24/11/2011 Midlands Today


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Hello and welcome to Midlands Today, with Nick Owen and Suzanne Virdee.


The headlines tonight: police searching in woodland for Kate


Prout's body have found human remains.


We have found human remains close to the location Adrian Prout said


he buried his wife. Slowing sales for shops as the


Christmas rush fails to get going. We are not attracting the customers


we were before. Protests about the cuts that could


threaten 3,000 miles of country walks.


And where best to go to hone your skills in Alpine acrobatics. Stoke-


Good evening and welcome to Thursday's Midlands Today, from the


BBC. It's being predicted that this


could be an austerity Christmas, with shops bracing themselves for


tough trading. And this at a time of year when stores hope to make


the lion's share of profits to tide them over in leaner times. Today,


Sir Philip Green said his retail empire, which owns Burton and BHS,


has seen a near 40% slide in profits and will close 260 stores


across the country, including many here. Across this region, sales


have fallen by more than 10%. Even at the country's most popular


shopping destination outside London, the Bullring in Birmingham, sales


are down, too. And according to the latest Bank of England survey,


cash-strapped consumers are tightening their belts more than


ever. But as Cath Mackie reports, savvy shoppers can bag a bargain,


as stores are forced to make big discounts.


90 eggs for 99p and four loaves of bread for �1. No wonder people were


queuing for hours this morning to get their hands on the opening


offers at A1 Supermarket in Small Heath, Birmingham. It is so cheap.


It is an unbelievable offer. That is why we have come. I can't


believe it! There were crowds, too, up the road at the Bullring. But


how many were spending? The dancing diggers had drawn them in. The


unusual display marked the opening of Spiceal Street, a new dining


quarter. We cannot ignore that people are finding it tough. I


think it has finally caught up with us in Birmingham in this second


half. Online, we have done a lot to ensure that customers will look for


products online and then come into the shops to make a purchase.


Bullring is the top end of retailing, fairing better than many


places in the West Midlands. Spending's so slow in some areas


that stores are closing. Solihull- based Cooks the Bakery has gone


into administration, while Dorothy Perkins and Burtons in Stafford are


shutting shop. They're part of the Arcadia Group, which is closing up


to 260 stores countrywide after reporting a big fall in profits.


am sure there will be fewer people wanting to come into the town


centre and you have got to feel for those who work in the shops. It is


stripping out the heart of the town as all is little shops disappear.


Rising prices, battered confidence and the lure of online bargains


have all contributed to the decline in footfall, or the number of


people going shopping. And the statistics are quite stark.


Footfall fell in the West Midlands by 10.4% between August and October.


Compare that with the national average of 2.3%. But here's one man


who's confident of success in a tough market. Chris Sargeant, of


the Handmade Burger Company, who opened a new restaurant today at


the Bullring. This is our 13th restaurant we have opened over five


years, so we are really excited. You have to not lose what you


created from the first restaurant on day one, so we have not lost our


values. But with inflation taking a big bite out of incomes, how much


will we all have left in our purses and wallets to spend this


Christmas? Our business correspondent, Peter


Plisner, is in Warwick for us tonight, where there's a Victorian


Christmas fair, one of the many events around the region designed


to pull in shoppers at this time of year. Peter, after a very tough


year, the next 30 days are crucial for everyone in the retail sector,


aren't they? Absolutely. Hence the appearance of this Christmas market


tonight. Some do up to 50% of their annual trade in the run-up to


Christmas, but things have been pretty slow to start this year.


Some are blaming the mild weather. Last year, of course, it was snow.


So we need a happy medium between the two. This is David, a trader


here. How are things for you? Things are picking up. The weather


could get a bit colder and that would help. But we are hoping we do


not get the snow and stuff from last year and we are happy with the


way things are picking up at the moment. How important a Christmas


markets like this in getting people in? Very important. It is like the


start off Christmas. People suddenly feel the spirit and they


love it. We have got independent shops and a fabulous market, as you


can see, and it gets people feeling a bit happier with life in this


economic gloom. Can you tell us why people like cold weather to do


their shopping? I don't know! It is just a psychological thing that


snow and frost makes you wrap up warm and you feel hope very good


about Christmas. Many thanks. Later on, they will be turning on the


Christmas lights, yet another draw to get people out and spending.


looks lovely there! Thanks for joining us this evening.


Later, Coventry City fans want the club's owners out. Now the council


leader joins the campaign, too. needs investment and to me, it is


clear that SISU are the ones to put Tonight, human remains are found by


police officers searching for the body of Kate Prout, who was


murdered by her husband Adrian four years ago. They were discovered on


the farm the couple shared in Gloucestershire. Officers have been


looking for the body for four days after Adrian Prout confessed to her


murder in prison last week. He'd previously maintained that his wife


had disappeared but he was convicted of her murder last year


and is currently serving a life sentence. Steve Knibbs reports.


you are watching this broadcast and you are able to do so, please


contact us. You might not be able to talk to your family and


friends... From the start, Kate Prout was just a missing person.


But then the police realised her disappearance was more sinister.


They spend weeks combing the acres on her farm, but inner avail. Then


her husband, Adrian, was charged with her murder. In court he


claimed he was innocent. The police uncovered his violent past in his


wife's diaries and that he had threatened to take her away. Then a


dramatic twist. After failing a lie-detector test, Adrian Prout


finally confessed and was brought to the farm in handcuffs to show


the police way he had buried his wife. This is the spot believed to


be Kate Prout's final resting place. You can probably see how tough it


has been. Adrian Prout has not been able to give us a precise location


and that is why it has taken so long. But it is in the area he


loped - but he indicated. It has been a slow process by necessity.


This is a crime scene and the body itself will be a crime scene in its


own right, so they need the area to be as uncontaminated as possible,


and there maybe forensic evidence from four years ago, when they


first looked for her body, and there could be some soil evidence


or pollen evidence that they want to match, and they really don't


want to be disturbing too much of that. A pathologist spend the


afternoon examining the remains pending formal identification. A


short while ago an ambulance carrying a coffee left -- a coffin


it left the woodland. Students at Birmingham University


claim one of their protestors has been injured in a scuffle while


taking part in a demonstration. Around 20 students barricaded


themselves in a building at the university early yesterday to


protest against tuition fees. The university is taking legal advice


on removing them. It is a group of autonomous activists based at the


University of Birmingham who are protesting the rise in tuition fees,


which, by 2012 at this university in particular, will be �9,000. It


is also about staff and departmental cuts taking place at


the University. The food company Nestle is creating


300 jobs at its factory between Uttoxeter and Burton-upon-Trent.


The company is investing �110 million to increase production of


one of its coffee brands at its Tutbury site. The move will see the


plant's production capacity treble. We are now exporting from this site


to 30 countries around the world, and quite frankly, we're running


out of capacity. We are nearly at the end of that capacity so we are


spending another �110 million, and that is another 300 high-quality


jobs. Technicians and engineers that we will need.


With its beautiful countryside, Shropshire is a magnet for walkers,


who generate �40 million annually for the local economy. The county


has 3,500 miles of footpaths. But ramblers say all this is under


threat because of budget cuts, and today they marched, what else would


you expect, to Shire Hall to voice their concerns. Bob Hockenhull


reports. This is Lyth Hill Country Park. It attracts many ramblers.


But some say their rights are not being protected. We have complained


about problems with the foot paths but nothing has happened. 3,000


people have voiced their concerns. Many who have signed a petition are


from outside the county and some have come from abroad to sample the


delights here. They want to get across how important walking is to


the local economy. Many have marched to Shire Hall for a valid.


That means about 500 will be unwalkable. We would not want a


visitor to frock Show coming across those. But the council says the


accessibility to footpaths has been improved over the past few years.


They told the petition organisers the cuts will not compromise the


roots. We are prioritising the parts we need to keep open. We


cannot prioritise all of them because it -- because they are not


being used. If the people at the centre employed by the council are


not there to do the enforcement work, writing letters to the


landowners, that path will deteriorate. It is something the


ramblers say they are keen to avoid in Shropshire is to remain a top


walking destination in the UK. Absolutely stunning, isn't it?


Looking at scenes like that, it is hard to believe it is a year to the


day since the last snowfall of winter. Any sign of the first snow


of this winter? Not unless you are heading to Scotland. Thankfully, we


have been spared any premature wintry weather, but wind is often a


worry and we could have that in the days ahead. More later.


And later, how the Potteries have become a centre for freestyle


skiing. Who needs real snow? Campaigning starts in earnest


tonight for the race to become Birmingham's first directly-elected


mayor, with the power to run the city. The second city and Coventry,


too, are in line to go down the route already followed by London.


The timetable looks like this. The initial consultation period closes


on 3rd January. Then there's expected to be a local referendum


next November. If that produces a Yes vote, then elections for mayor


in both Birmingham and Coventry would take place in May 2013. Both


the Yes and No camps have supporters in all the political


parties. I think in principle, the evidence we have from around the


world and in London is that where you have a strong civic leadership,


you tend to get better outcomes of the city. And it is important that


the city mayor for Birmingham is also given powers to implement


transport and investment, and have real say of what is happening in


the city. I do not think Birmingham should have an elected mayor


because it will not improve the governance of Birmingham or the


democracy, or the services that people of Birmingham rely on.


Well, if that mayoral election takes place, there'll be no


shortage of candidates. MPs past and present, as well as leading


figures in local politics, the media and from industry are among


those whose names have been put forward. And more are expected to


emerge. Some of those candidates will be at election debates in


Birmingham, the first of which is being held tonight at the city's


Hyatt Hotel. Our political reporter, Susana Mendonca, is there. A chance


for someone to make the early running? Certainly. In about half-


an-hour, this room will be filled with people wanting to hear why


they should or should not vote for a -- an elected mayor. Many have


suggested they will stand, including Sean sand, a Labour MP.


And the Lib Dem MP for Birmingham Yardley, who is opposed to the idea


of a mare that has suggested he might stand of the position becomes


available. I am joined by the organiser of this debate. There has


been criticism that most of those who are interested are Labour Party


members. Is there an argument that you need to broaden the debate and


get more of the other parties interested? I think the way we have


operated as a campaign means we have offered people coming in from


every angle and politics, from Conservative to Labour. Principally,


we have offered an independent debate to those who want to stand


up on the podium. The key challenge, though, is getting people


interested. The turnout was low. How do you get them fired up?


need you so sure media, more than anything else. We have also been


out on the streets and got people involved, asking them what they


think. Sadly, we must leave it there. The referendum takes place


in May, and then if people say yes, there will be an election the


following May. Figures out today show a record


number of NEETs. That's young people not in employment, education


or training. The number stands at 1,163,000. One of the country's


biggest manufacturing firms is trying to do something about that


by encouraging more schoolchildren to consider engineering as a career,


as Joanne Writtle reports. Enthusing a new generation of


potential engineers. School pupils joined in an event at RAF Museum


Cosford to get them thinking about a career where there's a skills gap.


One of the organisers was BAE Systems, one of the country's


largest employers of engineers. Do you think some of these children


are too young to be encouraged into engineering? Some of them are only


11. What we find is that when children go to secondary school,


they lose their interest in science and maths, so if we can engage and


inspired young kids, they will go on to develop their skills and


hopefully become the engineers of the future. Once, millions of


people worked in engineering in this country. Latest figures show


there are now 421,000 engineers. As students got to grips with science,


organisers spoke of how they were addressing the drop in interest.


When I go back to school and think back to engineering and science, it


was through a book, but what better place to come than a museum to


throw chocolate eggs off a wall of, spend time in a hangar and learned.


The children themselves had mixed views about engineering and why it


might not be an attractive option for some. Now the music is coming


out, everybody wants to be pop stars and famous instead of doing


work like maths and science. looks like a brilliant job. I will


considerate when I am older, definitely. I would like to be an


engineer because I like to make technical gadgets. Much of the


event has focused on biomimicry. That's how science takes


inspiration from nature and how nature can inspire inventions. So


how flight of a mechanical kind links to flight in nature. The


whole event is aimed at giving young people ideas for a possible


future in engineering. Onto football, and Walsall have


made it through to the FA Cup. They came from 1-0 down to lead 2-1 with


goals from Alex Nichols. Exeter equalised but a goal in


extra time took Walsall through to a second round tie. Well done to


them. The leader of Coventry City Council


is calling on the owners of Coventry City Football Club to sell


up and let someone else run it. John Mutton says SISU aren't


prepared to invest in the club and that the council would never


consider selling their share of the ground to the current board, as Dan


Pallett reports. They're under fire like never


before. This is the board of Coventry City's owners, filmed in


March last year. Since then, two have left, many star players have


left and the Sky Blues are in the relegation mire in the Championship.


The council leader says it's casting a shadow over the whole


city and it's time for a change. Obviously, it needs investment. To


me it is clear that SISU and those people will put investment -- will


not put investment into the club. They have no real interest in


football. They just want to get their hands on the Ricoh Arena.


Coventry City don't own their ground. The City Council owns half


but won't sell. SISU have run a football club into the ground.


There is no way I will let them run the Ricoh Arena down into the


ground as well. Attacks have already come from the fans. There


have been protests at several games this season. Many agree it's time


for new ownership. As a Coventry fan, they have promised a lot and


delivered little. They are clearly ruining it. We should keep hold of


what we have got because there is no interest from anybody else.


only in September, SISU launched a charm offensive to win over the


fans. People should recognise that we are supporters as well. We have


become very attached to the football club and we know the


feelings they have. We want a successful club. It's a tricky


subject for manager Andy Thorn. His priority is avoiding relegation.


don't want to get caught up in the politics because I would take my


eye off the ball. We need to keep working hard with the players to


achieve what we want to achieve. There has been some good news today.


The Sky Blues today signed promising Aston Villa midfielder


Gary Gardner on loan. But Coventry need a lot more good news days if


they're to escape relegation next May.


We have just had a statement from the club as saying that they need


to do much to rebuild the trust between the club and the fans and


SISU. We now have an expert on this. Pretty abysmal attendances. What do


you think the future holds for the club? I think it is a transitional


season. They released a lot of players at the end of the season on


free transfers, players that would have had a market value. They are


cut adrift at the bottom of the table at the moment. Who knows what


the future holds? There are talks of potential administration. It is


a case of witch and see at this time. The fans are pretty fed up.


How on earth do you win them back? For a Football League club like


Coventry, the fans are the lifeblood of the club. It is


different to the Premier League where they can take television


money. They cannot do that here. Just over 11,000 core supporters at


the game on Tuesday. It is a worrying sign. But it is not enough


to have a great stadium and club. The fans want results? Yes. There


is talk of the club investing in a share of the stadium but many fans


would like to see investment back in the team, because that is what


will improve their league performance. This has a negative


effect on the club's revenue, where they could then look to sell some


of their better players to recoup. Thank you for coming in. Troubled


times indeed. Freestyle skiing is a sort of


alpine acrobatics that's grown so much in popularity, it's now an


Olympic event. And a club in Stoke- on-Trent is emerging as one of the


leading UK centres for the sport. And despite the lack of real snow,


the club is now vying to bring a Winter Olympics medal back to the


Potteries, as Liz Copper has been finding out.


At Festival Park in Stoke-on-Trent, this is the biggest dry slope


freestyle jump in the UK. And this club is training skiiers who're


competing with the best in the world. We are actually looking at


helping them out with their gym training and in terms of their


mentality and the way they approach this. It is a big psychological


game when you are throwing yourself quite high in the air, and you have


to be prepared for what could happen. Looking at all the elements


that make a good freestyler. ski slope's been here since the


'80s, but the freestyle club was only established earlier this year.


It's attracting large numbers of young enthusiasts. I started off


not even being able to go down the slope, but gradually you get used


wit and the effort you have to put in and the training you do. It is a


piece of cake! These young skiers have their sights set on a Olympic


glory. Sissy Herant, from Chesterton in North Staffordshire,


is already in the British team and is training for the Winter Olympics


in Russia in 2014. Just the rush you get when you go over that jump


and land a trick. Or going skiing with friends. It is all worth --


always worth it. The club has ambitious development plans. With


increasing numbers of talented competitors drawn here, it's aiming


to become the country's leading dry-slope centre.


I can't imagine getting used to doing that! Anyway, how is the


It will be turning breezier and we have had some comments on how much


so. Hold on to your hats! It is to the north of the country and it is


spearheaded by a fairly measures- looking area of low pressure. That


spread to the north of Wales and to the east of the border we could get


some of that, too. Towards the end of the week, it is looking windy


but dry. Having said that, under his blanket of cloud, we have rain


working in from the West, and as that comes in, it will turn gusty.


The rain will start to split up and fragment as it goes eastwards. If


we could have some heavy bursts to the north. We have got clearing


skies to the West and temperatures could fall as far as five degrees,


but not enough for frost. As the cloud close tomorrow, we are waking


up to a good deal of sunshine. But introducing the odd shower. It will


feel a lot fresher tomorrow. From tomorrow night, the Sky's clear


once again, so temperatures could fall as low as three degrees. Gusty


on Saturday, said temperatures could be up to 10 degrees, feeling


A look at tonight's main headlines: A war of words about next week's


strike over public sector pension reform. The Ggovernment claims it


will lead to job losses. Let's go back now to our business


correspondent, Peter Plisner, who's at that Victorian market in Warwick.


Money is tight for just about everyone at the moment, so will


there be bargains to be had on the high street this Christmas, Peter?


Certainly no need for any discounting in Warwick, judging by


the number of people who have turned up. But we are already


seeing discounting in shops like Debenhams. Also expect bargains


online. Tomorrow is traditionally known as Black Friday, when you get


some of the biggest bargains ahead of Christmas. Amazon and Apple are


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