The global economy undermines our most universal aspirations — clean air, clean water, a stable climate, happiness”

 

Localise West Midlands is a member of the International Alliance for Localization together with individuals, groups, NGOs, trade unions and local businesses from 58 different countries, showing the broad interest in localization worldwide. More than 70 member groups are working on issues ranging from social and environmental justice to sustainable farming, from workers’ rights to indigenous knowledge, from holistic education to policy change and beyond.

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A recent update from the International Alliance for Localization, in addition to giving news of its activities in different parts of the world, says that in line with its education for action mission, it is branching out into a new medium of communication: animation. A simple two-minute animated film summarizes the global-to-local vision in less than 5 minutes, it presents the case for a 180-degree turn from global to local, engaging those who are familiar with the message as much as newcomers.

Going Local: the solution multiplier spells out the essence of what’s wrong with the global economy and the multiple benefits of localisation.

IAL2 animationUsing whimsical drawings and narration, the film emphasizes how the global economy undermines our most universal of aspirations — clean air, clean water, a stable climate, happiness — and illustrates the key ways in which localization can turn things around. One comment: “People really seem to like it and it’s a message that will inevitably win the day — it’s just a question of when”

Anja Lyngbaek, IAL’s Associate Programs Director writes:

“The purpose of the IAL is to serve as an information- and strategy-sharing network for the many groups and individuals around the world working on a global-to-local shift, and to provide the localization movement with a clear and powerful collective voice.

“Localization is not yet widely recognized as a systemic strategy for change. The IAL is a step towards addressing this . . . Through the IAL, we share information about inspiring localization initiatives and strategies, and about campaigns to resist the corporate growth economy. Our Global-to-Local Webinar Series, free for IAL members, addresses key issues on a monthly basis, while our Planet Local series regularly showcases inspiring initiatives, many of them part of the IAL network.

“But a  multitude of localization initiatives are already underway worldwide, from local food and community-owned renewable energy projects to local businesses alliances. These initiatives are resulting in multiple benefits: lower carbon footprints; healthier food; more dignified livelihoods; closer community ties, and more”.

 

 

 

The Exeter Pound

The Exeter Pound is one of the many local currencies on the “transition currency” model, like Bristol Pound and our own proposed Birmingham Pound. It is a local currency run by the people of Exeter (voluntary directors) for the people of Exeter.

molly exeterIt was launched in 2015 with speakers including the region’s MEP, Molly Scott Cato and MP Ben Bradshaw. It is designed to make sure that money spent in Exeter stays in Exeter.  The project, a joint initiative between Transition Exeter and Exeter City Council to develop and issue a community currency for the city, has attracted widespread support from local individuals, communities and businesses, in particular the Federation of Small Businesses.

Like our proposed Birmingham Pound, the Exeter Pound is equal in value to sterling but can only be spent in local independent businesses. People buy £E1, £E5, £E10 & £E20 Exeter Pound notes at exchange points across the city. Its website said that businesses have digital accounts to manage the paper money – interesting . . .

Exeter_5_pound_note

Exeter Pound timed  their launch to coincide with the city’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in 2015, and issued a number of commemorative notes which helped fund its start-up costs and boosted its profile.

The Exeter Pound notes are created by Orion Security Print with nine security features to pre-empt forgery, described here.

Traders can:

  • Pay suppliers who are also Trader Members of the scheme
  • Pay business rates
  • Pay staff as part of a voluntary salary scheme, or ad hoc incentive scheme (eg. Cartridges Law gave their Christmas bonus in Exeter Pounds)
  • Offer as change to customers*Deposit at exchange points and have the balance transferred to your online Exeter Pound account
  • Exchange back to sterling via your online Exeter Pound account

Many of these features are also being considered for the Birmingham Pound.

In addition to a large and varied range of ‘eateries’ and therapists in the Exeter Pound’s directory it was good to see the blend of mainstream venues taking part – the cathedral café (below),

exeter cafe

Go-Cars (car and electric-bike hire), Exeter City Football Club, tuition, bike repairs, accounting services, chimney sweep, Dunns Motors (petrol station) , architect jeweller, vineyard and Exeter motor works (auto repair).

exeter go cars

What is happening with the Birmingham proposals?

We’re still working behind the scenes on this, as we are keen to ensure that we have the right financial model for making the currency sustainable before we launch, and on our largely voluntary resources this takes time. We are learning from the Exeter Pound and others as we go.

We’re particularly keen to emphasise the business-to-business nature of the currency so that it is clear it isn’t just a local shop loyalty scheme.

 

You can sign up at http://brumpound.wordpress.com for further updates.

 

 

 

MUFP: 100 city regions hope to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing the food system

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In 2015, led by Milan, a coalition of 100 cities from all continents signed a Milan Urban Food Policy Pact (MUFP) in Milan’s Palazzo Reale and presented it to Ban-Ki Moon, UN Secretary General, in New York on World Food Day, October 16. To read the latest news go to its website.

They now recognise that their food systems are having high health and environmental impacts. As Professor Tim Lang comments in ‘Food Research’: “Aspirations for cheap food have become hard-wired into consumer expectations. Waste is rampant. Governments bow too much to giant food companies selling sugary, salty, fatty, ultra-processed food. Marketing budgets dwarf food education. No-one seems to be in overall control”.

He continues: “Cities are powerhouses of work but parasitic on cheap labour on the land. Their budgets are squeezed but their diet-related costs are rising. Their dense populations could be energy and food efficient but require huge infrastructure and change to be so . . . A new urban politics is emerging, gradually recognising the need to move beyond the neoliberal era’s commitment to cheap and plentiful food which has only spawned an horrendous new set of challenges which it cannot resolve . . .  Waste. The new food poor. Rising obesity. Street litter. Inequalities. Low waged food work”.

17sd-2-g-goals

Though the 17 Sustainable Development Goals are translated as 169 targets, 70 of which involve food, as Lang says: “New techno-imperialists whisper sweet nothings into politicians’ ears, offering another bout of technical intensification to keep this show on the road. This is not just genetic modification, which is already in trouble, yoked as so much is with use of glyphosate, the herbicide previously deemed benign but now in trouble as a probable carcinogen. There’s a raft of new technical sectors offering food fixes: robotics, nanotechnology (putting minute particles into food); synthetic biology; Big Data and the information revolutions; the promise of personalised healthcare applying life science wizardry. Underpinning them all is continued reliance on but nervousness about oil-based fertilisers. It was they who kept the food wheels turning at the last big moment of reflection in the mid 1970s”.

tim-langLang says, “Now we need another package. But which is it to be? Is it more Big Farming or more horticulture? And what sort? Plants not animals are the key to the new metric: how to feed people from declining available growing space”.

He calls for strong political voice and says that the positive news about a sustainable future needs to be grasped: closer foodways, better jobs, healthier populations instead of cheap food, overflowing hospitals and denuded nature.

 

 

 

Economic Prospects for 2017: Andrew Simms – New Economics Foundation

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As John Nightingale who sent the link says, this ‘reads well’: 

Each year the Financial Times conducts a survey of leading economists on the UK’s upcoming prospects. The New Weather Institute is part of that survey and predicts a bumpy ride. A lot of the FT material sits behind a paywall, so for interest here are the answers we gave to their questions (which are themselves interesting in terms of locating mainstream concerns) on issues ranging from economic growth, to Brexit, monetary and fiscal policy, inflation, immigration and, unavoidably, Donald Trump.

Highlights (full text on WM New Economics Group website):

It is time to stop measuring the health of the economy using orthodox economic growth measured by fluctuations in GDP as the primary indicator. By mistaking quantity for quality of economic activity, worse than telling us nothing it can be actively misleading. It tells us nothing about the quality of employment, the intelligence of infrastructure, the economy’s resilience, the environment’s health, or the life satisfaction of the population. As the United Nations Development Programme pointed out (as far back as 1996), you may have growth, but it might be variously jobless, voiceless (denying rights), ruthless (associated with high inequality), rootless (culturally dislocating in the way that fed Brexit, for example) or futureless (as now, based on unsustainable resource use) . . .

. . . tax breaks, subsidies and the way investment portfolios get managed means that money flows cheaply in fossil fuel infrastructure and operations. At the same time, necessary and successful emergent sectors like solar and other renewables can still struggle for affordable, patient capital. The privatisation and weakening of the mission of the Green Investment Bank is deeply concerning in this regard . . . prevalent economic uncertainties seem to be having the effect of putting everyone, the MPC included, on ‘watch’, and unlikely to do anything radically different in the ‘phony war’ period of approaching Brexit negotiations . . .

If anything, far from being downgraded by the Brexit debate, the economic importance of immigration to key UK sectors has been made more acutely obvious, ranging from higher education, to food, retail and a range of other service industries. Importantly, many of the drivers of population movement from inequality to conflict and environmental degradation show no sign of lessening and, if anything, growing worse.  The tone and promise of government policy seems mostly to affect the degree of xenophobia experienced by immigrants rather than significantly changing their numbers. With all these things in mind, I doubt trends in immigration will change much in 2017 and that this will buoy-up a UK economy facing a wide range of threats . . .

There is no reason in principle why QE cannot be used in a more intelligent and focused way. The UK is weighed-down with an aging, creaking, high-carbon infrastructure. The case for public investment as necessary to rebuild the foundations for a modern, clean and efficient economy to underpin our quality of life is overwhelming. The cost of money for conventional borrowing is cheap. And the decision by the Bank of England to expand its quantitative easing (QE) programme from £375 billion to £445 billion in the wake of Brexit, demonstrates that public money creation is also possible when the situation demands it. Up to date, QE has benefited the banks, and the holders of certain assets, with broader economic benefits being questionable. But, as Mark Carney has previously indicated, there is no reason in principle why it cannot be used in a more intelligent and focused way to aid the productive, low carbon economy. I and others have consistently argued that far more good could be done if the same basic mechanism was used, for example, to capitalise a much larger and more ambitious green investment bank via bond purchases. The work subsequently undertaken such as large scale energy efficiency retrofitting of the UK housing stock and the roll out of renewable energy would generate good quality local employment and better prepare Britain for the future. There is no sign yet that the government intend to seize this opportunity and rather too many signs that any borrowing that is undertaken will not be put to as good use . . .

Combined with the sentiments unleashed by Brexit, and the UK government’s active new embrace of industrial strategy, it is possible that the economic pendulum may swing back some degrees from globalisation toward localisation. Done in a purely autarchic way this might be negative. Done with respect to international cooperation and obligations, and to help build a more environmentally sustainable economy, it could snatch success from the jaws of chaotic self-destruction.

http://network.neweconomyorganisers.org/conversations/11898 Did you know… Adding your events to the NEON calendar will automatically promote them to our 1414 membersadd your events here.

 

 

 

Localisation/swadeshi: a programme for long-term survival

 

Swadeshi has been described by Satish Kumar, founder and Director of Schumacher College in Devon as a programme for long term survival.

It is the principle of preferring the neighbouring to the remote.

It relates to need-based lives, ruling out unlimited consumption.

It is not autarky; but a needs-based global alternative.

Economic swadeshi was shaped by Gandhi, who advocated the production and use of indigenous food and goods. In 1956, the Khadi and Village Industries Commission was established in by Act of Parliament.

 

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Active today, a list of its SMEs may be read here. 

 

Swadeshi practices economics according to its original definition of good household management, seeking to preserve natural wealth and promote the balanced development of all regions and society as a whole.

It regards the market as an instrument, not as master; the swadeshi global view is “let a thousand markets bloom – and not merge into one global market”.

 

 

 

Smile, you’re on TV! A West Midlands Combined Authority meeting is filmed

As Localise West Midlands, we are playing an important role in pressing for and enabling a civil society voice about the West Midlands Combined Authority, bringing together people and organisations that have knowledge and experience around economic issues, transport, housing and health.  We have blogged before about the West Midlands Civil Society Forum.

West Midlands Combined Authority Board meetings are held at different venues around the region, but are not livestreamed.  Even when the meetings are held in rooms equipped for webstreaming, the facility is not used.  As WMCSF, we’ve asked why this isn’t happening, and been told it probably won’t happen till the mayor is elected.  Until it does, we try to get to each meeting, to observe proceedings and to make the point that people are interested in the combined authority.

But last Friday’s meeting was held at Nuneaton Town Hall.  Again, the chamber has cameras but in this case they aren’t set up for webstreaming.  Uniquely though, local Green Party councillor Keith Kondakor has been using the right to film meetings to put proceedings on a YouTube channel.

So here for the first time is a WMCA Board meeting for the wider public to see:

 

 

Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Lucas Plan on 26th Nov!

Veteran trade unionists and younger activists see Nobel prize-nominated plan as inspiration for the future

Leading figures from the left, trade union, environmental and peace movements are coming together at a conference on November 26th with a fresh perspective on tackling current crises, using the ideas of socially useful production pioneered in the Lucas Plan. The Plan, produced by workers at the Lucas Aerospace arms company, showed how jobs could be saved by converting to make socially useful products, rather than weapons. See www.lucasplan.org.uk,  for more information on the Lucas Plan.

lucasplanThe conference will focus on 5 key themes:

  • The Lucas Plan and socially useful production.
  • Arms conversion and peace.
  • Climate change and a socially just transition to sustainability.
  • The threat to skills and livelihoods from automation.
  • Local/community economic and industrial planning.

LWM will be running an informal workshop on the last of these. Linking all these issues is the need to rethink how we can produce what people and society actually need and overcome corporate domination through their control of technology.

Highlights of the conference will include:

  • Talks by Phil Asquith, Brian Salisbury and Mick Cooney (Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine).
  • Screening of a new film on the Lucas Plan by Steve Sprung.
  • Contributions from: Chris Baugh (PCS), Suzanne Jeffery (Million Climate Jobs Campaign), Hilary Wainwright (Red Pepper), Natalie Bennett, Molly Scott-Cato and Jonathan Essex (Green Party), Philip Pearson (Greener Jobs Alliance), Romayne Phoenix (People’s Assembly Against Austerity), Mary Pearson (Birmingham Trades Council), Tony Kearns (CWU), Mika Minio-Paluello (Platform), Philippa Hands (UNISON), Stuart Parkinson (Scientists for Global Responsibility), Dave Elliott (Open University), Liz Corbin (Institute of Making), Tony Simpson (Bertrand Russell Foundation), Dave King (Breaking the Frame), Simon Fairlie (The Land magazine), Karen Leach (Localise West Midlands), Marisol Sandoval (City University), Tom Unterrainer (Bertrand Russell Foundation), John Middleton (Medact), Gail Chester (Feminist Library), Julie Ward (Labour Party), David Cullen (Nuclear Information Service) and Richard Lee (Just Space).

The conference on the Lucas Plan 40th anniversary will be held at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (138 Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 6DR) on November 26, 2016. See www.lucasplan.org.uk. The conference is being organised and sponsored by: former members of the Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine, Breaking the Frame, PCS, UCU, Million Climate Jobs Campaign, Green Party, Scientists for Global Responsibility, Campaign Against Arms Trade, CND, Left Unity, Quaker Peace and Social Witness, Red Pepper, War on Want, Conference of Socialist Economists, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Newcastle TUC, Medact, and Momentum.

Tickets are £10/£5 concessions: To book for the conference, visit

www.lucasplan.org.uk/tickets. For more information, email info@breakingtheframe.org.uk

BACKGROUND INFO: The Lucas Aerospace Shop Stewards Combine’s Alternative Corporate Plan (‘The Lucas Plan’) was launched in 1976 and became famous worldwide, sparking an international movement for socially useful production and workers’ plans. Facing the threat of redundancies, the Combine collected 150 ideas from shop floor workers about alternative socially useful products that could be produced by the company, instead of relying on military orders. Many of the innovations in the plan, such as hybrid car engines, heat pumps and wind turbines were commercially viable and are now in widespread use. Although the Alternative Plan was rejected by Lucas Aerospace managers, it was instrumental in protecting jobs at Lucas in the 1970s. The Combine was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and Mike Cooley received the Right Livelihood Award in 1982. More information about the Plan, including the 53-page summary of the five 200 page volumes, can be found on the conference website, www.lucasplan.org.uk.

A better way to challenge trade deals

One of the upsetting things  about both Brexit and Trump’s victory in America, is that they have taken some solutions from the progressive left and green movements, intermingled them with the nastiness of far right rhetoric, and made far more headway than we have by doing so. For years while the Labour machine was busy joining the Conservatives in telling us that There Is No Alternative, that they were intensely relaxedgreat_offers about the stinking rich, and that free market economics would raise us all, we have been saying that many are left behind and made insecure by this economic model and entire cities and districts are written off by it as collateral damage, while inequality rises. The trade deals opposed by many Trump supporters and many Brexiters, have partially caused this, alongside other factors such as automation and poor domestic industrial and regional policy. Mainstream dogma economists sneered at us for querying the success of neoliberalism, while those experiencing the inequality and insecurity got neglected and disenfranchised.

In both countries, the rightwing media has for decades peddled the myth that immigration (or, for the nastier media outlets, immigrants) and benefits-scroungers are to blame for workers’ predicament, following the age-old pattern of splitting the oppressed into factions to fight each other. This has been the fuel for the success of the Trump and Brexit rhetorics. Now the neoliberals are saying “The people have spoken.” Well, kind of. The people have spoken through the distorting sound system of a very rightwing media, powerful megalomaniacs, and, for some, extreme desperation. As a friend said yesterday, we must not “pander to prejudice and division because we mistake that for listening”. At least there is a trace of understanding this in the new mainstream interest in so-called “inclusive growth”.

International trade and protection need to be refined collectively, not unilaterally, and with care that we’re aiming for the outcomes we really need. Hence the call of “Another Europe Is Possible” which sought reform from within Europe rather than the UK leaving it. Freedom of movement applies to people (or “labour” as it charmingly gets called), capital and goods, and capital is currently the freest of those. We should reverse this. Put simplistically (of course negotiations would be complex in reality) more restrictions on the flow of capital, some on goods, and less on people, could enable these better outcomes. It could mean that we still value our connections and the opportunities of travel, but can ensure that the industries that meet domestic needs can be protected, that countries get and contribute the goods required from other places, and that the profits this ‘labour’ generates can stay within each country to benefit its citizens more fully. Meanwhile we should ensure strategies to develop alternative industries where whole places have relied on one globally-relevant sector (Sunderland’s ship-building).

LWM is a regionally focused organisation, so although we are interested in the reform of world trade our role is more to tell the story of, and get policy change for, economics that is built on increasing local ownership and control over the economy of a place, as per Localising Prosperity. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance does a similar job in the states. The International Alliance on Localization  calls for this approach globally.

Seeking a positive from both the Trump presidency and Brexit, there is now the tiniest opportunity to challenge the neoliberal approach to trade with more solidarity and inclusivity. But only if we can challenge the scapegoating of the vulnerable and join together to demonstrate better economics.

Karen Leach

Birmingham Newsroom: find it and buy it from local businesses to help the local economy

m-mahmood-small-at-rally-supporting-jcBirmingham Newsroom, Birmingham City Council’s online press office writes about Find it in Birmingham, the city council’s procurement portal where the goods and services the council needs to go about its business are bought, aiming to make sure the Birmingham pound is kept local. 

Councillor Majid Mahmood, cabinet member for value for money and efficiency, has talked about how the city council’s procurement portal is helping boost business and jobs in the city, alongside beneficiary Lightpower, who won a contract with Centro. See the short video here.

He adds that all evidence suggests buying from local small businesses will help the local economy, as local small companies are more likely to employ people locally and spend their earnings locally.

birmingham-pound-kl-hubThis is precisely the awareness expressed by Localise West Midlands (LWM) about helping to set up a ‘dedicated’ Birmingham Pound, which would encourage individuals and businesses to source goods and services within the city region.

Years ago LWM organised a conference exploring public procurement, funded by AWM and the Countryside Agency and attended by those involved in procurement, with representation from most of the region’s local authorities and various health and other statutory bodies (Click here).

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. These are making progress on a range of procurement issues. LWM continues to contribute to these groups, noting that the WTO’s liberalisation agenda has been contributing to the loss of local and national control of purchasing, which has been keenly felt by those prioritising local public services above corporate profit. LWM added its voice to that of many organisations calling for national government to bring such concerns on procurement to the WTO negotiations.

That earlier initiative related to food procurement: the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility has a wider brief but is also about trying to keep investment local, by making sure that local businesses have the best chance to secure part of the £1bn of investment the Council spends every year on providing services.

There is also now a welcome emphasis on ‘putting the local back into house building’ and, as Councillor Tahir Ali said when the charter was launched, the city’s more diverse house building programme has large sites where the usual house builders offer the best economies of scale but it now also has an ‘emerging portfolio’ of smaller sites. In accordance with the charter, the council wants to enable small and medium enterprises to secure this type of work in the future. He ended:

“This has strong links to Find it in Birmingham which I hope you are all signed up to so that you can see the range of opportunities that are available to small and medium sized enterprises that are located here in the city”.

 

 

 

The FT and IFIs recognise the passing of globalisation

In a Political Concern blog, Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, and Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, have all decried a system they claimed had neglected the security of its weakest members.

izabella-kaminskaEarlier this month Izabella Kaminska referred to UBS’ ‘big note’ reviewing the passing of globalisation. She comments that labour costs go up in emerging markets — and as western consumers become more conscious of what constitutes fair and unfair trade — we should not really be surprised that global supply chains are shrinking, and that:

“Shipping stuff half way across the world simply doesn’t make half as much sense if the pay-off from cheap labour or favourable currency effects doesn’t compensate for the shipping costs (or increasingly, the carbon footprint either)”. The downturn in global trade was detailed on this site in July

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Longer and more complicated supply chains require a far more complex and extended route to market — including far more expenditure on transport and energy — than they would require if they were sourced more locally.

UBS notes that global value chains have become shorter as some countries have on-shored (or reshored) production because bringing production closer to home often serves end customers better and there are now higher unit labour costs in Asia. (See the work of Professor David Bailey and references on the WM Producers website).

guy-standingAnd today the FT reviews a book by Guy Standing, a professor at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies: The Corruption of Capitalism.

It notes that many of the author’s ideas for fixing the system — such as a universal basic income, where all citizens receive regular payments from the state whether or not they work — are receiving more attention from the mainstream.

 

Political Concern asks:Is localisation also part of the answer?”

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Its recommendation: “Search the Localise West Midlands site – and especially see the work on Mainstreaming Community Economic Development”.