Following an apology for the company’s mistakes in London by Uber’s chief executive and promises to change if its licence is renewed, Raj Khalid writes to the Financial Times from Bandra, Mumbai, India.

His stance is that Uber has changed the market, providing more convenient and cheaper rides to people across the world, adding:

“In India passengers were held to ransom by the ubiquitous black-and-yellow cabs. Mumbai was the only city on the sub-continent where they ran on meters. In Delhi the meter was very neatly covered by a small towel so the passenger never saw the fare. Even today in Mumbai taking a pre-paid a cab from the airport involves a hefty booking fee and extras for luggage.

“The Uber takes all your luggage, provides a comfortable ride in an air-conditioned vehicle. In India where street names keep changing and there is no proper numbering of houses, the Uber uses GPS to take passengers perfectly to their destination”.

Khalid points out that when responding to protests, a minister welcomed any system that:

  • provided jobs to thousands of people,
  • helped them to earn a reasonable income
  • and reduced personal cars.

In London, which is choking under diesel smog, Khalid argues the case for banning private vehicles and allowing Uber to operate, adding: “Maybe the car parks would lose money but there would be fewer cars on the road”.

 

 

Birmingham (see 15 blogs) please note.

 

 

 

 

https://ourbirmingham.wordpress.com/2014-2017-birmingham-air-pollution-blogs/

 

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In 2015, Welfare Weekly reported that research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that 2.6million working families on Universal Credit would lose £1,600 a year from the changes and 1.9 million would be £1,400 a year better off.

Analysis from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility suggested the changes to universal credit would save the chancellor close to £3bn by 2019-20 – a figure quoted by Public Finance.

Graph from House of Commons Library blog, last November, ‘Jam Tomorrow’

In March this year a study by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the IPPR thinktank that a series of cuts and changes have left the government’s flagship welfare overhaul failing to meet its original aims.

Although universal credit was intended to boost household incomes by strengthening incentives for claimants to move into work or take on more hours, the study says that more families will be worse off than under the scheme’s original design.

Families with children are the biggest losers under the cuts made to universal credit since it was first established. Lone parent families will be on average £2,380 a year worse off, while families with two children lose £1,100 on average and those with three youngsters lose £2,540. Lone parents and couples where one parent works part-time to care for young children are hit particularly hard and face having have to find up to two days’ extra work a week to meet the shortfall in income from the cuts.

Currently just 450,000 people are on universal credit, which is not expected to be fully operational across the country until 2022. At that point, according to estimates by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, 2.1 million families will be worse off under the new system, and 1.8 million better off.

David Hencke quotes Catherine McKinnell, Labour MP for Newcastle North, who said:

“My office has been deluged with complaints from constituents about a Universal Credit system that is clearly struggling to cope and failing to deliver the support that claimants need in anything like an orderly or timely fashion”.

She reveals a very sorry picture. The new IT system means people can’t talk to a human. It has a verification process that requires claimants to produce photographic identification such as a passport or driving licence, “which many simply do not possess and certainly cannot afford”. She adds:

“There are numerous examples of Universal Credit claims being shut down before they should be; of documentation being provided to the DWP, at the constituent’s cost, and repeatedly being lost or even destroyed; and of totally conflicting, often incorrect, information being provided to constituents about their claims.” A list of other problems may be seen here.

Precisely the case seen repeatedly 20 years ago when the writer (David Hencke) was a volunteer in a local night-shelter.

Hencke ends, “What this shows to me is a growing disconnect between the people at the top – who are computer savvy, have nice centrally heated homes, no problems with bills, can afford expensive holidays, and can’t conceive of anyone not having a passport – designing a system for poor, dispossessed, desperate people without any understanding of how the world works for them.

 

 

 

 

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The BBC reports that, at a High Court hearing in London on Wednesday, Mr Justice Fraser dismissed the council’s argument that Mr Clancy had no authority to make a deal at ACAS with Unite.

He said that he was ‘more than satisfied’ there is enough evidence about what was referred to in court as the ‘Clancy Agreement’ to be tested at a full trial. He also dismissed a submission by Birmingham City Council’s legal team that a trial would not be in the public interest.

An interim injunction was granted against the bid – favoured by council officers – to make refuse collectors in Birmingham redundant.

The union is calling for Ms Stella Manzie, the authority’s interim chief executive, who had been leading the negotiating team, to stand down.

Justice Fraser said that documents made clear an internal rift at the council and read out an email sent on 15 August from the interim chief executive Stella Manzie to ex-leader Mr Clancy saying the council could not look weak and “as if it’s being walked over”.

On 11th August Cllr Lisa Trickett had corrected the impression that there will be job losses and cuts to basic pay for workers affected by the removal of the “leading hand” role  “one of the two supervisors in a three-person team: 

“Those supervisors will be offered other permanent roles within the council that their skills are broadly suited to, with training on offer to help ensure they could move into the jobs as easily as possible”.

John Clancy said in July that the council is ‘bending over backwards’ to reform the inefficient bins service inherited from the previous administration, without making job losses:

“We are giving the leading hands every opportunity to further their careers elsewhere in the city council with at least the same basic salary.”  He pointed out that 220 more permanent bin jobs will be created to replace the expensive agency staff currently used.

The conciliation service ACAS said on 16 August the council had accepted the workers’ case and restored the jobs of grade three workers, who are responsible for safety at the back of refuse vehicles. However, a council report said the deal struck by UNITE and the council was unaffordable.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said refuse workers would now return to a full working day until the five-day court hearing.

 

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SUPPORTIVE COMMENTS ON THE BBC WEBSITE

  • So council bosses want to get rid of 120 binmen but not their huge wages and pensions. No surprise there then.
  • Why not scrap a couple of councillor jobs and pay for the service The council tax should cover bin collection costs, not pay rises for the suits
  • It’s costing the council more to pay for agency staff to clear the rubbish than it would for them to accept the deal brokered by ACAS with Clancy.
  • They could find £188 million to build a library, and no doubt have spent millions more on other vanity projects, but want to save money collecting peoples rubbish.
  • As with most councils, they have their priorities all wrong. https://www.letsrecycle.com/news/latest-news/sheffield-councillors-vote-to-end-35-year-veolia-contract/ I live in Sheffield & I can tell you first hand Veolia are 100% inadequately staffed and just as poorly managed and led by their corporate offices. Privatization of a service that should be ‘in house’ to any local authority is a huge financial gamble – as proven here.
  • That is the issue – tenders being brought in by councils that cost more in the long run to fund than staffing with their own paid employees. Look at Veolia – Google search to see the muck ups they make & their costs.
  • A simpler way to save the money would be to get rid of Stella Manzie, the interim CEO who has been sent to Birmingham by the government to do a hatchet job on our local authority. She is well known for being parachuted into ‘difficult’ local authorities who are not following Conservative government rules. She is the one who scuppered the agreement between Unite and the council leader John Clancy.
  • Birmingham City Council has behaved appallingly in this dispute. They did not consult properly with the bin men from the start. The council leader then agreed a deal that would change shift patterns but removed the threat of redundancy. The council then reneged on the deal. The interim CEO (a government stooge) was behind the report to scupper the deal. They then issued redundancy notices!
  • The right decision. Workers’ rights have been eroded to the core as it is but central government is the problem here. Birmingham, like most councils, has had its funding cut severely. If they don’t save the money here they will be forced, by the government, to save it somewhere else.

 

  • Be clear here. Bin men were not being made redundant to end up on the dole. Their jobs were being made redundant, & the men were offered replacement jobs elsewhere in the council work-places on the SAME PAY grade as they were on.

 

 

 

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Courage and principle. These are precisely what the Labour “moderates”, the heirs to Tony Blair’s “third way” politics, are said to lack. It was said they trashed principle in the pursuit of power”. So wrote former Conservative MP, Matthew Parris, in The Times last year.

Birmingham has lost a talented and caring leader due to its ‘moderate’ MPS, councillors and ‘support’ staff.

Earlier this month, Steven Walker blogged that councillors had denied the deal agreed with the Unite union and issued summary redundancy notices.

But an email from council leader John Clancy to depot managers confirmed the agreement and began its implementation. It may be seen in Walker’s article, republished on the BATC site.

Birmingham bin strike: cabinet DID support Clancy deal

A senior Birmingham Labour source told Walker that a cabinet meeting did take place on 17 August to discuss the deal, the day before Clancy’s email to the union went out. It was an official, formal ‘Part 2’ meeting and John Clancy’s proposed agreement with the bin workers was passed by cabinet with a clear majority in support.

Leave it to management – for how long?

The city’s equivalent of ‘Sir Humphrey’ is said, on returning from her holiday, to have applied ‘all kinds of pressure’ to the cabinet members to row back on the decision. A Mail article reports that the CEO told the elected leader of the council it was not appropriate for him to ‘interfere in a management disciplinary matter”.

The Labour councillors have now made a new statement saying: “A just settlement must be found as quickly as possible to the Birmingham bin dispute. Bin workers deserve justice on pay and our city deserves a high-quality service”.

But a just settlement was reached – along the very lines they now advocate – and they wrecked it. The Unite union is calling for the council to honour that deal struck by its able and honest council leader John Clancy in August.

 

 

 

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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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The Petitions team: UK Government and Parliament sends news that Parliament is to debate the petition “To make votes matter, adopt Proportional Representation for UK General Elections” on 30 October 2017.

Petition text:

The vast majority wants PR. Our FPTP voting system makes Parliament unrepresentative. One party got 37% of the vote and 51% of seats, while 3 parties got 24% of the vote but share 1.5% of seats. FPTP violates the democratic principle of majority rule and causes problems like costly policy reversals.

The UK has never had a say on PR. As David Cameron himself said, the AV Referendum was on a system that is often less proportional than FPTP, so the rejection of AV could not possibly be a rejection of PR. In fact, so few voters wanted either system on offer that the turnout was just 42%.

There are tried and tested PR systems that keep the constituency link. They would make every vote matter equally, rather than allowing a minority of swing voters in a few marginal seats to pick the government.

A video and transcript of the debate will be sent to all who signed the petition.

 

 

 

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Birmingham and West Midlands Group

HOUSING FOR ALL CLASSES OF SOCIETY IN THE VICTORIAN MIDLANDS

A day school at the Birmingham & Midlands Institute, Margaret St, Birmingham B3 3BU 

Saturday 18th November 10.15 am-4.15 pm, registration from 9.45                                 

Speakers will not only focus on architectural design but more importantly on who lived in the Victorian buildings and the motivation of those who built them.

The day will start with a presentation by Jo-Ann Curtis, History Curator for Birmingham Museums Trust, on the clearance of 19th century working class housing in Birmingham as part of Joseph Chamberlain’s Improvement Scheme through the photographs of James Burgoyne.

Michael Harrison, lecturer and writer on Bournville, will outline the philosophy of the Cadbury brothers in building the Bournville estate.  Living conditions there will be compared with those in the back-to-back dwellings.

Barbara Nomikos from the Moor Pool Heritage Trust will look at the later Moor Pool Estate and J.S. Nettlefold’s motivation in setting it up as a co-operative partnership tenant society.

Finally Janet Lillywhite will contrast the earlier housing with the middle class area of Anchorage Road, just to the north of the Sutton Coldfield town centre, which is an example of speculative development of ‘villa residences’ built between 1870 and 1914.

The cost of £35 will include tea/ coffee and a buffet lunch, also with tea/coffee. Queries/bookings to Helene Pursey on 0121 449 5186 or brumvictorian@gmail.com

Please return the booking form to her BEFORE Saturday 11th November at 54 Prospect Rd Moseley Birmingham B13 9TD.

 

 

 

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Full statement from the Birmingham Newsroom site

“It has become clear to me that frenzied media speculation about the Birmingham waste dispute is beginning to harm Birmingham City Council and the Birmingham Labour Party. I can see no end to such speculation, as ill-informed as much of it is, for as long as I remain Leader.

“I have therefore decided to resign both as Leader of the Labour group and as the Leader of Birmingham City Council with immediate effect.

“I would wish to stress that the actions I took along with my cabinet to negotiate an end to an extremely complex and difficult industrial dispute were done with the best of intentions.

“None of us are perfect, and I made some mistakes, for which I am sorry and take full responsibility.

“I am honoured to have been Leader of the council since December 2015 and proud of the many achievements during my time in charge.

“These include issuing the first £45 million ‘Brummie Bond’ for local housing, and two other initiatives that generated substantial savings for the council – renegotiating the ICT joint venture agreement with Capita, and reaching agreement to reduce the council’s annual payments to the West Midlands Local Government Pension Fund.

“Events in my personal life during this year have convinced me that there are issues of far more importance than Birmingham City Council, and although this has been said by politicians many times before, on this occasion I really am looking forward to spending more time with my family.”

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A great loss to the city, for several reasons listed here. The union, officials and the critical Labour councillors should have taken a supportive constructive attitude and helped to reach a solution.

 

 

 

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The government will decide, in November, whether to make a formal bid to host the Games.  Birmingham based its application around the city’s four indoor arenas and the Alexander stadium, currently the home of UK Athletics, which it plans to refurbish for the 2022 event and make it the UK’s largest permanent athletics stadium. It also put forward plans to run a business convention alongside the Games.

The Origin Sport Group was selected by the council to assess sporting facilities such as this

In the Birmingham Press (2012), the website that was first to call for Birmingham to try and stage the Commonwealth Games in either 2022 or 2026, Steve Beauchampé congratulates Councillor Ian Ward, Steve Hollingworth (lead officer for sport at the Council) and their colleagues at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games Bid Company, stating: “The government chose Birmingham because it offered a low risk, low cost Games fit for post-Brexit Britain”.

He points out that Birmingham’s cautious and (a word they used often) ‘compliant’ bid spoke to the government’s search for a low-cost, low-risk Games and adds: “It is telling that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport statement outlining why Birmingham’s name is the one that goes forward highlighted phrases such as ‘risk-minimisation’ and ‘value for money’”.

A Games for our times

“A Games for our times then, and a decision set against very real concerns that a further extended period of economic uncertainty for the UK lies ahead. A decision taken by a Government striving to reduce the annual budget deficit, yet confident that overseas competition for the right to host 2022 would be limited. An austerity Games perhaps; strong and stable, yet deliverable and placed in the hands of reliable and trustworthy organisers”.

Beauchampé adds that as Britain leaves the European Union, damaging relations with our closest neighbours in the process, it urgently needs to develop new trading links beyond Europe and counter Britain’s growing image as an insular, nationalistic and increasingly irrelevant island.

Yet despite the understandably positive response by many in Birmingham to Thursday’s news, he feels that a degree of perspective might not go amiss

He foresees that if Birmingham is eventually selected to host the 2022 Commonwealth Games it will not transform the city or its fortunes in the way that hosting in 2002 transformed Manchester. After listing the changes to be made to Birmingham’s sporting infrastructure he ends:

“Undoubtedly there will be some permanent new employment opportunities (along with considerably more temporary ones) whilst Birmingham’s national and international profile and image may undergo a degree of positive change. Fine as far as it goes, but should the city eventually be awarded the Games, it must use them as the starting point for long-term transformation, rather than the culmination of it. And that will require considerably greater ambition than we have witnessed thus far”.

Source: http://thebirminghampress.com/2017/09/commonwealth-games-2022-box-ticking-success-strategy/

 

 

 

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Water taxis are already plying in several British cities, including London, Glasgow, Spalding, Lancaster, Leeds and Manchester.

In London, MBNA Thames Clippers is building a service for daily commuters, using Transport for London’s system which allows Londoners to hop on and off boats by swiping their Oyster and contactless cards. It carried 4 million passengers in 2016.

In Birmingham? As David Bailey tweeted whilst working in Venice:

https://twitter.com/dgbailey/status/855495899115638784/photo/1

MBNA are trying to reduce the environmental impact of their boats currently using diesel fuel. Change is on its way:

  • In Hamburg, HADAG has added a hybrid-powered ferry to its fleet crossing the Elbe river, using both diesel and electric power sources.
  • In Southampton, a company called REAPsystems has developed a hybrid system for water taxi boats, one able to switch easily between a fuel engine and electric motor. The company will take their hybrid water taxi boat to Venice next year, where a hotel operator will run it on a passenger route through the canals and out to the airport throughout the summer.
  • A member of the Commercial Boat Operators Association, Antoon Van Coillie, intends to convert his large continental barges to hydrogen fuel.
  • A team at Birmingham University (Project Leader Professor Rex Harris) has constructed a hydrogen-powered canal boat, tried and tested, which is undergoing further modifications.

Will the council and/or a Birmingham entrepreneur see the potential of waterway transport from the Soho Loop development?

Artist’s impression

Will Soho Loop’s new canal-side community be able to travel from their ‘variety of energy efficient homes’ to work or visit the city centre a mile away, by a cleaner quieter form of transport? 

 

 

 

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