Author Archives: Sean

Go-op Train

First Co-operatively Owned Rail Service On Track

An ambitious move to launch the UK’s first co-operatively managed rail service
has moved a step closer as Go-op hands in a formal application to run services
in the South West of England.

Go-op has applied to the Office of Rail and Road to run services between Taunton and Westbury, starting in 2023. This will see ten departures a day, improving the service levels in growing market towns, such as Frome and Melksham.

Alex Lawrie of Go-op

“Go-op has taken several years of careful research and planning to ensure that our plan is both compliant with the highest standards of rail operation, and commercially viable too,” says Alex Lawrie, Vice Chair at Go-op. “As a co-operative, not only can Go-op improve transport links for some of our important local growing towns but we could help reduce CO2 emissions by 2.7 million kilogrammes annually if people move their journeys to our railway.”

Independent experts estimate that as many as 40% of passengers would be new to the rail network and this equates to some 17.5 million seat miles each year, with a significant number likely to shift from travelling by car.

And a Go-op study of productivity benefits* shows up to £37.5 million of productivity gains could result for towns in the south west served by Go-op.

Go-op services between Taunton and Westbury will also provide much needed connections for services to and from Yeovil, Southampton and Exeter. In addition, half will be extended to Swindon, and others up the Somerset coast to Weston Super Mare.

As a co-op, members of the public and Go-op employees will own and manage the organisation, with train operation and day to day running being professionally run, just like any other train business.

But unlike other train operating companies, Go-op will be seeking investment from passengers and the local community to make this service a reality. What’s more, Go-op does not distribute profits to private owners – after paying all expenses (including a fair rate of interest to investors) all remaining profits will be devoted to further improvements to public transport.

With a target of £1.1 million, Go-op is to launch a funding round focusing on ethically-minded investors who would like to see a sustainable community-owned railway and good potential returns on their investment.

Following an industry consultation, Wiltshire Council, Somerset Council, Cross Country Trains and the DfT have all expressed support for the proposal.

New Train Drivers for the Future

Go-op is also looking forward to train new apprentice train drivers, new community energy specialists and new transport planning technicians, bringing new talent and innovation to a struggling industry and protecting communities for the future.

Apprentices will earn whilst they learn, qualifying to work for the UK’s first community-owned train company and elsewhere in the sector.

“A debate about private versus nationalised rail system misses out the benefits that a co-operatively owned train business can bring,” says Alex Lawrie. “We are confident that we can bring together the benefits of a community and worker focus to create a sound commercial operating model.”

Janet Redler Travel logo

Start of an exciting new era for Shrewsbury travel business

Janet Redler Travel

Janet Redler Travel & Tourism, an independent tour operator which specialises in luxury and tailor-made inbound tours, has announced it will begin trading as Janet Redler Travel Limited with immediate effect.

Janet Redler Travel & Tourism was set up as a partnership 11 years ago by travel experts Janet Redler and Nick Bardsley, who have over 40 years’ industry experience between them. During this time, the Shrewsbury business has built up a reputation for premium tours to the UK and Ireland for groups and individuals from all over the world.

Established as a family business, the limited company will continue this tradition, as Janet’s son Neil and daughter-in-law Dawn join Janet and Nick on the board of the new company.

Managing Director Janet Redler said: “We’re delighted to take this important step in becoming a limited company.

Janet Redler

“As for all travel businesses, the last two years have been challenging, but as a family-run organisation we were flexible enough to adapt and survive. For example, last year for the first time, we successfully delivered a number of group tours in Wales and Scotland for an online UK travel agent which specialises in single travellers.

“Our business has really taken off again in the last couple of months and we are bringing in two extra staff to help deal with the increase in enquiries. There is huge pent up demand from people desperate to travel to the UK and Ireland once again, and we’re looking forward to welcoming them.

“We have for some time intended to transfer to a limited company, not only because it makes business sense, but because it is a key part of bringing the next generation of Redlers into our family business.

“Becoming a limited company is a significant milestone for us and we’re looking ahead to an exciting future as international travel returns to growth.”

As a limited company, Janet Redler Travel aims to continue to deliver the luxury, tailor-made tours for singles, families, and groups of all sizes – from a handful to a hundred and more – that it is best known for, and the team is determined to maintain the friendly, personal service it prides itself on.

Find out more about Janet Redler Travel at www.janetredlertravel.com.

Photo of lots of buttons

Is the environment worth a button?

In his latest blog Sean looks at how focussing on small items might be important in tackling climate change

At a recent conference, delegates were discussing the future of the planet and the actions individuals and businesses could take to make a significant impact on climate change.

Ideas ranged from giving up on fossil fuels entirely to energy efficiency and a switch to electric only cars. This latter idea coming hot on the (w)heels of a Government announcement that new petrol and diesel cars ‘could’ be phased out from 2035.

This sort of grand headline-grabbing initiative – though weakened by the use of the word could – is a hallmark of governments wanting to make their mark and be noticed. Interestingly, one of the next government announcements was about a proposed bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, to encourage cars to drive between the two.

But in many ways, the seriousness by which we should judge the action of businesses in relation to big issues like climate change is probably not by grand gestures or announcements, nor fundraising to help species affected by the Australian bushfires, but rather by buttons.

Yes, you read that right, buttons. Hundreds of factories in Qiaotou in China produce more than 60% of all buttons and with one factory reportedly making between 2 and 3 million buttons a day, that’s a hell of a lot of buttons.

Green button

Should all buttons be green?

Buttons have been the main way of doing up clothes for decades now, which means there have been billions of buttons made, usually from one plastic or another.

Clearly, the world doesn’t need any more buttons as almost all of those manufactured over the years are still in existence – as we know plastics are very persistent.

So why are buttons not stripped from used clothing and re-entered into the manufacturing process? Well, it’s obviously the economics (stupid) but the current system is not ecologically sustainable.

Next time you buy a new shirt or skirt with multiple buttons, think about all the millions that are either in landfill around you or that have ended their days in incinerators. What a waste!

The cynic in me feels that until we grasp the small things – like buttons – and find a way to seriously cut down on the numbers we need each year, we are not going to address climate change in the way we need to.

Who fancies setting up a button reuse and recycling company?

Could you help shape co-operation for the next 20 years?

Enthusiastic young co-operators are being sought to co-produce the ‘2020 Vision’ conference in Birmingham in 2020.

Co-operative Futures is organising 2020 Vision as it approaches its 20th anniversary next year. The conference will have a firm focus on the future. What will the world look like in 2040? What will be our big societal challenges and what are our opportunities?

• What role will Artificial Intelligence and other technological developments play in the future?
• How will our lives have to change in order to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change?
• How will an ageing population and the changing demographics of society play out in 20 years’ time?
• What will the political landscape look like?
Are you under 30?

Are you already engaged with, or interested in finding out more about the co-operative or social enterprise sector? Would you like to increase your knowledge of community led enterprises and mutually owned businesses? Would you like the opportunity to shape the direction of the sector and have your voice heard? Would you like to gain some hands-on practical experience of conference organisation and facilitation?

If the answer to any of the above questions is yes, then we’d love to hear from you and tell you more about how you can get involved with helping to run 2020 Vision with us.

Said Jo White from Co-operative Futures: “We are really interested in hearing from people under 30 who can help us design our conference. Their input will really help us to create an event that not only celebrates the co-operative successes of the past 20 years, but also helps shape how co-ops develop in the next 20.”

If you are interested, then please contact Jo by Monday 23rd December 2019 on jo.white@futures.coop or 07879 415550.

About the conference:
Future Co-ops 2020 will be taking place on 7th and 8th February 2020 at The Beeches conference centre in Bournville, Birmingham. Booking will open soon and places can be secured by visiting https://futures.coop/2020-vision.

London Capital Credit Union adds support to those affected by Hurricane Dorian

London Capital Credit Union has joined credit unions around the world to help those affected by Hurricane Dorian, which hit The Bahamas at the beginning of September.

The devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian prompted the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions to initiate Project Storm Break to provide financial support to those affected in The Bahamas, and almost $200,000 (£162,000) has so far been raised, including a donation from London Capital Credit Union.

Project Storm Break funds are initially being distributed to help credit unions provide members and staff with emergency supplies. The money is also helping credit unions get back up and running so they can provide much needed cash and other financial services to their members.

According to the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions, credit unions on the island of Grand Bahama were the hardest hit. The Grand Bahama Co-operative Credit Union suffered major flooding and roof damage at its branch in Freeport, the main town on the island. Four employees, including the branch manager, also lost their homes in the storm. In addition, four other credit unions suffered damage to their Freeport branches.

On Abaco—the other island hardest hit by Dorian—there was at least some good news. The Teachers and Salaried Workers Credit Union branch in Marsh Harbour suffered no damage, and is located in one of the few structures left standing on the island.

Mike Reuter, Executive Director of the Worldwide Foundation for Credit Unions, said: “We want to help these community-based institutions get back in business and servicing members as soon as possible – even if it is in a parking lot tent or other temporary location for now. Getting these credit unions back on their feet is the best step we can take to getting their members back on a path to a sustainable future.”

Elaine Greaves, Director at London Capital Credit Unions

Elaine Greaves, Director at London Capital Credit Unions

 

Elaine Greaves, Director at London Capital Credit Union added: “We’re pleased to have played a small part in the fundraising effort by making a donation from our credit union and we hope other groups and individuals can also support the rebuilding of credit unions in The Bahamas by making their own contribution.”

To find out more about Project Storm Break and to make a donation, click here.

London Capital Credit Union is hiring

London Capital Credit Union is hiring. Please see below for details of the role as Loans support Officer and how to aaply.

“We are offering an exciting opportunity to work in the financial services sector with a dynamic and rapidly growing co-operative business as a Loans Support Officer, working in credit control.

London Capital Credit UnionWe are recruiting a Loans Support Officer – Credit Control, to be based at our head office near Archway tube station in North London. This is a full time, temporary three month contract (may become permanent), at a salary of £13.56 per hour (£26,796pa).

The credit union is a savings and loans co-operative that is dedicated to encouraging saving and dealing with debt. Owned and democratically controlled by its members, the credit union is seeking a hard-working and committed individual to serve as part of a small team of Loans Support Officers.

We are looking for an enthusiastic candidate to help us continue to build our successful co-operative business by establishing a rapport with members, applying credit control policies, assisting with loan decision making, and maintaining high levels of member satisfaction. We operate in the fiercely competitive financial services market and want to train new committed staff who will assist us in continuing to grow our credit union.

The main duties and responsibilities of the Loans Support Officer role will be to:

Implement the bad debt recovery policy, particularly early stages
Assist members facing difficulty in repaying their loan to the credit union
Help apply the eligible deduction loans service procedures
Liaise with debt collection agencies to maximise recovery rates
Actively trace borrowers in arrears who have changed address
Reschedule loans in accordance with policy to minimise cost of provisioning
Notify the line manager of any loans in arrears of particular concern
Ensure that adequate provision for bad debt is made in the accounts
Enter debt recovery actions on Curtains as appropriate
Assist the Supervisory Committee (internal audit) in their monitoring duties
Assist with member services functions as and when required
Maintain good customer service
The postholder must work within the policies and procedures of the credit union at all times.

The successful applicant must demonstrate that they have:

Direct experience of dealing with loan applications
Direct experience of credit control enforcement procedures
Excellent verbal and written communications skills
Accurate record keeping & reporting skills
A commitment to undertaking training and development
Good numeracy skills
An ability to use a range of ICT efficiently
Excellent telephone manner
An ability to work flexibly as part of a team
An understanding/commitment to equalities issues
A friendly, supportive yet assertive manner.

It is also desirable that applicants have:

A knowledge and understanding of the credit union movement
A commitment to the aims and objectives of the credit union movementClick here to find out more about the role and to apply. Applications must be received no later than 9am on Monday 25 March 2019.”

Business needs to change to avoid climate breakdown

In his latest blog Sean looks at how business should be reducing its dependence on carbon

All but the very sceptical now accept that our climate is changing and serious action is needed to slow down the damage caused to our environment.

The recent report by the UN international Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has said that we have about 12 years to ensure that we don’t exceed the 1.5 degree increase in global warming and has outlined some of the serious consequences of missing the target – even by only half a IPCCdegree Celsius.

At the time of its publication, there was much media coverage, which is great in raising awareness of this important subject, but there doesn’t seem to have been any significant business response.

As individuals, we all have a role to play in reducing energy use and thus global warming, but small changes by big businesses by definition have the potential to make a disproportionately large impact.

In the last few weeks, two examples of business practices which seem to take no recognition of the importance of climate change have stood out to me. In no way am I criticising the businesses behind these practices, it’s a competitive world out there, but they do highlight how big a sea change is needed in business thinking if we are ever going to reduce our dependence on carbon and perhaps save the environment.

First example. Recently, my friend’s car had to go to the garage due to a damaged AdBlue tank – yes, it’s diesel, that’s a whole different blog – but not only did the new tank have to come from mainland Europe the car had to be shipped from Wrexham to the North East of England to a specialist repairer. All of which was anything but zero carbon.

Today, businesses are becoming so complex and specialised that they build in even more carbon to their business operations.

Second example. Recently, we had to have a small wall rebuilt after an insurance claim. True, many of the bricks could be salvaged and were therefore reused, but the insurance company has a contract for such works with a building contractor. The work took two days and the builder drove 50 miles each way to undertake the work. Why wouldn’t the insurance company contract the work to a local builder, which would reduce traffic as well as reducing carbon emissions?

As I mentioned earlier, these examples are not unique to the businesses concerned and on their own don’t amount to much, but when you consider the imperative businesses have to grow and how many businesses will be doing something similar every day across the globe, the only conclusion I can come to is that businesses need a real shake up in how they operate.
To date, there’s little evidence that many are about to do so.

I hope I am wrong.

Cae Post develops online shop

Cae Post, an innovative social enterprise based in Powys, has recently taken delivery of a stock of recycled plastic Eco Potagators to sell in support of their charity.

PropagatorMade out of recycled yoghurt pots, these propagatorsare designed to be turned upside down once seedlings have outgrown the propagator and this then makes an attractive blue plant pot.

Cae Post believes in promoting the use of recycled materials as a way to stimulate demand for them and to ensure that recycled materials retain their value. For over 30 years, Cae Post has provided employment and access to work for disadvantaged people in the Powys and North Shropshire area combined with environmental action. They believe work is central to how people see themselves and that people with a range of disabilities, or who are disadvantaged in the labour market, should be given the same opportunity of contributing to their community through work.

As a charity and social business involved in the collection and recycling of materials – including plastics – Cae Post believes it is important that a market is created for these waste materials. This then makes it profitable to collect the materials. Without an outlet for collected recyclates, their value is much lower.

Cae Post was set up to provide meaningful work experience and jobs to people left behind in the labour market. By selling items on its website, Cae Post aims to give people meaningful work in processing the orders, packaging and sending them out. It’s not solely about making a profit but about giving dignified work to people. This is not Cae Post’s main source of revenue or the biggest activity it undertakes, but one which is crucial to their mission of combining work opportunities and environmental actrion.

As a social enterprise, Cae Post says it is always looking for new opportunities to grow the business in a way that marries its purpose of combining environmental action with tackling exclusion and inequality in the labour market.

Click here to find out more about Eco Potagators and to purchase online.

Centre for Alternative Technology Revisited

In his latest blog Sean looks back at visits to the Centre for Alternative Technology

It must be about 16 years since I was last at the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT)  near Machynlleth in Mid Wales.

For those that don’t know of it, it’s a pioneering education charity based in a former slate quarry, which has used the site to trial a number of alternative technologies over the years, and today it is using many of them still to power the site.

When I visited the Centre for Alternative Technology in the early days of Ethos public relations it was to discuss an ethical online web portal, which one of our clients was involved in. Times have certainly changed as far as the internet is concerned and, no doubt, that’s true in the field of alternative energy technologies too.

View from water balanced cliff railway at Centre for Alternative TechnologyI remember arriving at the site of CAT the first time, after a beautiful train journey from Manchester, and being impressed by the water-balanced cliff railway which takes you from road level up to the visitor centre.

As with many of the technologies showcased at CAT, the cliff railway works using the simplest of technologies, namely gravity. The two carriages are linked by a steel rope and when one goes down due to the combined weight of its passengers and water tank, the other carriage travels up the cliff face, with some stunning views.

On my recent visit, another ancient technology was being displayed, though with a modern twist. Burning wood for cooking and heating can hardly be described as an alternative technology, given that millions of people around the world rely on it day in and day out, but at CAT there is an innovative display of boilers that use wood pellets to produce both electricity and heat. Obviously, managed properly wood is a sustainable fuel and so provides an alternative to fossil fuels. If we want to work towards a zero carbon economy, then this might be part of the solution.

For many years, I have thought that solar panels for domestic and industrial premises should be fitted as a matter of course instead of roofing tiles, rather than on top of an existing roof. At CAT, that’s what they have on the café.

Solar panel roof at Centre for Alternative Technology

Over the past 16 years many things have changed dramatically in the field of low carbon energy generation, whether that is the growth of offshore wind energy generation or the increasing number of homes with photovoltaic cells on their roofs, but what we still have not seen is a widespread belief in using alternative technologies from the start of a project rather than as an add on.

But there still seems to be a lot of antipathy to wind and solar, in spite of their obvious benefits. Ethos public relations has worked with community biodiesel and community wind energy operators in the past and have, in a very small way, helped get the message out about the benefits of reducing carbon dependency. There is still much to be done.

So keep up the good work CAT, keep promoting the alternatives and helping to put sustainability into practice…

Commemorating 70 years since Victory in Japan

Saturday 15th August 2015 marks the 70th Anniversary of Victory in Japan (VJ Day)

COFEPOW - Children of far East Prisoners of War logoThis important anniversary of VJ Day is being marked by national charity COFEPOW, as part of its aim to ensure that World War Two Far East Prisoners of War are never forgotten.

 

Key events to commemorate Victory in Japan Day

Saturday 15th August 2015

At 2pm, there will be a Service of Remembrance at Lichfield Cathedral to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of VJ Day. There will be an Address by Terry Waite CBE, and the service will be followed by performances from the West Midlands Fellowship Band and the West Midlands Police Choir.

Sunday 16th August 2015

At 12.15pm, there will be a service at the COFEPOW Memorial Building at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire. The service will be conducted by David Childs CBE RN (Rtd) and will be followed by the blessing and re-dedication of the building and the opening of the new FEPOW Remembrance Garden. There will also be a Royal Air Force fly past by a world famous DC-3 Dakota Transport Plane.

Key facts about Victory in Japan

• At 6.10 on the evening of 15th February 1942, Lieutenant General Percival surrenders to the Japanese in Singapore.

• Almost 200,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers became prisoners of war in the Far East.

• Thousands were held in Singapore’s Changi Prison, where many died.

• Thousands more left Singapore on prison ships – “hell ships” – to be used as forced labour in other parts of Asia.

• Nearly 10,000 of these men died building the Burma-Thailand railway.
• Thousands of others died as a result of starvation, barbaric treatment and tropical diseases.

• Civilians fared no better. Tens of thousands were killed by the Japanese.

• The Japanese surrendered on 15th August 1945.

• By then, 50,000 prisoners of war had been killed.