In 2016, though the price of oil was low, average bus fares rose three times faster than the consumer prices index. The statistics report presented by government for 2015/6 was precise: “Between March 2011 and March 2016, the average annual percentage change in bus fares was 3.8% higher than the average annual rate of inflation (2.3%)”. Families who can’t afford a car can find travelling by bus costs more than taking a taxi.

Theresa May: “We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives” (first speech as leader)

But reduced central funding means that as many bus services have been ‘axed’ people actually have less control:

  • Without accessible or affordable transport, adults in ‘just about managing’ [JAM] families will be less able to travel to work or to medical and other appointments.
  • Some feel compelled to go into debt to buy cars they wouldn’t need if bus services were reliable and affordable..

Due to government funding cuts, town hall chiefs have announced that councils have been forced to reduce bus services by more than 12% in the past year.

They  are calling on the Government to fully fund the Concessionary Fares scheme, and for the devolution of the £250m Bus Service Operators Grant scheme that refunds some of the fuel duty incurred by operators of registered local bus services. The grant was kept at 81% until April 2012, when it was reduced by 20%. The current payment rate is the lowest ever percentage since the rebate’s inception in the 1960s.

Theresa May: “When it comes to opportunity, we won’t entrench the advantages of the fortunate few, we will do everything we can to help anybody”.

But government actions belied these fine words; her chancellor announced a fuel duty freeze whichhe saidwill cost taxpayers a predicted £850m in the first year alone and really help the ‘fortunate few’ running the largest cars, not the JAM families.

 

 

 

 

Exol Lubricants, based in the West Midlands and Yorkshire, won an Award of Excellence from the Commercial Boat Operators Association (CBOA) for its commitment to the waterways. It was presented to Exol sales director and IAAF CV Committee chairman Steve Dunn at the Freight Transport Association Multimodal awards in front of more than 600 guests.

Exol has become a recognised user of the waterways, investing in this environmentally-friendly alternative to transport large loads. There is a practical advantage to using one barge rather than 25 lorries: as they have to test the arriving oil before it is unloaded, one barge load is easier to test than 25 lorry loads.  

Waterways transport is part of the company’s larger strategy to reduce its carbon footprint: something it is keen to promote to students on Aston University’s career and placements programme in which Exol is a partner.

The CBOA said it recognises Exol’s vision, commitment and good business sense in introducing a new barge, Exol Pride, to the North East waterways to transport raw materials from the port of Hull to its bulk-blending plant at Rotherham, Yorkshire. David Lowe, CBOA chairman, said: “The Award of Excellence – CBOA’s highest honour – acknowledges Exol’s significant contribution towards developing inland waterway transport in the UK and promoting this means of shipping within its industry. Many congratulations to the company.”

Left to right: David Gower (host, former English cricket captain), Steve Dunn Exol Sales Director, Dr David Quarmby CBE (CBOA  ), and Mark Field, Marketing Manager

Steve Dunn, Exol Lubricants sales director, said: “This continued investment in the waterways is part of our larger strategy of reducing our carbon footprint and exploring ways to protect the environment. We’re delighted to receive such prestigious recognition from CBOA and will continue to develop our contribution to barge transport.”

Exol is the largest independent lubricants company in the UK, manufacturing and supplying a range of lubricants and associated products to the automotive, commercial vehicle, agricultural, industrial, off highway and railway sectors from its bulk-blending plant in Rotherham.

 

 

 

 

Values for the Future seminar

Cost for the whole day is £10 – paid at the door or booked through the PCF website: www.planetcentred.org.

See also: https://www.facebook.com/events/1240820045972394/  

Colin Hines is a former co-ordinator of Greenpeace International’s Economics Unit, co-founder of Localisation West Midlands, and co-ordinator of the Green New Deal Group (dedicated website temporarily unavailable).

He has campaigned on population, food security, nuclear proliferation and the adverse environmental and social effects of international trade.

He will speak about his conviction that the only way to solve these problems is by replacing globalisation’s open borders with ‘Progressive Protectionism’ (left, recently published).

Malcolm Currie, a former geography lecturer and community activist has long had an interest in environmental issues.

This recently led to a partnership with the founder of the Midlands Environmental Business Club which has focused on a project aiming to demonstrate the feasibility of neighbourhood based sustainability: the Uplands-Hilltop project (above). Read more about this from the joint project leader on the right-hand bar of this site. Malcolm says: “The problem is how to attempt to create a sustainable world without wrecking the economy that provides most people with jobs and incomes . . .

The case has to be made that in the longer term regional diversity and shorter supply chains make for greater efficiencies (and local jobs). Global production and distribution is actually highly inefficient, apart from producing a monochrome world and damaging the biosphere.”  A different way of organising trade and industry has to make sense to those who control, or are engaged in, business.

Christine Parkinson, a biologist (medical research), has more recently been involved in regeneration projects in Birmingham’s inner city suburbs. 

She has just finished writing “Three Generations Left? Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”, which outlines how so-called progress has combined with a host of other factors, including free trade, a market economy, population increase and the development of a super-rich minority owning most of the wealth of the planet, to bring about global warming and climate change which could lead to a loss of many species and mass human extinction before the end of this century.

The book offers clear and constructive proposals for measures which will avert such a disaster.

*

Seating limited: prebooking is recommended.

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https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/ann-pettifor-talks-on-a-moral-economy-tickets-33229654792 or contact johnbnightingale@hushmail.com/07811 128831

Many people in Birmingham will remember the speaker -Ann Pettifor. She was a founder and leading spirit of the Jubilee 2000 debt campaign which in 1998 brought a human chain of 70,000 people onto the streets of this city in a great expression of human concern for the cancellation of the unjust and unpayable debts of developing countries.

After 2000 Ann joined the New Economics Foundation where she headed their research unit, and became involved in Prime Economics. She also set up Advocacy International, a UK-based consultancy which advises governments and international organisations and has helped secure debt relief for the governments of Guyana, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Among her publications are the books “The Coming First World Debt Crisis” (2006) and “The Production of Money” this year. She has been part of the Green New Deal Group and in 2015 was appointed to the British Labour Party’s Economic Advisory Committee.

 

 

 

 

Though an account of the event has already been covered (link via the Brummie) this account by freelance Emanuel* has a dispassionate charm rarely seen in the dismal Times Online.  

EDL protest overshadowed by tea party at Mosque

Balloons are released during a “best of British” tea party for the public at the Birmingham Central Mosque in response to an English Defence League protest

Emanuel opens: “It was supposed to be a far-right show of strength against Islamist terrorists on the streets of Birmingham. But in the end it was overshadowed by a spot of tea, cake and union jack bunting fluttering in the wind at a local mosque”.

“When the English Defence League is protesting and trying to divide the community, we are holding this party just to prove to them that Birmingham is a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-faith community,” Muhammed Afzal, Birmingham Central Mosque’s chairman, said on Facebook before the event. And so it proved as Mr Afzal addressed a crowd of more than 100 tea-drinking guests, saying that local people would remain united irrespective of their religion or race.

Emanuel pointed out that the English Defence League (EDL) rally two miles away in Centenary Square, attended by 100 people (other accounts give as far lower number), was outnumbered by this “best of British” tea party at Birmingham’s Central Mosque.

And ended by noting that – because of the low-key nature of the EDL demo – the elected police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, David Jamieson, was able to attend the tea party.

See: Louis Emanuel on Corbyn, Castro and far more: https://www.clippings.me/users/louisjemanuel 

 

 

 

 

Its message: the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. Any solution to Britain’s housing crisis must include a bigger contribution from the public sector. Rather than coercive measures, the focus should be on enabling local authorities and housing associations that wish to build social housing.

Shame is poured on George Osborne’s ‘massive’ reduction of Housing Associations’ capability to invest in new housing with a 1% rent reduction per annum for 5 years: “Social housing rents are already at a large discount to private landlord rents, so this ill-advised move in one go, reduced the capital raising capability of Housing Associations”.

The FT thinks that local authorities should be allowed to:

  • set planning fees,
  • to levy taxes on idle land when developers fail to use planning permissions
  • and, crucially, to borrow in order to fund their own social housing developments.

There is a great deal that can still be done by making better use of brownfield sites and releasing public land for development. An annual tax should be levied on undeveloped land that has residential planning permission but has not been developed whether publicly-owned, or land owned privately, by companies, NGOs or agencies.

Mixed developments are being built, income from sales invested in social housing

At the end of March, Birmingham’s council newsletter reported on the completion of 251 ‘quality’ homes in Erdington. There is a mixture of social housing and houses for sale, for a range of family sizes – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing. News of other social and affordable new housing in the city may be read here. Today we are reminded that a four year programme has been set up to enlist smaller housebuilders to use smaller plots of land.

Birmingham City Council won Social Housing Provider of the Year’ at the Insider Residential Property Awards in 2016. This highlighted the work of the Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT, currently the largest provider of affordable homes per annum in the Midlands with projects in Nechells, Sutton Coldfield and Ladywood. In 2015, BMHT also won the Public Sector Award at the Urban Design Awards for its Newtown redevelopment (See architect Joe Holyoak’s article – one photo above.).

BMHT celebrated the completion of its 2,000 home milestone in March – a culmination of 1,125 homes built for rent and almost 900 built for sale since the council launched the BMHT programme.  The council plans to build around 1,800 further new homes for rent and market sale between now and 2020 in order to close the city’s housing gap.

 

Richard Wise writes: “This portrait of my daughter Samantha daydreaming on our doorstep in 1969 fuelled my interest in photography”.   

He is able to put his interest to work even today through his volunteer work for Headway Birmingham & Solihull.

Entry to the exhibition is free, but any money raised from the sale of catalogues will be donated to Headway.

Headway Birmingham and Solihull (B&S) is a local charity set up to give help and support to people affected by brain injury. We do this by offering services to meet the needs identified by those affected by brain injury.

Read more about Headway here: http://www.headway-bs.co.uk/history

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Hannah Green’s Chamberlain Files April Fool article boomerangs. Informed readers would indeed welcome the news that National Express has launched a West Midlands canal bus relieving congestion – following the precedent set by other cities.

London’s River Bus Express (below) run by Transport for London offers the public a regular service which is described in detail here – a model for other towns and cities.

In Leeds, a pioneering free water taxi scheme has been made permanent. The boats, which can carry up to 11 passengers, are being paid for by Allied London, the company that owns Leeds Dock – formerly Clarence Dock. Read more here.

The Amsterdam-style service – trialled at the recent Leeds Waterfront Festival – takes passengers from Leeds Dock to Granary Wharf and back. While currently operating on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only, the taxis could become a daily fixture running 7am-7pm.Simon Tipple, who drives one of the boats, which take about seven minutes to cover the route, said: “The south entrance to the railway station is opening soon. Once that happens you’ll be able to get straight off the train and onto the water taxi. It’s quicker than walking, it’s quicker than being in the car. There’s a lot of flats, a lot of commuters in the dock area.”

“We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”, said the owner Steven Cadwell.

The Manchester Evening News reports that on November 7th a water taxi service was launched, connecting Manchester city centre with Sale and Old Trafford along the Bridgewater Canal. Two Waxi boats – sadly built in Shanghai not Manchester – take passengers from Dukes 92 in Castlefield to the Trafford Centre, morning and evening, Mondays to Fridays –the first water taxi service in operation in Greater Manchester. More boats will be acquired as the business develops.

Waxi was founded by entrepreneur Steven Cadwell (above) who originally wanted a service that ran from the city centre to MediaCityUK, but had to look at other options because of the construction of the Ordsall Chord which is due to be completed in 2017. Cadwell said:

“It’s something that will appeal to a lot of people who want a different way to travel to work or to football matches. We know our roadways are getting more and more congested, and more people are seeking alternative forms of transport”. 

Birminghams canals are a neglected and underused resource; clean waterway transport should be integrated into plans for canalside residential, retail and office developments. Some have suggested water taxis sailing from the Icknield Port development into the city centre.

One precedent is the dedicated waterbus service (above, pink) operated by Sherborne Wharf Heritage Narrow Boats, stopping at Brindleyplace, King Edwards Wharf, Gas Street Basin and The Mailbox. But like most waterway vessels currently used, though it is more fuel-efficient and potentially takes traffic of congested roads, it produces some noise and air pollution.

We would recommend the hydrogen fuelled model (above) developed as part of the Protium Project at the University of Birmingham.

David Lowe (CBOA) adds: there are passenger boats in Glasgow, on Loch Lomond, and in Spalding and on the Lancaster canal.

Amelia Hiller (Jeremy Corbyn’s Scottish Calamity) should listen to Jeremy Corbyn – first-hand – giving his views on the issue of a second Scottish Independence referendum in this video clip.

“If a referendum is held then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour party to prevent people holding referenda.”

Asked about the issue on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Labour leader said “No, we’re not in favour of a referendum. I was asked if, in Westminster, we would block the holding of a referendum. I said: ‘No, if the Scottish parliament decided they wanted to have a referendum, then that would be wrong for Westminster to block it.’

“But just to be absolutely clear, I do not think there should be another referendum. I think that independence would be catastrophic for many people in Scotland. It would lead to a sort of turbo-charged austerity with the levels of income the government has in Scotland because there’s a very low oil price and the high dependency on oil tax income.”

Was his reply a ‘calamity’, aka disaster, catastrophe, tragedy, cataclysm, devastating blow, crisis, adversity, blight, tribulation, woe, affliction, evil?

Or was it a measured, thoughtful, statesmanlike response?

 

 

 

Robert Kornreich (Kings Heath) recommended ‘The Third Plate’, a programme on BBC Radio 4: American Chef Dan Barber, who had early success as a ‘farm to table’ chef, is currently in the UK with a project called ‘WastED London’ – an unusual temporary restaurant taking aim at the problem of food ‘waste’.

Food is ‘Too Good To Waste’

The Priory Rooms is a busy meeting and conference venue in Bull Street, Birmingham city centre and in their latest newsletter, Joanna adds more information about their commitment to sustainable meetings.

As customers are provided with a substantial and varied catering, a huge amount of food passes through its kitchen but waste is avoided.

One of the ways they do this is by offering free, cardboard food boxes and paper bags, made of recycled or biodegradable materials. Customers can then take away leftover food to enjoy later – something they really appreciate.

Food waste is a serious national issue. For every meal eaten in a UK restaurant, nearly half a kilo of food is wasted – through preparation, spoilage and what’s left behind on the plate.

600,000 tonnes of food waste are being thrown out from restaurants every year, most of it filling up scarce landfill space. As well as the cost to the environment, this waste is costing restaurants and diners a fortune.

If this subject is of interest to other workplaces, more information is given here: www.toogood-towaste.co.uk