Could Brummie bonds fund house building?

john clancyCity councillor John Clancy, who once worked in the venture capital market, explains in a Chamberlain Files article,  [accessed via the Brummie], that  ‘Brummie bonds’ can provide much needed investment and kick-start building by local councils and housing associations across Birmingham.

Some readers will remember that the Brummie Bonds concept was incorporated in the 2003 People’s Pensions Proposal, informally presented to MPs, an MEP and NGOs by a London colleague Colin Hines (co-founder of Localise West Midlands) with co-authors, accountant Richard Murphy (now of Tax Justice fame) and MP Alan Simpson. Read on here.

In October 2004, David Bell’s article on the subject in the Post: Buy a share in Brum pointed out that bond issues are used to raise finance by federal states in Germany and many other local authorities around the world, but although English councils have powers to issue bonds none are believed to have used them.

John Clancy’s vision is of a 40-ward investment strategy. An access-all-areas Brummie Bond investment issue is needed and he records that the Labour Party’s policy announcement last weekend on the Future Homes Fund is effectively the revival of the concept of housing bonds itself:

  • Anyone saving for a house deposit can put it in an ISA to which the Government would contribute 20%. The Labour Party is proposing that those funds would be earmarked for new house building. The banks would be directed to invest these assets into housing bonds.
  • Local councils and housing associations would issue bonds into which the UK’s banks would be required to invest. This would keep investment by UK citizens in the UK and, effectively, into local and regional investment.
  • If local developers are sitting on a land bank where planning permission for housing is already given, then the “use it or lose it” principle would have to apply. If there is capital ready and willing to buy and build from housing bonds, then so be it. Positive, active creative capital will need to push out dormant, destructive, delayed capital.

There is now a growing consensus that investing in UK housing is the best investment strategy for the health and wealth of the funds. They provide healthy returns on a risk adjusted basis to the pension funds.

A recent analysis by recommends hard-nosed investors (especially pension funds) to go into social housing bonds rather than corporate bonds, and that now is the best time to do so. Sixteen of the biggest 60 Housing Associations have now issued own-name public housing bonds. It’s time for local councils to do the same.

Government has relaxed the rules on investment and recognised the key part that local government pension schemes have to play in regeneration, infrastructure and ‘green’ investments. Cllr Clancy says that if any local government pension fund has not laid out its 30% housing and infrastructure asset investment strategy, we should ask why it has not done so. He ends:

It’s time for Bonds: Brummie Bonds.

Let’s build.

Are corporate ‘Big Fish’ swallowing opportunities for the city’s SMEs?

big fish little fishjpgSummarising Cllr. John Clancy’s message: West Midlands small and medium sized businesses believe they could provide services better than companies like Capita, Serco, Amey and G4, but are effectively locked out of negotiations for contracts which could engender vitality and activity in local economies.

These large companies are often the only ones that can afford the staff time and expense of tendering and many councils find their promises and sales pitches, not always fulfilled, deeply impressive.

Cllr Clancy advocates econodiversity:

fish organise“A range of business models, variegated in size, structure and purpose can enliven local economies and end the dead hand of economic and business monoculture . . . we should also be looking at econodiversity in terms of what kinds of local enterprises can be part of local provision of public bodies’ needs, along with our co-operatives and SME limited companies and partnerships.

“Our public and private economy needs to be rooted in its local enterprises, not in London-based, international capital, whether private or semi-private. And where such a big economic player as a Birmingham City Council has taxpayers’ and other money to inject into the local economy, it should stay in that local economy and not be spirited away into the economic pathways and streams of the Big Fishes, to God-knows-where. Such real diverse partnerships with local enterprises can be part of the solution to finding local, sustainable economic growth and jobs, especially in such straitened economic times.

“It’s high time that the SME lock-out came to an end. Local economies and their SMEs are suffering and are in real need of an economic boost. It must be to local SMEs that local councils turn first to provide.”


To read the whole article, with references to Service Birmingham and Amey, top-slicing and flat-lining, go to the Post: