Archives for posts with tag: Barrow Cadbury Trust

With the government’s own economic impact assessments for the West Midlands making grim reading – the worst case scenarios reminiscent of the early 1980s recessions that devastated the social and economic fabric of the region – it is vital that policy makers, institutions and individuals prepare for what is likely to be a disruptive period for the UK economy.

There is a high concentration of leave voters in the de-industrialised areas of the West Midlands. Economically and politically disempowered, these areas have performed poorly, in orthodox economic development terms, since the 1980s. They have experienced comparatively low levels of private sector and government investment and entrenched social issues linked to poverty. Put simply, the West Midlands hasn’t fared well out of the last 40 years of UK economic policy.

It seems that for the West Midlands, Brexit could be a perfect storm, with:

 . a lack of political power to shape national policy to meet its specific needs,
• job losses after opening its markets to intense global competition, leading to.
• lower state investment likely to affect the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

So the most important questions are “what next?” and “Are the changes being planned for us, not by us, really in our interest?”

It seems that two options exist….

More of the same?

Much of the hype around Brexit from government and its main advocates has been around the notion of a ‘Global Britain’, the narrative about this uses snappy messaging like ‘freedom’ ‘something new’ and ‘we will all benefit’. In reality ‘Global Britain’ is simply a rebranding and upscaling of the of current economic model we have followed for 40 years – the one the West Midlands hasn’t done particularly well out of.

Take food as an example of what this ‘Global Britain’ might mean. Early reports about potential ‘free trade’ deals have focused on cheaper food imports from places such as America, New Zealand and Australia. The result of this is that smaller UK farmers and food producers won’t be able to compete and could go bust, coupled with the enormous environmental costs of shipping food and goods long distances. So it appears behind the snappy title, Global Britain will be bad for local producers, but a bonanza for massive corporations, with capital and jobs leaving Britain in return for environmentally unsustainable food products and in some cases lower quality food.

In this scenario it seems more apparent by the day, that a real danger of Brexit will be to open Britain up to a free trade ‘free for all’ that could result in lower food, safety and environmental protections.

Something different?

Let’s be radical! If any situation called for creative thinking and new solutions, Brexit is it. Another Brexit mantra is ‘Taking back Control’ an amorphous phrase that in practice will most likely entail a further concentration of power in one place, Westminster.

Even with the devolution deal secured by the West Midlands, economic policy is generally created for the benefit of one part of the UK economy – London and the Southeast – and if this trend continues it will probably lead to further divergence between London and the rest of the UK, without the power to set policy that works locally.

So how about a radical redistribution of economic and political power, not only devolved to regional but right down to the communities we all live in?

Getting Local; Community Economic Development 

Imagine a new style of economy that values people and creates a resilient and sustainable West Midlands. An economic model where local people lead and participate as owners, investors, purchasers and wealth creators. Far-fetched? Not really. Community Economic Development (CED) exists in practice in communities across the world, from hyper local food networks, energy co-operatives, complementary currencies and larger private, trade union & public-sector partnerships that grow localised economic activity for the benefit of communities.

Evidence proves this approach is a better way to grow jobs, harnessing the assets of local communities, rather than relying on distant private and public-sector owners with little understanding of the local areas. LWM’s research has found that higher levels of small and micro businesses and local ownership lead to higher levels of economic success, job creation, social inclusion, civic engagement, wellbeing and local distinctiveness.

So maybe the right question should be ‘How do we make an economy that works for everyone, in which we all have a meaningful stake?’

Why?

We could spend another 40 years following the current economic model, sending profits into the offshore accounts of multinationals, damaging our environment and generally carrying on regardless, or we could spend the next 40 years working together to ensure the West Midlands is at the forefront of a new social and economic revolution.

Anything else is simply unsustainable . . .

Visit Localising Prosperity, a LWM programme funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, to read about activity based on making the most of local enterprise, existing business supply chains, networks, community assets and human potential.

David Viney is Administration & Communications Officer for LWM. His professional interests include asset-based community development, regional economic disparity and how discrimination impacts on minority health outcomes.

 

 

o

Advertisements

Planning for the Future: 1948 – Reflections on What Happened and Why is a paper written for the Black Countryman, the quarterly magazine of the Black Country Society.

*George Morran (right) has been reflecting on the Conurbation Report published in 1948 (Vol.51, No.1, 2017. His account is summarised below and published in full here.

The work on conurbation was supported financially and in kind by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, whose chair, Paul Cadbury, acted as Secretary. Conurbation was non-governmental and purely advisory.

It was produced by a group led by Dr. Raymond Priestley Vice Chancellor of Birmingham University, supported by a steering committee and advisory groups including businessmen, academics and local authority officials from across the West Midlands Region including the shires, Birmingham and the Black Country.

Thousands of new houses were built in the 50s and 60s. In the inner areas a large proportion of the new housing was built by the local district and borough councils for rent. They had the basic amenities which the older housing lacked. In the 60s a high proportion of this new-build was high rise especially around older town centres. The newer housing in the outer areas of the Black Country was in the main built by private developers at lower densities for sale with a greater emphasis on the visual appearance and environment. New single storey industrial estates appeared replacing older multi storey workshops. New industries anticipated by Conurbation did not materialise

1947: central government controls were introduced over new manufacturing development in the Black Country and other prosperous regions – repealed in 1984

They were intended to steer new development to the less well-developed areas. They discouraged new investment and modernisation of the existing industrial infrastructure and the replacement of obsolescent buildings; they hindered enterprise and strangled new ideas in red tape. The profitability of many companies was undermined leading to closures and takeovers.

David Smith – Something Will Turn Up: Britain’s Economy, Past, Present and Future (cover below)

During the 1950s and 60s the flight of residents, businesses, wealth and influence to the fringes and beyond from the inner areas continued. The owners of businesses who had previously lived locally no longer did so.

Conurbation had proposed that the railways be expanded but they were run down and lines closed. The proposed M6 and M5 motorways were well on the way to being built but little was done to improve regional and local roads. Much development along main roads had been blighted by the existence of improvement lines which would never be implemented.

By 1971 80% of the derelict land in the Black Country and most of the open space that existed in 1948 had been developed for housing and industry; the canals which were to have anchored much of the open space were closed, abandoned or left to decay, open to vandalism and abuse. Much of the traditional heavy industries had gone or were soon to close.

The so-called slums in and around the old townships had been cleared and replaced by new housing. Many historic cottages and other housing which were structurally sound or could have been upgraded were demolished because of their lack of modern amenities.

1948: The West Midlands Plan

The West Midlands Plan was produced by a team of town planners and academics led by Sir Patrick Abercrombie, Professor of Town and Country Planning at University College, London University. The political and business elites were directly or indirectly involved; residents were not. There was very little if any public involvement – and an absence of any regional or local civic forums and pressure groups to challenge the established way of doing business and to offer any alternatives. Although it related to the whole of the West Midlands conurbation, it focused on the Black Country which the Plan identified as having the most challenges. Central to its proposals for the Black Country were the maintenance and further intensification of industry in the inner areas; the location of new housing in the peripheral areas and beyond, outside a statutory Green Belt including towns and villages in South Staffordshire and North Worcestershire.

1955: the Birmingham and West Midlands Overspill Committee

In 1955 the shire and urban local authorities set up the Birmingham and West Midlands Overspill Committee to produce, deliver and keep up-to-date an agreed regional plan to manage overspill from the urban to shire areas consistent with approved Development Plans with formal agreements for overspill to particular locations within and beyond the Green Belt. The agreements focused on new housing to be allocated for occupation by families moving from the Black Country and Birmingham. The Shire Counties also argued for the relocation of industry from the conurbation to balance the increase in population in the shires. Pressure for the peripheral development of the urban areas onto Green Belt land continued into the 1960s

1965: The Government set up a West Midlands Regional Planning Council

The Regional Council was supported by a Regional Board of Civil Servants and representatives of central and local government and business to make recommendations to Government on the economic and physical development of the whole West Midlands Region including the shire and conurbation areas. It identified substantial economic and population growth that needed to be accommodated in the region and proposed that New Towns should be developed based on Redditch and Dawley and that New Town Commissions be established responsible to the Government for bringing forward and delivering detailed plans. The Government accepted these recommendations.

1962: report issued by the Royal Commission on Local Government in England

It made proposals for the future of local government in the West Midlands Region abolishing the system of boroughs, county and district authorities and replacing it with five all-purpose county boroughs. This new system came into force on the first April 1966. The Royal Commission and the government thought that the new arrangement would strengthen the Black Country’s ability to respond to the challenges it faced. Less importance was attached to the local community identity or the social and economic links which existed between the Black Country and the adjoining areas of Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

1966: a further Royal Commission was established to make recommendations on the future of local government across the West Midlands

It reported in 1969, proposing that a directly elected provincial council be established for the whole of the West Midlands Region to deal with strategic planning. In the Black Country the Commission proposed four all-purpose local authorities responsible for all planning matters together with responsibility for major services in particular education, and social services. The Commission also proposed that local community councils be established but district councils consistently blocked local campaigns for powers and representation to be made more local and took little or no action to encourage their establishment.

The Black Country Society responded to the Royal Commission

In its 1971 pamphlet it proposed that local government in the Black Country and the wider West Midlands region be built on directly elected community or town councils responsible for local services and providing a voice for local communities. It accepted that some public services needed to be provided across a larger area and proposed the establishment of a directly elected West Midlands Region body – a strong political voice which could engage with Westminster and Whitehall.

1974: The establishment of a West Midlands Metropolitan County Authority

In 1973 the Conservative Government agreed a new round of reorganisation which led in April 1974 to the establishment of a West Midlands Metropolitan County Authority stretching from Wolverhampton to Coventry and including seven all purpose District Councils for Birmingham, Coventry, Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull, Walsall and Wolverhampton.

In the last 50 years many new challenges and opportunities have come along which have shaped what has happened to the Black Country more recently and its future prospects. That is another story.

*George Morran: BCS Member 1968 to Present and Committee member 1968-76. Formerly Director the West Midlands Regional Forum of Local Authorities and Assistant Chief Executive, Dudley MBC.

 

 

 

 

o

cles-logoThe Clancy administration is to be congratulated on its decision to join forces with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and Barrow Cadbury Trust to look at how ‘anchor’ institutions can use their spending power to increase economic opportunities for all Birmingham’s communities, businesses and citizens.

Ground-breaking research on this and allied subjects by Digbeth-based Localise West Midlands (LWM) has been underway for some years, some of it supported by these two organisations. Some readers may remember the diagram published & several references to the Barrow Cadbury work – the latest in August, here.

lwm loc prosp graphic2

The Council Leader’s bulletin (which may be read in full here) explains:

“Anchor institutions, such as the local authority, hospitals, universities and housing providers are significant spenders in the local economy, with large annual budgets for staff, food, energy and other supplies and services.

“Now, using an approach which is common in many North American cities and which CLES has piloted in Preston (Ed: which is a co-operative council), the new partnership aims to help Birmingham’s anchor institutions use their spending power locally by identifying changes in behaviour around procurement and other processes that will benefit local businesses, people and communities.

barrow-cadbury-logoSara Llewellin, Chief Executive of Barrow Cadbury Trust said: “The Trust has been pleased to see debate and practice on local economies grow in Birmingham in recent years.  This anchor institution work will build on a movement which is already strong within the city and help to explore how resources already flowing through the city can be better utilised for the good of all citizens.”

 

 

 

So said one of Birmingham’s most active, well-informed and caring citizens last night.  For the environment and so much more . . .

barrow cadbury blog2 logoHe is referred to the Barrow Cadbury Trust’s Economic Justice Programme which is “keen to build learning to strengthen local economies and to share best practice between a range of sectors, but particularly across local authorities”.

barrow cadbury blog graphic3 KL

The economic and social references above do not even refer to the undeniable environmental benefits of vastly reduced transport of goods and to people in this area beset by premature deaths attributed to illegal levels of air pollution. To read the whole article go to the Barrow Cadbury Trust blog.

Localisation is a ‘solutions multiplier’ with political implications, reducing CO2 emissions, energy use and all kinds of waste, creating meaningful and secure employment and rebuilding the connections between people – and between people and their local environment by:

  • local trading, using local businesses, materials and supply chains,
  • linking local needs to local resources,
  • developing community and local capacity,
  • providing services tailored to meet local needs
  • and decentralising appropriate democratic and economic power

A few of the localising initiatives outlined:

Finance – where 7600 credit unions are outperforming the big banks. Business – where 30,000 small businesses in 130 American cities have formed alliances, some becoming part of larger networks, such as the Business Alliance for Local Living Alliances (BALLE). And food – where, in the ‘supermarket economy’, the farmer gets 10% of what we pay, or less, but gets 50% in the local food co-op and 100% in the farmers’ market.

In the vitally important but vastly neglected agriculture sector, studies have shown that ten times more food per acre is produced on small diversified farms and, by shortening the distance to the buyer, waste of food, refrigeration, preservatives, packaging, energy, irradiation and advertising is reduced or eliminated, the farmer earns more and the customer pays less.

the resilience imperative coverA co-founder of Localise West Midlands, Pat Conaty, makes the case for replacing the paradigm of limitless economic growth with a more decentralized, cooperative, steady-state economy in The Resilience Economy, which promotes:

  • Energy sufficiency
  • Local food systems
  • Low-cost financing
  • Affordable housing and land reform
  • Democratic ownership and sustainability

Karen Leach, co-ordinator of Localise West Midlands writes:

“This extreme vulnerability of the global economy to trade developments illustrates clearly the perils of an entirely globalised system that removes local economies’ resilience in meeting their own needs.”

As governments cut funding for basic needs while spending billions on global infrastructure for transport trade and weapons, caring and intelligent people worldwide are finding alternatives which promote economic prosperity, social harmony and environmental sustainability.

 

katen award 2

City architect Joe Holyoak (last year’s awardee) presented the award. Other local recipients of the award include the Aston Reinvestment Trust, Kirsty Davies of Professional Polishing Services and the Green New Deal designers.

karen 1Localise West Midlands’ chairman. Jon Morris, spoke about Karen’s work inspiring others to take action by her commitment, her logic, her actions, her integrity and her persistence.

For ten years Karen has been the organisation’s cornerstone. Jon thought that one of the achievements that most typifies Karen is the Alliance for a Better Economy. Read more here.

There is a range of groups across the country working for a fairer and better local economy and which see localisation as at least an element in this.

Though they all have different approaches and at times compete for resources and attention, Karen believed they could be more effective by working together to create and promote a common voice for a common aim.  Having gathered and arrived at an agreed aim, the alliance is now collaborating more.

mced coverKaren was at the heart of work for the Barrow Cadbury Trust on mainstreaming community economic development, which is all about strengthening the local economy and creating greater social inclusion. This work has attracted widespread interest and support and now has a dedicated website: ‘Localising Prosperity’.

Jon ended with a few appreciative words about Karen’s support for his LWM consultancy work and as the Chair of LWM.