All posts by AlexandDan

Creative

Hounslow has been successful in securing funding to develop its bid to become one of the Capitals first Creative Enterprise Zones. Creative Enterprise Zones are a bold new initiative for London to secure its future as a cultural capital and ensure creative people continue to call London their home.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan yesterday announced a shortlist of ten submissions from London boroughs that will each receive a share of a £500,000 fund, to develop their bids. Hounslow was one of ten submissions selected out of a total of 25 applications received. This ground-breaking new initiative, one of the Mayor’s key manifesto priorities, will help creatives put down roots, establish themselves in local areas, attract new artists and creative businesses, and develop skills in local people. The creative industries contribute £47bn to London’s economy every year and account for one in six jobs in the Capital. Creative jobs are growing four times faster than the economy average and the majority of jobs cannot be automated, providing a major employment opportunity for London.
Although each Creative Enterprise Zone will have its own distinctive character, they will bring together artists, local businesses and landowners to develop and create new jobs, establish and secure new spaces for creative production and open up opportunities for talented young people who are considering careers in the creative industries. The London Borough of Hounslow has London’s highest concentration of media and broadcasting jobs. The borough will now undertake research and develop action plans to help to formulate the council’s vision for its individual Creative Enterprise Zone. The council will then be invited to put bids forward for further funding in Summer 2018 to become one of three designated Creative Enterprise Zones later in the year.

The development grant will create a plan which looks at how to create better networks, linking local people with opportunities in multinational media companies. The plan will focus on affordable artist, maker and creative spaces, support local people to access creative jobs and promote Hounslow as a location for the creative sector to live and work. The plan will also include the formation of a consortium including Brentford High Street Steering Group, Brentford Chamber of Commerce, CPP Creatives Group, Hounslow Chamber of Commerce, Hounslow Economic Business Forum, University of West London, Watermans Arts Centre, and West London Business.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan:

Artists and creative businesses around London breathe life into every corner of our city – but too often they find themselves unable to put down roots due to the spiralling cost of housing and workspace. This is a real problem that threatens to undermine London’s position as the world’s creative capital.
Creative Enterprise Zones offer a real, practical solution to this problem – with the potential of locally reduced business rates, incentives to open up new spaces and initiatives that really value the contribution that creatives make to our capital. They will also bring new jobs to the area, encouraging local young people to develop careers in the creative industries.

Councillor Samia Chaudhary, Cabinet Member Green Policy & Leisure Hounslow Council:

This is a great boost for Hounslow! As the borough with the highest concentration of jobs within the media and creative industries in London, we are well placed to build on that foundation and promote ourselves as a Creative Enterprise Zone.
We want to retain our creative talent and ensure that artists and creative businesses can continue to thrive here. Affordable studio spaces and artistic communities that nurture talent are essential to maintain this, so we are delighted that the Mayor has launched this initiative.

Wages grew by 2.6% in the three months to January while the unemployment rate fell, according to new data.

The Office for National Statistics said that earnings growth was slightly higher than the 2.5% rate in the previous period. It adds to evidence that the squeeze on household income may be coming to an end after inflation fell to 2.7% in February. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate ticked lower to 4.3% from 4.4%. A small increase in the number of unemployed people during the quarter did not dent the overall rise in employment over the last year. The data was not all positive – the number of unemployment benefit claimants rose by 9,200 to 838,000 in February, that’s the highest level in more than three years. But John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said the good news in the latest figures outweighed the bad. He said:

In particular, with consumer inflation falling back to 2.7% in February, we are now close to the point where real pay growth returns to positive territory.But it will still be many years before real wage levels return to the peak seen before the financial crisis.

The BBC has learnt that than a million NHS staff, including nurses, porters and paramedics, can expect pay increases of at least 6.5% over three years. If approved, workers in England could see their pay increase almost immediately. Economists are now wondering whether the improved outlook for pay will spur the Bank of England to raise interest rates from the current low levels. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) should be cautious about raising the interest rate. He said:

We continue to think that wage growth will rise at only a modest pace this year, ensuring that the MPC needs to raise interest rates only by 0.25% in 2018.

Entrance to stadium v2

A ground-breaking ceremony was held on Monday to mark the preparations for the start of construction on the new Brentford Community Stadium and enabling residential development.

A family of Brentford supporters, Robert Muttitt, 70, together with his son, Peter Muttitt, daughter, Nicki Todd, and the latest addition to the Brentford supporting family his granddaughter Sophie, who celebrated her first birthday last week, were chosen to have the honour of putting the first spade into the ground. The Muttitt family association with Brentford goes back to the Club’s golden period in the 1930s when Robert’s father, Ernie Muttitt, joined Brentford from Middlesbrough. He played for the Club from 1932 to 1947 and was inducted to the Brentford Hall of Fame in 2015. Robert’s support for the club naturally began from an early age and he even recalls having his first ‘swimming lesson’ in the player’s big bath! Robert said:

We were so delighted to have the chance to take part in the ceremony today. I have so many old memories of the Club, swimming in the player’s bath, watching my father and others train on Tuesday and Thursday nights and playing football and cricket outside the old wooden entrance on Braemar Road. Now I am looking forward to the new ground, a great future and new memories – which hopefully will include my family and I watching Brentford play in the Premier League.

Guests at the ground-breaking included Leader of Hounslow Council, Councillor Steve Curran, Ruth Cadbury MP for Brentford and Isleworth, fans, staff and players from BFC, representatives from the developer Be Living, the architects and other consultants who have worked on the project. The site enabling works will be continuing this month, allowing for the start on site for the stadium and phase one residential work during April. The development will deliver a 17,250-capacity stadium, 910 much-needed new homes, a new base for Brentford FC Community Sports Trust and other commercial elements to help regenerate the local area. The new stadium is due to be completed during the 2019/20 season.

To keep in touch with progress and developments on the new stadium, please register your interest here.

Brentford FC’s new stadium ground-breaking ceremony

 

by Faisal Islam

Sky News has established the Government has been signing a series of secret agreements with companies and industry groups over highly controversial outcomes of the Brexit process for Britain’s trade border.

The attempt to enforce silence about outside discussions on the changes urgently required to the border after Brexit has raised eyebrows across industry. A series of non-disclosure agreements have been forced into the process of consultation with the logistics companies that actually operate the UK border, with one industry source calculating that “many dozens” have been signed. The development was described by Meg Hillier MP, the chair of the Public Accounts Committee, as “extremely unusual” and “a sign of Government paranoia”. She told Sky News: “I’m pretty staggered by that because I don’t see why the Government shouldn’t be revealing what it knows about Brexit but also why would it want to shackle organisations that might want to criticise or comment on Brexit by asking them to sign NDAs?”

Ms Hillier, whose committee produced a stinging report on the preparedness for Brexit border changes in December, said such agreements were normally only relevant for commercial contractors, not outside stakeholders being consulted on policy changes. The secret meetings with industry occur in sub-committees of the Border Co-ordination Group.

This is believed to have started so the Government could obtain private sector data on what exactly was being brought into and out of the UK in its trade inside the European Union. By definition this data is largely uncollected, as the cargo is never checked within the single market and customs union. A key member of a different industry collaboration body, the Joint Customs Consultative Committee, Peter MacSwiney, told Sky News: “I don’t understand what the secrecy is, I don’t know what is causing this paranoia, they are petrified that someone is going to release something that will reveal to the EU what we are trying to achieve, but that is straightforward – frictionless borders.”

On wider border issues, Mr MacSwiney who is collating the industry response to the Customs Bill, said: “I don’t think we’re anywhere, there are no practical measures on the table that I can see, endless discussions about theoretical concepts, but not about what we are actually going to do on day one.” Rolling on and rolling off ferries, trains and cargo ships is what our current frictionless border looks like – enabling more than half of the trade in and out of Britain.

Those running these operations now have as little as 12 months to adapt to the potential of entirely new arrangements outside the European Union, its customs union and the single market. The Government argues it wants to negotiate the maintenance of these free flowing economic arteries of European trade such as the M20 and the Channel Tunnel, and so does not wish to give away its hand in delicate Brexit negotiations.

Others argue the full consequences revealed in secret reports cannot be kept from the public and the MPs who will soon vote on Brexit outcomes, including the customs union.

Paul Blomfield, Shadow Brexit Minister, said: “This is more disturbing evidence of a Government obsessed with secrecy and intent on keeping the public in the dark about their plans for Brexit. “The public has every right to hear what the Government’s plans are to guarantee frictionless trade with Europe. There is no legitimate reason why ministers should be instructing businesses to sign these non-disclosure agreements. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that the Government is trying to hide the fact that they have no plausible plan for protecting British trade and manufacturing.

“It’s increasingly clear that only Labour can deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs. We would seek to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union to ensure that there are no tariffs with Europe and help avoid any need for a hard border in Northern Ireland. “Ministers should stop trying to silence businesses and accept Labour’s plan for delivering frictionless trade with the EU.” Labour’s Chuka Umunna, a leading supporter of the Open Britain campaign, described the revelation as “shocking” and said the “undemocratic” move made a “complete mockery of Parliamentary sovereignty” by preventing MPs from seeing the information.

The first of a borough-wide network of electric vehicle chargers fitted to lamposts have now been switched on and are being used by Wandsworth residents.

This week15 lamposts are having EV charging plugs fitted to them where residents have electric cars and who first requested them. Another 230 are programmed to be installed across the borough later this year to support residents who already own, or are in the process of purchasing, an electric vehicle.

The installations are the first phase of a far-reaching council initiative to install charging equipment borough-wide as part of a £3m programme aimed at encouraging greater take-up of this eco-friendly form of motoring.

As well as the 230 “on demand” lamposts the council is also:

• Installing a further 380 charging plugs in lamposts within two pilot zones – in Putney (149) and Battersea (231) – to gauge local demand and encourage more people to go electric. The results from these trial schemes could see this key infrastructure extended to other areas.

• Providing another 120 Source London car charging points at various locations across the borough, adding to the 99 already in use at 33 separate places in Wandsworth.

• The establishment of a new e-car club in Wandsworth – offering a convenient and eco-friendly alternative to car ownership, providing electric vehicles to hire by the hour, day or week.

The number of electric vehicles registered in Wandsworth has grown from 127 at the end of 2015 to 408 today – with numbers rising by around ten per cent every three months. Current projections indicate that some 5,500 electric vehicles will be registered in the borough by 2025 – but with enhanced infrastructure and more charging points that number could rise to nearer 10,000. Existing analysis indicates that Wandsworth already had one of the highest take up rates in London for electric vehicles.

One resident benefiting from this week’s installation is Matthew Paterson, a computer software developer from Mandrake Road in Tooting who became the first resident in Wandsworth to have lampost EV sockets in his street switched on. Matthew owns a plugin-hybrid and makes relatively short journeys powered solely by its electric motor. He can now use any of three new lamp post charging points near his home.

He said: “This is a game-changer. Until now, in order to drive fully-electric I have had to travel half a mile to the nearest charging point, walk back home and then return again a few hours later to pick it up on a regular basis. It gave me plenty of exercise but was a drain on my time. “Having local charging points virtually on our doorsteps makes owning an EV practical for everyone who lacks off-street parking; I’m sure that this new infrastructure will encourage others nearby to follow suit and ‘go electric’.” Introducing lampost charging points has no impact on parking provision in the borough. There are no restrictions on the types of vehicle allowed to use adjacent parking spaces, so they can be used by both electric and non-electric vehicles. Transport and environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said: “This is a landmark moment and demonstrates our commitment to providing the types of infrastructure that will soon be required to keep people on the move.

Here in Wandsworth we are planning to be well ahead of the game.

“It’s now undeniable that the future of motoring is electric. All the major car manufacturers have signalled they’ll soon be phasing out diesel and petrol engines while the Government has also announced that sales of new petrol and diesel cars is to be outlawed within a generation.

“By creating such an extensive network of charging points our aim is to remove one of the biggest hurdles facing people when they begin to think about the feasibility of changing from petrol and diesel to electric. “This is an ambitious programme of change which has the potential to achieve a real improvement in air quality. We’ve already done a lot to tackle pollution in Wandsworth and these projects will help us do even more.” The lampost charging sockets are being installed by leading tech firm ubitricity. Its founder Knut Hechtfischer said: “We’re delighted to be working with Wandsworth to help its residents charge conveniently right outside their homes.

Up to 85 per cent of residents in some areas of London do not have access to off-street parking, this was previously seen as a real barrier to EV uptake. We hope lampost charging can play its part in promoting EV ownership.

Register your interest in having a charging point near your home here.

Over a dozen firms, including PwC, Tesco, JP Morgan and the company behind Zoopla, have teamed up to launch a new charter aimed at tackling the factors behind a critical shortfall of women in the UK’s booming tech sector.

The charter is being launched off the back of research conducted by PwC which shows that the gender gap in technology starts at school and carries on throughout every stage of girls’ and women’s lives. Based on a survey of over 2,000 A-level and university students, the professional services firm found that only 27 per cent of female students say they would consider a career in technology, compared to 61 per cent of male students. Only 3 per cent of the females say that it is their first choice, PwC found.

Waiting until women are entering work is simply too late – to boost the number of females in technology we need to take coordinated action to start inspiring girls to consider technology careers while they are still at school,

said Sheridan Ash, who is one of the founders of the charter and leads a programme to encourage women in tech at PwC. She added:

We need to work harder to raise awareness about the exciting range of technology roles out there, in a sector that has the power to change the world.

The charter, which has also been signed by companies including the British Science Association, Girlguiding, money.co.uk, NatWest Markets, Sophos, and T Systems, warns that without coordinated action from school age to create a sustainable pipeline of diverse tech talent “the UK could lose its competitive edge on the world stage”. The reasons why female students are not considering technology roles, the charter notes, include a lack of information at school about what working in technology involves, and a lack of female role models. The signatories are vowing to collaborate more closely with schools across the UK to “educate and inspire pupils to consider a career in technology”, to “celebrate and promote” existing female role models in tech, and to “support the right environment to attract, recruit and retain females”. They are also calling on other organisations to sign up. Margot James, Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, said that she welcomed the initiative.

“We want to be at the forefront of tackling the gender imbalance in the tech workforce and make sure the fantastic opportunities on offer are available to everyone,” she said. The PwC research also found that only 22 per cent of students questioned were able to name a famous female working in technology, compared to two thirds who were able to name a famous man. And over a quarter of female students said that they had been put off a career in technology because the sector is too male dominated.

Zero Carbon Project was launched in London at this website on Saturday 10th March. The second leg of the launch will be in Sydney this week.

The Project is tackling climate change using the blockchain by rolling out competitive zero carbon markets worldwide, to deliver lower prices while switching consumers to zero carbon energy. Lower prices are achieved by leveraging international carbon credits and intense competition between suppliers using techniques such as online reverse auctions. In addition, energy consumers are rewarded with valuable Energis crypto-currency token which acts as a catalyst for change, aligning consumers interests with the global societal goals of tackling climate change. The Energis token has been designed to capture the future utility value which future customers will receive from the market service in the future. This is achieved by requiring the energy suppliers to pay the transaction fees using Energis tokens. Therefore, as the consumer base grows then demand for Energis tokens increases. This demand is constrained by the supply side as there is a limited number of Energis tokens. Energis tokens received from transaction fees are then recycled back to energy consumers as rewards. The Energis tokens economy is underpinned by secondary markets for tokens called crypto-exchanges for optimal resource allocation. All these features utilise the Ethereum blockchain which provides smart contract functionality and incorporates the ERC-20 standards.

Anyone interested in contributing or participating can join their telegram community here after downloading telegram messenger on their mobile phone. To find out more about the Beond group please visit their website.

 

 

UN investigators have accused Facebook of playing a “determining role” in stirring up hatred against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

One of the team probing possible acts of genocide said Facebook had “turned into a beast.”  About 700,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military launched an operation in August against “insurgents” in Rakhine state.  Facebook has said there is “no place for hate speech” on its platform.

A facebook spokeswoman told the BBC,

We take this incredibly seriously and have worked with experts in Myanmar for several years to develop safety resources and counter-speech campaigns,

“This work includes a dedicated Safety Page for Myanmar, a locally illustrated version of our Community Standards, and regular training sessions for civil society and local community groups across the country.  “Of course, there is always more we can do and we will continue to work with local experts to help keep our community safe.”

Incitement into violence 

The UN’s Fact-finding Mission on Myanmar announced the interim findings of its investigation on Monday.  During a press conference the chairman of the mission, Marzuki Darusman, said that social media had “substantively contributed to the level of acrimony” amongst the wider public, against Rohingya Muslims.  “Hate speech is certainly, of course, a part of that,” he added.  “As far as the Myanmar situation is concerned, social media is Facebook and Facebook is social media.”  A colleague acknowledged that the service had helped people in the country communicate with each other.

But Yanghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, added: “We know that the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities. “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.”

The interim report is based on more than 600 interviews with human rights abuse victims and witnesses, which were carried out in Bangladesh, Malaysia and Thailand.  In addition the team has analysed satellite imagery, photographs and video footage taken within Myanmar.

The report said,

People died from gunshot wounds, often due to indiscriminate shooting at fleeing villagers. Some were burned alive in their homes – often the elderly, disabled and young children. Others were hacked to death.

The government of Myanmar has previously said the UN needs to provide “clear evidence” to support allegations of crimes against Rohingya.  Officials have claimed that “clearance operations” against militants responsible for attacks on police stations ended in September, but that has been disputed.

Refugees and human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have accused the military of carrying out executions, rapes and the burning and bulldozing of hundreds of villages.  The UN has said that the government has attempted to block its efforts to carry out an independent investigation.  Facebook has previously discussed the problems it has faced trying to tackle hate speech in the country.  Last July, it gave the example of policing use of the word “kalar”, which it said could be used both innocuously and as a slur against Muslims.

“We looked at the way the word’s use was evolving, and decided our policy should be to remove it as hate speech when used to attack a person or group, but not in the other harmless use cases,” it explained.  “We’ve had trouble enforcing this policy correctly recently, mainly due to the challenges of understanding the context; after further examination, we’ve been able to get it right. But we expect this to be a long-term challenge.”  A final report from the UN team is due to be published in September.

 

The UK economy is in better shape than expected, Chancellor Philip Hammond is set to say in his Spring Statement.

But he will resist calls from Labour and some Tories to use the extra cash from tax receipts to ease the spending squeeze they say is pushing the public sector to breaking point.  Mr Hammond will argue that the UK’s national debt is still far too high.  But the BBC understands the government has been discussing how to direct more money to the NHS in future.  Senior government figures have told the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg that cabinet ministers have been discussing ways to funnel more money to the NHS in England, including potential future tax rises or a specific tax for health.  While No 10 has publicly maintained the service has what it needs, one senior minister told Kuenssberg “we all accept” more cash is needed, while another said “it’s hard to see” how current funding levels could remain.

A Department of Health spokesman said:

The NHS was given top priority in the recent budget with an extra £2.8bn allocated over the next two years.

In a break with recent tradition, the chancellor will not be using the spring statement as a “mini-Budget”.  The Treasury says there will be no policy announcements or tax and spending measures – they will be held back to the Budget in the autumn – and no photocall outside 11 Downing Street with the chancellor’s red box.  Instead, Mr Hammond will unveil the latest economic forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility in a brief 15-minute statement to MPs at 12:30 GMT.  He is set to unveil consultations on a single-use plastics tax and a possible tax on the profits of digital giants like Facebook and Google.  He is expected to reveal that tax receipts are covering day-to-day government spending for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis.

Borrowing is expected to be up to £10bn lower than expected last year, as a result of better-than-expected tax revenues.  Growth also looks set to be slightly higher than forecast last year – but public debt as a percentage of national income remains well above 80%.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, because what we’re about to see is debt starting to fall, after it’s been growing for 17 continuous years. That’s a very important moment for us,

Mr Hammond told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday.

Financial Crisis

Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “Today the chancellor has a choice. He can choose to act and end the misery faced by many, or he can do nothing and continue to favour a privileged few.  “Our public services are at breaking point and many of our local councils are near bankruptcy.  “He needs to listen to the calls from across the political spectrum, including the Tory council leader in his own constituency – to end the financial crisis in our public sector.”  He said Mr Hammond “must use today to act and end austerity” and warned him against filling his statement with “boastful self-praise and not a recognition of the devastation faced by many in our country”.

Mr Hammond is also facing calls from his own side to call a halt to the public spending squeeze.  Conservative MP and former minister Gary Streeter said the government could afford to be “more generous” to well-organised councils as their funding has been “cut to the bone”.  Tory Brexiteer John Redwood has also argued that the chancellor can afford to borrow to invest in schools, defence and the NHS, and “start to think about how we spend that Brexit bonus that comes as soon as we stop sending so much money to the EU as contributions”.

 

 

The UK economy will grow at a slower pace than any other major advanced or emerging nation this year, according to the OECD.

Ahead of the Spring Statement, the think-tank raised its UK growth forecast to 1.3% in 2018 amid a strengthening global recovery.  This is up from an earlier projection of 1.2%, but is the weakest in the G20.  The OECD predicts the fastest world growth since 2011 this year, helped by US tax cuts and spending in Germany.  The Paris-based organisation said the world economy was on course to expand at an annual pace of 3.9% over the next two years.  This is up from a forecast last November of 3.7% in 2018 and 3.6% in 2019.  However, it warned that the recovery risked being undermined by an escalation in trade barriers that would hurt growth and jobs.

Productivity boost needed

The OECD said higher inflation in the UK would continue to squeeze household incomes.  Weak business investment would also weigh on growth for the next two years amid uncertainty surrounding the Brexit negotiations.  It left its prediction for UK growth in 2019 unchanged at 1.1%. This would be the joint-slowest expansion alongside Japan.  City and academic economists expect the UK economy to expand at an annual pace of 1.5% over the next two years, and Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to reveal a more optimistic outlook in updated official forecasts on Tuesday.

Álvaro Pereira, the OECD’s acting chief economist, urged the UK to introduce more policies to boost living standards, as well as address regional disparities.

Álvaro Pereira said,

We do think that it’s very important for the UK to invest more in productivity enhancing infrastructure. A lot of investment happens in London, it doesn’t happen in many other areas. More needs to be done to enhancing productivity in the rest of the UK.

Global optimism

The OECD’s latest economic outlook showed all but one G20 nation – Russia – was set to grow at a faster pace this year than predicted last November.  Mr Pereira said global growth would be led by a recovery in investment, while an increase in trade volumes of 5.2% in 2017 was expected to continue in 2018.  He said: “Investment is coming back, and so this is very good news for good new for jobs and growth across the economies.”  However, the think-tank warned that trade barriers posed a threat to growth.  Last week, President Trump signed controversial orders imposing heavy tariffs on steel and aluminium.  The European Commission vowed to retaliate if hit by the tariffs.

Mr Pereira said

Any escalation, any retaliation or a tit-for-tat type of scenario would be very damaging,

Mr Pereira said a global trade war would be harmful for the global economy.