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 call for a locally-focused approach, integrated with conventional economic development

george morran mediumIn a letter to the Observer, George Morran, who has a wealth of experience in local government, wrote: the case for a new approach to manufacturing (Observer, Business Sunday 29th December) needs to be taken further.

The Observer article issued ‘a big challenge, but one that must be met’: “Britain must look beyond London, put faith in manufacturing and redress the balance of wealth to benefit the regions beyond the south-east”.

George focussed on the UK’s dependency on the manufacture of arms, while at the same time being forced to import trains, trams and other manufactured goods from abroad. He asked:

“Would it not be possible – with the level of Government support currently given to BAE and its supply chain – to fill some of these more local needs?

“The UK’s manufacturing heritage was founded on local manufacturers meeting local needs, firstly agricultural and later the needs of the coal, iron and related industries. We need to move back to this more localised approach to manufacturing”.

lwm logo clearerHe observed that leaving the future of manufacturing to the global market place is unlikely to lead to local manufacturing responding to local needs and ended by pointing out that:

Localise West Midlands has published a report about Community Economic Development which sets out in some detail a more localised approach to economic development. It demonstrates the significant benefits of more locally-owned economies in creating successful, socially just and diverse places and highlights how a locally-focused approach can be fully integrated into conventional economic development.









Continuing the good work on mainstreaming stronger & more inclusive local economies

I’m pleased to report that Localise WM has secured funding from the Barrow Cadbury Trust for 2013-14 to progress our work on Mainstreaming Community Economic Development.

BCtrust logoYou may be aware of our previous Mainstreaming CED project, which amassed a remarkable body of evidence around the social and economic benefits of localised economies (see our literature review or its summary) and then outlined how a local and community orientated approach can be integrated into conventional economic development to maximise these benefits.

This has given us a really useful body of material we can use to support progressive economic development, so we’re pleased to be able to develop it further, working with others to generate practical outcomes and building on our 2012-13 research findings:

  • Engaging and discussing the opportunities of Mainstreaming Community Economic Development with project managers, policy makers and politicians
  • Developing an informal learning network of  practitioner to provide the opportunity for shared learning and wider implementation
  • Working with partners to mainstream community economic development by testing its feasibility and ease of implementation in the West Midlands
  • Monitoring and evaluating the impact of the mainstreaming community economic development approach and the implications for future learning and implementation

Conrad Parke portraitIn particular we are planning to work with a hospital regeneration and supply chain project, a group of SMEs and other organisations aiming to establish a SME co-operative to facilitate joint winning of contracts;  and one or two local authority strategies on specific issues. LWM colleagues for this project are excellent new additions Conrad Parke and Sarah Longlands, and longer-standing LWM members Jon Morris and myself.Sarah Longlands pic

Local authority cuts of course make this an incredibly challenging time for public services including economic development – and likewise for communities. But it also necessitates a rethink about how we deliver ‘more with less’ and less unequally. Some public bodies are exploring these ideas, and we hope our MCED work will help that trend to become more widespread.

We are also happy to talk to anyone about potential opportunities to progress this strand of work elsewhere.

The MCED project webpage is here, with links to the previous research page, reports, briefings and related work, and we’ll be posting update blogs here as the year progresses.

Karen Leach

GBS LEP’s spatial framework: democracy, nongrowth sectors and getting localisation out of its little box

I was at the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership consultation event on their spatial framework this morning. A few thoughts:

– During discussion on our table, someone pointed at me and said “and then your community economic development stuff fits into this little box here”. It dawned on me then that the name of our project – Mainstreaming Community Economic Development – is a misleading one for many, because if it involves ‘community’ it must be ‘little’. I explained that our work was about scaling up localisation – so that every regeneration project, every economic development decision, every spatial plan, has thought through how it can maximise its benefit to and ownership by local people, and particularly to its excluded and deprived communities. It doesn’t fit into a little box, it’s just a consideration in all good decisions. As fellow table participant Patrick Willcocks tweeted to us afterwards – “You need to, as you did today, get across that you are not about isolated small local projects”. Hmm – lesson there.

– How does a LEP’s spatial framework fit in with the democratic planning system, I asked? The top table responded that this in no way detracts from local planning authorities’ plans; it should just be a useful tool to inform them. Technically, they are right – but it has to be said that the communication of LEPs and their spatial planning agenda implies a  much greater role – implies that what the LEP comes up with will have significant weight. The high level of attendance indicates their opinion of its weight.

If it is to have significant weight, there needs to be more diversity in its production.  It was a very, very undiverse audience. Both in the types of business and other organisations represented, and in gender and ethnic origin. Even less so than the public sector-led local and regional planning processes I’ve been through. This is almost OK if it’s only an advisory plan, but where will those other economic actors find as influential a way in?

Of course something like Birmingham’s Social Inclusion Process should have as much influence on the local plan as the LEP’s spatial framework does. That’s certainly not something that fits into Heseltine’s version of what localism really means, but you have to hope local politicians can see beyond that.

– There was, though, an encouraging level of awareness of the realities of environmental limits – climate change and biodiversity, and I think a genuine commitment to ensuring “no-one’s left behind” by economic progress. To achieve this, we talked about the need to prioritise not just the ‘growth sectors’ but also sectors and types of activity that create and keep enterprises and jobs where they are most needed, and we talked about maximising the local benefits from all economic development as a major objective.

There’s a lot of potential in the spatial framework agenda – I am far more concerned about the aspirations Westminster has for its new structures than I am about the merit of the individuals round the tables.

Karen Leach

Birmingham’s wholesale markets – a partnership of inclusive local enterprise

It is vital to Birmingham’s independent food supply chains that Birmingham wholesale markets remain at their central site, neighbouring the retail markets, and being central for their diversity of customers and employees.

Despite a much-publicised Council recommendation to stop investigating solutions for the markets remaining on their current site, there is still a hope of this happening – an opportunity those of us who really care about widespread economic wellbeing in Birmingham need to seize with all hands.

There is an option to redevelop the current site keeping the wholesale markets, with new and exciting food-focused uses around them. This is the option Birmingham needs and that any self-respecting local enterprise body for the city would recommend.  On Monday, Birmingham’s Cabinet will decide whether to continue investigating this option. All it commits them to is keeping the door open for discussion.

Here at Localise West Midlands, as part of our Mainstreaming CED research, we studied the Birmingham Wholesale markets as good practice in community-scale economic activity. Below is what we learned about the impacts of the markets for inclusive economic success and enterprise.

To some, this will read as irrelevant to the big boys’ game of real economic development. They are wrong. The Mainstreaming CED findings are clear that economies built on local ownership and control and on smaller businesses are more successful in traditional economic terms as well as better in for all those woolly, irrelevant social concepts like quality of life. Far too much conventional economic analysis fails to recognise the collective benefit of local enterprise.

The wholesale markets and an inclusive economy

Birmingham Wholesale Markets are the largest integrated markets in the UK, comprising fruit and vegetable, fish, meat and poultry, dairy and flower sections. They are sited in central Birmingham, next to the city’s retail markets and have an aggregate turnover of £275 million, with 73 trading operations (all but two of which are locally owned) and employing 1,100 people. It is estimated by BWFPA that 15,000 jobs in the region are dependent on the markets.

ourbirmingham.orgSupply and Demand Chains

The markets also occupy a very significant place in Birmingham’s food supply chains: 95% of independent food businesses in the city – close to 5,000 independent food businesses – do some business there: an extraordinary market share.  The customer base also goes far beyond Birmingham into surrounding counties and even into mid-Wales.  The wholesale markets serve some ‘top end’ establishments such as Purnell’s as well as the affordable end, and also limited supermarket trade.

Whilst (as you’d expect) BWFPA has no official local sourcing policy, some members serve Bretts, the company that serves the city schools’ fruit and vegetable contract, for which the council has local sourcing and CO2 policies.  Figures are not available from BWFPA for the markets’ local sourcing but much of the horticultural produce is sourced from the region, including the Vale of Evesham and Staffordshire; but also from Europe and further afield.  Meat is mostly locally sourced, although also from Wales and Scotland too depending on seasonal availability and market value.  Again this points to a significant market role for produce that does not go through the multiples’ supply chains.

Social and Economic Inclusion

In addition to strengthening Birmingham’s local food supply chains, the wholesale markets also contribute to social and economic inclusion. This is partly in the sense that through the neighbouring retail markets they provide cheap high quality foods for the local community. Overheads and thus prices are low at the Bull Ring, making it a major contributor to healthy food access and social inclusion in the city centre. The markets also contribute in terms of  economic and social/ethnic diversity is very wide in the markets’ customer base, including always the latest wave of immigrants. Currently for example the customer base at George Perry is 80% Asian. Immigrants using the markets include Iraqis and Afghanis who will use the markets for small-scale street trading such as buying a box of apples and selling them on the street. A vast number of the city’s culturally specialist food shops source their produce at the wholesale markets, some of these communities then mix and socialise at the markets alongside the  long hours they work. So a social cohesion role emerges as well as a practical food distribution role that it is hard to imagine functioning if the Wholesale Markets weren’t there.


Employment, skills and recruitment

The Wholesale Markets also contribute heavily to employment, providing a major local source of recruitment especially from areas of high unemployment, resulting in a constant churn of new people.  They offer an effective opportunity for people who haven’t done well at school or those from “less socially acceptable” backgrounds: in comparison with many training programmes they provide ‘real’ manual work with a degree of security, flexibility and mutual respect; 99% of these positions are salaried and there tends to be mutual flexibility over hours depending on company and employee needs.  “It’s a rough and ready environment with politically incorrect banter but people just get on with it and each other, and there’s a sense of honour amongst entrepreneurs.”

Business: innovation, resilience, community

The Markets also offer a key source of innovation and resilience within the community. History has shown that the market is always capable of evolving and adapting, for example, innovation in IT to facilitate trade with international partners. The BWFPA committee is highly representative of small businesses, feeding their opinions into the council. Unsurprisingly, the wider community has been very supportive of the markets remaining where they are during BWFPA’s campaign, with strong support for the Bull Ring Markets and shops in addition to the signing of a petition of well over 20,000 signatures in support of the markets remaining on their current site. This is the largest petition ever delivered to Birmingham’s electoral officers.

The support of Birmingham City Council is essential if the markets are to continue supporting the local community. The council needs to recognise the fact that composite markets work well because they function as a ‘one stop shop’ – businesses will use them for all their produce needs and so are likely to buy a higher proportion from these local supply chains.  Community leaders also value the integrated markets, saying a move would split up whole communities. A central site is also crucial to this.

Moving the markets out of the city would change how the markets’ finances work, as rents and service charges would rise and require capital outlay. Some of their current efficiency and little need for borrowing would be lost.

Attempt to relocate or move the markets would be disastrous to the local community especially in terms of social and economic inclusion and local food supply chains. The Council might propose mitigation measures such as providing collective goods transport from the out-of-centre site for the retail markets and other customers, but realistically, how long would revenue funding for this last and how practical would it be? The proposal by BWFPA for a smaller and more streamlined wholesale function within a mixed use development and still bordering the vital retail markets would maintain, and enhance, the ability of the wholesale markets to benefit the local community and strengthen its local economy. This would support medium and long term economic success and yet still bring short-term financial benefits for a cash-strapped local authority.

The proposal for keeping the Wholesale Markets where they belong, in the city centre at the heart of a food-related new development, really is a win-win situation and if Birmingham City Council failed to take advantage of this, the economic and social consequences would be severe.

Jamie Stone and Karen Leach

Our current economic predicament defined and the MCED way forward highlighted


Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, quotes a brief but pointed analysis from a new report by Dr Tim Morgan called ‘The Perfect Storm: energy, finance and the end of growth‘, published by FTSE 250 company Tullett Prebon, saying:

“It’s stirring stuff.  His analysis of why we have ended up in our current economic predicament runs thus:

hopkins 1

He offers the best, and most to-the-point discussion of why energy return on energy invested (EROEI) matters, and why peak oil ought not be thought about as just the end of cheap energy, rather as the end of energy with a low EROEI.

Hopkins then quotes from a ‘fascinating post’ by Karen Leach of Localise West Midlands on the REconomy site, which gives him a sense of why what she calls “community economic development” or on this website we might call REconomy or “community resilience as economic development” is so different from the current all-prevailing approach, and why it addresses our needs far better.

Writing about their excellent recently published report ‘Mainstreaming Community Economic Development’, she summarises the report’s finding thus:

hopkins 2


Localised economies “more successful and inclusive”

PRESS RELEASE          21 Feb 2013                                           NO EMBARGO


Localised economies “more successful and inclusive”

Research shows that areas with higher levels of locally owned business enjoy better economies and strong communities.

A new report[i] from a leading Birmingham-based think-tank, funded by Barrow Cadbury Trust[ii], explored the benefits of a strategic approach to community-orientated economic development, and has significant findings to help our economy better adapt to today’s challenges[iii].

Jon Morris, Localise West Midlands Chair, said:

The UK economy is one of the most centralised in Europe, bringing exclusion, instability and failure.  As we explore it here, community economic development is not just a residents’ issue but a way of making our core economic activity more successful and more closely centred on places, people and local resources.”

The research found strong evidence that local economies with more small businesses and local ownership perform better in terms of economic success, job creation, social inclusion, civic engagement, wellbeing and local distinctiveness than places heavily reliant on inward investment. Localise West Midlands believes that the findings signal a need to revalue how we balance and integrate more localised approaches with those of inward investment and economic centralisation.

It found that a local economy largely controlled by ‘absentee landlords’ – distant private and public sector owners with little understanding of the local area – is a recipe for economic failure. Locally-inappropriate decisions and ‘footloose’ businesses leaving the area for better economic conditions seem to combine to weaken local businesses and create a self-reinforcing cycle of decline and exclusion.

The report sets out proposals for a strategic approach centred on local supply chains and control, in which local people participate as owners, investors, purchasers and networkers.  Strategies would support partnerships and networking, recognise the collective importance of the small scale, and take a long-term perspective. The research goes on to outline the local and national actions and policies needed to put this into practice.

Jon Morris added:

“The evidence is that adopting a community-based economic approach creates a virtuous economic circle that benefits all parts of society. Ignoring its potential restricts good development and wellbeing across the country. It is like cutting your own legs off to reach a weight loss target.”



[i] The project webpage, with links to the final report, literature review and associated briefings is at http://www.localisewestmidlands.org.uk/mainstreaming_CED. See also infographic attached

The purpose of the Mainstreaming Community Economic Development research project was to examine the evidence around the comparative socio-economic benefits of different economic approaches and then to examine how community economic development can be better integrated into the mainstream economy so that its redistribution and diversity impacts can be maximised.

The project involved a literature review, case studies of local economy good practice from the West Midlands private, public and voluntary sectors mainly in the food and building retrofit sectors, financial context, and a practitioners’ workshop to test emerging ideas.

LWM defines CED as economic development led by people within the community and based on local knowledge and local action, with the aim of creating economic opportunities and better social conditions locally. This includes both initiatives with social objectives, and also private sector activity that is locally controlled and based, where the community’s participation is as owners, investors, purchasers and networkers.

[ii] The Barrow Cadbury Trust is an independent, charitable foundation, committed to supporting vulnerable and marginalised people in society.  It provides grants to grassroots voluntary and community groups working in deprived communities in the UK, with a focus on Birmingham and the Black Country.  It also works with researchers, thinktanks and government, often in partnership with other grant-makers, seeking to overcome the structural barriers to a more just and equal society.

[iii] Localise West Midlands is a thinktank, campaign group and consultancy promoting local supply chains, money flow, ownership and decision-making for a more just and sustainable economy.  It has been working on the practice and policy of community-scale economics for ten years

Contact: Karen Leach, Coordinator, Localise WM – 0121 685 1155

lessons from Cleveland’s Evergreen Co-operatives – open meeting 26 Feb

From what I’ve heard about the Evergreen Co-ops this will be a really interesting event for anyone interested in practical steps towards a more just and sustainable economy. I’ll certainly be there.
The Birmingham Co-operative Party invites you to an open meeting:

Re-building local economies:

Learning lessons from the Evergreen Co-operatives
in Cleveland Ohio
One of the worrying trends of recent decades – accelerated during the current recession – has been the collapse of local economies, particularly in traditional manufacturing areas such as the Midlands and the North of the UK.

This problem is not limited to the UK and this meeting will be exploring what lessons can be learned from an innovative experiment in Cleveland Ohio which is successfully creating secure well-paid jobs by developing a network of local co-operative enteprises to serve city institutions such as the hospital, university and local council.


Jim Pettipher
Deputy Executive Director, Co-operative Futures

7.35pm, Tuesday 26th February

A light buffet will be served from 6.30pm


Midlands Co-operative Member Relations Centre,
Birmingham & Midland Institute,
Margaret St, Birmingham, B3 3BS

All Welcome!

For catering purposes, please confirm your attendance by email to richardbickle [at] cooptel.net

Wind energy and justice for disadvantaged communities

The last copy of the NATTA newsletter reported that the Joseph Rowntree Trust has published ‘Wind energy and justice for disadvantaged communities’, which appears to resonate with LWM’s MCED research project.

NATTA Review

This study, Wind energy and justice for disadvantaged communities, examines how commercial, large-scale schemes can be more embedded in their locality

It calls on developers to directly invest in community resources or environmental enhancement, and help to bolster local resilience in the face of difficult economic conditions and rising energy prices.That can have spin-off benefits in terms of promoting a sense of community spirit.

The report does not consider community-owned schemes, which have their own, separate benefits. But it says community benefit funds from wind farms now exceed £100,000 a year. As the size of these wind farms continues to increase, so will the funds.

With this, the report says, ‘comes the opportunity to achieve something transformational’. This ‘exciting vision’ could, in 25 years’ time, leave communities with a more ‘sustainable, autonomous, locally embedded energy system, which retains more local employment and generates funds for other goals’.

It quotes research showing that large wind farms tend to be in areas of social disadvantage, or of lower population and lower incomes. By contrast, the affluent counties of southern England, often the most vocal against wind farms, have very few such facilities. As David Thorpe says in his review for EAEM, this is not surprising, since remote areas tend to be both windy and socially deprived. But it does show that there is an opportunity for wind farms to redress the economic disadvantage experienced by these areas.

The Rowntree study comments that ‘Providing benefits to communities affected by wind-farm development is a matter of justice: a means of redressing the impacts on communities adversely affected by wind farms, not simply a means of cultivating acceptance & expediting planning consent.’

LWM’s research project: “Mainstreaming community economic development for inclusion, diversity and equality” will – we hope – be complementary to this Rowntree report.

Buoyed by a positive attitude to a socially inclusive economy in Birmingham

Some very quick thoughts picking up on earlier tweets on today’s Social Inclusion Process Be Birmingham summit: quick because it’s officially my day off and I want to go and tend the rain-battered swamp that passes for our garden in this particular ‘summer’.

Having spent the last two summits concerned that the social inclusion process might just be churning out the same old thoughts on valuing diversity and raising aspirations that we all say every time (important, but not the root causes), I felt quite buoyant at the end of this one; perhaps because I have been part of the inclusive economy subgroup, and the economy is of course a fairly fundamental place to address social exclusion.

First of the positives – that the new Birmingham administration is considering district-based local economic boards, with private and community/non-profit participation,as a mechanism to drive positive, homegrown local economies with a high local multiplier. Our Mainstreaming CED research has brought us into contact with some fantastic community economic development approaches in America and Canada that suggest this approach has a great deal of exciting potential to create more inclusive and sustainable economies.

Secondly, a hint that as the new administration reviews how best procurement can be used to tackle income equality, it could be prepared to question whether it is always best to procure or commission – as with Birmingham Energy Savers- via a single huge entity which is expected then to subcontract to small local organisations, thus losing a great deal of the potential local benefit from the local economy. Cutting out the middleman and procuring directly from a consortium of local organisations requires careful approaches to risk and finance, but again good practice in Italy and elsewhere shows this is possible.

Thirdly, while a harder nut to crack, income inequality’s elephant-in-room status seems to be changing at last. Councillor John Cotton talked of the need for a more equal society and clearly intends to use his Cabinet post to confront this issue. Where the inclusive economy group had previously pondered how Birmingham seems to celebrate its low wage culture as a boon for inward investment, Lisa Trickett and others talked of how we need to bust the myth that a low wage economy is a good economy.We are no longer just talking about ‘social mobility’ and ‘raising aspirations’ which can so often be euphemisms for preserving high levels of inequality, and more mirroring the fairness commissions of other cities which have identified action on high and low pay as priorities.

And fourthly, the general sense that the findings of our Mainstreaming Community Economic Development research are going to be very timely and will chime with other local thinking, which increases the chance of us together achieving change towards a simply better economy in the West Midlands.

One clear recommendation emerging from my perspective was that Birmingham’s economic development department needs mechanisms to ‘social-outcome-proof’ its decision-making.

But as I said, just quick initial thoughts; we’ll reflect more on all this potential through our current research activity.

Karen Leach