(Past work from March 03 is covered in our newsletters)
July 2003 saw the successful organisation of a conference exploring public procurement of local food. Funded by Advantage West Midlands and the Countryside Agency, it was attended by those involved in procurement, with representation from nearly all of the region’s local authorities and various health and other statutory bodies. Two reports were produced: a summary of local public procurement initiatives, and the report of the conference itself. Following discussions at the conference, a regional strategy group and regional practitioners’ group were set up, led by AWM’s Farming and Food team. These are making progress on a range of procurement issues. LWM continues to contribute to these groups.
On the same theme, LWM was also invited to run workshops at other events such as a conference on school procurement in the Wye valley, September 2003, and in keeping with the conviction that localisation is a global concern for mutual benefit, briefly made links with procurement officials in Ghana who were keen to work with partners in the UK.
The liberalisation agenda of the WTO has been contributing to the loss of local and national control of purchasing felt keenly by those trying to deliver local public services above corporate profit. LWM added its voice to the myriad of organisations calling for national government to bring our concerns on procurement to the WTO negotiations.
With the threatened closure of many post offices in the region, LWM contributed to the objections voiced in the media with a press release on the decline in local service provision from post offices to pubs to local food shops. This has been taken up by the Birmingham Post, the Bromsgrove Evening Standard and New Urban Futures. This is one example of LWM’s “reactive” work which depends on issues arising in the media or other organisations’ publications. We are working towards identifying solutions that strengthen local centres around post offices rather than allowing their loss.
Following on from research undertaken by Colin Hines and Richard Murphy in London, LWM raised the idea in the Birmingham Post of “Brummie Bonds” – local investment that provides funding for local infrastructure. We are entering into negotiations on this with both national and local institutions.
Regional and local policy and partnerships
LWM has participated in various regional and local partnership groups including the West Midlands Sustainability Forum, which represent the region’s environment and sustainability NGO sector through two seats on the Regional Assembly; and the West Midlands Environment Partnership, a combination of statutory and non-governmental groups.
We responded to the Regional Economic Strategy consultation, recommending, amongst other things, a focus group for the marketing the intra-regional economy parallel to the existing focus group for seeking international investment. Although nothing within the RES is likely to change on the basis of our suggestions, sections of AWM have been very interested in some of our proposals and in working with us to implement them.
Our work with AWM on procurement has shown us how a regional perspective, and regional action, can effect change. LWM supports the democratisation of regional decision-making and are looking at the devolution agenda for the West Midlands including the draft proposals which have been brought forward by the West Midlands Constitutional Convention. Further information is available from the WMCC website.
LWM currently chairs the EU-funded Eastside Sustainability Advisory Group, in particular, involvement in a study of local sourcing of building materials, and ongoing attempts to increase recognition of the importance of social and economic sustainability within developments in Eastside, Birmingham.
LWM has contributed to the East Birmingham/North Solihull Regeneration Zone Environmental Theme Group, and achieved the insertion of a reference to the strengthening of the local area economy within Pillar One of the Zone Implementation Plan. This expansion drew attention to the need for an effective local economy to serve local needs, providing jobs and support for local people, and additional support for those local enterprises; business and social, that are often moved out during ‘regeneration’.
LWM has been invited to speak at various events, run workshops, and contributed to media coverage. Karen Leach has spoken at two well attended local food nights held at the Warehouse Café, Birmingham, in conjunction with LWM and Oxfam, as well as leading workshops at Friends of the Earth’s corporate globalisation roadshow, a seminar on LWM’s work as part of an NGO series for postgraduates at the University of Birmingham, and People and Planet’s annual conference in November 2003.
Colin Hines has also given lectures and presentations on our work, notably to staff at the Intermediate Technology Development Group, the inaugural meeting of International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture in Florence, a Global Ethics seminar at the University of Birmingham and Oxfam’s Food for Thought conference.
We have set up this website, which we intend to expand in the near future to reflect not just our own work on localisation but good practice from all over the region and the world.