04/01/2012 Midlands Today


04/01/2012

The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.


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

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The headlines tonight: Warnings that cuts to housing benefits could

:00:07.:00:16.

lead to a rise in homelessness. is all very worrying. Flood

:00:16.:00:19.

barriers go up by the Severn in Shrewsbury with water levels

:00:19.:00:24.

expected to peak this evening. Overnight tonight, we are expecting

:00:24.:00:29.

more rain. We need to keep an eye on that. Fears the skills gap could

:00:29.:00:32.

be widening and it could slow down the recovery in manufacturing...

:00:32.:00:40.

And the amazing story of twins born FIVE YEARS apart! We made the

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decision to give it a go and try, and we are very lucky that we --

:00:46.:00:56.
:00:56.:01:05.

one of the embryos survived the Good evening and welcome to

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Wednesday's Midlands Today from the BBC. Tonight: Food or rent - that's

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the stark choice charities say the poorest in our region will have to

:01:12.:01:15.

make because of government cuts to housing benefit. They also warn

:01:15.:01:18.

there'll be a reduction in the number of rental homes available

:01:18.:01:20.

and an increase in homelessness. But the government disputes that,

:01:20.:01:23.

saying the changes will stop rents spiralling out of control - and

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they say they're offering a package of help to those in greatest need

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to cushion them as the new limits are introduced this week. Ben

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James Ashton is 33, and unemployed. He's had crisis loans and can only

:01:38.:01:41.

afford his �105 weekly rent because it's paid in full through housing

:01:41.:01:44.

benefits. But the Government's capping his allowance, and those of

:01:44.:01:47.

the growing number of people attending this drop-in centre in

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Birmingham. It will mean another bill for me to pay, which will cut

:01:55.:02:01.

down on my food bill. It may be quite angry that we have to pay. We

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are paying for the government bills. There is concerned that... Single

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people under 35 are the latest to see reduced benefits - there's

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concern thousands of homes will be out of reach - with claimants left

:02:15.:02:20.

choosing between food and rent. you are having your rent covered by

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housing benefit, housing benefit will reduce to �110 per week, and

:02:25.:02:32.

there will be any to find the difference. In Birmingham, more

:02:32.:02:36.

than 14,000 homes are now effectively unaffordable to those

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effectively unaffordable to those claiming hundred and -- housing

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benefit. In Coventry, the figure is more than 5,000. And even out of

:02:43.:02:47.

the city, in places like Shropshire, the city, in places like Shropshire,

:02:47.:02:51.

the figure is close to 4,000 homes. The Sifa Fireside charity in

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Birmingham is expecting a rise in the city's homeless. There is an

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example of a guy who lost his job, and we are trying to keep him out

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of the homeless system. Government says the new limits will

:03:04.:03:07.

stop rents spiralling. Housing benefits cost taxpayers �20bn a

:03:07.:03:14.

year. Some claimants, we're told, do receive up to �400 a week.

:03:14.:03:19.

not acceptable do we have a situation that there are people on

:03:19.:03:25.

average earnings in Britain, who cannot afford to live in the same

:03:25.:03:28.

size of accommodation as those on housing benefit. We need to move

:03:28.:03:34.

the system so that it is affordable, it protects the most vulnerable but

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also is fair to taxpayers. Would you say that these are fair? Those

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people have never been in this situation. James Ashton and others

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here are seeking advice. No job, and no money for their rent. Their

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last hope may be a rent reduction We did ask Birmingham City Council

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for their response but no one was available for comment tonight.

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Flood barriers have been going up in Shrewsbury today following more

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wet and windy weather overnight. The River Severn is still rising

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and there's been some flooding of low-lying land upstream. Our

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reporter Joanne Writtle has spent the day in Shrewsbury. Joanne

:04:13.:04:23.
:04:23.:04:23.

what's the latest? It is certainly wet. Most of the defence barriers

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are now in place, because this stretch of and the River Severn.

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They have been used 20 times over the a -- last eight years. With the

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main polling -- pouring down, it is now a waiting game. Protecting

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homes and businesses from the forces of nature. Environment

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Agency workers were out working early to put in a flood defence

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barriers here. For this Ironmongers, it is a relief. Back in 2003, sings

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like this were a regular occurrence. Water used, out through the floor

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and used to have filled the shop, and all of these units here have

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been constructed so they can be removed easy -- easily. It takes

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three hours to get everything from downstairs up here. What is it like

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today knowing you do not have to do that? It is brilliant. A similar

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story at this Auctioneers, where three feet of water would regularly

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flood in. We would expect the up people and the mess, so we could

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not plant sales that well through the Christmas and new year period.

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But now, we are not going to have a flood to contend with. The barriers

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were last to hear it -- used here in February the austere. This

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:05:57.:05:57.

building was opened three years ago. The pantomime will go ahead. We are

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dealing with the flooding. Last year, it was ice and snow and

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terrible cold. Upstream, a flooded road and fields of water. More rain

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is forecast, with the Environment Agency keeping an eye on when and

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if to install more barriers in the They are just putting up the second

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phase of the barriers behind me to protect the car park here. Joining

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the is a representative from the Environment Agency. When will

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levels peak and by how much? We are looking at a fairly normal

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Winterflood. We would expect the river levels to rise by another

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half a metre to a metre. But because of the main scene in Wales,

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we are making precautions, because they could be a secondary peak in

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another day or so. When Debbie Flood princes put up elsewhere?

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do not plan on doing that at the moment, but we will be watching it

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closely. How do you know when to spring into action? We have a quite

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sophisticated level of gages, and we have computer models which will

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give us an idea of what we should do. It seems so ironic that

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recently we were talking about droughts. But that is the British

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weather for you! It will take a lot of this type of weather to balance

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the system, if you like. It has been so dry eye over the past few

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months that it will take an awful lot of this stuff to take us to

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where we need to be. Thank you for joining us. As we have heard, river

:07:37.:07:47.
:07:47.:07:48.

levels in Shrewsbury are expected Sarah Cruickshank's been studying

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the weather charts for us - so how are things looking then? We are

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seeing the rain here. But Wales has been seen the worst of it. We are

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going to see some heavy bursts of rain through the night, and there's

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still a flood warning in place for the River Severn, but we will see

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its gearing up, but if you are a little concerned, you can get the

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latest information on a phone number the trouble give again later

:08:21.:08:31.
:08:31.:08:37.

And for more information and pictures of flooding elsewhere in

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the region, go to the BBC web pages for Hereford and follow the links.

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A leading businessman is warning a serious shortage of skilled workers

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could halt the current boom in our manufacturing industry in its

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tracks. A lack of investment, for example, in apprentices plus the

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higher wages being offered by expanding companies such as Jaguar

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Land Rover are both adding to the so-called 'skills gap' Here's our

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Business Correspondent Peter Plisner. Keeping the manufacturing

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momentum going - here orders are good and output is at its highest

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level for eight years - but when it comes to recruiting more staff it's

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a different story. The managing director here is finding it hard to

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find people with the right skills. Although we are seeing a boom in

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manufacturing at the moment, there is only a certain sized pool of

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people to call from. Long-term, I can see that coming to an end.

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a worrying prediction... Look around this factory and it's not

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difficult to work out why he's so concerned. The people that work in

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here... I and 61 years old. There's another chap who is 56 and 63.

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they have struggled to fill the jobs. One job took six months to

:09:48.:09:52.

fill. So far, there has been very little A downturn in the number of

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apprentices is certainly a factor, but so too is the growth of

:09:55.:09:58.

companies like Jaguar Land Rover- currently recruiting thousands of

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new staff. It is fantastic for the economy, and it will help pull in a

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lot of people who would otherwise be unemployed, but there are

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technical people who will be put up -- playing from the pull of the

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Industry experts share the concerns and are alreadty calling for urgent

:10:19.:10:24.

action. Over the long term, we need to train thousands of engineers,

:10:24.:10:26.

apprentices Despite a long recession manufacters in the

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Midlands are doing extremely well - but for that to continue - most

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agree that action is needed to plug so called skills gap, before it's

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too late. And Peter joins us now from another Birmingham engineering

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firm that's finding it hard to recruit the right staff. What's

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being done to sort the problem out, Peter? Here, the machines are still

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running, which shows how busy they are, but the problem is finding the

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tools to make these sheets. Many people have gone to work for Jaguar

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Land-Rover. How are you dealing with this problem? We are working

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with our network of Mike minded manufacturers. We are reinventing

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our apprenticeship schemes. That will include school leavers and

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matured apprenticeship candidates. What about short-term fixes? Short

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term, what we have done is adopt and improvers skiing. What that

:11:23.:11:28.

does is to recruit people with the basic engineering skills to

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manufacture tools that we utilise, and turn them into our brand of

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skilled person. You have lost many people to Jaguar Land Rover. That

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must be very difficult for the company. Yes, what we have to do

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his promoter small manufacturing companies and training they to get

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from those as a much higher level of training and more diverse than

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the bigger many factors can give. You have to pay more wages, don't

:12:02.:12:08.

you? Yes, we do. In order to do that, we need to target mid-market

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contracts for us to win. Things will get worse before they get

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better? Yes, they are. With respect to winning new business, we are

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seeing contracts come in, and they are in new markets. Many thanks. It

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is clear that we need more apprentices, and more training, but

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The funeral's taken place of Kate Prout who was murdered by her

:12:36.:12:38.

husband in 2007. Adrian Prout was convicted of murder but always

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denied the killing. He finally confessed last year and showed

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police where he'd buried her. Kate Prout's family have held a private

:12:46.:12:56.
:12:56.:13:03.

service at Cheltenham Crematorium. Still to come, football minnows

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Tamworth prepare to tackle Premier League giants Everton in the FA Cup.

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There is a financial reward. And what's in a word? Well, �10,000

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for the winner as the world's best Scrabble players head to Coventry.

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The Boat and Caravan Show has been a fixture on the calendar here in

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the West Midlands for more than 50 years. But it's been announced the

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show due to be held next month has been cancelled. Organisers say

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they've been forced to make the decision because of a rival event

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which has been set up in London. Cath Mackie reports.

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The National Exhibition Centre's been home to the Boat and Caravan

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show for 35 years. The event was the largest of its kind in the UK.

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87,000 people came to browse and buy caravans, boats and camping kit

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last year. But no more because the February 2012 show has been

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cancelled. Rhyno UK, who make caravan accessories in Coventry, is

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one of the 500 plus regular exhibitors who'll now have to find

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somewhere else to go. It is quite devastating, really. We have been

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exhibiting there for seven years and it is the first year without

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the shop window for our business. It could be up to 50% of sales but

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as yet we have to point out. -- we have to find out. The show's

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organisers Ocean Media Group say the event's not getting the support

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it needs from exhibitors. The National Caravan Council's

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organised a rival event at the Excel centre in London. But events

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like the clothes show at the NEC help generate �1.8 billion a year

:14:40.:14:42.

for the west midlands economy. In fact, the NEC's the biggest

:14:42.:14:45.

exhibition centre in terms of numbers with 2.1 million visitors a

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year. Excel in London got 2 million visitors last year. Thanks to the

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Olympics, that's expected to double this year. Then there's Earls Court

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and Olympia with 1.4 and 1.1 million visitors respectively. So

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while news of the Boat and Caravan Show's demise is seen as

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disappointing, Birmingham's chamber of commerce is optimistic. Remember,

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we still do 14 of the top 20 shows nationally here in Birmingham. We

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are at the centre of the country, we have all the reasons why people

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want to come here. The NEC says they're really saddened that the

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Boat and Caravan Show is being cancelled and are sure the event

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will be sorely missed. Now to the story of remarkable

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twins and the baby girl born five years after her twin brother. It is

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an amazing story. Floren Blake came from the same batch of embryos as

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her brother Reuben after their parents turned to fertility

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treatment. John Maguire reports from Cheltenham.

:15:43.:15:46.

They are the perfect picture of a contented young family. Mum Jody,

:15:46.:15:49.

Dad Simon, five-year-old Reuben and now twin sister Floren born just

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seven weeks ago. The Blakes from Cheltenham first received fertility

:15:57.:16:02.

treatment at Southmead Hospital in Bristol in 2005. It worked then so

:16:02.:16:12.

they tried their luck again. Three embryos were frozen for storage.

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That was for one of the day just in case we wanted to extend the family

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and that came about earlier this year when we made the decision to

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give it go and try. And we were very lucky that one of the embryos

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survived the presence and was implanted into Jody and grew into

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Floren, who is it today. Southmead staged an extra special Christmas

:16:34.:16:38.

party last month for just some of the babies born here in 2011, more

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than 1,000, in fact. But even for such a successful IVF unit, Simon

:16:41.:16:51.
:16:51.:16:52.

and Jody's case is a special one. We were very lucky the first time,

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incredibly lucky. And we didn't think we would be lucky enough

:16:56.:17:05.

again. And we thought we would give it ago and didn't expect it to work.

:17:05.:17:10.

Only one embryo survived, two sadly perished. We were expecting it to

:17:10.:17:16.

fail. We were absolutely amazed when it worked. The family are

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enjoying telling people they have twins born of the same genetic

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material if not the same pregnancy, and they hope their story will

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inspire other couples, that with hope and modern science, little

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:17:34.:17:37.

miracles can be possible time and time again.

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What a lovely family. Incredible, isn't it?

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And Phil Upton will be speaking live to the father of those unique

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twins who works in Birmingham on his breakfast show on BBC WM

:17:48.:17:50.

tomorrow morning. Here's Ian with the sport.

:17:50.:17:54.

West Bromwich Albion left White Hart Lane with plenty of praise.

:17:54.:17:58.

But no points after last night's 1- 0 defeat. The Spurs boss Harry

:17:58.:18:00.

Redknapp was impressed by Albion's defensive performance, without six

:18:00.:18:04.

key players. But they couldn't hold out and Jermaine Defoe scored the

:18:04.:18:13.

only goal just after the hour. the last performances have given me

:18:13.:18:18.

comfort in the way we are playing. We have got a 18 games to play and

:18:18.:18:23.

we have to reproduce those performances week after week and

:18:23.:18:26.

hopefully the bit of misfortune we have suffered in the last couple of

:18:26.:18:29.

games, that will not last for the rest of the season.

:18:29.:18:32.

Tonight's Premier League game at Goodison Park will have a spy in

:18:32.:18:35.

the crowd. Marcus Law, the manager of non-league Tamworth, is running

:18:35.:18:38.

his beady eye over Everton before they meet in the FA Cup on Saturday.

:18:38.:18:41.

More than 4,000 fans will make the trip from Staffordshire. And today,

:18:41.:18:48.

a VIP guest turned up at training. Between us, we've won the FA Cup

:18:48.:18:52.

three times. Well, OK. Martin Keown has won it three times. And I just

:18:52.:18:55.

watched on the telly. But it's always a thrill getting your hands

:18:55.:18:58.

on the famous old silverware. And today, the Cup turned up in

:18:58.:19:00.

Coventry, where non-league Tamworth were training at the University of

:19:00.:19:10.
:19:10.:19:11.

Warwick before Saturday's third round trip to Everton. 15th in a

:19:11.:19:14.

Blue Square Premier against the 11th in the Premiership. A

:19:14.:19:19.

mismatch? Of course, but that it is -- that is what it is about. You

:19:19.:19:23.

play above yourself and you hope your other team have a nightmare

:19:23.:19:27.

performance. They have got have believe, they have got to enjoy it,

:19:27.:19:33.

love it, really. They haven't -- they cannot have any fear and, you

:19:33.:19:39.

never know, they might win it. that little stone happens to could

:19:39.:19:42.

go live in the hip at the right place and right time, then why not?

:19:42.:19:45.

If only Tamworth had someone who could bend it like Beckham. Someone

:19:45.:19:48.

who'd played alongside Becks for the LA Galaxy. Someone like Kyle

:19:48.:19:51.

Patterson. The Tamworth striker who played in the States after being

:19:51.:19:57.

released as a youngster with West Brom. That is a lot of attention on

:19:57.:20:02.

us and we don't want to hide and let the attention passed us by. We

:20:02.:20:10.

want to let the experience wash over us. So who better than Martin

:20:10.:20:13.

Keown to give a little pep talk to the lads from non-league before

:20:13.:20:15.

their hot date on Merseyside? Believe in yourselves. Enjoy the

:20:15.:20:19.

Believe in yourselves. Enjoy the Believe in yourselves. Enjoy the

:20:19.:20:25.

occasion. Have no regrets. And ignoring all talk of superstition,

:20:25.:20:29.

Tamworth couldn't wait to get their hands on the Cup, just in case they

:20:29.:20:33.

never get this close ever again. It is a dream tie.

:20:33.:20:36.

Tamworth's manager Marcus Law is clearly looking forward to playing

:20:36.:20:39.

Everton. I bet he wouldn't dare touch the Cup? You're right. He

:20:39.:20:42.

wouldn't go anywhere near it. And not only that, but he told me he's

:20:42.:20:45.

vowed that he'll never even set foot inside Wembley Stadium to

:20:45.:20:48.

watch a game until he gets the opportunity, as a manager, to see

:20:48.:20:51.

his own team playing there. Fingers crossed. We'll have more

:20:51.:20:53.

from the Tamworth camp on Friday. Tomorrow, we're with Cheltenham

:20:53.:20:57.

Town before their big Cup tie at Tottenham.

:20:58.:21:00.

Thank you. Well, one sport or pastime that's

:21:01.:21:03.

been traditionally associated with the region is pigeon fancying.

:21:03.:21:06.

There are more licensed racing pigeons here than in any other part

:21:06.:21:09.

of the country. But with most enthusiasts of a certain age, some

:21:09.:21:14.

fear it's fading into history. But �40,000 of lottery money's now

:21:14.:21:17.

being spent to preserve memories of the passion for pigeons, as Giles

:21:17.:21:24.

Latcham has been finding out. on, come on.

:21:24.:21:28.

Fred Evans, where he's happiest. In his pigeon loft at his home in

:21:28.:21:30.

Kingstanding in Birmingham. He's been racing them 33 years, so there

:21:30.:21:37.

must be something about it. It is fantastic. Your heart starts

:21:37.:21:42.

pumping, the adrenalin gets going. And even if you don't win the race,

:21:42.:21:46.

at that moment when the pigeon comes, you feel you have won the

:21:47.:21:50.

race. Midlanders have been fancying pigeons for the best part of a

:21:50.:21:52.

century, breeding, showing and racing. Traditionally, it's been a

:21:52.:21:55.

hotbed and there are still hundreds of enthusiasts here but by and

:21:55.:21:59.

large they're growing older together. Which is why a younger

:22:00.:22:02.

breed of fancier applied for a grant to create an archive

:22:02.:22:06.

celebrating the passion for pigeons. And the lottery's come up with

:22:06.:22:14.

�40,000. It is absolutely wonderful. I think it is something that has

:22:14.:22:18.

not been done before. It is a completely unique project but it is

:22:18.:22:22.

something that is dying out as well. There are not many people taking it

:22:22.:22:26.

up and if we don't capture the culture now, who knows what will

:22:26.:22:30.

happen in the future. A top racer can reach speeds of 90 mph and the

:22:30.:22:37.

celebrated back-flipping Bham Roller has some heavyweight fans.

:22:38.:22:45.

The pigeons, they brought them back to England. I suspected he was

:22:45.:22:49.

closer to the North of England, but -- because he was the Birmingham

:22:49.:22:55.

roller. Will's a rarity. A teenage pigeon fancier. They belonged to

:22:55.:23:01.

his dad who died in September. His son's keeping his passion alive.

:23:01.:23:06.

This is how we bonded. I feel it is the part of him. My friends laughed

:23:06.:23:11.

about it but I don't mind. It is what I choose to do, it is what

:23:11.:23:15.

keeps me busy. The archive formed of a radio play, a book and video

:23:15.:23:23.

interviews will be lodged in the Birmingham Central library.

:23:23.:23:27.

That is good to here, actually. Now, what's been around for more

:23:27.:23:30.

than 70 years but can leave you lost for words? The answer is the

:23:30.:23:35.

board game Scrabble, which was invented in the 1930s. While we may

:23:35.:23:38.

play it for fun, competitive Scrabble is a very serious affair.

:23:39.:23:42.

And today some of the best players in the world were in Coventry for

:23:42.:23:47.

the UK Open, bidding to win �10,000 in prize money. Here's Kevin Reide.

:23:47.:23:50.

Chosen for it's good road links, central location and because hotels

:23:50.:23:53.

are amongst the most competitively priced in the UK, the UK Scrabble

:23:53.:24:02.

Open has arrived in Coventry. picked -- 56 games so it is worth

:24:02.:24:07.

my time to come over from Holland and play. The British players are

:24:07.:24:12.

some of the best in the world and get a chance to compete against the

:24:12.:24:16.

best is what is so exciting. Where I come from, it was 80 degrees

:24:16.:24:26.

where I left, Fahrenheit, but it is worth it here. Some are world

:24:26.:24:29.

champions, like Nigel Richards from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, but

:24:29.:24:36.

others are here for the fun. I was on the M6 on the way down. The car

:24:37.:24:42.

boot for a lot - much the car boot opened, the tiles fell out and a

:24:42.:24:46.

chap asked me, what is the word on the street? There are more than a

:24:46.:24:49.

quarter of a million words in the Scrabble dictionary but just a few

:24:49.:24:52.

mean you're onto a winner. The highest scoring starting word means

:24:52.:25:01.

Russian peasants and can score you 128 points but during again, one

:25:01.:25:09.

word scored over 300 points. There are 64 players, new players to

:25:09.:25:12.

world champions, double world champions, and some of his

:25:12.:25:16.

experienced players have been playing 40 years. They will all

:25:16.:25:20.

play 38 games and the person that wins the most games wins the money.

:25:20.:25:28.

At the top prize is �2,000 at if you fancy go, these days you can

:25:28.:25:38.
:25:38.:25:38.

click online, any time or anywhere, Kuala Lumpur-Coventry.

:25:38.:25:45.

It is great, it is such an absorbing game. I would like to

:25:45.:25:55.
:25:55.:25:56.

It has been a windy day today and we have flood warnings in plays the

:25:56.:26:00.

tonight for parts of Shropshire. If you are concerned, please call the

:26:00.:26:08.

Club line. -- the Floodline. This weather front will push in tonight

:26:08.:26:13.

bringing some rain our way and the weather front means we will see

:26:13.:26:18.

gusts of 50 mph as the winds increase as well so it is a wet

:26:18.:26:23.

band windy might across the region and we will see some heavy rain.

:26:23.:26:29.

Temperatures dipping to around seven so it is not too cold.

:26:29.:26:33.

Tomorrow, bright a weather, so we will see a brief respite from the

:26:33.:26:38.

rain. Tomorrow morning, quite a lot of cloud with the rain dying out

:26:38.:26:43.

giving us dry weather for tomorrow afternoon and quite a lot of

:26:43.:26:47.

brightness and sunny spells to end the day but it will be a windy day.

:26:47.:26:52.

It will feel cold as well with temperatures peaking at around nine.

:26:52.:26:58.

Another windy day, but it will be dry. Overnight, we will see some

:26:58.:27:05.

showers, but it will be largely drive. Friday starts off cold, with

:27:05.:27:10.

high pressure, meaning the cloud will build through the day so it

:27:10.:27:14.

starts off with quite a lot of sunshine, but Friday afternoon, we

:27:14.:27:19.

will see quite a lot of cloud with temperatures peaking at seven or 8.

:27:19.:27:22.

A look at tonight's main headlines: The men who murdered Stephen

:27:22.:27:25.

Lawrence are jailed and told their crime scarred the conscience of

:27:25.:27:27.

nation. And here, charities warn of a big

:27:27.:27:33.

rise in homelessness as the Government cuts housing benefit.

:27:33.:27:36.

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