn to attract attention, with the lion clearly visible. People fell for the ruse and he was cheered as a hero. “A shout went up from the crowd ‘They’ve got him! They’ve got him! They’ve got the lion!'” His actions in apparently getting the lion from the sewer were reported around the world. A New Zealand newspaper ran an article called “A lion at large in Birmingham: How the King of the Forest was recaptured”.

Frank C Bostock published a volume of his memoirs and training tips

The publicity worked in Bostock’s favour. Hordes of people attended the show that evening, ignorant of the fact a man-eating lion was prowling beneath the streets. Bostock said he “was in a perfect bath of cold perspiration, for matters were extremely serious, and I knew not what to do next. Fortunately, the lion had stopped his roaring, and contented himself with perambulating up and down the sewer”.

On the afternoon of the following day, the chief of police of Birmingham visited the menagerie and congratulated Bostock on his “marvellous pluck and daring” and Bostock ‘came clean’. “I shall never forget that man’s face when he realized that the lion was still in the sewer, it was a wonderful study for any mind-reader,” he reflected. “At first he was inclined to blame me but when I showed him I had probably stopped a panic, and that my own liabilities in the matter were pretty grave possibilities to face, he sympathized with me, and added that any help he could give me, I might have.

“I at once asked for 500 men of the police force and asked that he would instruct the superintendent of sewers to send me the bravest men he could spare, with their top-boots, ladders, ropes, and revolvers with them, so that should the lion appear, any man could do his best to shoot him at sight. We arranged that we should set out at five minutes to midnight, so that we might avoid any crowd following us, and so spreading the report”.

An illustration from The Graphic newspaper: men pulling a lion from a sewer using a rope

It was more than 24 hours later that Bostock, now in the sewer, “saw two gleaming eyes of greenish-red just beyond, and knew we were face to face with the lion at last”. He and his gang of men chased the lion through the sewers by scaring it with shouts and fireworks. When face-to-face with the lion Bostock took off his boots and put them on his hands “Fearing that he would split my head open with a blow from one of his huge paws, I told one of my men to place over my head a large iron kettle which we had used to carry cartridges and other things to the sewer”. The kettle fell off and startled the lion which “turned tail like a veritable coward” and ran into a rope lasso laid out ready to snare him.

Bostock’s story in his memoirs concludes: “I got the lion out of the sewer, as the people of Birmingham supposed I did, only their praise and applause were a little previous.”

Frank C Bostock died from ‘flu aged 46 in 1912 and there is a stone lion on grave in which he and his wife Susannah were buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington.






Paul Mason, political economist and film-maker, examines the spectacular polling revival ‘staged’ by Jeremy Corbyn in the space of six weeks. He lists and comments on the ‘plausible range of outcomes’ in next week’s general election’:

  • modest Tory gains,
  • a hung parliament,
  • a minority Labour government.

He adds that even if, as seems likely, Mr Corbyn cannot win outright, he would re-enter parliament leading a massively emboldened opposition.

Mason continues by saying that the challenge for Mr Corbyn, in the last week of the campaign, is to break the 40% barrier.

He recommends the Labour leader to signal he would form a government with cross-party support in parliament, at the very least from the Greens and the progressive nationalist parties.






As Jonathan Walker has reported, “Conservative leader Theresa May attempted to turn the focus of the general election back on to Brexit by saying: ‘Jeremy Corbyn’s minders can put him in a smart blue suit for an interview with Jeremy Paxman, but with his position on Brexit, he will find himself alone and naked in the negotiating chamber with the European Union”.

Here he is with colleagues in Brussels

Walker explains May’s discourteous tirade by saying that “It followed a difficult two weeks for Mrs. May, after she was accused of making a U-turn over plans to make some elderly people pay more for social care”.

And above are gathered all the EU’s socialist heads of state who will welcome Corbyn’s respectful, democratic approach to negotiations.