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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