Sunday, 19 May 2019

Sidmouth Annual Town Meeting > Monday 20th May > challenges and opportunities

There is quite a new tranche of Town Councillors at Sidmouth:
Futures Forum: BREAKING NEWS: Sidmouth shake-up

Tomorrow, Monday 20th May, they will be joining colleagues for the Annual Town Meeting - at which chair and committees will be voted in:

The Town Council is responsible for quite a lot:

Including a substantial budget of over £0.5m:
Sidmouth Town Council agrees 4 per cent precept increase, a part of council tax, that will help pay for projects including swimming platform | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald
Grants galore for good causes thanks to Sidmouth Town Council | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

It supports important services:
Hop on! Sidmouth Hopper Bus reveals new routes and extra days for 2019 | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

It has a key role in determining planning decisions, for example:
Town council support demolition of Sidmouth's St John Ambulance Hall for smart apartments | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

And is part of the Beach Management Plan's steering group:
The plan to protect Sidmouth’s crumbling cliffs is set to be finalised - Devon Live

It has taken the initiative over key issues:
Vision to make Sidmouth first mental health friendly town | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

And it's taking on more responsibilities:
Knowle parkland in Sidmouth could transfer to council by autumn | Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

There are new challenges and opportunities - as highlighted on the VGS news pages:
Money available for Historic High Streets - Vision Group for Sidmouth

And there will indeed be money issues:
LocalGov.co.uk - Your authority on UK local government - Council governance systems ‘inadequate’ for austerity era
More freedom urged over councils’ finances | Public Finance 
Financial control needs to be devolved from Westminster | Public Finance

Ken Loach’s "Sorry We Missed You" @ Cannes > "a grim depiction of gig economy ‘serfdom’"

What exactly do we mean by the 'gig economy'?
Futures Forum: 'Independent workers' and the 'gig economy'
Futures Forum: The sharing economy >>> “This on-demand, or so-called gig, economy is creating exciting economies and unleashing innovation. But it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.

And where is it going?
Futures Forum: The gig economy is 'exciting' and has 'huge potential'... or maybe not...

The director Ken Loach certainly has a few ideas:
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach up for Palme d'Or prize - BBC News
Ken Loach back at Cannes festival with 'Sorry We Missed You' - YouTube


Sorry We Missed You new clip official from Cannes - 2/3 - YouTube

And he isn't pulling any punches:

Ken Loach: blame 'fake left' politicians like Miliband and Blair for gig economy | Film | The Guardian
Cannes: Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You — a piercing drama about a zero-hours-contract driver | Financial Times
Sorry We Missed You review: Ken Loach delivers a stirring drama on the gig economy | Sight & Sound | BFI

This review is from the business press: 

Film hailed at Cannes for grim depiction of gig economy ‘serfdom’

Veteran director Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You is a ‘wrenching tale of ... how the gig economy screws over the people it promises to save’

18 MAY 2019 - 08:29 AGENCY STAFF

Cannes — Veteran British director Ken Loach was tipped for a third Cannes win on Friday for a powerful film which puts Amazon and other tech giants in the dock over their alleged exploitation of workers.

Critics hailed Sorry We Missed You, his heart-breaking story of an overworked delivery driver as a “wrenching tale of the way we live now and how the gig economy screws over the people it promises to save”.

The film — shot in the north-eastern English city of Newcastle, like his last Palme d’Or winning film I, Daniel Blake — takes “a white van man” and turns him into a martyr of out-of-control capitalism.

Hollywood bible Variety, not normally a fan of left-wing activist directors, said “the times have caught up with Loach and they have pushed him to the top of his game. He’s 82 years old, and he is now making films that connect, with a nearly karmic sense of timing, to the social drama of our moment.”

The Guardian gave it five stars and declared that “this brilliant film will focus minds ... in modern Britain, the land of zero-hours vassalage and service-economy serfdom.”

Loach, whose arm was in a sling after putting out his shoulder, said he and scriptwriter Paul Laverty had found Amazon drivers working with broken limbs. He said the system of zero-hour contracts and false “self-employed owner-driver franchisees” used by tech giants ranging from Uber to Deliveroo, creates massive misery by “putting all the risk on the workers ... who are made to exploit themselves”.

Sorry We Missed You shows how the relentless demands of the gig economy wreck a family of grafters. For their part, the tech companies say they offer the best working conditions possible for their workforce and provide much-needed jobs in often rundown and neglected areas.

Destroying families 

“We are supposed to work to provide for our families but for millions of us, work deprives us from spending time with our loved ones,” said Laverty, Loach’s regular creative partner.

The writer said he interviewed an Amazon driver on the day its owner Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world. “His skin was grey, his eyes were red. He was absolutely exhausted,” Laverty said. “When I showed the driver the news, his jaw dropped. He realised he was one of hundreds of thousands of drivers across the world, a little drip going into the Amazon river.”

In the film, a delivery driver and his wife who cares for elderly and disabled people in their homes, work long, grueling days to hit inhumane targets.

Loach said the system is now stacked massively against working people, “who can be turned on and off like tap”, and warned that this is fueling dangerous populist anger.

He said the extreme right “rise when the soil is manured with this precarious work — that’s where people’s anger is coming from. People speak of the extreme right and left. I don’t see the extreme left. Where is it? I see the extreme right who thrive on anger and discontent. They say the person to blame is the poorest person next to you, or someone who looks different, or comes from another country. The extreme right thrives on fear. The left thrives on confidence. If you are confident you say, ‘Yes, we can change things.’ The right thrives on anxiety and insecurity.”

‘This system kills’

Debbie Honeywood, a teacher who plays the role of the van driver’s wife and one of several amateurs Loach cast, said three out of four children living in poverty in the UK have working parents.

“We know there is something badly wrong and intolerable about life now,” Loach said. “We know that healthcare and the way our old people are looked after is not right, and why, when we buy online, does everything come in a van? We cannot sustain that.”

The filmmaker said the family in his film, like most who work in the gig economy, are caught in a trap.

“There is no escape, the system has trapped them. We met people who work with broken limbs who drive with a broken leg and arm. There was one appalling case of a man who died because he couldn’t stop work for his hospital appointments because of the debt. This system kills.”

But Loach was sanguine on whether his film will change anything. His last film I, Daniel Blake on the injustice and cruelty of the British social welfare system, won the top prize at Cannes and was debated in parliament.

“But the government hasn’t given an inch. It is still as cruel. They still use hunger as a weapon. Charity food banks have increased in the last year alone by 18%. That will not change because they have to show that not being able to support yourself is a crime.”


Film hailed at Cannes for grim depiction of gig economy 'serfdom' - businesslive.co.za

Repair Cafés: in praise of economic inefficiency

An 'economy' is more than simply being 'efficient' - and the Repair Café movement is challenging these common notions:

This is from the wonderful website InterAction Green: 

Have you ever heard of the “right to repair?”
Currently there are 16 states including Nebraska, Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Kansas, Wyoming, Illinois and Tennessee – that are considering bills that would allow consumers and third party repairers the legal right to purchase spare parts and access service manuals.
Such legislative movement is a lot more revolutionary than it sounds, because it’s not just about changing how the repair market works. It may potentially change the way how the right to “control” products is spread across a products’ life cycle.
We purchase and “own” many products – especially electronic ones – that use state-of-the-art technology. Even though we are the owners of those products, ultimately the manufacturers “control” them because they are the only ones who know how they are designed and function. We can do little beyond using them as directed by owners’ manual, and are left in the dark when they fail. So essentially, except for the small window of “use” phase, a product is entirely controlled by the producers – from the concept stage to R&D, manufacturing, repair and almost through disposal.

Conceptual product life cycle

But a Repair bill could change the name of the game.  Producers, who now enjoy the ownership of intellectual property of a product from cradle to grave, will be forced to concede some of their design secrets to product owners/repairers so that they can be empowered to repair failed products. If this happens, it could allow the owner of the products to become tinkerers, researchers, designers and developers…like this:

Obviously, the manufacturers such as Apple are fiercely against such legislation, which is totally understandable. Design secrets are what make them unique and  competitive. Why would they have to share their precious assets, risking their business?
But then, there are companies like iFixit, that are advocating getting back the “right to repair” to the users’ hands.  IFixit is an online repair knowledge base where anyone can share their tips to repair just about anything.

iFixit manifesto

Producers say they have the right to keep the secrets of what they developed. And user groups say they should have the right to fix what they legitimately own. Both arguments sound reasonable. But why are their arguments so divisive? When did it start?
Back in the old days, most daily items used to be “open source” because the mechanisms were reasonably simple and intuitive. People would reuse, repair, repurpose and recycle them freely, and many of them made it their job. The boundaries between the producers and users used to be much more ambiguous, and products transitioned from one stage to the next of the life cycle –forward and backward – more organically. Product owners and a variety of skilled repairers such as cobblers and clothes alterators were actively involved to make most of any product.
But the clear division emerged between producers and users/repairers as products became much more sophisticated leveraging advanced technology. Before they knew, users and repaired were excluded from the loop and left behind.

Why do we have to face such division between producers and users? It all boils down to the principles of modern economics, which put economic efficiency in front of everything else and encourage trade as a tool to promote such efficiency. A classic example: if one region’s climate is suitable for banana growing and the other for apples, economic theory would encourage banana region to grow bananas only, and apple country to grow apples so that both regions could access bananas and apples efficiently through trade. The efforts of apple growers in banana region and banana growers in apple country is considered “inefficient” and would eventually be wiped out of the market.
The same principles apply to the producer–consumer relationship, which tell producers to focus on production including R&D, design and manufacturing of products. Meanwhile, they also ask users to focus on “consumption,” the only activity left after producers dominated the creative process. Whereas you can skip all the efforts needed to make cool and functional devices by becoming a consumer, it also means that you are deprived of opportunities to participate in creation. If you are not in creative process, there is no way that you can be involved in repair process.
Whereas the decoupling of creation process from general public achieved significant economic efficiency and made our market full of appealing products, one thing is becoming obvious: being a full-time consumer was not as exciting and accomplishing as it looked before.

So here we are now, entrapped in the dilemma created by economic efficiency. Surrounded by many products that deliver fast and easy solutions, we lost our sense of purpose and mission. And we are starting to realize that we miss excitement of tinkering, designing, creating and building using our own brain and hands.
One of the people who stood up to reverse the trend of the ever-shrinking freedom left for independent tinkerers was Kyle Wiens, the co-founder of iFixit which offers thousands of repair manuals for electronic gadgets and other products. Repair is a natural gateway for users to trace back and learn about the creative breakthroughs and design that made your favorite products work.

The iFixit website says: “You bought it, you should own it. Period. You should have the right to use it, modify it, and repair it wherever, whenever, and however you want. Defend your right to fix.”
OK, but who should we be fighting against? Apple or Samsung, to make them agree to share some repair parts with us so that we can fix our iPhone and Galaxy? That could be a short-term target, but ultimately, it is not so much about manufacturers versus users. It’s rather about people versus economic efficiency, which keeps telling us that we don’t need to create or repair because we are inefficient. Fine, it’s true that I cannot develop an iPhone. But should it mean that I cannot seek opportunities to learn and use my creativity because it is not good? Should it mean that we should let efficiency take care of everything, sit back and wait for satisfaction and happiness to be delivered?
A story of a stay-home-mom, whose child accidentally flushed her iPhone into the plumbing has an answer. When she finally recovered the phone, she searched information on iFixit to see if she could make it work again. She found that it was just a tiny charging coil on the motherboard that went wrong during the toilet accident. When she knew it, it dawned to her that it was something she wanted to do: micro-soldering to repair electronic gadgets. As it turns out, repairing small parts on a motherboard requires delicate and meticulous operations like brain surgery, and most of such repair jobs are outsourced to other countries (again, because efficiency tells us to trade). So the mom decided to become an expert of micro-soldering, at her home in New York. She now runs a company to bringing back life to the phones that were pronounced dead by other professionals.
“There is of course the personal satisfaction in taking something that is a paperweight and returning it to life again,” the mom said. “That always is a drug-like, positive experience.”
Even though specialization of expertise and concentration of resources on producers’ side maximized collective affluence, it did not necessarily guarantee satisfaction and happiness felt by each of us. As a matter of fact, we often feel great and accomplished when engaged in inefficient activities. Sense of accomplishment cannot come from easy, convenient solutions.
The “right to repair” movement helps to remind us that we have so much more potential if not judged exclusively by efficiency.
We must be proudly inefficient.

The world of inefficiency is full of new discovery, sense of engagement and accomplishment. Find businesses and organizations that are leveraging “repair” to unleash our unexplored potential.