If the solution is not a Green New Deal then what is it?


Colin Hines, co-founder of Localise West Midlands, sends news of a report advancing a much-needed debate about how to move the UK out of the counterproductive politics of austerity and into the age of the Green New Deal.

GND anniversary cover 13He sees this as a matter of the utmost urgency and thinks that if it isn’t introduced rapidly, we are likely to enter another economic slump, adding:

“A Green New Deal could be implemented now if the political will existed. It calls initially for a £50 billion a year investment programme to boost economic activity, in a way which provides jobs on a living wage in every community in the UK, while reducing our ecological impact”.

The latest Green New Deal Group report published on September 10th proposes funding through the following measures:

  • tackling tax evasion and avoidance;
  • a programme of Green Quantitative Easing (QE), where the Bank of England ‘creates’ tens of billions of pounds to be used in a targeted fashion to fund a Green New Deal, generating jobs and economic activity that also transform the economy for the future. This is very different from any previous round of QE;
  • controls to ensure that banks that were bailed out by the taxpayer also invest in such a programme at low, sustainable rates of interest;
  • encouragement for pension funds and other institutional investors to invest in the Green New Deal;
  • buying out the private finance initiative (PFI) debt using Green QE and redirecting some of the otherwise huge repayments into funding green infrastructure.

This real Green New Deal would create employment, generating wages, salaries, profits and tax revenues – from both the public and private sectors. Tax revenues could then be used eventually to finance the economic deficit and pay down the national debt.

More than that, insulating every home and building in the UK, transforming our transport system for a low carbon future and ensuring maximum efficiency in the use and reuse of raw materials would create jobs across the country.

Investment in renewable energy could be targeted so that it would help to rebalance the economy away from London, while also providing reliable sources of clean energy and enabling the UK to show global leadership on climate change.

Larry Elliott of the Guardian ends his article by addressing the first reaction of many:

“In one sense, the timing could hardly have been worse for the new GND report. The economy is growing again. Memories are short. But ask the following questions. Do you think a recovery that currently requires households to get deeper into debt is for real? If it isn’t, how long before the age-old problems of the UK economy reassert themselves? Are we any closer to grappling with the triple crunch than we were five years ago? If the solution is not a GND then what is it?”

GND summary

An article on the subject by the economics editor of the Guardian may be read here.


Will the end of traditional growth paths lead to ‘cosmopolitan localism’ ?

lessnet headerSteve Schofield, whose work in Bradford was covered on this blog some time ago, focusses on the real security challenge of the 21st century caused by resource depletion and climate change.

The evolution of the international system was driven by the ambitions of the larger industrial states, defined by elite, corporate groups that control central government policy and requiring access to the energy supplies, raw materials and markets  considered vital to their interests.

There will be an extremely dangerous period in which some larger states implode through social and political breakdown, experienced as the end of traditional growth paths and compounded by the use of external military power which is unable to promote real security.

Viable alternatives when the globalised economy enters its terminal phase

The economic momentum that led to the creation of larger states is being reversed and the international system will experience fundamental restructuring on a scale not seen since the early days of the industrial revolution.

It is essential to start planning now for a successful transition from imperialism to local security.

Schofield predicts that smaller countries, or autonomous regions of larger countries  will be able to provide better prospects for economic and environmental security by focusing their investment on local energy, food and other essential production.

As the crisis deepens, the UK could be the first localising state by taking steps such as:

  • ending its military subordination to the United States, closing all US bases,
  • cancelling its armament programmes for long-range power projection,
  • make substantial savings from arms expenditures to help support investment meeting local security needs for energy, food, housing and transportation.

An international system of cosmopolitan localism could emerge from this fundamental economic restructuring, holding out the prospect of resolving the new security challenges from resource depletion and climate change, while  building a long-term peace.

Read the whole article here: http://www.lessnet.co.uk/security/security1.html

Steve Schofield is ’one of the foremost experts on demilitarisation and the conversion of military resources to civilian use’, now devoting more time to community development in Bradford.



Community Supported Industry

SCNEconomics USA header
Community Supported Agriculture (flourishing in Stroud) started in the USA in 1986 at Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, Massaschusetts, just a couple of miles down Jug End Road from the Library and offices of the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, a partner of the British New Economics Foundation.

berksharesTheir projects have included the BerkShares Local Currency Program and a SHARE Micro-Credit Program – The Self-Help Association for a Regional Economy (SHARE), a model community-based nonprofit that offers a simple way for citizens to create a sustainable local economy by supporting businesses that provide products or services needed in the region.

Community Supported Industry would be built on a strategy of import replacement, with more labour intensive, smaller batch production, transported over shorter distances. The goal would be to create more jobs, but not more “stuff,” with a smaller carbon footprint overall. The Schumacher Center asks:

Schumacher Centre library
Schumacher Centre library

“Can the Berkshires also model an ethos that would support a Berkshire furniture factory, a wool products industry, an applesauce cannery, a humane slaughterhouse, a water-powered electric generation plant, or that small-scale business that a resident of the Berkshires has already imagined?

“Can the Berkshires embrace “Community Supported Industry”? Can it build the “import-replacement” businesses that provide well-paid jobs for its youth and keep the Berkshires vibrant with a diversity of production, skills, and people while maintaining a commitment to a healthy ecology?”

Build a culture of citizen support

Meetings of business owners, retired persons, youth, investors, organizational leaders, public officials, and concerned citizens would be needed, to consider:

1. What products might be produced in the Berkshires that are not here yet?

2. How can citizens help create conditions to ensure the success of new enterprises?

3. What skills can be offered to help in the process? Development or review of business plans; market research; site selection; equipment identification; mentoring; financing; permitting; skill development?

4. How can the Berkshires leverage the wealth of community resources to support the budding entrepreneurs who will in turn run the new, appropriately scaled and environmentally sound businesses that are the foundation stones of a socially and environmentally responsible economy?

It will not be enough to only imagine the new green, fair, sustainable, slow, resilient businesses; not enough to build a library of good business plans; not enough to whet the appetite for regionally made goods and locally grown food.

To implement the new industries identified and fostered under the umbrella of Community Supported Industry will take securing affordable access to land, identifying (or training) skilled workers, and accessing appropriate capital.

It will mean maintaining an ongoing national dialogue about imaginative land tenure options, distributed ownership, and the democratized issuing of currency.


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Enterprise in Balsall Heath: creating opportunities at local level


Anna Watson’s Localise West Midlands blog about The Green Economy and Local Job Creation, reported that – as the oil supply peaks – the innovation, manufacture, marketing and repairing of products will become more economic at a local level. Small scale, sustainable employment opportunities will be created, encouraging local resourcefulness and a thriving local economy.  

Ort-Cafe-300x249A set of Grade II listed buildings, “The Old Print Works” on Moseley Rd, Balsall Heath, opposite the fine Edwardian Moseley Road Baths and Library, offers a historic, but versatile, low-carbon and fun space in the heart of Balsall Heath that gives a vibrant community endless reasons to meet, learn, collaborate and grow:

“For people who want to sustain themselves and their community by learning, using and sharing practical knowledge and making-skills, we provide a unique and beautiful space of local significance, with a creative and welcoming atmosphere that enables everyone to be more self-sufficient and resilient.”

oldprintworks[2]Only two miles from the city centre on the A435, one of Birmingham’s best bus routes, the Old Print Works provides work-space, including studios and workshops, at a modest rent.

At the rear, tenants’ shared resources include gallery and exhibition space, a reception area, parking space and an attractive courtyard.

Pottery, textiles and furniture are produced there. Services include metal-welding, music tuition, photography courses, compressor repairs, wood and metal workshop for children, see http://www.oldprintworks.org/makers/.

ORT Arts & Community Café

ORT cafe

A reader writes: “I was there on Saturday night for a Celebrating Sanctuary gig. Such a good addition to Balsall Heath!”

Ort logoEarlier events have included a meeting with Positive Money and a debate/discussion on the subject of elected mayors.


Wednesday 13th March: Stubbs  Exhibition, http://ortcafe.co.uk/?p=2386

Ort stubbs gallery

LWM and others in the region want to know more about locally based SMEs


lwm logoLocalise West Midlands argues that small and medium locally based businesses, including those who may be part of a larger national franchise, have a greater ‘local multiplier effect’ on local communities, increasing the community’s prosperity directly, as well as creating comparatively high numbers of jobs.

LWM finds that SMEs:

  • are more likely to feel a sense of allegiance to that place and community;
  • have an interest in supporting the area and
  • may be less likely to disinvest in the midst of economic turbulence than ‘footloose’ companies

Overall, LWM finds that while individual small businesses come and go there is a stability to a strong small-business ecosystem which provides resilience against the massive shocks of inward investor loss.

It is difficult to find out what is made in the region

This complaint, made by an LWM researcher many years ago, was reinforced in June, when a member of Localise West Midlands met three local manufacturers and was interested to hear Peter Davies (Professional Polishing, Smethwick) say that – although the usual downbeat attitude to manufacturing persists – when he attends business gatherings the attitude is buoyant, with news of orders coming in.

It was suggested that an aggregator site, like our very useful Brummie, be set up to cover positive news from those West Midlands producers who tend to appear in the mainstream press only if they close down. However, on consulting aggregator supremo Mark Blackstock, and then the editor of the Birmingham Press, it was pointed out that these firms usually have no section on their websites for such news, so a robotic operation would not be possible.

A manually operated site was set up and – because of this information shortfall – hours of online research are needed before piecing together cheering news which is usually buried in the specialist press.

PPS logoAn honourable exception is the Professional Polishing Services company, now masterminded by Aston’s Kirsty Chinnock Davies, named as an IoD West Midlands Director of the Year, who never hides her firm’s light under a bushel, recording and sending out news of awards and machinery acquired.

The latest instance of PPS outreach is her invitation to share a video, issued to mark the company’s 30th anniversary: http://youtu.be/dYgJf_lJgAY.

PPS machinery 30 anniversary video

In 2003, Localise West Midlands, in partnership with Advantage West Midlands and other organisations, set up a conference on public procurement in the West Midlands Region. Since this conference, which focussed solely on regional food, localising public procurement in the West Midlands has developed significantly.

LWM and other organisations seeking stronger regional economies would welcome information about both food and goods produced in the region, to promote local economy ‘good news’ stories and to facilitate a move to more localised supply chains, bringing economic benefits to the West Midlands.


A New Year resolution for businesses and consumers: ‘diverting spend’

Ross Crawford reports the advice of John Kelly of Begbies Traynor in Birmingham, which sees the casualties of recession in its work as specialists in business recovery and corporate and personal insolvency.

This is that businesses and consumers should make a New Year resolution to  back Britain and buy British-made products and goods whenever possible in 2013, as a way of helping the country recover from its longest ever recession.

Mr Kelly said: “This is not jingoism – it is sound economic sense. I have been around long enough to know that this recession is different to past recessions. It is worldwide, accompanied by a banking crisis and a financial crisis in Europe and America, our two largest trading partners”.

Noting that Germany, France, Italy and Spain have had ‘an historic tendency’ to buy locally, he added:

“I’m not asking UK businesses and consumers to buy inferior quality, but I would really encourage them to resolve that in 2013 they will look at British-made products and British-grown goods instead of imports.

“I’d like to see the government leading the way but we can all do our bit.

“It’s not a question of spending more – it’s a question of diverting spend from imports to British-made.”



Relocalising? Walsall-based `Made in the Midlands` helps to bring work home

Localise West Midlands members who were involved with any of our local procurement activity over the years – from the 2003 conference exploring public procurement in association with Advantage West Midlands to the Birmingham sustainable procurement plan and compact –  will be interested in news of local but private procurement encouraged by Walsall-based Made in the Midlands, which champions manufacturing and engineering firms in the region by bringing together managing directors from the region’s top firms in order to source and supply more locally.

This business network represents around 250 SMEs in manufacturing and a non-executive board is to be introduced open to firms within the manufacturing community to further advise on strategic direction and lobbying to national and local government.

Turn the economy round: release funding for real projects


Richard Murphy for Tax Research UK advocates positive action by government


Points made in January are just as relevant today

30% of all government debt is owned by the Bank of England – which is government owned – so debt is not as high as the Tories claim and the need for debt reduction not as pressing as the Tories say. This debt can be cancelled, releasing funding for real projects.

  • Investing in HMRC is about revenue-raising: closing the tax gap of up to £120bn is an essential part of this agenda.
  • Green quantitative easing involves spending money to create jobs: £200bn went to save banks which are not doing this.
  • Real pension reform is essential. Why give £37bn a year for pension tax reliefs when pension funds refuse to invest in job creation the £80bn a year they get as a result?

Murphy concludes:

If one quarter of pension fund money (£80bn a year) went into job creation, matched by a similar sum from green quantitative easing, investment in the UK could be transformed and gradually turn the economy around.



Manufacturing ‘homeward bound’

In July, Localise West Midlands welcomed a statement from Professor David Bailey (Coventry University Business School) that “repatriating activity – including some sourcing – to the UK is very much on the agenda”.

Homeward Bound? Seizing Manufacturing Onshoring Opportunities, is the first of three blogs this week which develops and extends his recent Birmingham Post column on ‘onshoring’ opportunities in manufacturing.

It can be found here. Part 2 is on Wednesday and Part 3 on Friday.

City planning and localising life Zurich-style – for Digbeth?

Tyler Brulé, a visiting journalist, describes a scene in one of the city’s more expensive neighbourhoods:

“At a little before 8am, most of the buildings had yet to come to life. Through the waist-high windows, two men were busy working on what looked like a solid piece of walnut. They were standing in the middle of a neat, well-stocked workshop full of timber, saws, sanding machines, vices and plenty of other tools . . . the joiner’s workshop stretched well into the next block . . . there were liveried vehicles parked side by side, and men in neat overalls running around prepping for the day ahead.”

A websearch found this picture of a corner of a carpenter’s workshop in Zurich, Mr. Bachmann, creates wooden tables recycled from old tables and doors.

He found it refreshing and slightly surprising to see light industry sharing space with plastic surgeons, lawyers and film production studios and later noticed more workshops scattered throughout the city – all sharing space with more conventional urban businesses.

The bread culture in Zurich dates back many hundreds of years. The loaf (right) is made of wheat grown entirely within city limits.

The city of Zürich’s chief of planning and development was asked about the city’s planning regulations and whether there was a danger that the ateliers and studios might be forced out of the centre by rising prices and a severe housing squeeze.

She replied that it was absolutely essential to maintain a mix of businesses, with the jobs they create, as part of the urban fabric: “We need to have interesting pockets and businesses scattered throughout Zürich to make it work”.

Other features appreciated:

  • businesses that focused on bending metal, shaping glass and polishing wood
  • a new children’s park designed for parents as much as children
  • gleaming public toilets that didn’t demand an upfront payment
  • small kiosks rented out to private operators to dispense coffee and refreshments

and in a freshly renovated swimming pavilion:

  • along the canal, people stretched out on perfectly angled wooden loungers
  • a kiosk nearby serving Mexican dishes for lunch
  • free books on offer nearby
  • changing rooms featuring perfectly crafted wooden lockers

“The best bit? It was all completely free for residents and visitors. Better still, no one had to lock up their bike.”

Read the article here.