Archives for category: West Midlands

The People’s Weapons Inspectors blockaded the gates of Anglo-French arms manufacturer Roxel in the West Midlands on 7 April. The company makes and supplies several countries with propulsion systems and related equipments for all types of rockets and tactical and cruise missiles for air, sea and ground forces. 

The protestors attempted to inspect the Hartlebury site because they believe it is supplying weapons components, including the Brimstone air-to-surface missile, to be used by the Saudi Arabian military in its war in Yemen.

Some protestors blocked the gates by locking their arms together inside fortified drainage pipes and one who entered the site despite the large police presence, aiming to question Roxel’s directors, said:

‘By licensing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the British government is escalating the conflict. ‘We felt compelled to act. We call upon the British government to refuse applications to licence further arms sales to Saudi Arabia.’

Wyre Forest Labour’s Stephen Brown, known for his voluntary work in Birmingham, visited the site during the protest and backed the group’s actions. He said:

“The protestors raised a very important issue that deserves wider attention. Labour has called for the U.K. Government to be held accountable as it is supplying arms and personnel helping the Saudis. We have seen civilian infrastructure hit resulting in thousands dead and injured including children. This is morally reprehensible and many view it as war crimes.”

 

Main source: http://www.kidderminstershuttle.co.uk/news/16152530.Anti_war_demonstrators_blockade_Hartlebury_rocket_factory/

 

 

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WEST MIDLANDS NEW ECONOMICS GROUP

Date: Thursday 26th April, 5pm-7pm

Carol Martin who will be opening this session, will do a brief introduction. She has circulated notes to members of the group. An extract: 

I believe that Council Tax is no longer fit for purpose. I propose a Land Value Tax based on the 1948 Town & Country Planning Act. It would not be linked to the old rates system which was based on a “notional” rental value of that property. People rent/buy where they can afford to.  They consider factors such as proximity to work, schools, shops, places of worship, transportation links.

In large cities such as London, but especially in South Birmingham, it throws up some bizarre rents. The rental on a 3 bedroom property in the inner City can be as high as in the suburbs . . .  

Venue: The Community Hub room, Level 4, John Lewis, Birmingham Grand Central Railway Station aka New Street Station.

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

 

Anyone not on the mailing list who wishes to receive Carol’s notes beforehand should contact comments on the WMNEG website.

 

 

 

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The rational case against metro mayors ably set out by local commentators, Richard Hatcher, George Morran and Steve Beauchampé, has been shattered for the writer by the media-feeding chaotic, emotion-led, vicious, counterproductive squabbling in the Labour & Conservative ranks.

Still, evidently, a tribal people, we appear to need the ‘high-profile leadership’ extolled by Andrew Carter, chief executive of the Centre for Cities , largest funders Gatsby Charitable Foundation (Lord Sainsbury) and  Catapult network, established by Innovate UK, a government agency. (see report cover right)

As yet, the announcements made by the West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street, respected even by most opponents of the post, with a business record seen as a guarantee of efficiency, are provoking little dissension.

Dan Jarvis, who is expected to win the Sheffield election becoming Britain’s seventh metro mayor, intends to continue to sit in the House of Commons to work for a better devolution deal and speak for the whole county. (map, regions in 2017)

His desire to stay in parliament while serving as a mayor is thought, by the author of FT View to reflect a recognition that the real authority and power of these positions is limited:

  • The six mayors have no say on how taxes are raised and spent.
  • Outside Greater Manchester, the mayors have little control over health policy.
  • Major spending decisions on transport policy are still taken by central government.

Days after taking office in Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham’s announcement of a new fund to tackle the region’s homelessness problem was backed by ‘a chunk’ of his own mayoral salary.

Andrew Carter points out that England’s mayors are highly constrained in their control over local tax revenue and how it is spent, compared with their counterparts in other countries.

FT View describes this extra layer of government as yet merely creating cheerleaders, adding:

“Voices alone will not be enough to shift economic and political power to the regions. England’s mayors need more control. If the government is serious about devolution, the mayors need the powers to match that ambition”.

 

Could well-endowed, unsuborned metro mayors out-perform successive corporate-bound national governments?

 

 

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Some time ago West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street travelled to Finland – thought to be the only country in Europe where homelessness is falling.

He said: “We have got to be realistic about this. This can’t be about a sticking plaster. We have got to ask ourselves the question, are we prepared to make a similar commitment?”

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation of the long-term homeless, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature.

As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”. Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’ and eventually have to leave because of alcohol, drug or debt problems.

Mayor:  travel to Cambridge Emmaus to see the homeless rehabilitated

The mayor of Birmingham may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or better still, go the centre in Cambridge, the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing and workshops are on the same site – and also a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people.

The secular Emmaus movement flourishes on the continent where it was started in 1945 by a French priest to help homeless ex-servicemen to repair war-damaged houses.

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

Those who had an alcohol addiction, go out for a drink but are expected to behave acceptably. Even if they are asked to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.

The four storey Trinity Centre (a former church, a listed building) in Camp Hill near the city centre, highlighted on this site in 2014, would offer a suitable site, as Emmaus prefers to have the residential, working and retail activities on the same site.. It housed many homeless ex-servicemen and workers displaced by machinery.

The ground floor was a dormitory, with three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week. All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat on the top storey.

When the Centre was put up for sale some local people suggested that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community.

 

Could Trinity Centre become the city’s first Emmaus?

Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner: should the Mayor contact him?

 

 

 

enquiries@emmauscoventry.org.uk

 

– though in Coventry this has not been possible.

Mayor Andy Street and Bishop David Urquhart could begin to address homelessness

Some time ago West Midlands metro mayor Andy Street travelled to Finland – thought to be the only country in Europe where homelessness is falling.

He said: “We have got to be realistic about this. This can’t be about a sticking plaster. We have got to ask ourselves the question, are we prepared to make a similar commitment?”

Emmaus has the answer to rehabilitation of the long-term homeless, offering both accommodation and work of a socially useful nature.

As its website says, “overcoming homelessness means more than a roof over your head”. Without a purpose formerly homeless people placed in ‘permanent accommodation’ become lonely and still feel like ‘outsiders’ and eventually have to leave because of alcohol, drug or debt problems.

Mayor Andy Street:  travel to Cambridge Emmaus to see the homeless rehabilitated

The mayor of Birmingham may visit the Coventry Emmaus, probably the nearest, or better still, go the centre in Cambridge, the ideal aimed for by Emmaus, where housing and workshops are on the same site – and also a place where locals can come and buy restored goods at modest prices from restored people.

The Emmaus movement flourishes on the continent where it was started in 1945 by a French priest to help homeless ex-servicemen to repair war-damaged houses.

Men and women come off income support, collect, refurbish and repair goods and offer them for sale. In exercising a skill and offering goods at quite a low price they meet a need and know that once more they have a useful role to play.

Those who had an alcohol addiction, go out for a drink but are expected to behave acceptably. Even if they are asked to leave because of bad behaviour they know that they can always return after a while.

The four storey Trinity Centre (a former church, a listed building) in Camp Hill near the city centre, highlighted on this site in 2014, would offer a suitable site, as Emmaus prefers to have the residential, working and retail activities on the same site.. It housed many homeless ex-servicemen and workers displaced by machinery.

The ground floor was a dormitory, with three aisles, like the one below and the centre led up to the chantry altar in which a Sunday service was held each week. All meals were cooked in a splendidly fitted kitchen, there was a recreation room, a visiting library (taken round by the writer) and a rehabilitation flat on the top storey.

When the Centre was put up for sale some local people suggested that this converted four storey Anglican ‘Commissioners’ church and the land nearby would be perfect for an Emmaus Community.

 

Could Trinity Centre become the city’s first Emmaus?

Bishop David Urquhart is a Church Commissioner: should the Mayor contact him?

 

 

 

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Localise West Midlands recently commissioned a video which highlights four local projects that stimulate local economies and decentralise economic power. It was filmed, produced and edited by Susan Jones, Redhead Business Films with funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

After seeing the video people who want more information should go to the LWM blog which has details of the four projects and the people involved.

The new Midland Metropolitan hospital ‘anchoring prosperity in the community’ hopes that one of its retail units will be taken by a social enterprise; it would not only sell locally produced goods but act as a “concierge” type service for busy staff and visiting families, to access the services they need from local businesses. It would aim to make stronger links with local people and help towards regenerating local neighbourhoods, Ladywood, Soho and Smethwick in the same way as Citizen Home in the Jewellery Quarter.

Inclusive business support ecosystems in Balsall Heath: Citizens UK and the Centre for Research on Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship have been working together with business people in Lozells, Small Heath and Sparkbrook to achieve better engagement with support agencies, aiming to generate an inclusive business support ecosystem in these areas. 

Energy Capital is about collaborative sector development, in which energy innovation delivers on the needs of real people and the environment, with locally owned businesses involved at every level. RentE Cars is one of the local businesses that is taking advantage of electric car charging innovations.

Social care, rather than being a problem, can be a positive force for inclusive economics that could help the West Midlands Combined Authority achieve its stated aims of sharing prosperity more widely – as a report by NEF for LWM outlines. Crossroads Care is an example of a locally accountable and adaptable enterprise delivering social care and economic opportunity.

Localise West Midlands explores better ways to do economics – creating an economy which is lively and diverse & in which more people have a stake – meeting local needs with local resources.

 

 

Two Sandwell community swimming pools to close to help fund Commonwealth Games Aquatics Centre, reports Steve Beauchampé

The true cost to Sandwell residents of hosting the 2022 Commonwealth Games aquatics events became clearer on Tuesday with the announcement that community swimming pools at Thimblemill Road, Smethwick and in Langley would be closed to make way for a new £60m swimming centre, to be constructed on the Borough’s Londonderry Playing Fields.

The new centre will feature a 50m pool, 25m diving pool, 125-station fitness gym, 12-court sports hall, seats for 5,000 spectators. Details of how the facility will be funded, and by whom, remain unclear., as do issues such as its ongoing running costs and long-term financial viability in what might be described as a somewhat ‘off’ location.

Sandwell Council reported that whilst the facility at Langley would likely be demolished, a new (though as yet unspecified) public use will be found for the Thimblemill Lane building. The Council also started that the lost playing fields at Londonderry would be replaced by ‘adequate alternative spaces’, but were unable to explain what this somewhat vague and ambiguous phrase meant in real terms.

The Grade II listed Thimblemill Road Baths (above) were designed by Chester Button and Smethwick Borough Engineer Roland Fletcher and opened almost 85 years ago on March 30th 1933. The building underwent a major restoration around a decade ago and is amongst only three swimming baths in Britain built in the Moderne style (the others are located in Northampton and Aberdeen). A much-loved and well-used community resource, in November 19th 1962, when the swimming pool was still boarded over during the winter season for dances and other social events, the venue hosted a performance by the then largely unknown Beatles (with both the Kinks and the Who following in later years).

The pool and sports centre in Vicarage Road, Langley, whilst of considerably less architectural merit, nonetheless remains a vital amenity whose loss will be keenly felt by many in the community. As swimmers in other many locations beyond the West Midlands will testify, replacing a small community pool with a 50m leviathan rarely results in a satisfactory outcome for the wide range of swimmers and swimming needs previously catered for.

Tuesday’s announcement is the first occasion that threats to the future of either the Smethwick or Langley facilities has been publicly discussed and calls into question the Birmingham Games bid team’s claim that hosting the Games would improve the region’s sporting infrastructure. Since reports first emerged that the 2022 aquatics events would likely be staged in Sandwell, councillors and council officials have been keen to portray the prospect as uniformity positive news for the borough, with no mention of any possible downside.

Requests both to Sandwell Council and Birmingham Games bid organisers last year for information about the new centre were met with the same intense secrecy that has characterised many crucial elements of the Games bid. Given the short (four and a half year) lead in time to the Games, Sandwell’s announcement of a public consultation with residents and businesses on the plans, following their approval by Sandwell Council Cabinet next week, seems little more than cosmetic, and it is hard to imagine local councillors risking any delay to the project, meaning that once again effective public scrutiny and accountability of the 2022 Games is likely to be minimal.

First published in the Birmingham Press

 

 

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Herefordshire Greens decisively gained a seat from the Conservatives in yesterday’s by-election.

Ellie Chowns, who lives in Canon Frome near Ledbury, on an organic farm, was elected.

She has a substantial track-record of local voluntary service as a primary school governor, a Home-Start volunteer, and treasurer of a housing association and enjoys gardening, hill-walking, and playing in a local folk band.

Her experience includes:

  • working in charities and education,
  • co-ordinating a group of MPs in Parliament,
  • tackling fuel poverty in East London,
  • and supporting peace-building in Northern Uganda.

Ellie was awarded a PhD in international development at the university of Birmingham and later and was a teaching fellow in the International Development Department. More detail about her extensive studies may be seen here. 

Currently she works for Voluntary Service Overseas.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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West Midlands New Economics Group meeting:

Ulla Grant is going to talk about: “The Swedish Model”,  the historical background, its effect on social changes in Sweden, how the “Swedish Model” has declined since mid ‘70s due to economic and political pressure.  This has resulted in a widening social and economic divide.

5-7pm on Thursday 28th September 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.

 

 

 

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Time-pressed residents of Birmingham, Solihull, Cannock, Dudley, Coventry, Lichfield, Sandwell, South Staffs, Tamworth, Walsall and Wolverhampton who regularly scan their section of the Brummie site, appreciate the free service it gives, whatever their interests. Main news items covered, include a range of locally run websites, music and the arts, sport and business.

Links to them give those sites a wider readership than would otherwise have been possible. Until the final few months Mark was a helpful and courteous correspondent and this later lack of response was ascribed to pressure of other work, which involved travelling abroad. We now can see that there may have been health concerns claiming priority.

Three of many interests served: Our Birmingham, West Midlands Producers and Localise West Midlands thank him and hope that a way will be found to maintain the Brummie.

 

 

 

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