Council non-profit in-house retrofit – Birmingham should follow Glasgow

Our recent article on the Council’s plans for East Birmingham called for a joint union-community plan and campaign for retrofitting homes, one of the key policies for combating the climate crisis. [1]

It argued for the Council to launch an in-house retrofitting organisation, in line with the commitment of ‘Building a better Birmingham: Labour’s Local Manifesto 2018-2022’ that ‘We will re-state the case for the municipal provision of services in Birmingham… And the Labour council in Birmingham will lead by example … by adopting a policy of in-house preferred for all contracts.’

Is this practical? Yes, because Glasgow is already doing it. ‘City Building’ is Glasgow Council’s building organisation, run as a not-for profit social enterprise with an in-house training centre, a large apprenticeship scheme, and a highly unionised, directly employed workforce of 2,200 workers. It is estimated that it supports a further 2,000 jobs through its supply chain, and contributes to the generation of thousands of other jobs in and around Glasgow. It is reported that it contributes £56 million a year to Glasgow City Council.

City Building is ‘an inspirational model of low energy social housing and public building production’, including Ecohomes Level 4 and Passivhaus, say Linda Clarke and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen in their 2019 research report. [2]

‘As well as continuing to be responsible for maintaining all Glasgow City Council’s building stock and for managing its new construction projects, it competes for work in the open market, developing expertise in low-energy construction and building on its history of social housing production.’

‘Low energy construction projects

City Building has a growing programme of low energy building schemes and renewable energy schemes including solar thermal, photovoltaic, combined heat and power, ground and air source heat pump and voltage and boiler optimization technologies. It is also actively embedding energy efficiency and sustainability in its planning and operations.’

‘Further education is promoted to enhance employee qualifications, with many employees undertaking Higher National Certificate (HNC) and degree level courses within their field of expertise. Employees and managers are also kept up to speed with new and emerging technologies by attending workshops and continued professional development courses relevant to each discipline. The cost of further training is mostly met by City Building, with the time off work required shared between staff and City Building. Employees have 37 hour contracts, with any additional hours paid as overtime.’

This is the way forward for the climate campaign in Birmingham, the unions and the Trades Council, building support for a Council in-house non-profit retrofit organisation working with unions and communities to lead the retrofitting of homes in East Birmingham.

Richard Hatcher

8 Jan 2022

Richard.Hatcher@bcu.ac.uk

[1] BATC 3 Jan 2021: https://birminghamagainstthecuts.wordpress.com/2022/01/03/the-east-birmingham-inclusive-growth-strategy/

[2] ‘City Building (Glasgow): an inspirational model of low energy social housing and public building production’, Linda Clarke and Melahat Sahin-Dikmen, 2019. https://adaptingcanadianwork.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/106_ClarkeLinda_City-Building-Glasgow.pdf

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