Afternoon tea with Susan Hick.

I thought as a tribute to Susan, I would record for all some sense of Susan’s past and TT activity and highlights.We all have learned a lot from Sue over the years with her abundant knowledge, calm, reassuring manner yet with a firm understanding of the direction she wants to go. I would like to personally thank you Sue for all of the patience and understanding you have shown me over the years. Continue reading “Afternoon tea with Susan Hick.”

Tackling Poverty and Inequality. Community Cafe event

Hi, I have been asked to see if there is interest from the Transition group.

Phil C

Tackling Poverty and Inequality:
Learning from international practice for changing North East contexts


Recent years have seen dramatic changes to the environment in which we work. Purely defensive responses to poverty and inequality aren’t working; we need to challenge ourselves to think about the future in new ways and how we can make an impact. We believe there are things we can learn from different global contexts, particularly where austerity and scarce resources are a long-standing reality.

If you are someone who:

  • is involved in working with groups or communities to tackle a specific issue or problem, or
  • is concerned about the injustices you see around you, or
  • is just frustrated with our inability to bring about sustained changeThen this programme will be for you. It will tackle three key questions:
  • how can communities tackle poverty?
  • what can communities do to affect change and create a more just society for all?
  • how can communities tackle inequalities of power?This short and intense programme will lead to some pilot projects, and will include:
  •   What’s beyond the near horizon? Creating a picture of local communities in the next 10 – 15 years. Professor Matt Baillie Smith from the Centre for International Development, Northumbria University, will challenge us to think critically about the global context for future practice, followed by a workshop session run by Graham Leicester from the International Futures Forum.Wednesday 18th February, 10.00 – 4.00 pm
  •   3 Community Cafes chaired by Ed Cox, IPPR North, to learn about innovative practices from the Global South and to provoke new thinking around the themes of workers, social movements, and grassroots women’s organising.Tuesdays 3rd & 31st March, Wednesday 29th April, 5.15 – 7.45 pm
  •   A final ‘Open Space’ day event providing an opportunity to consider a framework for moving forward and to develop proposals that will be tested in the second phase of the project.Wednesday 13th May, 10 – 4 pm

    Taking part:

  • The programme is free and is being hosted by the Centre for International Development and funded by Northumbria University
  • All events take place in central Newcastle
  • If you are interested and meet our criteria you must be able to attend each of the events. However, if morethan one of your group are able to attend then you may be able to cover the events between you
  • The programme is not about solving organisational problems or the delivery of statutory services

We have a limited number of places, so do not delay and sign up today … by emailing your name, contact details, and any access or special dietary needs to by Friday 6th February and we’ll confirm your place with a detailed programme.

Chris Ford, Christine Morrison, Esther Salamon
and Katy Jenkins, Darryl Humble and Tom Vickers (Northumbria University)

Debt crisis, Carbon reduction and sleepless nights

National debt

I believe the way the National debt ( ND) is handled by all parties is just tinkering around the edges with the deficit and does not address the fundamental problem of a £1.4 T  debt. In terms of Green issues, it changes our focus away from climate change. I propose we take the £1.4T debt internally, among the home owners.

You must be joking!!!
Well, no, my reasoning is that if we take a combined approach of recapitalizing the economy, (through introducing risk capital) and carry out a proposed passive haus refurbishment of the housing stock, we provide a good incentive for investors, which could be as much as a £80K handout to the home owners over 14 years. A detailed explanation is given below:

By internalizing the ND we become in effect, UK Ltd, influenced by its new home owner shareholders. The ND is approximately £80K per home owner household. This debt is too much to bear on any group of citizens, especially first time buyers and young families but with the state recognising the home owner contributions and by being flexible with the terms of debt repayment, it could be afforded. I propose that the interest on the £80K is collected not by high street banks but the Bank of England, at the base rate, approximately 0.5%. The interest payment would be approximately £400 pa. The capital would be repaid over 100 years, which is easily within the concept of confidence (as illustrated by Positive money ,) in housing being of value for that period. This makes a total annual payment ( interest and capital ) of approximately £1,200 pa.

The Shareholder Dividend
Currently we pay between 2.5 – 3% of GDP as interest on the £1.48 Trillion national debt, which is £38 Bn, to financial institutions profiting from our circumstance. Such an arrangement has little value to the UK because a growing number of the investors are overseas investors who pay no UK tax. This proposal means that any financial transaction, coming out of dealing with debt issues makes the country richer from tax revenue.  Share holders in a prosperous economy should be paid a dividend when Britain Ltd makes a profit. Between 2000 and 2007 the growth rate was between 2 and 4 percent. This can also be used in part, to help with the home owner new debt burden. Just 1.7 percent of the growth would meet the repayment needed by the home owner. In effect they are only carrying the risk of no growth. This leaves room for a significant reduction in austerity cuts. As shareholders,  wider engagement in the political process could be brought about. The home owners would have the right and duty to defend against excessive spending by any party and would have power to vote against such acts as does the House of Lords at this time. Because of the wider and necessarily transparent governance there would be less opportunity for lobbyists to act when the final financial decision is with the wider community.

This sounds still an onerous amount and risk on a young family. Any additional cost can be balanced by looking at the existing mortgage payment and where the bank or building society charges 5% interest this could be restructured and government pressure on the banks to bring the real mortgage payment in line with the owners current mortgage payment.

Carbon Reduction

Approximately 20 percent Carbon saving, could be created through Passive Haus home refurbishment. Could the same use of BoE lending rates, as applied to the National Debt, be used to improve home energy efficiency to meet passive haus energy standards. With an increased demand the work at a best first guess, could be done for between £40K – £60K per household. Refurbishment to Passive Haus  standard would require a huge increase in the workforce of relatively low skilled people. Government could encourage a market such that the workforce would be working to design standards, freely available through open source. This is a low tech solution where localism could play a huge role in allocating resources. To convert the housing in the UK to Passive Haus standards would need all available local workforce to carry out the task. The annual interest payment at approximately 0.5% on £60K is £300. The potential saving in energy cost per house hold is £1000 per annum, easily covering the interest payment. The equipment installed can be split into short life items ( 20 years ) and long life items ( 100 years ). Capital repayment of items of 100 years life could be paid over that 100 year period. This is a special condition because the environmental cost of climate change demands such flexibility. If we estimate the split in capital equipment to be installed is 50 / 50, then £60K / 2 / 100 years = £300 repayment pa. Again within the realm of the energy saving cost. This leaves the remaining thorny issue of short lifespan capital equipment to be installed. From our assumed 50 / 50 split, the repayment is still £30K per house hold. Over 20 years the payment pa would be £1,500, which will still be too much for a young houseowner saddled with a huge mortgage. I suggest the solution would be to ensure any capital equipment to be installed, be approved by a Tender and National framework agreement, which encourages the manufacturers to give a guaranteed lifespan of at least 60 years. It must be upgradeable, updateable and flexible, in who can do any retrofitting, to encourage further localism.  This way such a combined costs of equipment and labour  can be met from potential energy savings.

Foot note:

1..If both proposals where taken up, the drop in unemployment to implement the passive haus refurbishment would produce savings in benefits payment between £100Bb to £200Bn. If this saving was used to paydown the debt during the first 14 years of implementing the proposal, we would paydown £1.4T ie. the total debt. Wait a minute, who are we repaying the debt to? The banks and financial institutions, no. We could pay the home owners who took on the debt risk and bought shares. Their deal was a low interest rate and capital repayment spread over 100 years. In any business where an injection of risk money from shareholders makes the business more profitable some of that profit should be paid in dividend. We have a choice we could keep the original promise of a 100 years loan term but in recognition of the help to the nation in reduced austerity and misery, the home owners could keep the option of taking the dividend over the 14 years to pay off other bills such as their mortgage.

The combined effect of both policies would be a internally managed National debt not subject to the vagaries of Moody’s credit rating. Reduced austerity, wider engagement in the political process, 30 percent reduction in our Carbon footprint and low unemployment for the next 10 years whilst the housing stock is refurbished and a substantial reduction in the debt owed by home owners.

Suitable films for the TT “Ourscreen” viewing.

I offered at the TT meeting to search for suitable films for the TT “Ourscreen” viewing.

Some suggested films from Transition Network can be found at :

Any comments welcome to refine the list to a few which could be put to the core group.

Suggested viewings so far:


Trashed                             4

The future of hope          1

Moo Man                          2

Bike City                           2

Home                                4

Is it possible to turn negative into positive energy

I was asked by Gillian to clarify what I meant by “Pluralism”, when I raised the matter during Septembers, Wednesday meeting. To be honest Gillian at that time I could not articulate what I meant but knew in my heart that this was important. I have spent what time I can put aside, to answer the question for my self and hence to be able to convey to others. I am thankful that my wife Pat had among our old books, something she read during her history degree “Structures of Power” by John Schwarzmantel (ISBN 0 7450 0402 4). Those familiar with Pluralism, please skip the next two paragraphs.

To understand Pluralism, it is constructive to first look at how Pluralism works in politics because many of the influences are common to all organizational structures. In our Liberal democratic system , of government by representation, approximately every 5 years we elect a new government from one of the parties offering to represent us. The Parliamentary system is one form of pluralism, in that it is a system of choice. Once elected the opposition parties take on the government, competing for legitimacy in the eyes of the electorate, in the arguments they present . Erosion or enhancement of legitimacy, plays a major factor in the successful parties chances of reelection.

Is this then the extent of civil societies only engagement in the political process, to elect representatives every 5 years? Well no, one further form of pluralism is that of groups in civil society such as Trade unions, News papers, Greenpeace, Church and The Womens Institute to name a few. All groups have some influence over the legitimacy of Government, while in office, some more than others and the greater the influence the more note is taken by Government. It is this interaction of groups when faced with Government by representation, that I believe is the pluralism we need in our organization.

It is my understanding that the term used for such pluralism in organizations whether corporations, or community groups is “Governance”. It is recognized that education of the processes of governance in small business and community groups is poorly supported by the state, the references below from Transition and London School of Economics, supported by the Joseph Rountree Foundation make interesting reading:

Click to access 052.pdf

Does this mean we need a huge and unwieldy structure to manage our affairs? I don’t think so, the emphasis should be on a “lighter touch”. Governance would allow greater participation in the organizations affairs. Expressions of discontent would not dwell as negative energy but could find a channel through the Board of Governors and be turned into positive energy. One could ask, in a small group why cant the group resolve their differences? Unfortunately conflicts will arise, between the needs of a member and that of TT as an entity protected by its officers. Its just the nature of representative structures. The board of Governors provides a safety valve, a system of checks and balances.

In its simplest form, we would need to elect one person from each existing group, energy, car share, gardening, incredible edible, to represent that group on such a board. We could also ask a member of the public and another person, possibly from another community incorporated body to join the board. This would build our legitimacy with the wider community. The Board of Governors would meet less regularly that the directors but will have some oversight of their actions and ensure the spirit of Transition is reflected in their actions also the well being of the members and the issues raised for their attention from each group.

If there are historians or politicians who can comment on the subject providing greater clarity, I would be grateful, as this is a stab in the direction of Governance and I for one must keep on learning.

Core Meeting – 6th March 2012

Apologies. Tim, Trevor, Kate & Pat
Present, Barbara (Chair person), Richard, Phil, Jo, Gillian, Debbie, Gunter, David, Daniel, Ross

Barbara opened the meeting by asking Daniel to explain his masters project.

Daniel informed the group that his first degree being in history.and his research was in town planning, city security, resilience and disruptive , failure of cities. He is interested in Climate change and a self directed research project was focussing on resilience where and where does it fit with town planning. He is hoping to carry out interviews with people involved in Transition. Other researchers had varied perspectives of Transition and he is looking for first hand experience of how such a group works. Barbara mentioned the structures meeting on the 26th March and thought this be interesting for daniel to attend. Daniel mentioned that he is looking to Observe and understand the applicability of values of Totnes and how they translate into the group in Tynedale. Richard mentioned that Prospect Hs is available on the 26th March and it was agreed to hold the meeting there. Ross commented that one researcher “Luke” had gained a valuable insight into TT by becoming totally involved in the projects.

Barbara moved the meeting on to Dukes House Wood

Jim gave a overview of the project as follows:

Continue reading “Core Meeting – 6th March 2012”

Energy Group Meeting 1st Nov 2012

Energy Group MinutesLocation Ash House, Ash Close, Highford Park Hexham.Present:  Debbie, David, Geof, Mark, Gwen and Phil

Action items from previous meeting:

1..Local renewable energy traders to be invited to come to demonstrate their systems (Lewis and Debbie to contact previous firms who attended, and update the  list with traders new to the market.
A contact email has been drafted,  says Debbie

Trade fair,  David says levelling the playing field each local installer competing to get custom.  Unfortunately, Tim was not present so although we felt the trade fair was a good idea, it needs championing  but it was felt there was not enough energy or time to comit.

Continue reading “Energy Group Meeting 1st Nov 2012”

Dukeshouse Wood Heritage Project

Venue Scott’s Cafe at the Forum Cinema Wednesday 19th at 7:45.

Interesting meeting last night. Here are a collection of notes taken at the meeting and thoughts following the meeting.

Main drivers of this project are Jim, Andy, Luke and Mike. The project was an idea from TT and now it is supported by Hexham Community Partnership who were also present at the meeting.

Jim opened the meeting thanking all present and introduced his team. He acknowledged this was a outcome of the TT meeting. In his introduction he outlined his vision of what the project was about. My notes read…but please if anyone reads this fill out the missing phrase to make sense.  Re eduction of forestry, holistic practices, a basis for sustainability / employment and possible tourism. They are looking for grant funding and have approached the Heritage lottery fund. Why Hexham was to be discussed later in the meeting.

Continue reading “Dukeshouse Wood Heritage Project”

Energy Group Meeting – 23rd June 2012

Apologies for absence

The Energy Group has not met for some time and the hydro project is taking some focus away from other energy group activities. Gillian is unable to stretch herself so thinly to cover all directions that transition is demanding of her and has asked for help from other members to facilitate the energy group meetings and add support. Both Jim, Phil and Alice agreed at the last planning meeting to help out. Read on to see what we discussed…

Continue reading “Energy Group Meeting – 23rd June 2012”