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Welcome to Midlands Today, with Suzanne Virdee and Nick Owen. The
headlines tonight: What will the Chancellor's Autumn
Statement mean for us? Tonight business leaders give their verdict.
One thing we were looking for was some sort of help or some sort of
move to controlling inflation a bit better.
"We'll do it anyway", say defiant strikers told to stump up thousands
or be banned from marching through a city centre. We've got teachers,
social workers, dinner ladies, nurses who want to take part in a
lawful, democratic protest and the council are putting obstacles in
their way. A delicate operation to help
thousands of salmon stranded because of the dry conditions.
And what does it feel like to be a Paralympian? The children who got
Good evening, welcome to Tuesday's Midlands Today, from the BBC.
Tonight, what does the Chancellor's Autumn Statement mean for jobs and
business in this region? One of the main headlines from George
Osborne's speech was the boost for road-building projects. In this
region, the busy Tollbar traffic island in Coventry will be rebuilt.
There'll be a new bridge over the West Coast Main Line, to help
improve roads around Birmingham Airport and the NEC. And a bridge
at Evesham, in Worcestershire, will be rebuilt. Elsewhere, there was
grimmer news, with a forecast that unemployment will continue to rise
over the next 12 months in a region which already has a higher-than-
average number of people out of work. Business leaders here
welcomed the statement, saying they don't think there will be a return
to recession in 2012. Our business correspondent, Peter Plisner, joins
us now from the Heathcote Industrial Estate in Warwick, where
we've been tracking the fortunes of companies there for Midlands Today.
Are firms there confident about avoiding another recession, Peter?
I think so. Certainly many have welcomed today's announcement.
Tonight, we are at a haulage depot, where, as you can imagine, they
will be pleased at the fact that they have scrapped the idea of
increasing fuel duty next month. Today, I have spent the day gauging
opinion on the Chancellor's statement.
Surviving one of the toughest recessions in living memory. This
firm and makes metal cases for balconies. It has thrown an
incredible load on us, trying to basically stand still. Elsewhere,
another firm which has weathered the economic storm. Dennis Eagle
Ltd makes dustcarts and exports them all over the world. Although
orders are up, long-serving workers like Tony Cowley are still
concerned about the fragile state of the economy. Prices seem to be
going up and up but our pay is not. Enter the Chancellor and his Autumn
Statement. Something not to be missed for Dennis Eagle Ltd. Here,
they have recently been recruiting but did the Chancellor to enough to
persuade them to take on any more staff? We will be keen to help and
participate in any way possible along those lines. We take on a
regional number of apprentices now and we realise the importance of
young people coming in, being trained up for the workforce of the
future. With the state the economy is in at the moment, it is hardly
surprising there are empty buildings here. We have been
monitoring the system but it -- this estate for 12 months but here,
it is not all doom and gloom. At this printing firm, they are busier
than ever, with many orders coming from new businesses. There are a
lot of people setting up new businesses, even in this
environment, so with some other things I have heard today, they
help to those who are setting up, it has got to be good for my
business. But not everything announced today went down well.
Plans to encourage the young unemployed back to work by
threatening to remove benefits got a definite thumbs down. Would you
want to employ somebody who has been forced to take a job? No, I do
not think it is a good idea. It is like being a prisoner of war.
most firms on the estate having business come to them, this did
provide good news. But with economic growth will slow, the
struggle for many firms is far from over. Joining me here at the depot
are two people with views on the news heard today. You must be
pleased that the fuel duty increase in January has been scrapped?
We were very worried we were going to pass a psychological barrier
because threepence would have meant the highest ever diesel price,
which would have been dreadful for our industry. Did you think there
was anything that could help you as a business? Not so much help but
there was nothing that would hinder us. It means we will go ahead with
plans in terms of some more recruitment, so another six jobs we
will be putting out in January. Many thanks. Richard Butler, you
are from the CBI. The Chamber of Commerce have said they feel what
has been announced will stave off recession. Is that you're feeling?
We hope so. It is a package for business that will help. There is
some money for infrastructure project. The roads near the airport
and the NEC. But they are hardly earth-shattering and they will
hardly get the Midlands moving? many ways, they are not. The
Government does not have much wriggle room. But there are some
schemes, banking schemes for small businesses, which Rob very
worthwhile. And also youth credit and encouragement to take on young
people. What about unemployment blackspots? Is there anything in
the announcements today to deal with those? I think there is. The
enterprise zone mainly in Wolverhampton, there are some
excellent tax credits that have been announced. Do you think we
learned much today? Apart from how bad the economy is! As you say,
there is much that has been leaked in the past couple of days. But
there are some worthwhile things coming out. Thank you. Anything
that helps deliver growth has to be a good thing, I suppose.
There was some welcome news for motorists from the Chancellor today.
Plans to increase fuel duty by 3p next month have been scrapped. The
rise in rail fares will also be less than originally expected and
pensions will also be going up. Our political reporter, Susana Mendonca,
joins us now from the German Market in Birmingham. What have people
there made of it? A lot of the people I have been speaking to
around the bars here are very happy at the prospect of the fuel duty
increase being delayed until the summer. But there is a lot of
apprehension about what this will mean for growth and jobs here in
Birmingham and across the West Midlands. We heard the Chancellor
talking about how things could be far worse if the eurozone crisis is
not solved, so we have come to our own little bit of Europe, here in
Birmingham, to find out what people think. You cannot be overly
optimistic at the moment. But you have always got to believe things
are going to get better. Rather nervous. I don't know what is going
to happen. Whatever they say, I am not sure what is going to happen so
we have to wait and see. The price of bills and food are continually
going up. I think it will be a struggle for a lot of people in the
future if they don't do something about that.
There we have a flavour of what people in the German market think
of the Chancellor's announcement. I am joined by a couple of people
with their own views. I have Allen, who runs the cider store, and also
Michael Ward, who runs the Chamber of Commerce. There were a lot of
announcements for small businesses. For you, what difference do you
think today's announcement will make? A lot of things announced
were good for us. The apprentice scheme, we will probably take
advantage of that in the new year. The only cloud on by horizon for us
is, if the Chancellor has reduced the tax take up on petrol, he is
going to look for somewhere else to make it up, and I suspect we will
be hit with some alcohol of duty, which happens every year. That is
my only concern. I know the Chamber of Commerce says we will not have a
recession. The OECD figures we had yesterday were not looking good. Do
you think the West Midlands has what it takes to come out of this?
All the figures are showing that we expect there to be growth in the
economy, albeit less than 1%, so it will feel relatively flat but it is
not a recession, it is growth. And in terms of the proposals from the
Chancellor, he is addressing the issues around increasing finance.
Thank you. We must leave it there. That is a flavour of how people in
Birmingham city centre of feeling about the statement. Thank you. We
will be joining Patrick Burns later to get the political take from
Westminster. Good to have you with us this
evening. Later in the programme, we'll be meeting a former Olympic
marathon man who could become this year's Unsung Hero.
A man's been killed after a car and lorry collided early this morning.
It happened on the A49 near Preston Brockhurst, in Shropshire. The
lorry jack-knifed and caught fire, blocking the road for several hours.
The lorry driver wasn't injured. A march by thousands of striking
public sector workers through the streets of Birmingham will go ahead
tomorrow. Unions have accused the City Council of trying to erode
democracy after they demanded thousands of pounds to pay for road
closures. A senior councillor today accused the unions of acting
irresponsibly, as Sarah Falkland reports.
It's a fight to save pensions from government cuts. But unions in
Birmingham have had another battle - with the City Council over a
proposed march. The last time unions marched through the city,
they paid just a few hundred pounds. They marched on a weekend. But the
City Council said loss of revenue from on-street parking, combined
with road closures, would mean tomorrow's march would cost them
�8,000. Only a few weeks ago, we have the racist thugs of the EDL
protesting in the city centre and they did not have to pay a penny.
We have teachers, social workers, dinner ladies and nurses who want
to take part in a lawful, democratic protest, and the council
is putting obstacles in their wake. The council points out that none of
the EDL actually marched and that the fees are standard practice. On
the eve of the march, they are going ahead anyway, without paying
the council is single penny. Tomorrow, this car park will be
full with the cars of union members, going to the arena. They are acting
irresponsibly, encouraging this to take place, having not followed the
criteria. Unions say even without the council's co-operation, the
march will be well-managed and safe. We will have hundreds of stewards
said the demonstration will be absolutely safe. Whether there of
road closures or not, it will be saved. A magnificent demonstration
took place on 30th June and nobody was hurt whatsoever. Up to 5,000
people could join in. One union leader has said
tomorrow's strikes could be the biggest walk-out since the General
Strike of 1926. Our reporter Giles Latcham joins us.
What's the impact likely to be in this region, Giles? It's going to
be big for employers, of course, and for those trying to run council
services. It's going to be a testing day for many parents. By
our reckoning, just over 1,270 schools, academies and colleges
across the Midlands will close. That figure incorporates
Gloucestershire and it's for complete closures. Others will be
partially closed. In Birmingham alone, 160 are shutting, a third of
the city's schools. We went to one in King's Heath this afternoon at
picking-up time, to ask parents what they think of the strike.
think they should have turned around and got everybody to vote
first before they actually turned around and decided to go on strike.
I've been some other public sector staff, if they were really aware of
how the private sector staff got paid than their pension
contributions, I think it is more similar than people realise. It is
horrendous, what is going on in the public sector, and I think it is
right they should stand up and strike. It just means I get to
spend an extra day with him! How well supported do they think
the strike will be? It's difficult to predict, but according to the
public sector unions taking part, they have about 10,000 members in
the Birmingham area. In Staffordshire, the council is
expecting just under 3,500 to strike. That's out of a workforce
of 28,000. Interestingly, there are professions taking part who haven't
gone on strike before. Headteachers, for example, and some health
specialists. So appointments will be cancelled and hospitals like
Warwick and Stratford expect to run limited services. In Shropshire,
they're likening it to what you'd expect on a bank holiday.
And you can keep in touch with all the details about what the strikes
mean where you live on your BBC A race is on to try to save
hundreds of salmon trapped in the River Teme because of low water.
It's been the driest year in the region since records began. The
Environment Agency have been working to help the fish reach
their spawning grounds. Joanne Writtle has been watching rescue
operation. These fish are facing a crisis
brought on by nature. The Atlantic salmon need to work their way 50
kilometres north of here in Ludlow to spawn. But they now barely have
the energy to leap upstream. The River Teme is too low for them to
make their journey. If they don't get upstream of here, they will not
be able to lay their eggs, and if they can't do that, that is the
future progeny of this would have gone. They will lose their eggs and
dive. There is not enough spawning in the River here for them. -- and
die. We used an underwater camera under the supervision of
Environment Agency experts, to avoid disturbing the fish. Some
weigh up to 30lbs and may have travelled from Greenland. Some of
the females are carrying up to 10,000 eggs. The Environment Agency
has made temporary modifications to two weirs to try and help the fish
through. The salmon crisis has attracted many onlookers. We have
been watching them nearly get up but then falling back. They have
wanted to get up into the upper reaches of the river. I have never
seen the river as low as it is now. This was the River Teme on the
Herefordshire-Shropshire border in May, looking more like a farm track.
It dried out earlier this year than in the hot summer of 1976. This
weir in Ludlow was restored by a charity. The Teme Weirs Trust is
backing the temporary work being carried out to two other weirs by
the Environment Agency. It is a huge crisis for the future of
salmon in this river. And it really needed to be seen to straight away
and we have done everything we can to help the Environment Agency
progress with the alteration of the weirs. Along with work to help them
continue their journeys, the salmon are under 24-hour surveillance, to
avoid illegal fishing, though they are unsuitable for eating at this
stage in their life-cycle. But there is a twist in detail. It
might be raining now but the temporary modern -- modifications
can only work if there is significant rainfall to allow the
fish to get through. That is an incredible rescue
operation. A miserable day, but for the salmon
there was some of that much-needed rain. Shefali, what's in store for
tomorrow? Unlike today, it's a much drier picture, but that's not to
say there isn't more rain on the way. A lot more in fact. I'll tell
you when later. 200 school children in Birmingham
enjoyed a games lesson with a difference today. They all got the
chance to have a go at a Paralympic sport. It's hoped that one of the
lasting legacies of 2012 will be to encourage more youngsters to play
sport. Ian Winter has been to the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham
to find out more. Warming up for a new sporting
experience. 200 children from 16 special schools across the region,
all set for a big surprise. They'd come together to have a go some
Paralympic sports. And everywhere you looked, the youngsters were
having fun, encouraged by some exceptional role models. Gymnasts
like Sarah Whitehouse, from Wolverhampton, who won gold and
silver medals at the Special Olympics World Summer Games in
Athens just a couple of months ago. This really means a lot. My mum
nominated me to go there. I get to carry the Olympic Flame. When do
you find out? Next month. Spend a couple of minutes in Sarah's
company and her passion for sport comes shining through. And the same
applies to Paul Jacobs. Two years ago, Rifleman Paul was left blinded
by a bomb whilst on patrol in Afghanistan. He won a George Medal
for bravery. And now, he's become a big fan of goalball, a popular
Paralympic sport for the visually impaired. Sport for me has been on
top of my agenda. As a soldier, you have routine, and once you have
been thrown out of that, it is difficult. For me, going into sport,
swimming, whatever it may be, it has been a top, top thing. You just
look at them and see the joy on their faces as they experience
something new. As they carry on, that could do a lot of good and
take them to new places. You will feel proud you are part of that.
Mickey Bushell is one of Britain's best medal hopes at London 2012.
The wheelchair racer from Telford is off to Australia in the New Year.
There's a lot of hard work ahead if he's to go one better than the
silver medal he won at the 100 metres in the Beijing Paralympics
three years ago. The ultimate goal is gold. I guess it is for
everybody. I have to make sure I am the one that is there. Only the
chosen few will win medals at London 2012. But today everyone
enjoyed their first taste of the Paralympics in Birmingham.
That was inspirational! 1.5 million tickets are still
available for London 2012 Olympic football matches. They include the
12 games being staged at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, which is being
re-named for the Olympics as the City of Coventry Stadium. Coventry
is understood to be the second most popular venue outside London.
They've sold more than 80,000 of their 250,000 allocation.
All this week, we'll be revealing who our five finalists are for this
year's BBC Midlands Sports Unsung Hero Award. It recognises those
unpaid individuals who devote countless hours and energy to
helping others take part in sport. And first up is former Olympic
marathon runner Bill Adcocks. Since injury forced him to retire from
competition, he's spent more than 50 years as a coach and
administrator with Coventry's Godiva Harriers. Kevin Reide's been
to meet him. It's hard to quantify Bill Adcocks'
contribution to grass-roots sport. But when you consider he's been
helping to run Coventry's Godiva Harriers since the age of 18, you
start to get the picture. Even so, his response to be nominated is
humbled. You have these schemes and you look at what people have put in,
you think, well, obviously somebody thinks that of me, and it is very
gratifying. It is amazing to think that Bill has been active here for
more than 50 years, and in that time, he has literally helped
thousands of athletes. He likes things to be done right and he
knows people are putting a lot of effort in, and so does he, so he is
a great person to have in your corner. A marathon runner himself,
for 35 years he held the record time racing from Marathon to Athens,
and came second in the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica.
Harriers friend and colleague is David Moorcroft. He is one of the
most outstanding marathon runners Britain has ever produced. He left
no stone unturned, and as a young athlete, it was wonderful to have
somebody like him to look up to. Back at the track, the night may be
over for those training, but for Bill, work is just beginning. First
there are meetings to attend. Then at home, more dedication, as he
spends hours keeping the website up-to-date with literally thousands
of race results. I have to sort of call him if I want him! Or and
looks through the hatch when it is time for coffee. He is always on
there. -- or I look through the hatch. I want to be involved in
trying to create an environment where people do things to help, and
if they do that, that is payment enough.
Now back to our main news tonight, and major road construction
projects across our region are set to benefit from the national
infrastructure plan unveiled today by George Osborne. There's also a
significant tax break for new businesses setting up in the Black
Country enterprise zone. Our political editor, Patrick Burns,
has been watching developments at Westminster. How well have we done
here in the Midlands out of this mini Budget? To judge by the number
of times the Chancellor mentioned the West Midlands, you would think
we had done rather well. He pointed out that, incidentally, employment,
and that should have been going down during the boom years with
this strategy and the road building projects. But the problem is, where
is the money coming from? The �5 billion the Government is putting
into it is coming from elsewhere in their current spending plans. I am
joined by Shabana Mahmood, the Labour MP, and Sajid Javid, the
Conservative MP. You are just storing up yet more paint in years
to come for the sake of these road- building schemes and other
projects? That is not right atoll. We are bringing forward capital
spending projects that were already there and finding savings elsewhere
and using it for these projects, both in the West Midlands and
elsewhere. At a time like this when we are facing an economic challenge
and the rest of the world is facing an even bigger one, it is important
we do what we can to boost growth. Infrastructure projects is
something we can do. We also have local enterprise partnerships and
local enterprise zones. You have got a welcome all this. The schemes
just mentioned, it gives 100% capital allowances for firms to
locate into the zone. That is good news? And of course bringing
forward long-term investment projects, that is part of our plan,
so I am glad to hear this. But it does not go to any way to say this
is a reckless economic policy and is having a devastating impact on
hard-working families up and down the country. Briefly, talking to
some bankers, they say business does have a lot of money in their
accounts. It just lacks the confidence to release it into new
opportunities and job creation. What can you do about that? We need
to boost confidence. We have a lot more in Britain than in any other
country in Europe. The Government needs to focus on growth. OK, more
about that roll-out of high-speed broadband in rural areas tomorrow.
Thank you, Patrick. It's been a really dank, dark day.
Shefali, what's in store for After today's rain, we will see
further rain later this week. The wind is quite prominent and the
temperature will start to drop as we head into December. More
particularly, Thursday night into fried it will be quite a busy
picture. -- in to Friday. You can see the cloud is already breaking
up and we are seeing a cluster of showers to the north of the region.
Later, they will move south. Not an entirely dry picture and there will
be bricks in the cloud, so temperatures will fall down to four
or five degrees Celsius. Tomorrow, a chilly start to the day, or a
chillier start than today. A lot drier than today and sunny as well,
with a few showers just dotted around, but they will fade away,
leaving it much drier in the afternoon. A colder day than today.
Slightly less of a breeze as well. It is through tomorrow night that
we see this heavy band of rain spilling out from the South and it
will become patchier as it moves north. But a few hours of heavy
rain, with things feeling quite breezy. On Thursday night, we get a
A look at tonight's main headlines: More years of pain. Britain's debt
is bigger, its growth lower. A grim warning to families across the UK