Archives for posts with tag: Pat Conaty

Will Cllr Ward, lauded for recent political manoeuvring, continue John Clancy’s good housing initiatives?

A Bournville reader has drawn attention to a Guardian article which says falling house prices are not disastrous, ever-rising house prices are a curse, because they are:

  • bad for social mobility,
  • bad for young people
  • and bad for the economy.

The author, Larry Elliott, adds that the billions spent pushing up property prices –  for example the latest move, Help to Buy – could be more productively invested elsewhere. He recommends making the tax system less biased and starting a mass public-sector housebuilding programme.

The extensive work on promoting affordable social and privately rented housing done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) may be seen here.

JRF’s written evidence, submitted to the Treasury in 2011, focussed on reform of housing taxation in the UK. Its recommendations included a tax and subsidy system, with new instruments targeted on housing supply intended for lower income households.


Many readers will remember Pat Conaty, noted for his co-founding of the Aston Reinvestment Trust with Adrian Cadbury and the Debt Advice Centre at the Birmingham Settlement. He moved to Wales where he is promoting community housing and community land trusts (CLTs).

His work with others includes the building of a partnership between the Welsh government, co-op housing activists and non-profit housing developers to run a national demonstration project on CLTs and other forms of democratic housing including co-op rental, co-op shared equity, community self-build and co-housing.  He comments that such partnerships have long been established in Scandinavia where co-op housing is commonplace, continuing:

“As affordable housing both to own and to rent has vanished since 2010, community led-housing solutions have been emerging against the odds. Community Land Trusts in rural and urban areas, co-housing and student housing co-ops have been bootstrapped by activists . . .

“In Wales and South West England partnerships with government and local authorities and housing associations are showing how to develop effective public-social partnerships with local activists to increase the diversity of democratic housing provision and solutions”.


The New Economics Foundation (NEF) advocates community-led housing on public land, as selling off public land to the highest bidder is making the housing crisis worse.  

Though the UK is facing a major housing affordability problem, the Government is continuing to pursue its policy of selling off land owned by Government departments, to stimulate the development of 160,000 new private homes by 2020. The NEF guide (above), by Alice Martin and Adrian Bua, aims to help groups to build community-led, affordable homes. It explains existing regulations, how to compete with private developers and provides an accessible guide to existing studies providing evidence of the benefits of community-led housing.

Surplus public land provides a resource which could kickstart community-led, affordable development, but all too often it is sold to the highest bidder, not community groups.

Legislation such as the ‘best consideration’ requirement (contract law) can be seen as a barrier to community-led housing, but the study shows how it can be challenged.

Community-led housing developments have individual and collective benefits. A few of these are listed below:

  • Wellbeing value for tenants: increased security and safety; reduced isolation; increased sense of self-worth and confidence (mainly through collective activities that build social capital);
  • Financial value for tenants: reduced expense of residential care provision;
  • Value to local authorities: reduced expense of residential care provision; reduced expense in social services and social care,
  • Benefits for the public purse;
  • Community building and social capital generation.

As Pat Conaty emphasises: “To expedite the potential they need more support and, most importantly, help to access sites”.







Many obituaries are extolling the work of Sir Adrian Cadbury, who died on 3rd September 2015. In the FT details are given about his standing as “the pre-eminent British authority on corporate governance”; he had chaired the committee that produced the ‘pioneering Cadbury report’. Other points made were that he had been the longest-serving member of the Bank of England’s Court of Governors – and had rowed for England at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952. This January he was made Companion of Honour in the Queen’s New Year Honours List.

Not mentioned:

aston business school

His connection with the University of Aston, which began in the 1950s, when it was a College of Advanced Technology. In his role at Cadburys, Sir Adrian forged links with the then Department of Industrial Administration (later Aston Business School, above) and following the receipt of its Charter in 1966, he joined the University Council. In 1979 he succeeded Lord Nelson as Chancellor, helping to steer Aston through difficult times in the 1980s when the sector was subjected to ‘disastrous’ funding cuts.

Another instance: years ago Sir Adrian Cadbury set up the Aston Democracy Commission to find out why so few people were voting in this area of high unemployment. The general response was that people had found that, once elected, politicians ignored their plight and so had decided voting was pointless.

One of the commission’s findings was that local people who wanted to set up or develop a small business could not get bank loans because they owned no assets. Banks and building societies had withdrawn from Aston because the amount of business being transacted did not warrant the expense of maintaining these branches. People were having recourse to money lenders who often charged exorbitantly high interest charges and to pawnbrokers.

art 2logoTo address this, he worked with Localisation West Midlands’ co-founder Pat Conaty, then working at the Birmingham Settlement, to set up the Aston Reinvestment Trust [ART]. This is a revolving ‘not for personal profit’ fund: when loans are repaid the money helps another business and profit is reinvested in the trust.

In a 2014 email he wrote: “It was my experience on the Aston Commission which led to the foundation of the Aston Investment Trust. I appreciated the absence of any source of finance in the area and while we could not help over crime and litter, we could fill a gap on financial advice and lending”. Over the years it has created or retained thousands of jobs in the city. He chaired ART for several years and continued as Life-President.

attwood 2 headerIn his inaugural address for the Thomas Attwood group at the BMI, he referred to that philanthropic politician: “Local people were involved in much of Attwood’s work for justice and democracy. He had, in fact, to contain and restrain their strongly expressed feelings from escalating into physical violence” adding that “As a ‘country’ banker Attwood would have felt some empathy with local people who brought forward the problems caused by the withdrawal of banks and building societies from Aston because the amount of business being transacted did not warrant the expense of maintaining these branches. People were having recourse to money lenders who often charged exorbitantly”.

TA site

In November 2006 he acted as a judge, with Solihull MP Lorely Burt and Alan Clawley (urban regeneration), to determine the Attwood Award that year. Local people has submitted alternative plans for the former Territorial site in Haslucks Green Rd, Shirley – now developed as “Parkgate”. The award was presented to Fred Carpenter, one of four finalists, who had received training in the air cadets (later based on that site) and had served in the RAF. Sir Adrian said that his practical plan for a well–designed continental style retirement development, accompanied by a “delightful map”, would be of benefit to the people and shopkeepers of Shirley.

The Aston Democracy Commission came to reflect Thomas Attwood’s belief that Birmingham people could manage the city’s affairs better than a London-based government (emphasis added)

Adrian Cadbury shared Attwood’s belief that decisions need to be taken as near as possible to where their impact would be made. The findings of the Aston Democracy Commission reflected Thomas Attwood’s belief that Birmingham people could manage the city’s affairs better than a London-based government.

Sir Adrian said that the fact that some independent candidates have been successful in recent mayoral elections indicated the unpopularity of party systems. The Commission had found that the low voting rates reflect realistic attitudes rather than apathy. Voters believed that in all likelihood their vote would make no difference to the quality of the service they were getting.

Part of the remedy for this, he felt, would be to change the current situation in which central government has assumed control of 80% of the city’s budget, determining not only its size but the precise disposition of these funds, leaving little scope for local government. He believed that Westminster ought to loosen its grip on spending and decision-making and that local government should devolve decision-making to those closest to the issues. Another important aspect of restoring an active democracy, he said, was to build up the capacities of local people to make decisions.

Adrian Cadbury added that constitutional means must be found to reverse centralism – one being the move toward regional government. We all have a responsibility to encourage this and say that we shall place our votes with those supporting such policies.



In the council chamber, Cllr John Clancy’s passionate address about the ‘Unemployment Iceberg’ earlier this month, was warmly applauded and can be seen on video here.  

He said that long-term unemployment is soaring – up 49% during the last 12 months – due to the economic crisis caused by the financial sector, not ordinary people. No one is spending and we need to change course before we hit the iceberg.

Today’s news questions the value of demoralising training for jobs which do not exist and of ‘providers’ like A4e, with its average success rate of 3.5%, according to data seen by Channel 4 News. Let’s find out more about actual working models created by local people: 

A revolving ‘not for personal profit’ fund 

Years ago, Sir Adrian Cadbury set up the Aston Commission which published several findings; one was that people in the area were unable to get bank loans to start or improve businesses because they had no form of security to offer. To address this, he worked with Localisation West Midlands’ co-founder Pat Conaty, then working at the Birmingham Settlement, to set up a revolving ‘not for personal profit’ fund – the Aston Reinvestment Trust [ART] . When loans are repaid the money helps another business and profit is reinvested in the company. Over the years it has created or retained more than 4000 jobs in the city.  

Paid work experience, with training for long-term unemployed, through community businesses 

Dr Christine Parkinson studied as a biologist and spent the first part of her career in medical research before changing direction and moving to Birmingham, where she has helped to develop three socially beneficial projects in the inner city. One was the Jericho Community Project, which continues to offer paid work experience with training, to the long-term unemployed, through community businesses. 

Resisting off-shoring and training apprentices

The Davies family have a proud, unbroken record of training apprentices, the industrial norm until the 70s. Managing director Kirsty, currently West Midlands Family Business Director of the Year, hit the headlines when the Chamber of Commerce was vigorously promoting offshoring to local manufacturers. She ‘went public’: “With what they are proposing, they will take work away from the West Midlands and once you do that then you will never get it back . . . It may be old fashioned but I think firms have a moral duty to protect their employees and exporting manufacturing abroad is no way to do that.”

And with help from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund . . .

Winson Green-based Sunsolar which currently supplies and install PV Solar Panels has been awarded £5m from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund to build solar PV panels. This will be added to a £5 million company investment in building a new factory in Oldbury for the purpose, employing local suppliers and hoping to create as many as 565 new jobs over the next five years. Rob Grant, Sunsolar’s Business Manager adds:

“To begin with the modules will be produced using cells purchased from Europe; however this is only on a short-term solution to get the factory up and running this year. The company is currently placing an order for cell manufacturing machinery which it expects to be in place by the beginning of next year. At that point the manufacturing of the whole module will come from within the UK.”

News of other enterprises directly or indirectly addressing the demoralising unemployment ‘iceberg’ will be welcomed and featured here.