Can you help us to inspire and catalyse a better economy?

Can you help us to inspire and catalyse a better economy?

Join LWM’s board

We know our work towards localising and redistributing prosperity resonates with a lot of people. We’d love some of that resonance to draw people to get involved in governing our future – the small but crucial ‘lynchpin’ organisation in the region’s progressive economics!

After the summer we will be embarking on a fourth phase of our Localising Prosperity programme, which came from our groundbreaking research into the benefits of a localisation approach and how it can be integrated into mainstream economic development. We are now focusing on delivery of this agenda in practice. The main strands of work will be:

  • Maximising the local benefits of the new hospital development in Smethwick, including with partners through the EU-funded USEIT project
  • Enabling more of a voice for economic justice organisations into the Combined Authority agenda
  • Supporting and challenging regional and local economic agendas to go beyond ‘growth’ to ‘who benefits’.

We will also be putting some time into diversifying our activities and will be planning for this over the summer.

To help refresh and strengthen our thinking we’re looking for two new active, committed board members with commitment to our concept and values, understanding of the tactics and communication for effecting change, and relevant knowledge and contacts.

We are also very aware that the age, ethnicity and gender profile of our board does not reflect the population of the West Midlands, and we are keen to address this in order to benefit from a wider range of perspectives and ensure we do not inadvertently exclude anyone from our group. So we particularly welcome applications from women, younger people, and people from a variety of cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds.

Please read our Board member role description and browse our website for more information. If you’re interested, please email us outlining how you meet the above criteria and why you are interested in getting involved, attaching your CV. We’ll then be in touch to arrange a meeting.

Please also pass this on to contacts who could be interested!

Karen Leach

Doncaster leads on local sourcing

As local sourcing where appropriate is central to relocalising and strengthening regional economies, many will welcome news of a pledge made by Doncaster’s Mayor Ros Jones to ‘buy local’.

mayor ros jonesBusiness Desk reports that when Ros Jones became Mayor in 2013, the council spent more money with firms located outside of borough, but now the vast majority of work goes to local firms, supporting the local economy and helping to stimulate jobs and growth.

Mayor Jones said: “I was determined Doncaster firms could bid for suitable contracts and by understanding what is involved in the procurement process have every opportunity to win work. We have put on workshops, organised events and provided support for business owners so they understand the rules, can find available contracts and know how to prepare their tender bids. This work is certainly paying off with amount of work being won by local firms increasing by a staggering 34% in the last four years”.

Doncaster Council’s procurement team has trained about 130 businesses on how to do business with the public sector and procurement rules have been changed to include local suppliers.

Working with the Business Doncaster team, supplier engagement events have enabled firms to meet public sector buyers, while other public sector agencies in Doncaster have also been encouraged to ‘buy local’.

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doncaster chamber logo

Dan Fell, the innovative chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, added: “Doncaster Chamber believes that it is important for local organisations in the public and private sectors to do business with each other to generate new supply chains and keep work local where possible.  For many years the Chamber has encouraged partners to ‘Buy Doncaster’ and, as such, is delighted that Doncaster Council has such a high percentage of its good and services locally.”

Because of Mayor Ros Jones’ pledge to ‘buy local’ – and despite reduced council budgets – the amount of work awarded to firms in the borough increased by over £27m since 2013/14 and now represents 68% of all council spend. In  2016/17, Doncaster based companies are projected to win over £108m of council work.

birmingham pound header

Endnote: see news of the Birmingham Pound which encourages sourcing of local goods and services: https://brumpound.wordpress.com/

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

Land – they’re not making it any more – how to use it effectively in the West Mids

Have you got a minute to contribute your thoughts to the West Midlands Combined Authority Land Commission call for evidence? Deadline is 14th Oct.

It will consider “what measures could be initiated and undertaken to ensure an improved supply of developable land which supports the growth ambitions of business, the housing needs of residents, and the future diversification of the local economy.”

messagetotheplanners (2)If you think providing affordable homes in quality settlements is important… or safeguarding good farmland… or ensuring people don’t have to travel long distances to work… or that we live in quality places were we can access community facilities easily… or protecting the services the land and soil and its wildlife provide to ensure our survival… or keeping land in public or common ownership… or if you don’t think local authorities should be bribed to accept poor development…  then it would be great if you could make a response as there won’t be many contributions making these points.

snouts-in-troughOn the other hand if you’re a large developer wanting to make a case for the release of greenfield land in unsustainable locations so you can carry on building exclusive homes that don’t meet society’s needs in any way, then I wouldn’t worry – there should be lots of responses like this already!

Three points from LWM’s response:

– greater use of the Community Land Trust and similar models to keep land in common ownership and lock in the value for the community.

– Excessive release of greenfield sites will undermine the attractiveness of some of the more crucial brownfield sites, leaving areas blighted, reducing quality density and leading to damagingly dispersed land use and travel patterns.

– The old regional policy of “reducing the need to travel” should be a WMCA policy when considering all new development land.

Plenty more points to make.

Karen Leach

Bringing community wealth to Birmingham

We’re really pleased to report that Birmingham City Council will be working with the excellent Centre for Local Economic Strategies, with funding from Barrow Cadbury Trust and support from us at Localise West Midlands, to look at how ‘anchor’ institutions can use their spending power to increase economic opportunities for all Birmingham’s communities, businesses and citizens.

As the Leader’s bulletin explains “Anchor institutions, such as the local authority, hospitals, universities and housing providers are significant spenders in the local economy, with large annual budgets for staff, food, energy and other supplies and services.

“Now, using an approach which is common in many North American cities and which CLES has piloted in Preston, the new partnership aims to help Birmingham’s anchor institutions use their spending power locally by identifying changes in behaviour around procurement and other processes that will benefit local businesses, people and communities.”

barrow-cadbury-logoSara Llewellin, Chief Executive of Barrow Cadbury Trust, who also fund LWM’s Localising Prosperity work, said: “The Trust has been pleased to see debate and practice on local economies grow in Birmingham in recent years.  This anchor institution work will build on a movement which is already strong within the city and help to explore how resources already flowing through the city can be better utilised for the good of all citizens.”

Read the Leader’s Bulletin here.

A People’s Plan for the West Mids? Worth a shot, but needs the people

While we and some other organisations in Birmingham have been busy forming the Civil Society Forum to provide a voice for civil society into the workings of the new Combined Authority, Hodge Hill MP Liam Byrne has been trying to do something a little similar via a deliberative democracy process he’s called the People’s Plan.

peoplesplan2The website says “We want to work together to give the politicians a plan that we think will make a difference. So: pitch in. Give us your ideas for what needs to change!”

It provides a forum and stepped process for people to propose, comment on and discuss ideas to influence what the Mayor might see as priorities. So far, a fair range of proposals have been put forward – some strategic, some a bit less so.

It also says “The Metro Mayor will be elected to control big budgets and make big decisions. They’ll play a big role in shaping the future of where we live.” But looking at the content of the Mayoral Powers consultation on the WMCA website, it looks as if WMCA governance could end up being an odd hybrid of the Mayoral role and collective decision-making. I’m all for collective decision-making rather than the current obsession with macho  individual leadership, which is why I was sceptical about the proposal of a Mayor for Birmingham – but how effective will it be to try to combine the two, potentially leading to a constant power struggle between factions of Leaders and the Mayor?

Either way, we really need to help those in charge of forming this subregional tier to help themselves by involving civil society, because so far there’s frankly not been enough participation. The People’s Plan format certainly has its merits for this – it’s based on open source deliberative democracy tools from DCENT, and, for better and worse,  is free from the ongoing collaboration commitment that our Civil Society Forum needs, enabling people to contribute freely as and when they can. But it’s only going to be as useful as the ideas that are brought together in it, the breadth and depth of its debate, and the diversity of the voices that contribute. As the website says “The more people who participate, the more legitimacy and impact our work will have.”

So let’s promote it, engage with it, suck it and see.

Karen Leach

Globalisation: ’more trade, more production for export and more foreign investment’ is not working – localise!

As news from Dash.com reports that Birmingham (UK) is looking to its local workforce and supply chain, Helena Norberg-Hodge’s TedX talk on localisation takes us much further.

rashneh helena

Many concerns, including climate change and the global financial crisis, show the need for fundamental change to the world’s economy. Helena has seen the ravages of globalisation worldwide, first in Ladakh, as subsidised food entered the country on subsidised lorries, travelling on subsidised roads and running on subsidised fuel. This destroyed the local market and led to widespread unemployment creating friction between people who had lived peacefully side by side, for generations.

trucks2 to ladakhCreative Commons: by babasteve at http://www.flickr.com/photos/babasteve/43265922/

Helena meets economists, environmentalists and anthropologists from every continent who report findings similar to those in Ladakh and she stresses the need to shift from globalised to localised economic activity.

Localisation is a ‘solutions multiplier’ which offers a systemic far-reaching alternative to corporate capitalism and communism; it reduces CO2 emissions, energy use and all kinds of waste, creating meaningful and secure employment for the entire global population and rebuilding the connections between people and between people and their local environment – the ‘economics of happiness’.

Worldwide, a trend towards a split between the interests of people and their governments pursuing an outdated economic model can be seen. Their formula for prosperity requires more trade, more production for export and more foreign investment.

This formula is not working

Governments say they are so impoverished that they have to cut, cut, cut spending on basic needs, while spending billions on global infrastructure for transport trade and weapons.

The reason for this, in her opinion, is ‘distancing’ – what she calls the ‘drone economy’. Distance between our actions creates a blindness, a heartlessness, whether killing a child in Afghanistan, or ruining a farmer at the other side of the world by speculating in wheat.

children drone killed

As she says: “our arms have grown so long we cannot see what our hands are doing”.

When eyes open they can see that around the world there is a move towards shortening those distances in producing the essentials needed to provide our food, clothing and shelter.

The local food movement is the most powerful and heartening, demonstrating multiple benefits. Helena cited thousands of initiatives shortening distances, including school gardens, permaculture, urban farms and farmers markets (we add community supported agriculture). An Australian farmer who previously ‘felt like serfs’ under pressure to reduce costs, lower standards and standardise products making them the right size to fit the harvesting machinery, said that as after moving to sell through farmers’ markets was like ‘entering new galaxy’.

Increasing prosperity reducing ecological impact

Students of architecture, law and medicine are deciding that they prefer farming and are earning a good salary in diversified farming adapted to the local climate, which gets more out of each unit of land – many studies show that ten times more food is produced on small diversified farms – increasing productivity and reducing the ecological footprint. By shortening the distance the waste of food, refrigeration, preservatives, packaging, energy, irradiation and advertising, the farmer earns more and the customer pays less. Reliance on expensive imported toxic chemicals is increasingly reduced. All this applies to fisheries and forestry, meeting our need for food clothing and shelter.

In the supermarket economy, the farmer gets 10% of what we pay, or less, but in the local food co-op he gets 50% and in the farmers’ market he gets 100%.

You won’t find a country in the world where people are not increasingly frustrated as their governments swing backwards and forwards from left to right, not realising that left and right is not the issue, the issue is global versus local

The global economy is responsible for poverty, for widening the gap between rich and poor in every single country

Localisation is not about ending international trade or some kind of isolationism, on the contrary, because of our global problems we need global collaboration more than ever before to link up to bring about this transition. This is not just about food, but in business and banking – 7600 credit unions have outperformed the big banks; in 130 US cities, 30,000 small businesses have linked up into alliances, some becoming part of larger networks, such as the Business Alliance for Local Living Alliances (BALLE).

99%-3

It might seem difficult to take on big captains of industry but they are few – less than I% actively promoting globalisation – and there are 99% who are not benefitting. It’s not a question of good guy and bad guys it’s about structures and blindness

The drone economy does not let us see what’s going on but localising – reducing the distances and increasing our comnnection to the natural world – this is the economics of happiness.