A Future Beyond Growth: event, Sat 5th July 9.30am

You are invited to A Future Beyond Growth – a half-day event to explore the policy and practice changes needed for a better (sustainable and socially just) economy, and how we can make it happen.

Saturday 5th July, 09.30 until 1330

Innovation Centre Birmingham – Holt Street, Aston Science Park, Birmingham

Keynote speaker: Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party

UK economic policy needs to serve its different regions, deliver social justice, and operate within environmental limits. In the run up to the 2015 elections, how can we challenge London-centric political debate and set an agenda for achieving this in the West Midlands?

This participatory event organised by Compass WM and Localise WM will bring people together from across party-political lines to explore some coherent policy and practice proposals for meaningful economic change, and to plan how we can help turn them into action.

–         How can more people be included more equally in the economy?

–         How can we shape finance, skills, planning and other levers to support sustainable prosperity?

–         How can we make environmental limits real in economic decisions?

All are welcome – policymakers, community activists, political activists, NGOs, economic development officers anyone who wants to help make a better economy happen in the region. Booking is essential.

How to bookcompasslwmlogo

The event cost is £5.00 to cover the cost of refreshments and can be paid via Paypal or on the day. Please email karen@localisewestmidlands.org.uk with the following:

Name:

Organisation (if any):

Any access requirements:

I have paid by Paypal: Yes / no

I will pay on the day: Yes / no
We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Karen Leach (Localise WM) and Andy Howell (Compass WM)

 

About the organisers:

Compass is a home for those who want to build and be a part of a Good Society; one where equality, sustainability and democracy are not mere aspirations, but a living reality. This event will partly act as a relaunch of Compass West Midlands and set an agenda for further action.

Localise West Midlands works towards more localised approaches to supply chains, ownership and decision-making for a more just and sustainable economy. We do this by bringing people and organisations together to explore ideas and take action, and by research, consultancy and campaigning. See www.localisingprosperity.org.uk, our new resource for better local economies.

We are grateful to Innovation Birmingham for use of the venue.

City politics: unrest should be seen as a wake-up call

John Rossant is chairman of the New Cities Foundation and President of PublicisLive, which has been producing the World Economic Forum in Davos since 1995.

john rossantTwo days after the event, failing to mention the 4000 people gathered in London for the People’s Assembly, John Rossant points to a ‘common thread’ running through the Arab uprisings and Occupy Wall Street, the street battles that have convulsed Istanbul, Ankara and Stockholm this summer, and the current unrest that is coursing through São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Rossant believes that: “This unrest should be seen as a wake-up call to all of us: politics in this, the first truly urban century, will largely take place in cities and will largely be about them.”

He focusses on the speed of urbanisation

“More than half of the Chinese population is now urban – from barely 20% one generation ago – and scores of millions more Chinese are expected to move into cities over the next decade. India is urbanising at a similarly breathless pace. Istanbul, a city of 1m souls in 1950, today is home to 13.5m people. Perhaps more surprisingly, Latin America is now the world’s most urban region.”

And the glaring disparities in income and opportunity

“Meanwhile, the triumph (sic) of market economics around the world has created impressive wealth and brand-new middle classes in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere. But it has also brought vast disparities in income and opportunity. Skyscrapers for the super-rich loom less than two miles from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. And just two miles in the other direction are slums without running water or other basic services. It is a similar picture in São Paulo or Rio, where teeming favelas abut gated communities. In New York City, inequality has never been so glaring as today. One stop on the subway can sweep you from one neighbourhood to another where median incomes are three times higher.”

He sees other reasons for the ‘drama playing out in global cities’: “Urban citizens want to be listened to, want their city to work better, and want dignity.”

After brief reflections on Istanbul, Cairo and New York, he turns to activism in São Paulo, initially sparked by a 20% rise in bus ticket prices, and points out the “increased sense by some that the city, Latin America’s largest business hub, is becoming a citadel for the global elite as Brazil prepares to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympic Games in 2016 . . . their protest is not vandalism but anxiety and anger that the wealth they can see is still light years out of their reach”.

His conclusion: “This is the most important issue of this century and we should be prepared for vast new urban upheavals. In China, I believe, it is only a question of time before the weight and demands of the new city population will transform the political life of the People’s Republic. Today’s urban spring is only the beginning”.

 

Read the article here: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ee818994-dcb5-11e2-b52b-00144feab7de.html#ixzz2XDoTNfNj – you will not need to subscribe – register & read free of charge.

 

Elected mayors: facts please

Followers on Twitter will know we’ve been trying to source a sound, factual and unbiased briefing [NB since writing this blog, we have produced our own]  on likely implications of switching to an elected mayor as local authority leader. This came about because in the media and social media debates and at the two events I’ve been to, the lack of factual information available was really worrying. At neither mayoral debate were printed factual briefings being distributed; and neither started with a presentation of the facts, but went straight to ‘for’ and ‘against’ campaigners – a classic case of ‘heat but no light’.

So even for the people who turn up to events, there is not enough information. For those who don’t – the vast majority of those who will vote – there are even fewer facts available on which to make a decision, unless they take time to really look.

As Daz Wright commented on the Birmingham Press blog: “Unfortunately quite a bit of this debate is being held on the basis that many commentators are ignorant of how the current system works, let alone any future one.” Absolutely. I’m not pretending to be the most well-versed in political systems myself, but in fact that’s almost the point.

There are two issues here. One is that not enough of the KNOWN facts about the (comparative) implications of elected mayors are being disseminated, so that even relatively politically active voters will be ill-informed.

The second – a more well-trodden point – is that powers and funding won’t be negotiated until mayors have been elected; so many important things can’t be known until we have voted both in the referendum and then for specific candidates. There is something distastefully macho about the ‘yes’ camp’s criticism of those who find this alarming, or want to question it, as sissies afraid of change. Speaking personally this macho posturing is more alarming than the lack of foreknowledge itself.

The biggest lack of clarity is around how decision-making within the city will differ from what happens now. Basic fact: the mayor will have the powers that currently reside with the council executive (and any extra powers granted by Parliament will reside with them too) apart from the budget and annual plans of key services, which are decided on by full council. I don’t believe this fact is sufficiently understood. Beyond this – how can we understand in any detail whether the mayoral system strips any more power from councillors than was already stripped away in the move from committee structure to Cabinet? The Yes camp says it doesn’t, the No camp says it does. Fancy that. Can we have some real detail and analysis please? And scrutiny arrangements – structurally the same I think, but any power-play changes to consider?

And then – scientific analysis of the comparative effectiveness and corruptibility of powers residing with a single individual vs a group appointed by that individual?

And whether there are ways of increasing local democracy, accountability and clout that don’t have the disadvantages of putting more power, with few recall options, in the hands of an individual for four years?

And whether past experience demonstrates that extra powers really can be effectively ‘taken’ as Gisela Stuart persuasively argues, or whether city deals will depend on political colour and personality?

Anything on implications for diversity (gender, background, race) of elected representatives?

Less crucially, perhaps, unbiased evidence on comparative system costs?

And some clarity on powers to recall elected mayors or get rid of the mayoral structure, in comparison to the recall and change powers we have over our current system?

With a bit more proper information, most of us can begin to understand the trade-offs we’re looking at between two non-ideal systems, or to think about – forgive me – a third way we can lobby for, to tweak the results of either a yes or a no vote. But given even the referendum ballot paper wording itself is biased, an evidence based approach is obviously going to be elusive – specially before people go to vote on May 3rd.

In my brief google-search for objective briefings, I found a few. Wikipedia, bless it, proved useful, with pages on both elected mayors and on the current ‘leader and cabinet’ model. Voscur’s was brief but pleasantly factual. The BBC College of Journalism page on the subject is also useful. Please comment below if you find better sources.

Yes or No campaign rhetoric masquerading as factual briefings are more common – but you can find your own versions of those.

I can’t vouch for the impartiality of the above briefings but at least they are a good start. Can I urge people to make sure particularly their less politically minded friends, family and colleagues have access to these as well as to the yes and no camp rhetoric?

Karen Leach

Localise WM

Localise WM has also been organising and reporting on meetings with those already declaring themselves interested in standing for Mayor in Birmingham, to find out more about their proposals for a strong, equitable and sustainable local economy. Click here for report of our meeting with Gisela Stuart ; notes from meetings with Sion Simon and Mirza Ahmad to follow shortly. We’re waiting to hear back from Liam Byrne…