04/01/2012 Midlands Today


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


The headlines tonight: Warnings that cuts to housing benefits could


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


barriers go up by the Severn in Shrewsbury with water levels


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


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


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


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


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


one of the embryos survived the Good evening and welcome to


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


than 14,000 homes are now effectively unaffordable to those


effectively unaffordable to those claiming hundred and -- housing


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


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


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


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


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


of the homeless system. Government says the new limits will


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Flood barriers have been going up in Shrewsbury today following more


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


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


reporter Joanne Writtle has spent the day in Shrewsbury. Joanne


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


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


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


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


homes and businesses from the forces of nature. Environment


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


the is a representative from the Environment Agency. When will


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


levels in Shrewsbury are expected Sarah Cruickshank's been studying


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


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


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


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


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


latest information on a phone number the trouble give again later


And for more information and pictures of flooding elsewhere in


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


A leading businessman is warning a serious shortage of skilled workers


could halt the current boom in our manufacturing industry in its


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


higher wages being offered by expanding companies such as Jaguar


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


Business Correspondent Peter Plisner. Keeping the manufacturing


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


companies like Jaguar Land Rover- currently recruiting thousands of


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


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


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


Industry experts share the concerns and are alreadty calling for urgent


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


apprentices Despite a long recession manufacters in the


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


with our network of Mike minded manufacturers. We are reinventing


our apprenticeship schemes. That will include school leavers and


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


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


does is to recruit people with the basic engineering skills to


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


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


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


his promoter small manufacturing companies and training they to get


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


denied the killing. He finally confessed last year and showed


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


service at Cheltenham Crematorium. Still to come, football minnows


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


it needs from exhibitors. The National Caravan Council's


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


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


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


exhibition centre in terms of numbers with 2.1 million visitors a


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


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


and Olympia with 1.4 and 1.1 million visitors respectively. So


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


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


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


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


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


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


will be sorely missed. Now to the story of remarkable


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


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


her brother Reuben after their parents turned to fertility


treatment. John Maguire reports from Cheltenham.


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


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


seven weeks ago. The Blakes from Cheltenham first received fertility


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


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


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


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


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


survived the presence and was implanted into Jody and grew into


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


enjoying telling people they have twins born of the same genetic


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


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


miracles can be possible time and time again.


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


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


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


tomorrow morning. Here's Ian with the sport.


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


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


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


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


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


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


we have to reproduce those performances week after week and


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Town before their big Cup tie at Tottenham.


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


been traditionally associated with the region is pigeon fancying.


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


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


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


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


Latcham has been finding out. on, come on.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


breed of fancier applied for a grant to create an archive


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


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


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


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


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


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


celebrated back-flipping Bham Roller has some heavyweight fans.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


interviews will be lodged in the Birmingham Central library.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


world champions, double world champions, and some of his


experienced players have been playing 40 years. They will all


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Lawrence are jailed and told their crime scarred the conscience of


nation. And here, charities warn of a big


rise in homelessness as the Government cuts housing benefit.


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