Could local public banks allow our region to do things independently of London?

Guest blog by Marie McCahery of Bradford

When I’ve attended devolution conferences, I’ve found them interesting but at the same time I’ve been astonished that local public banking is never on the table as an option for achieving financial independence.

Upon extensive study of monetary and banking reform I have become convinced, with many other people, that local public banking is the most achievable way for localities to gain some measure of financial independence, to fund the initiatives they decide they need. I think that devolution to local cities provides a fantastic opportunity for this option to be investigated further as local public banking can allow cities to do so many things independent of funding from London or Brussels. It really needs to be on the table.

But public banking is never talked about in the UK, despite it being 25% of banking worldwide and 40% in successful economies such as Germany. The UK banking sector is dominated by four huge private banks and it’s about time we had a more diverse banking sector like many other countries. Germany, for example, has local, regional and national public banks, all motivated for the public benefit, not profit maximisation. These are major lenders into local SME’s, infrastructure and the green sector.

The local public banks, the Sparkasse, lend over 70% of their loans to the local SME’s (small and medium enterprises, less than 250 employees), unlike the massive, national private banks in the UK, that only lend 8% to the productive sector and only a quarter of that, 2% to SMEs. The Sparkasse are also major investors in local green initiatives and co-operatives. We have many problems in the UK and public banks could be part of the solution to alleviate them, the devolution to the cities offer a great opportunity to investigate the idea of local public banks using the Sparkasse outreach programme, the SBFIC, who have already been doing fantastic work in Ireland.

Local public banks are owned by the local authorities, though not operated by politicians but by public employees proud to work for the public benefit. They can only ever earn salaries as there is no bonus/fees/commission culture in public banks. They offer what Professor Marianna Mazzucato calls “patient, committed” money. Their remit to work for the public benefit means that public banks do not lend into financial speculation which meant that the Sparkasse did not suffer losses in the crash of 2008, and were happy to continue lending to businesses and to even lend more to nurse their businesses through the recession. Institutions worried that they would lose their deposits in the event of a bank failure caused by the incessant financial speculation of private banks might choose to deposit in public banks, where their money is safer, where banking charges are cheaper, and where loans and profits are channelled for the public benefit.

Local public banks are willing to look at business plans from the local authority and lend to it for public housing, green initiatives and other projects whose income will pay to service the loan. Their Interest charges are also cheaper for such loans as they have minimal overheads. Local co-operatives are also much more likely to receive funding from a local public bank that does not want local enterprises to close.

It must be remembered that credit unions do not have a banking license, they are intermediaries between savers and borrowers. The difference with a banking license is that banks can create money from nothing when they issue loans. When someone borrows from a bank, they sign a promise to pay which becomes an asset to the bank. The bank then must create a matching liability which it does by crediting the borrowers account. This money, however, does not come from savers or from the bank’s reserves, but is created by tapping the keyboard. This capacity of banks to create money was explained by the Bank of England here.

So local public banks bring newly-created money into the local economy, supporting local businesses and jobs. It is not inflationary, as the money is matched by new production, unlike the money created by the present private banks that are primarily aimed at the housing and financial sector, creating inflation in these sectors and making asset-holders richer whilst leaving everyone else with debts, thereby increasing inequality. For more information on how banks create money, also look at Positive Money here.

Only 3% of money is created by the government as cash, the rest is created digitally by the private banks and it is time this immense power was used for the benefit of the public. How much longer can we put up with the private banks litany of wrongdoings?

Marie can be contacted on Twitter @MarieMcCahery

or via mariemccahery@gmail.com

Public Banking Conference – banking in the public interest

Friends meeting House, Manchester, Sat February 20th 10am – 5pm

If you’d like to know more, I have organised a conference bringing together major thinkers on banking and how it can be reformed to help society including:

Ellen Brown from the USA and author of “Web of Debt” http://www.webofdebt.com/     and  “The Public Banking Solution” http://www.publicbankinginstitute.org/

Richard Werner, Professor of International Banking at Southampton University, a leading thinker on bank reform, and a leading proponent of local banking

Dr. Thomas Marois, senior development lecturer at SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London, who has studied the workings and benefits of public banks in developing countries. See this report http://bit.ly/1PNuwnD

Frank van Lerven, of Positive Money, as mentioned above

Noel Kinahan, a leading local public banking campaigner from Ireland, who will outline how the Sparkasse Outreach Program (SBFIC http://bit.ly/1njreBp ) is helping Ireland plan how to introduce local public banking, which is now on the manifesto of three of Ireland’s political parties in the upcoming election.

Duncan McCann of the NEF http://www.neweconomics.org/  talking about financial independence for Scotland

TBC others talking about the possibility of local public banking in the devolving northern cities

Tickets –   https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/public-banking-banking-in-the-public-interest-tickets-20773078838?aff=ebrowse

Facebook event to share https://www.facebook.com/events/1093984393974560/

Tea and Registration 9-10pm, finish 5pm,

I am also organising a seminar with the main speakers on the preceding Friday (19th Feb) to take place at Manchester University and am trying to get representatives from the northern city councils to use this opportunity to question them. There are also academics interested. Hopefully, they will take this opportunity.

To learn more on public banking in many countries, please listen to my interview with Dr Thomas Marois, on my radio show “Why Don’t Economists? ” https://audioboom.com/boos/4075926-why-don-t-economists-13th-january-2016

 

What can Yorkshire learn from Rojava?

Guest blog by Tabitha Bast from Leeds

Rojava is the light in the darkness that is Syria, an autonomous region of 4 separate but interrelated cantons since 2013, also known as Syrian Kurdistan. Rojava has established a society based on the principles of direct democracy, sustainability and gender equality. The YPG are the military wing, a very young army that has only been in existence in this form since 2012. Yet I, and probably most other Yorkshire folk, hadn’t heard of Rojava or even the Kurdish people, until Kobane came under siege from the terrorist group ISIS (known as Daesh or ISIL also) as this was a key strategic area that if ISIS had won, would have given them a great strategic advantage.

And now I know that there are 300,000 Kurdish refugees in the UK, and Leeds, Huddersfield and Bradford are home to many of the Kurdish diaspora, some a few minutes from my door. We also know that ISIS didn’t win, they didn’t take Kobane. The YPG; unbelievably; whilst starved of military and humanitarian assistance by Turkey’s ongoing campaign against the Kurds; triumphed. This military, made up of 40% women, and under a political system closest to what we know as anarchist/libertarian socialism, or grass roots organising, not only resisted the onslaught of ISIS but last year seized land. Rojava typifies the spirit of demanding the impossible, making dreams reality.

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Rojava and Yorkshire are; literally; miles apart and have different cultures, landscapes, ways of being. This is not a call to identikit and imitate the Rojava Project, but rather to engage with the consciousness of Rojava in ways that have meaning for us here.

One of the most interesting elements of the Rojava Revolution is that it has emerged from a Stalinist-Leninist hierarchical organisation into a movement committed to Democratic Confederalism. This means, at it’s core, power to the people, to neighbourhood assemblies rather than high ranking officials. In Rojava, decisions happen at street level, at the grassroots. In some ways, Yorkshire might seem the opposite of that; with the bureaucracies of councils and proposed devolved powers centralised in Mayors, or decision making concentrated down in Westminster, London, by a load of Eton boys who have no understanding of the North. But actually Yorkshire is rich in a history of grassroots organising from the radical militancy of food riots or anti blackshirt organising, right up to just a few weeks ago during the floods when all over Yorkshire neighbours helped neighbours and volunteers piled in to provide food, accommodation and hard labour for strangers across the region. Grassroots organising without money or hierarchy happens all the time across Yorkshire, and it’s up to us to make it happen more.

We lost a much loved Yorkshireman out in Rojava last year, Kosta Scurfield who came from Barnsley and was a former Royal Marine. His parents, Vasiliki and Chris, campaign for Peace and speak out about the Kurdish struggle, including resistance to ISIS. We even have Joe, a Halifax lad out fighting with the YPG right now, through the International Brigades group ‘Lions of Rojava’. Those with a sense of history will know this resonates with the Spanish Civil War and many dreamers, thinkers and makers from our region heading out to join the anarchist resistance to fascism there. Whilst there are few who would not understand the necessity in this situation to take up arms against ISIS as self defence and against genocide, the military element of Rojava is just one small part, and perhaps the least transferable element of the Rojava Project to a Yorkshire situation.

Instead perhaps we can look at some of the economic systems in Rojava, much of the financial situation is managed by cooperatives; these are non-hierarchical collectives that manage the day to day systems such as agriculture. As Abdurrahman Hemo; advisor for economic development states in explanation “Our economic project is the same as our political project. We call it “social economy,” and all parts of society participate. It’s cooperative. We have started to build cooperatives in all different sectors: we have trade cooperatives, company cooperatives, construction cooperatives. The organizational model for our economy is the cooperative. Our aim is to be self-sufficient. If there is just bread, then we will all have a share. This is the main principle of cooperatives.”

Again, this is not so far removed from the cooperative community that exists across Yorkshire. In Leeds alone, there are workers co ops such as Leeds Bread Co Op, or the cooperatively owned market place Fairmondo, or Oblong who operate a flat management structure to run Woodhouse Community Centre. There are also Housing cooperatives such as Firelight, Cornerstone, Tangram, Xanadu and Lilac.

The essential ways that power and oppression are understood and challenged in Rojava as integral to Women’s Rights are absolutely central to the ideology in Rojava and women make up 40% of the People’s Protection Units (YPJ). The YPJ are in charge of investigating rape and domestic violence, and the police force are taught feminist theory as part of their training. Equally, despite massacres, torture and brutalisation of the Kurdish people as an ethnic group, they have not turned away in fear and grown isolated as a people but instead ensured Rojava is committed to ensuring other ethnicities are welcome. Indeed, for Christians it is one of the few places that is now safe in Syria, and the Yazidi people; of whom the YPG/YPJ rescued 50,000 from an ISIS massacre off Mount Sinjar; have their own fighting forces within Rojava as a separate but united front with the mostly Kurdish units. This welcoming, in the face of adversity, rather than a closing off from fear, is something that Yorkshire can do too. The deadly creep of racism and the rhetoric of the Far Right is a horrible truth for Yorkshire, yet just as true is that Yorkshire common sense and hospitality, and a history of multiculturalism and integration. If 3,000 Syrian children are finally given refuge in the UK I trust Yorkshire will be at the forefront of that welcome.

 
Finally, with that acute critical instinct so often celebrated in Yorkshire, we must understand that the project in Rojava is by no means perfect or to be idealised and idolised. Rojava is made up of people, imperfect as us, and traumatised by endless war and crisis. We must assume internal conflicts and human errors. Rojava is not a finished project, not a utopia, but rather another example for us of some ways we can exist without a capitalist, patriarchal system, that there are many ways of being, and we hold the power to make our Yorkshire the region we desire.

Tabitha is a member of Leeds Friends of Rojava. To find out more, please contact them via Facebook here or email leedsisrojava@gmail.com

“If we are truly devolving power to local people, where are the people?”

On Friday 22nd January, Leila Taleb from the Same Skies collective and JUST was invited to participate in a panel discussion as part of ‘Power to the North’ – an event organised by the White Rose Consortium for the North of England at the University of Leeds. Like so many events of its kind, attendance on the day reflected the relatively narrow section of society in our region currently engaged in debates about our future. Nevertheless this was one of the very few big events where a real effort was made to hear grassroots voices alongside those who already hold power in our region. Great credit for this must go to Arianna Giovannini of the Consortium.

For the many people in our region unable to attend on the day, please find below a copy of the speech that Leila made as part of the panel. Below this, you will also find photos and messages from some of the delegates at the event telling us their views on #RegionalDemocracy.

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DEVOLUTION & CITY DEALS: A VIEW FROM THE GRASSROOTS

I’m going to be honest here, when I first came across the term ‘devolution’, my initial instinct was how incredibly boring it sounded. What does devolution even mean to the average Jo on the street? Well, it turns out, nothing much- in fact, it probably rings more bells with Darwinism than it does with the true meaning of the word.

The agenda in England (in contrast to the bottom up approach in Scotland that developed during the independence referendum) has been led by Oxbridge politicians, local authorities and suited-and-booted business representatives.

This has resultantly served to exclude and disengage the public, as the agenda is seen as something remote from their daily lives, and decided out there in the corridors of Westminster and local authority offices behind closed doors.

Most ordinary people have no awareness of what the council does, let alone their protocol and procedures; they neither vote in local elections nor pay any attention to any kind of local politics, so why would they know about devolution?

In England, we feel green-with-envy disillusionment when comparing our experiences to the democratic revival in Scotland.

But there is no reason as to why we cannot have the same here. If we bring a sense of positivity, inclusivity and hopefulness to the debate, we can mobilise people of all backgrounds to be part of a movement.

So the question is: how do we turn devolution into an opportunity? We know the North has so much potential, but we need to take the steps to unlock that potential.

The solution is to reframe devolution into something that is ‘interesting’ to people on the ground in that it relates to their daily struggles and frustrations regarding transport, infrastructure, jobs, housing and the North-South divide.

At the moment, the term ‘devolution’ is too closely attached to Scotland and is somewhat seen as a tarnished word, which automatically alienates young people and people already uninterested in Westminster-style politics. I mean if you wanted to pick a word that only attracts white men in suits then here you have it. The first thing I noticed when I arrived today was that the demographic was not representative of the communities we live in.

If we led and marketed campaigns on things like the lack of efficient, reliable and cost-worthy public transport in the North, then people on the ground would most definitely come on board.

I am always complaining about the lack of jobs for graduates up North and how most of my friends have had to succumb to the pull of the South, as they are not in a position to ‘pick and choose’ their job, especially with a £27k debt trailing them and no real work experience.

Why should young people be forced to move to a place where it costs them in gold to rent a box miles away from the centre of the city and where nobody gives a monkeys as to whether you’re dying in the street or have just won the lottery (I guess they’re used to seeing polar ends of the profound inequality in London)?

Friends that visit me from the South always complain about the lack of frequent public transport, as well as the expense. People experience these frustrations on a daily basis, yet they have no clue as to how this relates to devolution.

We should be looking at consciousness-raising around the symptoms of an overly centralised government giving precedence to London, rather than the technocratic process of devolution and squabbling over whether we want a Yorkshire-wide or a Leeds City Region bid.

If we are truly devolving power to local people, where are the people?

There is also a danger of mirroring the London economic model, rather than playing to our region’s strengths.

Instead of perpetuating the UK’s over-reliance on the services and financial sector, we should be looking towards developing a manufacturing and industrial base as well as creative and high-tech industries in order to retain more graduates that attend Northern universities, instead of feeding the brain-drain down to the South.

However, what we don’t want is the rooted inequality that has become a major side effect of the London economic model. We need good growth.

There has been an understandable tendency to jump on the oppositional and sceptical politics bandwagon regarding our fear that Osborne will, in fact, devolve cuts instead of power to the North.

It is evident that devolution needs to be accompanied by real resources. Nonetheless, focusing on the negative will only turn it into an inevitable reality; instead we need to take progressive steps to ensure that we are the start of our own movement.

Public pressure is one of the most effective ways to change policy, yet this is something we are completely lacking.

When I go to most events such as these ones, they are often filled with dry and content-less rhetoric that tends to go over my head, with no more than vague action points such as ‘yeah we need to engage people’, rather than trying to think about how we will go about carrying out the action points in small steps. So, I hope that we walk away from today filled with confidence and the drive to pledge to do one concrete action that will help facilitate democratic self-determination.

What do you think? Do you agree with Leila?

What about the photos below? Do you agree with these views of #RegionalDemocracy captured at the event?

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#NotWestminster -Local Democracy for Everyone

Andrew Wilson from the Same Skies collective is one of the organisers of a series of Local Democracy for Everyone events in Huddersfield this February.

It would be great if those who contributed so much to discussions before, during and after our ‘What Kind of Region Do We Want To Live In?’ event could join Andrew and others to think about democracy beyond Westminster, including how local and #RegionalDemocracy can contribute to positive change.

#NotWestminster – Saturday 13th February The main event brings together people who have something positive to say about local democracy and who are up for a challenge. It includes participant-led workshops, lightning talks, creative activities and lots of opportunities for making contact with others who are interested in local democracy and digital. Participants include councillors, community organisations, local government officers, digital makers, academics, open data advocates and young people. If you’re interested in democracy, citizen engagement or civic tech, Notwestminster is for you.

Fringe events – Friday 12th February Fringe events include the Local Democracy Maker Day, a practical day to help build a better local democracy. We’ll talk about the issues and quickly prototype something based on our shared ideas. We also have a PechaKucha Night, featuring a series of quick-fire presentations from members of the Notwestminster network and our friends. #RegionalDemocracy and the Yorkshire Suffragettes are amongst the topics you’ll hear about on the night.

More info What’s On in 2016

Book your free tickets Notwestminster 2016 – book now

Local Democracy Maker Day 2016 – book now

Notwestminster PechaKucha Night 2016 – book now

Some thought provoking writing for the end of the year

Here are a few pieces of online writing from inside and outside our region that really got us thinking over the last year…

“Facing an increasingly self-centered centre, we stand for citizens who are open to the world and to the present time, capable of organizing and cooperating according to their abilities and aspirations” – Simona Levi got us thinking about how citizens respond to centralised states in Spain and other parts of our continent here.

Paul Salveson got us thinking about the ‘many rivers’ that might flow towards #RegionalDemocracy here.

In the run up to the Scottish referendum on independence, Lesley Riddoch wrote this piece here and got us thinking about how female voices could be better heard in the debate about our #RegionalDemocracy.

Joe Brady described a specific example here of how devolution enabled people in Scotland to think again about how to make newcomers welcome and got us thinking about what that might mean for our #RegionalDemocracy.

In thinking about our future #RegionalDemocracy, developments in Rojava (described here) also got us thinking about what we could learn from the experience of developing an inclusive, hopeful and engaged democracy in the most difficult of circumstances.

What about you? Is there anything you have read over the last year that has really got you thinking about #RegionalDemocracy and your hopes for our shared future?

Best wishes for 2016 from all at the Same Skies collective.

Putting All of Us First in Yorkshire

Guest blog by Elaine Calder from Halifax

A couple of years ago we made a long planned move to Scotland. Both my husband and I have family connections to Scotland and we wanted to be a part of the growing Radical Independence movement there. We lived in quite a remote area, so when a family member became ill back here in Yorkshire we decided we needed to return here to support them.

While we were in Scotland we were very impressed by the level of debate and engagement from grass roots level concerning the Independence Referendum. A lot of thought and consideration was being  given by people there to decide on their own future. They were thinking about what they wanted and how they could go about getting it. One of the organisations that was set up at the time was the Common Weal movement. Common Weal (CW) is a ‘think and do tank campaigning for social and economic equality in Scotland’. It is a non-party movement concerned with bottom up social change. CW helps to provide creative thinking to provoke debate without prescribing limits. Even after the narrow victory of the No vote in the Scottish Independence Referendum, the Common Weal has given the people of Scotland a storehouse of ideas to feed Scottish politics for the future. They have produced a ‘Book of Ideas’ to offer ways of doing things differently to create a better Scotland. It is a vision for the next Scottish parliament from 2016.

Since we returned to Yorkshire there has been a lot of talk about Yorkshire as a region receiving some powers devolved from Westminster. We do not know what these powers will be but I feel at least the discussion around regional democracy gives us a chance to get together to discuss what we want rather than just accepting what is imposed on us by central government.

Having seen the positive impact of discussions during the referendum campaign in Scotland, I took part in the event in Bradford on 7th November, ‘What Kind of Region Do We Want To Live In?’. It was good to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds from different parts of West Yorkshire. Many things were discussed at the event but we did all feel that people in our region have different priorities to the priorities of the current London model . We all felt  that we are fed up of ‘Me First’ politics and that the current talk of devolution all seems to be about what someone above wants us to have, on their terms, rather than the people who live here who have different priorities, making the decisions. The discussions we had, seemed to me to mirror the CW principle of ‘All of us First’.

Regional Democracy must include us, the Book of Ideas puts this as ‘ Nothing about us, without us, is for us’. People living in the region should be at the heart of any discussion about the future of our region. One of the only things that we do know will be part of any devolution deal promoted by the government is that we will get to elect a mayor for the region. During the General Election campaign earlier this year, CW promoted the Red Lines campaign which asked people to consider their own values, their Red Lines, and to vote only for a candidate who stuck to their Red Line issues under the slogan “Small can be powerful, your vote can count”.  I feel that this approach could be adopted here in Yorkshire. We could have local meetings to discuss what our Red Lines are and campaign on them. For example, in the case of electing a mayor, we could promote a referendum on changes to the system and an assembly directly elected by PR as Red Lines for any mayoral candidate. I feel that such a Red Lines campaign could help to engage more people in regional democracy, encouraging them to believe that they could actually have a say in the kind of society they want to live in. At the moment, the whole devolution subject seems to be far removed from people’s actual lives.

The Book of Ideas highlights the true aspirations of people, home, security, work, community, recreation, public service and respect. These were all topics that came up in the discussions at the Bradford meeting. We all felt that we had had enough of me-first politics, where greed, profit and elitism has taken us away from our own core values of humanity and equality and that a collective well being was at the heart of the society we want to live in.

The Book of Ideas provides creative ideas encompassing almost everything needed to envision and create a better Scotland, from tax and investment to energy and housing or from infrastructure to economic and social equality. Scotland is more than a step ahead of us, so some of the content of the Book of Ideas is not relevant here in Yorkshire just yet. What it does provide though is a starting block for discussion. What came out of the Bradford meeting was the notion that we here in Yorkshire, like the people in Scotland want a society which puts All of Us First.

You can download a copy of The Book of Ideas free or for a donation of your choice here or £8 for the book version here.

Elaine can be found on Twitter @elainecalder

Common Weal can be found on Twitter @Common_Weal

Same Skies collective – Who are we? What do we want?

Following our ‘What Kind of Region Do We Want To Live In?’ event in Manningham, Bradford in November 2015, the organising group have become the Same Skies collective – working for a hopeful, fair, prosperous and inclusive regional democracy.

The collective’s priorities are: 

– enabling ‘unheard’ voices to be heard as effectively as possible.

– encouraging the democratisation of devolutionary processes towards self-determination.

 – identifying and supporting positive ideas for regional democracy.

 – engaging with people across political parties and of none whilst also ensuring that the collective engages on its own terms and doesn’t allow itself to become a tool of any one political party.

 The founding members of the collective are:

 – Leila Taleb @leilastaleb

 – Yoshiko Stokoe @notyosheeko

– Ed Carlisle @edleeds (of @t4pleeds)

 – Alex Schafran @alexschafran

 – Andrew Wilson @hannahfestival

 – Ian Martin @ianeastleeds

All founding members of the Same Skies collective live and work in West Yorkshire.

We will often communicate via our:

Facebook page

– Twitter @SameSkiesBlog

Blog

 

Can #RegionalDemocracy really make a difference to people’s everyday lives?

In the first part of Made In Leeds TV’s ‘On Closer Inspection’, Leila Taleb from the Shared Skies Collective discusses the future of the North with Peg Alexander. The below clip also includes the views of people on the streets of Leeds and those of John Boocock from Yorkshire First:

On Closer Inspection Series 3 Episode 4 Part 1

In the second part of the programme, Leila is also joined by Ed Carlisle from the Collective considering how #RegionalDemocracy should not be about waiting around for people who already hold power to give it away, but about citizens from all backgrounds making it happen themselves. It includes interviews by JUST West Yorkshire with people in Bradford:

http://www.madeinleeds.tv/player/?video_uuid=h1u0eq64&categoryId=70429