Saturday, 31 December 2016

"Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy" by Christian Wolmar

Recently read a very interesting book by Christian Wolmar called "Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy" that, quite concisely, reviews how policies have have changed over the years. This post is based on the book, with a little added linkage.

Wolmar starts back in the 19th century, describing how roads were not up to the challenge of supporting the heavy steam engines being developed at the time, and that the necessary steering and transmission technologies had not yet been developed. This resulted in the 1865 Locomotive Act (knows as the Red Flag Act) which restricted the speed of self propelled vehicles to 4mph in rural areas.

1875 Grenville Steam Carriage

But it also resulted in focus moving towards railways, which did not need steering, were more efficient and could handle the heavy steam engines of the day. By 1900 there were some 18,700 miles of track and mainline speeds averaged about 45mph. Meanwhile, within towns, tram systems became increasingly popular.

An interesting point made by Wolmar is that it was cyclists, in the 1870s, who lobbied for improved roads. Unfortunately for them, these improved roads proved ideal for the first motor cars and soon motorists were lobbying for roads to be prioritised for cars over cyclists, people or animals. These latter groups came to be seen as "obstructing the highway" - a view that still colours thinking today.

Wolmar also mentions that, at the time of WW1, imported cars were being hit with an import duty of 30% - which seems incredible in todays globalised world.

After WW1, the newly formed Ministry of Transport had road and rail in separate sections, with road getting increasing importance as the years went by.

Lobbying by the British Roads Federation during WW2 resulted in postwar commitments and action by Labour and Conservative governments to build a national motorway network, starting with the Preston Bypass in 1958.

In contrast, all of Britain's tram networks (except Blackpool seafront) were closed between 1930 and 1960. Trollybus systems lasted a little longer, as they were cheaper than trams. But soon all of the approximately 50 systems in the UK had closed too. This was happening elsewhere as well - France closed all its tram systems after WW2.

A 1925 Dick Kerr Type Tram,from Leeds.

Wolmar notes however, and with some surprise, that the Conservative Government of the mid 1950s had spent a lot of money (some £26bn in 2016 prices) in modernising parts of the rail network) in order to make it profitable. Something the rail network failed to do.

Huge cuts were made in the rail network following the Beeching report in 1963, again to bring the railways to profitability.

Government started to face the facts in 1968, with a Transport Act that recognised that railways needed government funding for socially useful lines, and closures slowed down dramatically.

Remarkable, even after this there were determined attempts in the 70s and 80s by BR managers and civil servants to cut the rail network very significantly, for example in many of the options presented in the 1982 Serpell Report . [Incidentally, a debate at the Science Museum claimed that 1970s Labour "assumed that as only rich people travelled by rail, it was not right to subsidise the railways by taxpayers"]

From this rail nadir of the early 1980s, passenger numbers increased and there is now cross party support for investment in the rail network, with a planned £38bn of investment between 2014 and 2019.

Wolmar comments that many European cities took a very different view about the value of trams and public transport in general.

Rail Passenger Numbers

Roads are not an infinite resource, so roads lobbyists looked to remove capacity constraints and, with government resigned to a future that was built around cars, the result was the Buchanan Report in 1963. This report tried to reconcile the need to accommodate traffic growth with the need to avoid excessive use of motorways within cities. One of the key recommendations was for the separation of motor traffic and pedestrians. Another was that towns should consider redesigning themselves to meet future car traffic volumes. There was no consideration in the report of how how the recommendations would other forms of transport.

The sheer cost requirements of "Buchananisation" meant that many towns could only afford to implement it in part, as can be seen in the short stretches of dual carriageway, ring roads etc that can often be seen in towns across the UK - with these sections often being built by bulldozing the previous infrastructure.

Fast forwarding to the 1990's and the government mood began to change. This was the era of the Twyford Down bypass and also of a report, in 1994, that found evidence that new roads were, of themselves, attracting new traffic. For example, just 18months after commpletion in 1986, the M25 had reached the traffic flows expected in 2000. This dramatically changed the cost-benefit calculation for a new road and many proposed new road programmes were cancelled.

According to Wolmar, this was when a major opportunity was missed in that a coherent approach to the alternative approaches (public transport, car pricing) was never really developed.

The M4/M25 motorway junction, near Heathrow Airport

Commenting on buses, Wolmar describes how, following reduced passenger numbers (and higher subsidies) in the 1980s, there was a free-for-all privatisation and how the cherry picking of popular routes by the commercial companies has left local councils having to pick up the tab for rural services. All of which is in marked contrast, according to Wolmar, to the way whole operations are franchised out in many European cities, with the authorities specifying what levels of service are required. Wolmar notes how council run bus franchises, such as Nottingham's, routinely win industry awards, showing that the public sector can deliver a high quality service.

Wolmar also comments on the efforts by John Prescott in his 2000 Transport plan to use road pricing to pay for 25 tram systems around the country - but neither the trams nor the road pricing came to pass (with the exception of London's Congestion Charge and Nottingham's tram system) - Wolmar comments on how this partly because other cabinet members did not see transport as a high priority and partly because politicians were terrified of provoking a truckers fuel protest like that seen in 2000.

Modern Tram in Nottingham

Thinking further about (the lack of) joined up government, Wolmar shows an email sent by transport author Oliver Green in which Green explains how Oxford desperately needs trams due to severe traffic congestion and that the trams could link to nearby rail services - but all efforts are stymied by the fact that the City Council, County Council, Network Rail and Highways Agency are incapable of working together effectively. So all that happens is that half hearted park-and-ride schemes and bus lanes are provided.

A very interesting book, concisely written and with some gems of information about the history of transport policy in the UK.

Are Trams Socialist? Why Britain has no Transport Policy"
by Christian Wolmar

A Little Note
Just wanted to mention that the only reason BFTF read this book is because it was mentioned by Jilian Greenwood on Facebook and BFTF happened to later see it on sale at Five Leaves Bookshop. Funny how these thin threads of chance can knit together, no?

Related Stuff
Train Manufacture in Derby
History of Coal Mining in the East Midlands
Nottingham Architecture and Urban Design
Relevant article of Notts urban design by Jones the Planner

Image Sources
Steam Carriage, Tram, Rail Passenger Numbers, M25, Nottingham Tram

Monday, 26 December 2016

Himmah Foodbank 2016

The Himmah foodbank was set up by concerned individuals in the Muslim community to provide help to those in dire economic need in Nottingham - irrespective of faith or no faith - and works with a number of agencies and other organisations in Nottingham to this end. If you wish to donate to the Himmah Foodbank, whether in goods, cash or your time, visit

Made up Foodpacks, ready to go our to those in need....

Contents of a typical foodpack, costing around £5

Each Foodpack cost around £5 and typically contains :
1kg pasta/rice
2 cans soup/bakes beans
2 cans tinned veg/tinned tomatoes
1 item dessert (tinned fruit/biscuits etc)
20 teabags
1 litre UHT Milk
1 pack cereal
1 item from each of any other categories in stock (e.g. pasta sauce, toiletries....)

Below are some of the foodbank donations that have been kindly provided to Himmah and also some of the resulting events that have been undertaken - in particular it is worth noting that Himmah donate food parcels to the Tasty Tuesdays events held every week at Thomas Helwyn Church in Lenton.

A lot is omitted from the list below, especially committee and social justice campaigning that is constantly going on in the background.


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah's first ever Christmas Day Meal for vulnerable, people who are on their own or those who are Homeless in Nottingham was held at Kabul Express in Hyson Green on 25th Dec 2016. All were welcome and it was free. So many thanks are due:
To Kabul Express Restaurant for hosting
To Annie's Burger Shack & Freehouse for food donations
To Louise for for sorting out the non-alcholic mulled wine too.
To Hillocks Primary School for the donations of Crackers
To Charles Washington for ending the event with a reflection/thought/prayer in the form a short song
To Anmarie Spaziano, Louise Regan, Shoana Qureshi-Khan, Vita, Spark Hillocks Primary School, Faizan Brosefzai, Shazia Khan, Maxine Forbes, Paul Singh AND MANY OTHERS

Himmah Christmas Meal

Himmah Christmas Meal Poster


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Louise Regan has been a volunteer and Donator for what seems like years. and she has been the go between for Himmah and those at Sherwood Labour Party who have been collecting for Himmah. Thank you to folk at Hillocks Primary School for the donations of Crackers for the Xmas Dinner. Thank you also to Janet Hautenne for a very kind donation and to Ivan Wels for being a Rock.

Donation from Louise and Hillocks Primary School


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Vita has donated flapjack she made today for the Himmah Christmas Party , also spiced fruit slice. and then boxes of breakfast bars, mash, peanut butter , ketchup , loo roll, kitchen roll, boxes of cereals.

Donation from Vita


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Thanks today to the Wonderful Anmarie Spaziano Emma 'Loki' Kitchen and Steve from Annie's Burger Shack & Freehouse for dropping a quite amazing donation to Himmah. They brought down lots of food donations for the food bank as well as Sacks of Potatoes, Carrots, Brussell Sprouts, Stuffing and Chicken for The Himmah Christmas Community Meal. Pictures cannot show how generous and huge this donation is. they had to use a van and a car!

Donation from Annie's


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : We at Himmah would like to thank Javeria Burwood for collecting some lovely Children's items including some lovely Baskets to give to some local parents in need.

Donation from Javeria Burwood


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : The Himmah Food Bank Himmah would like to thank Staff and Pupils at The Berridge School in Hyson Green for a wonderful food collection.

Donation from Berridge School


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah :Visiting the lovely Louise Cooke at Sharewear today....we are donating duvets and sheets!!

Visit to Sharewear


Dec 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah had the Honour and privilege of being asked by The Syrian Community to help them organize their gathering in Nottingham today. Syrian Refugees and the established Syrian Community of Nottingham all gathered today, to eat and celebrate and also reflect.

Syrian Community Gathering


?? 2016 : On at least three occasions, BFTF has had the trusty i10 rear seat filled with kind donations - once from Shaheen Hafeez; once from a member of the Bahai community called Ali; and once from a kind person in the Sneinton area.

i10 full of donations


Nov 2016 : Via Himmah : A massive thank you to our fabulous sisters at An Nisa Network tonight providing over 75 people at our Salam Shalom Wednesday evening dinner!! It was so professionally prepared and organised as always....even seconds and takeaway for our most vulnerable and needy in our community.

Al-Nisa at SaSh


Nov 2016 : Via Himmah :Himmah would once again like to thank the Sherwood Labour Party for a very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank. you guys have donated on several occasions over the past year or so and we are very grateful for your continued support.


Nov 2016 : Via Himmah :Thank you to the wonderful Caroline Kerr and the good folk at Campfire Convention with a generous donation of food.

Donation from Caroline Kerr / Campfire Convention


Sep 2016 : Via Himmah : A big thank you to the NCVS (Nottingham Community Voluntary Services) for collecting all this food for our food bank. NCVS is a collection point for the Himmah Food bank, so please drop off donation there. Thank you.

Donation from NCVS


Sep 2016 : Via Himmah :Himmah Food Bank would like to thank the wonderful Andrew Calder would another great donation. he is our Rock.

Donation from Andrew Calder


Aug 2016 : Via Himmah : A short video of our work can be found here.


Jul 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Ali Akhbar, Hussain Manny, Mohammed Aamir Ali, and Saqib Mahmood for their very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank helping those in Need in Nottingham. on their behalf of those in need we thank the family for their generosity.

Donation from Messrs Akhbar, Manny, Aamir Ali and Mahmood


Jul 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank the family of Khaddam Al Hajjaj Lala Abdul Malik for their very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank

Donation from the family of
Khaddam Al Hajjaj Lala Abdul Malik


Apr 2016 : Via Himmah : Many wonderful people took part in the Himmah "Food Parcel Challenge" and raised a total of £2,608.68

The Food Parcel Challenge


Apr 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Swaira Alvi and the TSB Nottingham Mortgage Team for volunteering. They helped with shopping for the food bank and then packed Food Parcels ready to go out. they were AMAZING, and even cleaned up the food bank. we cannot thank them enough.

Volunteering by TSB


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Last Wednesday, SASH welcomed the Pakistan Forum. A huge thank you to Dr. Raoof and all his group. Everyone had a wonderful night, the food was delicious and the atmosphere was delightful. We couldn't ask for more!

Pakistan Forum at SaSh


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Andrew Calder for another very generous donation to the Himmah Food Bank

Donation from Andrew Calder


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank the Trustees of MERCY Malaysia UK for a very generous cash donation towards our work in Nottingham with Syrian Refugees.

Donation from Trustees of MERCY Malaysia UK


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Islamic Society - University of Nottingham for collecting for the Food Bank and Syrian Refugees.

Donation from UoN ISOC


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Javeria Burwood for collecting Fem Care products and Baby Products for the Food Bank and Syrian Refugees.

Donation from Javeria Burwood


Mar 2016 : Via Himmah : Since 2011 Himmah has been supporting the Anti-Destitute Group at The Refugee Forum in Nottingham, providing a hot meal at least 1 Saturday every month. we hope this year to be extending this to twice a month and also providing Food Parcels.

We also want to thank the support of Al Majlis Restaurant and it's owner Iftikhar Ahmed who provides the food at no cost to Himmah, volunteering his time and resources for the sake of others. we recommend that you check out Al Majlis Restaurant in Sneinton. the food is great.

Food at Anti-Destitution Meal


Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : Himmah would like to thank Julie Kenny and staff from The Clinical Haematology department at the City Hospital for a very generous collection of items, from creams, shampoos, soaps, too many to mention.

Donation from Julie and the Clinical Haematology Dept


Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : What an interesting evening we had last night, as Himmah invited the Syrian Community to join us for food but also an opportunity for them to be listened to and heard. they shared their experiences of being in Nottingham. and told us how they can be helped and supported by the Nottingham. we will publish our findings very soon. it was noisy, Chaotic but so important. they told us that they were happy that they were finally being listened to , and that what they wanted was being seen as valued.

We have many to thank. our partners at Nottingham Arimathea Trust (Caron Boulghassoul ) and Nottingham & Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum (Rebecca Wilson) for their support with this event.

We served 150 meals on the night and want to thank the food provider Al Majlis Restaurant is working in partnership with Himmah to create positive employment and training opportunities for Syrian Refugees in Nottingham. As a start from Five Star Syrian Chef will start to train 2 trainees to work in the catering industry. This is really a positive initiative which will help to integrate refugees in to mainstream society and enable them to find jobs thereby lessening the burden on the public funds.
this is actually quite exciting
Syrian Community Event


Feb 2016 : Via Himmah : Rev Dr Megan Smith , Vicar at Lenton Holy Trinity , taking delivery of Food Parcels from Himmah (Food Bank) to be given out to those in need at Tasty Tuesdays in Lenton, organised by Dunkirk and Lenton Partnership Forum (DLPF). Tasty Tuesdays is held at Thomas Helwys Baptist Church.

Rev Dr Megan Smith with Himmah Foodbpacks
at Tasty Tuesdays

Related Content
Himmah Foodbank 2015 and earlier

Other Information
Tips on organising a "Bring A Tin" event
It's dead simple and some basic tips can be found here. Contact Himmah (via Sajid 07786 333929 or Farzana 07590258902) if you need food collected.

Other Foodbanks in Nottingham
You can read about the Foodbanks operating in Nottingham, and some testimonies from the people who are helped by them, here.

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Conservative Government 2015 - 2020

A post to hold stuff related to the current Conservative administration, with some references to previous governments.

6) Some examples of sanctions and the effect they have:
Liverpool mum-of-four went without food for a week so her kids had enough to eat
5) Charity says DWP has "no direct evidence for the effectiveness of sanctions"
Link here.
"..a recent report from the National Audit Office (NAO) showed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has no direct evidence for the effectiveness of sanctions, has failed to analyse the data it holds about sanctions, and has refused to share data with other researchers or assist those researchers.

The DWP made itself deliberately blind to the failures of the sanctions regime. But we have seen the harm these sanctions cause. In 2015, our report Time to Rethink Benefit Sanctions revealed that 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions in one year. The NAO now tells us that, on average, these sanctions reduced people’s short- and long-term job prospects, and led to reduced earnings for those who got work."
Emailed and Tweeted Conservatives asking why the DWP were acting in this way, which goes against British Values of transparency and evidenced based policy:
I've received an email from "Church Action on Poverty" which claims that the National audit Office says that sanctions, on average, reduced people’s short- and long-term job prospects, and led to reduced earnings for those who got work. And that the DWP has failed to analyse the data it holds about sanctions, and has refused to share data with other researchers or assist those researchers. Are these claims true?

I can certainly imaging that, if I were sanctioned, I would be less able to search for work as I would be spending my time ensuring that my children had food to eat and that the heating was not cut off. Also I would be less able to buy petrol / bus tickets to attend interviews. It all looks very counterproductive to me.

. --------------------------------------------
4) Government accused of poor response to low Housing build rates
Article here
Comments from the Chairman of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee:
"The Government have accepted the Committee's analysis of the problem, but shied away from the steps needed to address it. In particular, the Government continue to rely on the private sector to build more houses when, as the Committee heard, these builders are incentivised to maximise profit margins not increase the number of houses they build. The Government have failed to recognise the need for local authorities to build more homes and for them to be freed from unnecessary and arbitrary financial restrictions which severely curtail their ability to build...

We are also disappointed that the Government has ignored our suggestion to give a single Cabinet Minister responsibility for ensuring suitable unused public land is made available for developing homes. Without a champion for that work at the highest level in government there is a danger that an opportunity to bring those spaces into productive use will be lost."
Tweeted to Conservatives that their failure to act on this issue was making life very difficult for young people.

3) From Nottingham Labour :
"On Wednesday 14th December the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening announced a new funding formula for schools up and down the country. The Conservative Government’s new method of funding directly targets schools in Nottingham for big budget cuts. While our schools in Nottingham are set to lose tens of millions of pounds by 2019/20, schools in some of the wealthiest areas of England are set for big gains... This latest move quite simply takes money from children in Nottingham only to hand it to wealthy, rural and mainly Conservative voting shire areas such as Wokingham and West Sussex. Other large cities, urban areas and areas with the highest levels of child poverty such as Birmingham and Manchester have been targeted in the same way.

The National Audit Office has said that the scale of the cuts mean that schools in England will have to reduce spending by £3 billion between now and 2019/20.

98% of Nottingham schools will receive lower funding under the new Tory school funding structure (87 out of 89 schools)."

Asked Nottingham Conservatives to comment on these funding changes and why education was being targeted for cutbacks at the same time as corporate taxation was being reduced, corporate tax evasion remains rampant and the number of tax inspectors has been culled.

2) From a Guardian article
NHS Income from private patients
2011-12 : £454 million
2015-16 : £558 million

Patients waiting more than 18weeks for treatment
Oct 2011 : 234,030
Oct 2016 : >360,000 (increase of 54%)

1) A campaign email sent out by Theresa May on her election as Prime Minister, together with BFTF's response (slightly edited)...

I have just been to Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new Government. And I accepted. In David Cameron, I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister. Under David's leadership, the Government stabilised the economy, reduced the budget deficit, and helped more people into work than ever before. But David's true legacy is not about the economy, but about social justice.

From the introduction of same-sex marriage to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a One Nation Government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead. Because not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. And that word 'Unionist' is very important to me. It means we believe in the Union - the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

But it means something else that is just as important. It means we believe in a union, not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens. Every one of us, whoever we are, and wherever we're from. That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you're born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others.

If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working-class boy, you are less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you are educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there's not enough help to hand. If you're young, you will find it harder than ever before to own your own home.

But the mission to make Britain a country that works for everyone means more than fighting these injustices. If you're from an ordinary, working-class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don't always have job security. You have your own home, but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school.

If you're one of those families, if you're just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you're working around the clock, I know you're doing your best, and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we'll think not of the powerful but you. When we pass new laws, we'll listen not to the mighty but to you. When it comes to taxes, we'll prioritise not the wealthy but you. When it comes to opportunity, we won't entrench the advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.

We are living through an important moment in our country's history. Following the referendum, we face a time of great national change. And I know, because we're Great Britain, that we will rise to the challenge. As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world. And we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.

That will be the mission of the Government I lead, and together we will build a better Britain.

Thank you,

Theresa May

Prime Minister

Dear Theresa May

I received the message in the email below from you back in July.

It resonates very deeply with me. It is what I want to hear. You are proposing actions that will make this country a better place.

But, at the same time, I know the following facts :

i) University fees, some of the highest in the developed world, are imposing a crippling burden on young people as they try to make their way in the world, while historically low levels of house building mean prices are high and they will struggle to buy their own homes.

ii) As we speak, this government is ripping the heart out of the NHS by trying to stretch 5 days of elective care into 7 days without extra funding, indeed while imposing BILLIONS in cuts, sorry, "efficiency savings"

iii) Day after day, I read of instances where vulnerable people with physical or mental illness are subjected to heartless and grossly unfair benefit sanctions.

These are not the actions of a government that cares about the common man or woman.

These are the actions of a government that is trying to become a British version of the Tea Party.

...I will have no faith in you while you are treating our young people, our NHS and our most vulnerable in this way.

Yours, very disappointed

Ash Choudry

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Gabions (rocks in wire cages)

Over the last few years, BFTF has noticed the appearance of wire cages filled with rocks (known as "gabions") as a construction material for buildings and in civil engineering - and has been wondering what they are and why they have suddenly started appearing.

Gabion Wall at Nottingham 1

Example of a Gabion abutment
Initially, BFTF thought that they were being used for environmental reasons, to allow wildlife to grow and live in all the nooks and crannies between the rocks.

Then BFTF thought that they were being used as an anti-grafiiti measure, as it is hard to make a recognisable image when the surface is so irregular.

Turns out that gabions have been used for a long time to stabilize shorelines, stream banks or slopes against erosion. They are also increasingly being used in architectural applications for their "natural" look. Maccaferri, a world leader in the technology comment that :
"The Gabion is, in fact, a peculiar tool. It does not impose itself on the surrounding environment: it perfectly blends into it. A Gabion is almost always filled with natural materials: stones/rocks and, where possible, locally available materials can be used to fill the structure, thereby ensuring that very little is added (and removed) to the surrounding nature....The Gabion, furthermore, “joins” the nature that hosts it: plants and trees can “sink” their roots in the interstices left free by the rock fill, helping to strengthen the overall system. Nature is no longer a passive actor: it is indeed called to “work” in synergy with man-made structures. This is the environmental engineering of the future."

Gabion wall at Nottingham 1

Worth noting that, in the urban environment, its a good idea to ensure that "youths" can't get the stones out through the mesh, as this cautionary tale from Sneinton, Nottingham illustrates.

Image Sources

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Nottingham NHS STP Plan

The Sustainability and Tranformation Plan for Nottingham NHS had been published at The plan has to provide for £628 million of cuts from the projected funding required over the next five years.

People may wish to ask the STP team why the STP is being drafted on the basis of funding that is already clearly insufficient and how the NHS will be safe and effective under these plans :,

And perhaps also direct similar questions to the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) at:

Nottingham Healthwatch have commented that:
"It's going to be very difficult and at the end of the day I do genuinely believe we need to find more resources as well as making greater efficiencies. I believe there will have to be more funding....We have been invited to meetings and looked at the plan. I am not critical of the STP as it stands – what I think is it's very ambitious and I remain to be convinced that it can be achieved without the pain we have talked about."
While the local branch of the The Royal College of Nursing state that :
"It's staggering that such significant plans that are going to change the structure of the NHS have been devised with barely a word of conversation with the public about what the change will mean...It is impossible to cut £500 million to £600 million from the NHS and somehow not having a significant and adverse impact on firstly the availability of health care services on which public depend and also the quality of those services in our view..."

38Degrees are running a campaign to halt the implementation of the STP's. The campaign quotes Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt saying that the NHS should be "finding a way forwards to the kind of budgetary arrangements you would have in [US Healthcare companies] Valencia or Kaiser Permanente". 38Degrees also advised people to "..write to our CCGs, Councillors and MPs to say Stop the Contracts!..."

BFTF has contacted the STP Team and the CCG with the following :
The implementation of the STP plans for Nottingham should be halted until a proper public consultation has been undertaken. I am horrified by the possibility that the STP's may lead to US-style organisation structures. The US Healthcare system is not a model that this country should be following.

I am fearful that the STP will result in increased involvement from private healthcare companies who will load up their operations with debt, fleece the taxpayer, avoid tax and avoid responsibility for any wrongdoings.

I would like to see the discussion move towards answering the question of why there is a growing funding deficit in the first place, given that we live in one of the richest countries in the world and yet spend a relatively low percentage of our GDP on healthcare.

The NHS is the most beautiful thing about this country and I see STPs as a threat to it. What can you do to ensure that the STP plans are not pushed through without sufficient scrutiny?

Update (12th Jan) : Received the following feedback from the STP team:

"After the initial period of feedback ends on 16th February, we will produce a report of the key messages from all feedback received including how we are going to take this forward. We will send you a link to that report when it is complete...

...We are carrying out a listening exercise now in order to hear as many people’s views as possible, giving people like yourself the opportunity to have their say. Should proposals emerge where formal public consultation is appropriate, then we will, in addition, hold a public consultation on those specific proposals. We will of course seek to honour all legal and statutory obligations and adhere to best practice in this regard. We are holding a series of public events in January and February and I attach further information on dates and venues."

Tuesday 24 January 10am-12 noon
City Ground (Nottingham Forest Football Club), NG2 5FJ

Thursday 9 February 2017 6-8pm
Newark Town Hall, NG24 1DU

Friday 10 February 2017 2-4pm
Mansfield Central Library, NG18 1NH

Wednesday 22 February 2017 5-7pm
Council House, Nottingham NG1 2DT
(BSL interpreters will be available at this event)

(There is also an event for NUH NHS Trust public members from 10am to 12 noon on Tue 31st Jan at the Education Conference Centre, Nottingham City Hospital, NG5 1PB.)

The public events will include a presentation on the draft STP and examples of how things might change in the way local services are delivered. There will be an opportunity for people to discuss the five ‘high impact areas’ outlined in the plan, provide feedback and suggest other areas for focus. To register your interest in attending any of the events above please call Rosie Atkin on 0115 883 5159 or email Please let us know if you have any specific access requirements.
NHS STP Public events 

BFTF bounced back to the STP team with :
"I remain deeply concerned that acceptance of reduced funding in being built into the STP, when I feel that the STP's should be very clear about the effects that reduced funding, PFI committments, reduction in social care funding etc are having on provision of services and should be pushing back hard to demand the funding that is required to deliver the services that the people of this city deserve."
See also comments and other background at The Kings Fund ; Patients4NHS; a BMJ blog ; HuffPo. See also reports by the Health Foundation on: Comparisons to other Countries
Current NHS Spending in the UK

38 Degrees "NHS Crisis Tracker" here. Nottinghams situation is that 21% of A&E attendees are only seen after 4hrs (max should be 5%) and there is a £628million funding gap)

See also another petition from 38 Degrees, this relates to fears that the Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens [previously global ops president for United Health of America] has created a plan to solve winter A&E crises by CLOSING more A&Es, thinking that . He thinks if you close hospitals people will stop using them...To work [STP plans]they have to be able to prove they can clear their massive debts within a year. To do that they have to close services and sell land and hospitals.

...Simon Stevens says that to make the NHS affordable we, the public, must get used to no longer having a major hospital within easy reach...In 2013 there were 140 full A&E hospitals in England. We could be be left with between 40-70 A&Es. Closing A&Es is very bad for your health.

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Friday, 16 December 2016

Halal Food at Supermarkets

Back in 2010, BFTF interviewed Franz Flogel, who was undertaking some research on the grocery shopping perferences of Muslims in Nottingham. Franz later wrote an article about his research, entitled "ASDA Goes Halal Do British South Asian Grocery Retailers have to Fear ASDA’s new Offers for Muslims?", some extracts from which are summarised in this post.

Back in 2009, ASDA made a big effort to woo Asian shoppers, starting with a revamp of their Hounslow store to give about 20% of the space to Asian products, as reported here by the BBC. Some local Asian shop keepers were not happy, commenting that "Since they [ASDA] have got halal meat there we have lost 90% of our customers," said Naseeb Khan, a butcher and grocer. while corner shop manager Karamjeet Jaspal added "If you buy from cash and carry, it costs me £6 (for) atta (chapati flour), and Asda selling the same stuff (for) £5,".

However, Kalpesh Solanki of Asian Trader Magazine, whilst accepting that some shops would go out of business, commented that small shops needed to offer better service, saying "The managers at Asda aren't going to greet you, aren't going to say 'hello Mr Singh, nice to see you today..They won't do that... your local halal butcher is going to say that,"

Franz looked at the purchasing habits of Muslims who identified as being strongly and weakly religious in Sneinton (which, at the time, lacked "Big 4" supermarkets; Hyson Green (which had both Asian stores and an ASDA; and other areas of Nottingham.

The key results are shown in the article table below:

Franz concludes that :

...Mainstream retailers are challenged to convince stronger religiously identifying consumers that their religious halal products are as trustworthy as products from traditional ethnic retailers, as qualitative interviews and quantitative attitudes analysis showed. Because this consumer group does perceive ethnic shops as much more trustworthy when it comes to halal food shopping compared to mainstream shops. If they successfully do so ethnic shops are in danger of experiencing great losses in market share, because a lot of their advantage in the Muslim food market is due to the perception of higher trustworthiness. This is already visible for the weaker religiously identifying consumer group, which trusts mainstream shops nearly as much as ethnic shops...

Interesting aside : At around the same time, BFTF noted that ASDA were undercutting local Asian shops in the price of Basmati Rice so BFTF went to one of the senior staff at a large Asian store and asked if they wanted to take part in an interview about this practice and how damaging it was to independent stores. They responded that they were a bit reluctant as exactly the same accusation had been levelled at them when they opened their (large) store by owners of (small) local Asian stores

Update Jan 16
Franz has kindly uploaded two more documents relating to his research - here and here.

Image Sources
Original Article

Monday, 12 December 2016

Talk : Biophilic Design by Nicole Porter

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Dr Nicole Porter who is Asst Prof at the University of Nottingham School of Engineering

Dr Porter's presentation was on Biophilic Design and forms the basis for this blog post, together with some information from the subsequent Q&A..and a little extra linkage.

Biophilia has been defined as "the urge to affiliate with other forms of life" by the US polymath E.O Wilson, and Biophilic Design has been defined by Social Ecologist Shephen Kellert as something that aims to "foster peoples physical and mental wellbeing"

Dr Porter took as an example some of the architecture in Seville, such as at the Hospital de los Venerables in Seville. A number of Biophilic design elements can be seen in the picture below, of a courtyard from the former hospital.

There are plants, water, interesting details and textures to look at and touch (check out the pebbles on the step facings), and views that suggest further areas to explore within the building. The colours are natural and relaxing. It is clearly a-nice-place-to-be!

(C)Hospital de los Venerables

These Biophilic Design Elements have been summarised by Nikos Salingaros):

Life (e.g. plants)
Water (e.g. fountains)
Colour (subtle, natural tones)
Gravity (not opposing gravity with cantilevers etc)
Fractals (e.g. geometric art)
Details (textures, complexity on a human scale)
Affordances (views, mystery, refuges)

Asking whether we were hardwired for Biophilia, Dr Porter pointed out that whilst many Biophilic elements were present in ancient homelands such as savannah, they were notably absent from places such as modern offices

Savannah, containing many Biophilic elements 

Offices, containing few Biophilic elements

Attempts have been made to quantify the effects of Biophilic design. For example, a 1984 paper by Roger Ulrich demonstrated that hospital patients who had a view of trees from their recovery room were discharged faster, had fewer negative comments about nurses and used fewer painkillers than similar patients who had a view of a brick wall.

It was also mentioned that indoor plants can reduce the perceived temperature on a hot day by 5C, due to their respiration and the cooling effect of the damp soil they are generally sitting in.

A number of reports have been written on Biophilic Design, or have incorporated Biophilic approaches into their recommendations :

Reducing Violence and Aggession in A&E, by the UK's Design Council.

Urban Green Spaces - A review of evidence, by the WHO

Public Health and Landscape - Creating healthy places, by the Landscape Institute, who list five principles that they believe are essential to the creation of healthy places:

1. Healthy places improve air, water and soil quality
2. Healthy places help overcome health inequalities
3. Healthy places make people feel comfortable and at ease,
4. Healthy places optimise chances for working,learning and development
5. Healthy places are restorative, uplifting and healing

Dr Porter also gave the example of the New Royal Hospital in Liverpool, which has been designed to ensure that the views were pleasant and that it had a well lit, pleasant central atrium.

Impression of New Royal Hospital Liverpool

And in Singapore, there is an "Eco-Office" rating system designed to encourage offices to be more biophilic and environmentally friendly in their design and operation.

Also mentioned was the detail and textures of Nottingham bildings designed by Watson Forthergill, such as the former Nottingham Daily Express building - check out this website focussed on his life and works

Express Building, Nottingham by Watson Fothergill

The value of parks was also discussed, with mention being made of the way in which the planners of New York left a large space for Central Park, and also of the UK's first civil park, in Birkenhead, opened in 1847.

Birkenhead Park

Biophobia, the converse of Biophilia was mentioned by Dr Porter, who pointed out that words matter - "wetlands" get a better press than "swamps" and "algae" is likely to fair better than "slime". Regarding the latter, Dr Porter pointed out that algae covered buildings were a reality, giving the example of the Biq House in Hamburg

It was pointed out in the Q&A that previous cycles of urban delvelopment in the UK have had some very Biophilic design elements, in particular the "Market Garden" towns of the early 20th century such as Welwyn Garden City, founded by Ebenezer_Howard in the 1920s with the aim of being :

"a town designed for healthy living and industry of a size that makes possible a full measure of social life but not larger, surrounded by a rural belt; the whole of the land being in public ownership, or held in trust for the community."

And of course, the later and well known Milton Keynes

A balance has to be had, however, between the wish to have lots of parkland for Biophilic reasons, and the wish to keep people relatively close to a centre so they can walk / cycle around quickly.

Dr Porter also noted how efforts to humanise town centres, such as pedestrianisation, were often resisted by shop keepers who feared lower passing trade. Whereas the reality was that trade would increase as people became more relaxed in the area. Eateries could also take advantage of the new space by placing tables and chairs outside, indeed, they would pay higher rates to be allowed to do so.

There is some overlap between Biophilia design and the "Blue-Green" urban design movement that aims to developed new strategies for managing urban flood risk as part of a wider, integrated urban planning approach. An example of this design in Nottingham can be seen in the "Rain Gardens" that have been installed in Ribblesdale Road, Sherwood, and which are estimated to reduce storm surge runoff to drains by 33%.

Rain Garden, Nottingham

Lastly, and nothing to do with the subject at hand, very interesting to hear someone mention the Bromley House Library

Very interesting discussion!

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Image Sources
Savannah, Office, Building, Rain Garden

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The difference between NUMBERS and RATES

Was talking to No3 Son recently about a piece of science homework in which he had to chart and comment on 2012-2014 cancer statistics. The data was a great example of how the NUMBER of cases can give a very different picture to the RATE of cases. Looking at the NUMBERS chart (red) one might think that 70-79 is where the biggest danger lies. This may be misleading as the graph shows the number of cases not the rate (e.g. per 100,000 people).

Using 2011 census data from Wikipedia, one can work out the number of cases per 100,000 people (blue chart). It is clearly different and now you can see that the older you are the more chance you have of getting cancer.

2012-2014 Cancer Data


Cancer RATES

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