Thursday, 27 October 2011

Is Aviation a Net Contributor to the Exchequer?

Twitter is not the place for complex arguments about economics, but we were challenged by John Morris from Birmingham Airport over what we said in the Birmingham Post about the claims that the airport is good for our economy today.

We have produced an in-depth report for the DfT's consultation on aviation, which revealed that last year aviation was responsible for a net loss of over 85 000 jobs in the region, so obviously they were not happy with such a negative story going in the press at this sensitive time.

John Morris claimed that "aviation is a net contributor to the exchequer, unlike other public transport." so let's examine that a little:

Firstly, the UK needs some aviation so shutting it down does not make sense, but the benefits aviation can yield have already been realised and further expansion yields little extra benefit, but a lot more costs including more noise, more emissions and more outbound tourism. The business benefits are flattening off (as probably evidenced by the business share of passengers dropping as passenger numbers increased overall) but the outbound tourism costs are linear with increase of passengers.

Secondly, let's look at what a "net contributor" is and on what basis this can be claimed. He implies that they receive no revenue from the government but instead pay some tax including APD. However, they also forego payment of tax and duty on fuel, VAT on tickets, and can claim back VAT even though they don't pay it (zero rated rather than VAT exempt). They also receive subsidies in other forms (e.g. they rarely pay for the full costs of extra surface access infrastructure that enables passengers to get to the airport). So they can only be a "net contributor" if you ignore all the ways in which they are not taxed and the ways in which the government pays costs that rightly should be paid for by the aviation industry.

Thirdly, aviation is not a form of public transport by any reasonable definition, so you cannot compare it as like-for-like with trains, trams or buses.

I'm afraid they really don't understand what planet we're on:

Joe Peacock

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Selling Christmas Consumption Already!

There's still a month to go until our annual Santa Parade for Buy Nothing Day, yet already we're seeing horrific amounts of advertising pushing the message of what we need to make us happy.

This advert by Littlewoods really does take the biscuit:

It reminds us that we should be promoting videos like this one from FoE International, which gives a much more realistic translation of what we're being told :

We have been out on the streets of Birmingham doing the Santa Parade for over a decade now and our picture from last year's Buy Nothing Day won us our first ever Earthmover's Award at Friends of the Earth's local groups conference:

As you can see, we have some tried and tested slogans for our placards, but it has been suggested we could crowd-source some more for this year. So if you have any ideas to add to the likes of:
"Money Can Buy You Love"
"Debt; it's what Christmas is all about"
"Buy More Be Happy"
"Work! Spend! Don't Think!"

please add them in the comments or email them to us and if you'd like to join us this year, we have loads of Santa outfits, so the more, the merrier!

Joe Peacock

Friday, 21 October 2011

Weekly compilation 21.10.11

Here is our weekly news update with some of the most relevant stuff we've picked up from twitter:

Energy and Climate Change
Have you signed @wwwfoecouk's petition to stop the energy company rip-off? Thought so, but we need a #finaldemand

RT @wwwfoecouk: 2,700 die a yr in cold homes Need inquiry into Big 6 & clean #energy #FinalDemand

RT @TheNewDeal: Top Climate Change Skeptics Admit Climate Change is Real, Science is Right Rt #OWS #p2

For those of you in London or within easy reach, there's a protest against biofuels fuelling climate meltdown tomorrow:

So if Shell want to keep global temp rise below 2 degrees, are they going to stop core business? Will Tesco change?

RT @the_ecologist: Ignore the sceptics, the 'peak oil brigade' is right #peakoil #climatechange #oiladdiction

RT @MikeChilds1: we need CCS for biomass & air capture if any hope of avoiding dangerous climate change, see

RT @EnergySvgTrust: Fuel poverty report concerning... Take advantage of free/ subsidised insulation across the UK

93.8% of respondents to poll on whether Govt is doing enough to bring down household energy prices, agree they're not:

RT @pauldezylva: Hot air: #energy summit was a wasted opportunity coming up with nothing new. #coldcomfort #fuelpoverty

Sea levels will continue to rise for 500 years:

You really should watch the video on the @wwwfoecouk website of Monday's #finaldemand campaign launch:

We thought the Selly Oak by-pass was attempting to deal with congestion, so why build new development with 1750 car-parking spaces there?
See the plans for Selly Oak regeneration (excluding the promised work to the canal) here and see what you think:

So, govt has abolished regional spatial planning strategies and claims their policies will protect green belt!

Here councillors talk as if it's happening: RT @Bournvilleward: ASDA drops plans for road entrance on Pershore Road

Good write-up of Friday's #savebhammarkets meeting:

"Developing a Sustainable Framework for UK Aviation" - see our response to the consultation:

This report says 40% of business leaders say airport expansion would have a positive effect - the other 60% don't then:

RT @Walkonomics: On days off, William and Kate use bike hire to get around #London #bikeshare #cycling

More rubbish on the need for airports in the UK economy and the huge increase in flights we could suffer in Birmingham:

New guidance on the design of shared space streets:

@guardianeco: Will the High Speed 2 rail line reduce emissions?

Good to see that 68% in this poll say there should be no expansion of London airports: - none here either, please!

If the EU ETS ... forces airlines to reduce their carbon emissions the EU is to be congratulated on a bold move:

RT @Road_Safety_GB: Concern for cyclists following longer trailer announcement -

Hope that Justine Greening is the person to green the transport agenda in the UK - the opposite of Hammond:

Waste & Recycling
Has anyone looked at the Birmingham Civic Dashboard and come up with any conclusions about its usefulness?

Some good news - it seems people at the council are paying attention to what we're saying about waste: #halverubbish

New post on the blog about campaigning vs taking part in consultations:

Government getting closer to be being "worse than Bush" on the@guardianeco Greenometer now:

RT @MikeChilds1: nationalise energy companies, insulate homes or scrap green taxes - Telegraph poll; - guess the winner

RT @danielvockins: In case you missed it: Sacha Baron Cohen in character as his latest creation Lord Monckton

RT @loafonline: Wish I could make it to the Edible Eastside opening today: - yes looks good.

Putting the clocks back is daylight robbery. Let’s have more #daylight in our lives. Join via @1010

Consultations and campaigning

Sometimes I think that my job consists of taking part in one massive great big never-ending consultation. This week we've submitted over 30 pages of work on the National Planning Policy Framework and the Framework for Sustainable Aviation.
I am very lucky to have some great volunteers to call on within our group who have put together some really excellent in-depth work to help in this, but sometimes you wonder whether it's all worth it and whether anybody actually reads what you've spent all those hours working on.
Wouldn't it be better to join the direct action of occupying some public space to make your points, being part of some exciting revolution?
We recently got a quote in the Daily Mail about the biofuels flight at Birmingham airport, but that was probably because of the Plane Stupid protestors who stripped off to make their point.
It brings me to ask "is our campaigning most effective when we're providing detailed evidence in consultations,

or when we're out making a visual point on the streets?"
I guess that you can't do one without the other. If we didn't have the evidence to back up what we're calling for, we couldn't be confident in dressing up to make the point.
I really enjoyed Just Do It but came out of it thinking, "I still don't feel that is the best way of achieving change and I don't want to spend all that time being arrested". Friends of the Earth don't do direct action that breaks the law in this country, but do recognise the value of fun visual street campaigning.
To keep our volunteers engaged, we have to make sure we do some of the fun stuff as well as the in-depth research and engaging with consultations. We just need to find the gaps to fit it in between them all.

Joe Peacock

Monday, 17 October 2011

New Supermarkets vs. Unemployment

Unemployment in Birmingham is a huge problem. As Paul Dale, Public Affairs Editor of The Birmingham Post, recently said on twitter "Unemployment rate in Brum 12.9 per cent. A human tragedy, and a disgrace."
And he’s not wrong. In the West Midlands alone, unemployment rose by 8,000 (to a total 234,000 people) between June and August this year. (
Therefore, the fact that the majority of the newly proposed supermarkets are claiming that they will be able to provide thousands of jobs has been a major argument in favour of them. In fact, when looking into their potential development, it is impossible to avoid seeing the huge numbers of jobs they claim they will be offering, pulling people out of unemployment. (See this link for an example -
However, a study has shown that supermarket creation was proven to actually decrease employment. The study, (found here, cites Association of Convenience Stores Chief Executive, James Lowman, explaining how “we know all too well the damage that can be done to high streets if the wrong supermarket is built in the wrong place. Local businesses often have to cut staff and some even are forced to close as a result of a new development nearby.” Therefore, the number of opportunities offered by supermarkets is completely negated by the amount of jobs lost when other businesses are overwhelmed.
Considering how big an issue unemployment is currently in Birmingham, the seemingly endless newly proposals of supermarkets/supermarket extensions the result could be catastrophic. More unemployment is absolutely the last thing we want.

Friday, 7 October 2011

weekly compilation 07.10.11

Here are the news stories relevant to our campaigns that we picked up through the twittersphere over the last week:

Weren't expecting to be in the Daily Mail, but there is our quote alongside naked @planestupid protestors: #biofuels

Looks like road-building schemes are firmly back on the agenda now, unfortunately:

RT @birminghammail: Will a Fat Tax solve Brum's obesity crisis? - not on its own -more active transport/fewer cars, too

RT @birminghammail: Just added: Designer of Spaghetti Junction blasts plans to increase speeds to 80 mph

Airlines can be charged for carbon pollution, court rules: - that's better. Now what about paying fair share of tax?

RT @Earth_News: Green campaigners condemn Thomson Airways' biofuels flight @guardian

RT @wwwfoecouk: Environmental benefits as cash-strapped drivers cut petrol use by 15% #transport #fuel

In the fast lane to climate change: enforcing current limits & bringing in 20mph on residential roads is what's needed.

RT @AirportWatch: Airlines urged to throttle back on seat capacity due to lower demand this winter, or lose money:

At least they are protecting some potential sites for re-opening rail lines. Shame they didn't with Frankley:

RT @BirminghamPress: Birmingham Friends of the Earth calls for a scrapping of all biofuel targets

RT @BirminghamPress: As part of the SAVE OUR MARKETS campaign there will be a public meeting #Birmingham

RT @BrumLife: Birmingham residents consulted on Tyseley £60m revamp plan #Birmingham

RT @pauldezylva: Latest ministerial attacks on #green NGOs over #planning #NPPF @AndrewLainton

RT @wwwfoecouk: Tory Nimbies: the Ministers backing #planningreforms who opposed developments in own back yards #NPPF

Our "What A Waste" report, written in conjunction with@chamberlainfo, is now available to download from our website:

We revealed these shocking facts about Birmingham's Big Burner, the Tyseley Incinerator at the Sustainability Forum.

Doubt Bham has 87% satisfaction rates with its waste collection system: #foodwaste #weeklycollections #talkingrubbish

RT @christineburns: Poster: She needs a maternity unit NOT a weekly bin collection:

Energy & Climate Change
RT @MikeChilds1: Do read new research published by Royal Society on a 4 degree world: - rich pickings for journos

RT @wwwfoecouk: Policy isn't green! Over 100 top scientists & economists call on EU to account for #biofuel emissions

RT @guardianeco: Can the Conservatives weaken the UK's carbon reduction targets? | Damian Carrington

RT @wwwfoecouk: EU admits oil from #tarsands is dirtier than conventional crude oil #climatechange #energy

"The Chancellor clearly can't do his sums" but luckily Birmingham city council can and want more renewable energy:

RT @carbonbrief: Osborne attacks impact of green measures on energy bills - where is he getting his numbers from?

New report finds Shell complicit in human rights abuses: - We should do all we can to protect Nigerian people.

So, can we have energy-saving gadgets? RT @guardianeco: Energy bills & emissions still rising due to gadget addiction;

RT @robinhood: Stand with #OccupyWallSt and demand real democracy! Send a message of support:

New blog post "Being Negative All the Time?":

RT @LocaliseWM: Still places at our Community Land Trust training day with @community_land Oct 19th in Birmingham.