May 2011 Archives

Inspiring, energising and impressive (which was a great high compared to the low of relegation for the Blues!)....just some of the words I would use to sum up my time at the Conscious Capitalism Conference.

I heard so much that struck a chord that to sum up in one blog would be too much. So, instead, I plan to share my thoughts on a few key themes over the weeks ahead.

Last week we were disappointed by data suggesting that on a pro rata basis, the banks were falling short of their target of lending to SMEs agreed in February with the government under the so-called 'Project Merlin'. That data related to 2011q1.

So I said to the boss - looking him straight in the face. " We need to talk about my holidays". Couldn't catch his eye at all. You'd think that wouldn't really be possible when you are confronting yourself in the mirror - but I did seem to manage it. Because, of course, when you are your own boss, holidays are a matter of quite delicate internal negotiation.

There's been a huge sigh of relief and much cheer here in Sweden after Saab did what many thought improbable if not impossible - it restarted production at its Trollhattan plant.

Saab is producing again after a quite amazing effort by its Chief Executive Victor Muller to pull the metaphorical rabbit-from-the-hat, touring the globe looking for investors, taking no for an answer after being rebuffed, and finally finding the cash to restart production.

After the Hawtai deal fell apart a few weeks ago, many of thought it was game over and that Saab was about to go the way of MG Rover. 'Not yet' thought Muller, who went on to persuade the Chinese distributor Pang Da to part with hard cash, to take a stake in the firm, and to buy some Saabs.

If you enter a Sustainability/CSR/Environment competition and lose, you should ask for a review of the judging process, plus a refund for the time and money spent for the application.

Over the last thirty years, the corporatisation of sustainability has led to a multitude of annual events. During these events, media publishers, trade associations and other professional event organisations aim to present awards to the greenest companies. Similarly, rankings of the Top 100 Green Companies are now common features of the annual calendar. Yet, no one seems to question the biases and problems of these often costly (for the losers) PR exercises.

The coalition government announced the abolition of RDAs, including Advantage West Midlands, back in June last year - nearly a year ago, after PM David Cameron labelled their powers a "disaster".

The Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Department has stated that it expects RDAs to "cease operations by March 2012".

So how odd it is that the coalition government is now embarking on a consultation on their abolition - yes you read that right: a consultation! That's because the RDAs can only officially be scrapped when the Public Bodies Bill, now being debated in Parliament, becomes law. That Bill requires consultation before Orders allowing RDA closure can be laid.

The Government recently announced that a fifth of the RDA's land and property assets, including business parks, development sites and other bits and pieces of infrastructure they had built up over the last few years, will be sold - on the open market - while some regeneration sites will be transferred to the Housing and Communities Agency (or HCA) - an unaccountable quango.

Remember that the justification, in so far as there was one at all, for abolishing the RDAs was that they were, er, unaccountable quangos.

The scrapping of RDAs was "chaotic and Maoist" admitted the hapless BIS Secretary Vince Cable last year in Birmingham. Perhaps he meant that a "thousand flowers could bloom" a la Mao Zedong's famous 1957 mis-quote. Not the best historical reference that, Vince.

Well while some LEP flowers may be about to bloom, others look distinctly stunted in their growth. Despite being handed a supposed 'toolkit' by central government containing Enterprise Zones (EZs), easier planning, the chance to bid into the Regional Growth Fund, the localism bill and a presumption of competence for local authorities, I'm still left wondering what real levers of economic growth the LEPs have to press.

JLR Powers ahead.

By David Bailey on May 24, 11 03:58 PM in Automotive

Three years ago the giant conglomerate Tata acquired Jaguar Land Rover from a cash-strapped Ford for $2.3 billion. At the time, some so-called 'experts' argued that Tata had made a huge mistake, and pointed to the fact that in the first ten months of Tata ownership, JLR stacked up losses of £281 million.

But many of us stressed that the underlying business was sound, that JLR was already back into operating profit even under Ford, and that its strategic direction was fundamentally right even if there were challenges ahead.

And since emerging from the worst downturn in automotive history, JLR has proved us right and the 'teenage scribblers' in the City wrong - big time. Indeed, on Thursday JLR will announce bumper annual profits in the £1 billion range. The firm is now very much Tata Motor's star performer. Ford must be wondering what it has done.

MPs still have "significant concerns" over the takeover of Cadbury by Kraft, a Select Committee report has just highlighted, more than a year after the takeover, but note some emerging positive trends.

The House of Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee also heavily criticised Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft's CEO, for her "regrettably dismissive attitude" in refusing to give evidence to the Committee. Another own goal by the Kraft boss then.

The Select Committee report, Is Kraft working for Cadbury?, published today, states that Committee members were left frustrated when Irene Rosenfeld turned down repeated requests to appear either in person or by video-link to give assurances about future employment levels at Cadbury.

Business authors

David Bailey

David Bailey - Professor of Industrial Strategy at the Aston Business School, Birmingham
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Stuart Pemble

Stuart Pemble - Construction Lawyer, Mills & Reeve
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John Clancy

John Clancy - Birmingham City Councillor and director of and
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John Samuels

John Samuels - Professor of Business Finance, Birmingham Business School
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Chris Tomlinson

Chris Tomlinson - Chris Tomlinson is the founder of social media and online PR agency Friend (
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Andrew Whitehead

Andrew Whitehead - Senior partner at law firm SGH Martineau, leading the firm's Energy & Climate Change practice.
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Keith Gabriel

Keith Gabriel - A Birmingham-based PR Account Manager
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Beverley Nielsen

Beverley Nielsen - Lecturer, Design Management, at the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BCU
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Mike Loftus

Mike Loftus - Director of News from the Future Ltd. Writing on the trials of setting up your own business
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Richard Halstead

Richard Halstead - Midlands region director for EEF, the manufacturers organisation.
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Karl Edge

Karl Edge - partner at KPMG in Birmingham, specialising in automotive, manufacturing and house building sectors.
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Peter Owen

Peter Owen - Managing director for construction firm Willmott Dixon Midlands.
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Dr Steven McCabe

Dr Steven McCabe - director of research degrees for Birmingham City Business School.
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Francis Greene

Francis Greene - Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, at the University of Birmingham.
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Alan Gilmour

Alan Gilmour - Director at Cogent Elliott, experienced in marketing, brand development and customer relationship management.
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Paul Noon

Paul Noon - Paul Noon, OBE, West Midlands International Trade Director at UK Trade & Investment.
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