Dr Paul Salveson: directly-elected regional government

hannahmitchell foundation logoDr Paul Salveson, like LWM’s George Morran and Cllr. Phil Davis, campaigns for directly-elected regional government. He and others from the North met on November 11th in the station pub at Sowerby Bridge, near to the Lancashire/Yorkshire border, and agreed to form a Northern ‘think tank’ to develop the case for directly-elected regional government for the North of England – either as a whole or for the three regions which make up ‘the North’.

It has been named after Hannah Mitchell, an outstanding Northern socialist, feminist and co-operator. The Hannah Mitchell Foundation is not a ‘party’ organisation: members now include Labour, Greens, Lib Dems – and lots of non-aligned people, rooted in ethical socialist traditions of mutuality, co-operation, community and internationalism.

paul salveson

Dr Salveson, its General Secretary, is visiting professor at the University of Huddersfield, in the Department of Transport and Logistics. This involves some lecturing and developing projects such as the recent conference on HS2 The North on November 15th. He was awarded an MBE for services to the rail industry, originated and developed ‘community rail’ and was directly involved in the establishment of over twenty community-rail partnerships, leading to increased use of local and regional railways and additional investment.

The Hannah Mitchell Foundation campaigns for a devolved structure of governance for the North, based on the key principles of democracy and subsidiarity, social equity and justice, and sustainable development in its social, environmental and economic senses.

Time to change: Professor Lang’s challenge: embrace local sourcing

tim langSusan Press in the Co-operative News reports a challenge issued by Professor Tim Lang, Head of City University London’s Centre for Food Policy, to the Co-operative Group. It is time to radically change the way food is delivered and distributed to the Group’s 4,800 retail outlets:

“At a time of growing interest in locally sourced food, he thinks there should be far more support for producers supplying direct to local stores. He says: “I think the co-op has lost its way a bit. Back in the 19th century, the first co-operators led the movement against the adulteration of our food and sourced local food which everyone could afford.

Unfortunately, the Co-operative Group has gone down the road of emulating the supply chain model of its major competitors with regional distribution centres and centralised supplies . . .

“But our food supply is being more and more standardised by very big and powerful companies. There are more local artisan and special interest foods, so we have come a long way, but small producers are held back by lack of access to land, ownership of which is dominated by large landowners.”

One of Professor Lang’s current concerns is the growing concern around food security – the availability of food and access to it

He points out that worldwide, figures show around two billion people are going hungry and for the first time in decades the number of food banks in the UK has tripled in the last 12 months.

Lang says: “For the first time since 1945 we are living at a time of rapidly rising inequality, with around five million people living in poverty according to the recent report from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission”. He looked at the history of the co-operative movement:

“In 1994, the Group set up the Responsible Retailing Code, building fair and sustainable relationships with suppliers across its whole supply chain across the world, also leading the way on Fairtrade. It was pioneering stuff, but we need to be building upon that knowledge and working for more sustainable food thinking concerned with the future of biodiversity and our eco-systems . . .

“Like the other major retailers, the Co-operative Group goes for cheap meat reared on cereals. Around 40 to 50 per cent of our cereals are fed to animals. We need more grass-fed meat and dairy and we all need to eat less meat and double consumption of fruit and vegetables because we are storing up huge problems for the future  . . .

“We don’t need supermarkets offering 35,000 lines or people working hard to earn enough money to buy a car so they can drive to the local hypermarket. We need to look at what things will be like in 2050; the effects of climate change and the billions more people there will be on the planet. We need to establish a good food culture which is also good for the environment.

“Stores have to have better access to local food with a shorter supply chain and we have got to re-design the whole food system because frankly it is environmentally crazy.”

Read the whole article here: http://www.thenews.coop/article/time-change-food-professor-issues-challenge-embrace-local-sourcing

 

Professor Lang was the first to coin the term ‘food miles’ – in the 1990s – to describe the distance groceries have to travel to reach us. He was invited to set up the London Food Commission in the 1980s with the Greater London Council, which did some of the earliest work on the effect of food poverty. He pointed out the damage done to school and hospital meal services by government policy, making a major contribution to the Food Safety Act (1990) and the creation of the Food Standards Agency (2000). He has been a consultant to the World Health Organisation, a special advisor to four House of Commons select committee inquiries on food standards globalisation and obesity and was on the Council of Food Policy Advisors to DEFRA.

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In the best farmers’ markets provenance is closely scrutinised

gerb gerbrandsGerb Gerbrands, who founded the flourishing farmers’ market with Clare Honeyfield (Made In Stroud shop) in 1999, wrote in the Stroud News and Journal about the difference between farmers’ market stallholders and those at ‘ordinary’ markets.

He receives applications from potential stall-holders a who are asked to fill in a form which states: “If products are made with bought-in ingredients, those ingredients must be from a local producer ‘wherever possible’ “. Gerbrands explains: This is to:

  • guarantee traceability,
  • reduce food miles
  • and bolster the local economy

stroud farmers marketAn application to sell meat pies was preceded by an email stating that their meat was bought as locally as possible and with full traceability – from Towers Thompson.

He searched on this name and saw that TT is an international meat and dairy group based in Avonmouth; all their other ingredients came from BAKO – whose lorries, Gerbrands points out, hurtle up and down the motorway supplying catering businesses around the country.

He ends: “Needless to say this application was turned down.

“To sell a product like pies at the market a business has to use butter produced locally, flour milled locally, vegetables grown locally and meat reared locally”.

 

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But even in Stroud, where local food procurement works so well, it can be threatened by the political hierarchy and market dogma – see Stroud District Council: serving or dictating?

By request, contact details added:

Cllr. John Marjoram, jmgreenstroud@gmail.com

Sue Smith, editor, Stroud News and Journal, sue.smith@gwent-wales.co.uk

 

 

Should QE now be used for the common good – extending and adapting the work of Birmingham Energy Savers?

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Quantitative Easing currently benefits the non-bank financial sector, commercial banks and the Treasury

HansardUnder QE, Hansard evidence informs us, the Bank of England’s Asset Purchase Facility purchase of just under £375bn of government bonds from the non-bank financial sector has led to a lowering of long term interest rates. The non-bank financial sector and commercial banks now hold more liquid assets in the form of interest-bearing reserves.

The consequent reduction of borrowing costs for the government means that debt issued or re-financed since 2009 has been substantially cheaper, saving some £50bn in immediate funding costs.

But QE could be used directly for the common good: MP Caroline Lucas:

Caroline Lucas 3“There is huge, and as yet untapped, potential in renewable energy, energy and resource-use efficiency and the transformation of our transport system that would create high-quality jobs across the country and reduce the UK’s overall ecological impact.

“If we are serious about staying below 2C warming, as we have legal obligations to do, then to invest in a destructive Dash for Gas when there is a Green New Deal on the table borders on criminal negligence by my parliamentary colleagues.”

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GND logo

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This is the National Plan advocated by the Green New Deal Group: Larry Elliott of the Guardian, Tony Juniper, formerly FOE’s director, Jeremy Leggett of Solarcentury, Richard Murphy Tax Justice Network, Ann Pettifor of NEF and Debtonation, Charles Secrett, currently working with ELF, Triodos Bank and London’s Development Agency and Wildlife Trust, MP Caroline Lucas, Andrew Simms director of NEF, and the convenor Colin Hines, LWM co-founder and Co-Director of Finance for the Future.

Birmingham Energy Savers

birmingham energy saversEarly beneficiaries of Birmingham Energy Savers’ (BES) activities gave testimony of the positive impact the innovative scheme is having on their lives at its official launch event at The Council House in February.

It was attended by local people helped out of long-term unemployment, residents that are now enjoying warmer homes plus lower energy bills joined representatives of Birmingham City Council, who originated the scheme, and its delivery partner Carillion Services.

If such schemes could be more widely implemented and adapted for use all over the country, welcome social, economic and environmental benefits would be offered to most people – but minimal ‘rich pickings’ for the few.


STOP PRESS

In similar vein, Fran, Ben, Andrew, Mira and rest of the team at Positive Money urge:

“Get the Bank of England to create new money instead. This new money would be granted to the government, who would spend it into the real economy where it can create jobs and support businesses”.

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Would you sign this Charter if the NFU and government rethink their GMO and food export drives?

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nfu charter

The National Farmers Union is urging the public to sign its charter and help to turn around a decline in self-sufficiency from 1991, when the country produced 75% of its own food, to the current production of 62%.

nfu charter2

It states that today, August 14, is the day British food supplies would run out if everything produced in a year was stored and eaten from January.

Producing as much of our food as we can is socially, economically and environmentally advantageous, but it will require middlemen to give food producers a transparently fair deal.

Two reservations:

The move to produce more food should not be used as a lever to introduce GM crops, supported by the NFU and government as this technology cannot be contained and would ‘infect’ crops of the same family grown many miles away, removing choice from conventional and organic farmers.

National and European governments should support the policy of greater self-sufficiency instead of prioritising food exports – see the 2012 delegation to China, headed by DEFRA minister Owen Paterson and Dacian Ciolos, the EU Commissioner travelling to China in July hoping to boost the global trade in food.

 

To sign the charter go to http://www.nfuonline.com/news/latest-news/nfu-campaign-calls-for-more-british-food/

 

 

 

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.

 

 

At a time of ‘austerity’ for so many, are there more beneficial uses for taxpayers’ money than mega airports and HS2?

heathrow

In the FT today, James Skinner, chairman emeritus of the New Economics Foundation, asks fundamentally important questions about a stance often adopted by politicians with an interest in supporting multinational business.

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He was prompted to do so by a recent FT editorial “A better plan for London airports”, which cited the fact that Schiphol offers more flights to China than Heathrow as an example of “Britain falling behind in the global race”. He asks:

  • But what exactly is this “global race”?
  • Where is the finishing line?
  • What is the prize we are competing for?
  • Are we really so desperately anxious that more and more people should come to London to change aeroplanes?
  • What do we get in exchange for the noise and air pollution from increasing air traffic?
  • What compensation is there for further loss of land to the hideous sprawl of airports?
  • Are we sure that extrapolations of growth in air travel are realistic anyway, given that oil prices will rise and alternative fuels are not yet in sight?

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He concludes that there are many more beneficial ways to invest the vast sums needed to build a mega-airport.

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Source: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/dd76e03e-bef3-11e2-87ff-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2TqmT5R1M

 

Work Locally to Save Money and Your Community

Natasha Sabin from Tirebuck Recruitment, based in Solihull, talks about the benefits working locally can have on the individual.

West Midlanders are commuting more since the recession hit.

In November 2012 the Trades Union Congress reported that the average West Midlands employee spends 48.8 minutes per day commuting to and from work. This is an increase on the amount of time 2006’s workers spent commuting.

You’d be forgiven for predicting that the ever-rising cost of petrol, along with the hordes of traffic and poor weather would have triggered a return to the local community. In fact, most other UK regions have seen a decline in minutes spent commuting – the average is a 0.4 minute decline.

It has been suggested that the increase in the West Midlands’ commuting time is due to the recession – quite simply because people have to travel further to find work.

Ironically, in times of economic strain, it can be beneficial for the individual and the community if workers stay in their local area.

Fewer commuting costs

We’ve all noticed (and been vocally dissatisfied) that the costs of petrol, rail tickets and bus passes are steadily climbing. By spending less money on transport, you could make a considerable saving each year, giving you the flexibility to accept a lower wage.

Aid the environment

If  his/her job is within cycling distance, a commuter could switch the commute from car to bike, reducing  air pollution by saving around half a tonne of carbon dioxide a year.

Save time

It’s pretty obvious that spending less time commuting to work will increase the amount of free time you have. During the working week, evenings can be spent preparing meals, washing dishes and cleaning clothes. Before you know it, you’re ready for bed and have spent little time resting. Getting home just 30 minutes earlier can feel like a massive increase in down-time.

Be happier and healthier

If you spend more time commuting to work, it’s harder to achieve a healthy work to life balance, which can severely impact your happiness and health. A survey conducted by Kent University found that commuting is one of the largest sources of stress there is. Time spent waiting for traffic to shift, or waiting for trains to arrive severely decrease happiness levels. Also, commuting in congested areas has been linked to breathing difficulties.

Contribute to your local economy

Working locally will help to keep cash in your area. If you are working locally, you’ll most likely be spending locally, which supports local business. If you are working in a different city, you are contributing to that city’s economy instead.

Working locally and supporting local smaller enterprise is incredibly important at a time when small businesses are unable to compete with global conglomerates and large chains.

A call for more decision-making powers to be devolved to regional level

Some Localise West Midlands members who have a particular interest in economic and political devolution, will welcome the call of a district councillor (also green economist and professor at Roehampton University), for more decision-making powers to be devolved to regional level.

Molly Roehampton3Cllr Scott Cato, who represents Stroud’s Valley ward and has been selected as the lead candidate for the Greens in the 2014 European elections, believes the south-west should have more freedom to shape its food, energy and economic policies. At the south-west Green Party AGM in Exeter she said:

“If the debate is about competencies and levels of government then it is time to add a green tint to that debate by calling for the end of the centralisation of power in the UK as well as in Europe as a whole.” She added:

“On a whole range of issues from agriculture and taxation to transport and economic development we need to have more power at the local level.”

 

The advantages of a regional food supply chain, advocated in the light of the discovery of toxic phenylbutazone residues

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Michael Hart 3As a search of medical abstracts reveals advice that there should be zero tolerance of bute residues, the 2002 Look to the Local report by former MEP Caroline Lucas, LWM co-founder Colin Hines and beef farmer Michael Hart (opposite) comes to mind.

It deplores farmers turning to export meat because supermarkets buy cheaper meat from countries with low wages, and low health and environmental standards. Up to date figures were found for this ‘food swap’ which consumes air-polluting fuel for no good reason:

HMRC Market Bulletin Jan-Jun 2012

Market Bulletin – September 2012 half year trade update

clive 3 asletThe report quotes Clive Aslet,who shares this concern, and a rereading of his seminal article, ‘Clocking up food miles’,Financial Times 23/24th February 2002, reveals much of relevance.

“A public whose confidence in food has been battered by successive crises salmonella in eggs, pesticides in carrots, BSE in beef, genetic modification in cereals – has understandably erected health into a totem. While costly government action generally follows each media outcry, Parliament does not always have the foresight to limit risk in advance.

“Trade liberalisation continues. The World Trade Organisation, driven by the US, wants food to be treated as a commodity like any other. It has little truck with governments that fear health risks (it does not accept the precautionary principle), and none at all with those who raise environmental objections.

“Above all, the multiple retailers that control the food system in Britain are not likely to change their ways without pressure. More than four-fifths of British food is bought in supermarkets.

“The one straw of hope that concerned shoppers can grasp is their own purchasing power. Rightly or wrongly, consumer opinion turned so violently against genetically modified crops that the big retailers were forced to declare themselves GM-free zones.

“If the vogue for farm shops and farmers markets catches on, consumers could force supermarkets to source more food regionally, with proper labelling and promotion”.

The Hart-Hines-Lucas conclusion

Look to the local cover 2 croppedAs more consumers, farmers and workers world wide are experiencing the downside of economic globalisation in agriculture and other sectors, now is the time to consider how it can be replaced with this completely different alternative of self-reliance and localisation.

This will involve dramatically reducing world food trade and re-localising production. The goal of such a “local food-global solution” policy would be to keep production much closer to the point of consumption (and regulation) and to help protect small farmers and rebuild local economies around the world.