Monthly Archives: May 2018

A DRAFT MANIFESTO for the West Midlands New Economics Group: Alan Clawley 24 June 2000

  1. Everyone agrees that Transnational Corporations (TNCs) are so big that they can avoid any responsibility to local communities.
  2. Like any other business, TNCs are driven by profit for shareholders above all else.
  3. WMNEG does not condemn profit in itself but wants TNCs and all businesses to be accountable not only to shareholders but to employees, consumers and local communities.
  4. Citizens have so far ensured accountability through democracy but TNCs and business are on the whole not democratic.
  5. TNCs can and do by-pass local democratic institutions if they do not like what they do. National governments believe that they are powerless to control TNCs lest they put their economies at a disadvantage in the global market.
  6. If they want to control TNCs and make them accountable to communities all the nation states will have to get together and agree what is to be done.
  7. There is no supra-national machinery at present that can do this job. Those that do exist, such as the World Trade Organisation and the European Union are all the side of the TNCs and in favour of removing even more barriers to their freedom.
  8. The United Nations could do it if it were given the resources and the mandate to do the job. It could become an integral part of its role to prevent conflict between the nations of the world.
  9. In the meantime those of us including WMNEG who criticise the operation of TNCs in the global market can only protest and mount negative campaigns.
  10. The alternative strategy is to support local communities in taking unilateral action to protect themselves from the impact of TNCs and other irresponsible businesses.
  11. The antidotes to globalism for communities to adopt are:

(a) increased seIf-sufficiency,

(b) resistance to TNCs and

inward investors so as to extract “responsible behaviour” agreements from them,

(c) diversification and break-up of over-dominant industries.

  1. These tactics could be supported by local authorities and trades unions in particular.
  1. The role of WMNEG could be to

(a) promote locally self-sufficient economies that rely less on inward investment and TNCs,

(b) promote diverse economies that do not rely on a single large industry,

(c) campaign for a new supra­national democratic body to agree the rules by which TNCs will be accountable to local communities and,

(d) argue for the democratic control of business by all its stakeholders.

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SUSTAINABLE HOUSING FOR SMALL HEATH & Green New Deal endnote

Alan Clawley believed that maintenance and improvement of the built environment is the starting point for urban regeneration and localisation. In 2002 WMNEG was awarded a grant by the West Midlands Social Economy Partnership to do an action research study. Study visits were made and a report was published in 2004 for distribution to policy-makers, practitioners and academics.

The study, “Sustainable Housing in Small Heath” (2004), is the illustrated story of the year-long study into the application of renewable energy in an inner-city neighbourhood. In section seven of his report on Small Heath he set out his thoughts on this.

The large scale urban renewal schemes of the 80s was seen by government as the only an alternative to massive clearance, redevelopment with municipal housing and building huge new council estates on the edge of the city or further afield in new or expanded towns. The Conservative government with Michael Heseltine, its leading minister, was enthusiastic about it at the time.

The New Labour government has moved even further down this path. Few council houses have been built and within a few years there may be no council owned housing at all. The job of managing and building social housing has been passed to the voluntary housing movement.

Whoever is responsible for “social housing” in Small Heath it is inconceivable that they will try to return to the days of mass clearance and redevelopment. They will have enough on their plate dealing with the legacy of the former council housing built since the war without worrying about poor owner-occupiers. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that some form of public intervention will be needed in the next decade to ensure the future of its people and their houses.

THE MEANS

We have the technology for sustainable housing now. For the last twenty years the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales has been trying out new ideas for ecological housing. Their website describes the technologies which are available now, publications, consultancies and training courses. The basic tools in the sustainability tool box include photo-voltaic roof tiles, solar heaters, super-insulation, rainwater collection, and reed beds. There are many more yet to come.

Fitting all 8,500 houses in Small Heath with a solar water heater would be a start. A more detailed technical and financial feasibility study needs to be done to get an idea of the total costs involved over many years and suggest means by which it could be financed. There are now many ecological consultants and green architectural practices capable of doing this.

There are no solar panels in areas like Small Heath: the application of this technology to Small Heath is the next step. If a big impact is to be made then it is in areas such as Small Heath that progress must be made. This will not happen on its own, nor can it be left to the manufacturers of green building products to sell them to the residents of Small Heath. Government must take the first step to make sustainable housing affordable and available to people on the lowest incomes. This will certainly require a new Act of Parliament, along the lines of the Housing Act 1974. A private members bill will not be adequate.

The practical approach would be like that used by Urban Renewal in the 80s as described earlier. This will mean organising work at the individual, street and neighbourhood levels:

  • A local project team should be set up for Small Heath with staff skilled in sustainable housing.
  • An open competition for providing the service could be held for which suitable agencies, such as housing associations, surveyors, architects, community development trusts, voluntary organisations, and even departments of the City Council are invited to bid.
  • Small factories and workshops should be set up at the start to make, install and maintain the components needed.
  • Local people would be employed and trained to run the businesses and do the work.

No time limit should be put on the programme. The process of converting old houses into sustainable houses should be seen as a continuous process of renewal that needs long term support, not bursts of funding.

 

ENDNOTE: 2018

Colin Hines, convenor of the Green New Deal Group, has advocated such ‘retrofitting’ measures nation-wide.  In the Guardian last week he adds: 

“A climate-friendly infrastructure programme would make the UK’s 30m buildings super-energy efficient, dramatically reduce energy bills, fuel poverty and greenhouse gas emissions.  Building affordable, highly insulated new homes, predominantly on brown field sites, would involve a large number of apprenticeships and professional jobs, as well as opportunities for the self-employed and local small businesses. This can be paid for by “people’s quantitative easing”, from fairer taxes, local authority bonds and green ISAs”.

 

 9

Alan Clawley – a life well lived

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Steve Beauchampé pays tribute to the community activist and Birmingham Press columnist who passed away earlier this week.

Alan Clawley, who has died from cancer aged 74, was the kind of tireless campaigner that every community needs more of. The causes that he became best known for – saving Birmingham’s modernist central library from demolition and championing the work of its architect John Madin – may not have been the most popular, but Alan fought for both tenaciously, assiduously and with a relentless determination that was both an example, and an inspiration, to others. That he was supported in his efforts by such informed and respected voices as those of English Heritage (now Historic England) and the Victorian and 20th Century societies, and by knowledgeable local architectural experts Joe Holyoak and Andy Foster, speaks volumes for the strength of his arguments.

Fearlessly taking on both councillors and senior council officials over the library, exposing their cant, their ill-informed interventions, the deep flaws in their arguments, Alan presented a coherent, convincing case for the defence. He scoured official documents, challenging a decision-making process that had clearly reached its conclusions before it had examined the evidence, shining a very bright light on its shortcomings in a way that no elected councillor came close to. And he did so incessantly, initially via the online pages of Adrian Goldberg’s Stirrer website and, following its closure, via its successor, the Birmingham Press.

What his Council opponents wanted at Paradise Circus were 60-storey towers, what they are now getting is a bland, urban office scape as forgettable as Madin’s imposing inverted ziggurat was memorable. Alan saw this coming; he read the planning applications, poured over the Paradise Circus development plans and strategy documents…and when it came to the new Library of Birmingham, Alan repeatedly warned of the project’s true cost and un-affordability, of how the city would end up with a central library reduced in size and offering a diminished service to that of its predecessor.

Whilst many councillors and high-ranking city officials derided John Madin’s work, readily approving or supporting the demolition of many of his key buildings, and colluding in trashing his reputation, Alan spoke out for surely the most important and influential of twentieth century Birmingham architects. This admiration resulted in a biography of Madin, published in 2011 (part of the RIBA’s 20th Century Architects series) and the first serious overview of Madin’s work. Alan wrote and researched two further books, Batsford’s Birmingham Then and Now (2013) and Library Story: A History of Birmingham Central Library (2016) and helped form the Brutiful Birmingham Action Group, its goal to increase appreciation of this much derided brutalist style of modernist architecture.

Yet there was more to Alan Clawley than the Birmingham Central Library and John Madin. Moving to the city in the early 1970s after training at the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London, where he had graduated in 1969, he became involved in the Small Heath Park Housing Co-operative and was an active member of the Green Party, standing (as did his wife Hazel) in many elections (both he and Hazel were on the ballot paper for yesterday’s council elections), and he was a friend of Moseley Road Baths amongst many other community campaign groups. Indeed, so much of what Alan Clawley did was undertaken without the thought or expectation of financial gain, but because it was worthwhile and needed to be done. Surely a significant measure of a life well-lived.

Steve Beauchampé

May 3rd 2018

First published in the Birmingham Press

There was also a tribute in the Birmingham Mail

 

Alan was chairman of the West Midlands New Economics group and some of his more low-profile activities will be recorded here in due course.

 

 

 

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