The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.
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Hello, welcome to Midlands Today with Suzanne Virdee and Nick Owen.
The headlines tonight. Gale force winds cause havoc on road and rail
and 6,000 homes and businesses were without electricity as power lines
blow down. A family ask for help to find out who started the fire that
killed their loved one in his own home. The fire happened on the
night of tat's 87th birthday and Andrew never got the chance to wish
him a happy birthday. New figures suggest there's a tough start in
store for the region's economy in 2012. And hot stuff ahead of
Hotspur - Cheltenham Town tuck into a spicy chicken dinner as they
prepare to take on mighty Spurs in the FA Cup.
You can always dream and there's always an upset somewhere. If we
get a bit of luck, you never know. Good evening, welcome to Thursday's
Midlands Today from the BBC. Tonight. Gale force winds cause
cause chaos on roads and railways, as dozens of trees are blown down.
In some areas, power cables were severed, leaving 6,000 homes and
businesses without power supplies. The worst incidents saw the
southbound section of the M6 near Coventry closed after a lorry was
blown over. Rail services were suspended between Birmingham and
Lichfield after a train was hit by a tree. David Gregory has been
following today's events. On the railways between Sutton
Coldfield and Four Oaks her tree fell on to the roof of a passing
train. The line has been closed and so far removed -- removing a fallen
tree. Fortunately I came early to give myself Bencher time in case
anything happened! I came over to visit relatives and I have no way
of getting back now other than about four different buses.
Junction 2 of the M6, and a lorry carrying waste overturned in the
high winds. This then spilled out and fell onto the motorway below
the junction, closing all lanes of the southbound M6. Despite fears
that the accident damaged the bridge structurally, it has now
been declared safe after inspection. But clear up of the rubbish
continues. Around 6,000 people have been affected by power cuts.
Electricity cables at Sandon near Stafford came down in the wind.
Leaving a local pig farmer worried about his freezers of frozen pork.
The fact that the meat is in freezers and we would have to get a
generator in images could be out for a long pit of time. We do not
open the freezers because of a winter in the longer we would have
to throw it away. You've been sending us your pictures of the
damage. This house in Newcastle- under-Lyme lost part of its roof.
And plenty of trees have come down across the Midlands. Some on
vehicles. Others, like this conifer in Willenhall, look set to follow
it. And this scene in Telford is typical of the sort of damage
caused by the high winds. Across much of the region, the clean-up
has continued. Blocked roads have been re-opened as fallen trees have
been removed. We have had a very busy 24 hours. We had missed and
where the tree fell on to the car and blocked the road. We can get
the latest on the travel situation. David is at New Street station.
have just been into the station and the record Sutton Coldfield and
Lichfield is still suspended because of the tree that fell on
the train. Heading south at a Birmingham New Street there are
intermittent delays of up to an hour on the route down through
Coventry towards London. Across the country as a whole there are
similar problems. Wherever you're going on the railway tonight, the
advice is to check before you travel. What about the roads?
lorry has caught a lot of problems. The southbound M6 at junction to
was due to reopen just about now. But for many road and rail
commuters tonight he will be really difficult to get home. Three if you
are travelling on the train up to Lichfield, you should be up to use
your ticket a local bus services and there should be some
replacement buses operating as well. Some good news. 6000 homes and
businesses without power earlier on and that is down to 1500 tonight.
Our weather presenter Ben Rich joins us now. Ben, which areas saw
the worst of the weather overnight? You can see the tide isobars across
a region. Asda's shares moved through from the North West today
was the unstable air their cavers but violent, gusty winds. The
strongest gust was 59 mph. It looks a bit calmer through the next few
days and I will have the full forecast later in the programme.
And for the very latest on the weather and all the details on the
travel situation where you are, listen to your BBC Local radio
station. The family of a man murdered in an
arson attack on his flat in Worcester have spoken about their
loss for the first time. Andrew Heath died after he was trapped
inside his home by the fire last month. His family and police today
appealed for help in catching his killer.
A family left simply asking why? 52-year-old Andrew Heath was killed
in the early hours of December 14th, as a fire, which had been started
deliberately, engulfed his flat, blocking his only means of escape.
Today, Andrew's elderly parents, sister and cousin travelled from
Eastbourne to appeal for help in finding his murderer. I cannot
understand why anyone would do this. They have taken and drew from us
and the fire had destroyed all of his most treasured possessions and
to us it feels as if he has been eradicated. West Mercia Police have
a dedicated team of 40 officers investigating the murder. One line
of enquiry they are looking at is Andrew's social interaction online.
For a man of 52 years of age, he was very active online. He used on-
line Messenger, Facebook and other sites. We are keen to be contacted
by anybody who knew Andrew Heath online or off-line. Outside
Andrew's flat today, tributes from three weeks ago still remain.
At around 6pm on the evening before he died, Andrew Heath went
downstairs to his neighbours for a meal. He returned to his flat two
hours later. He then spent an hour online but what police want to know
is exactly what happened between 9pm and three top 57 the following
morning when Mr Heath called emergency services to save his flat
was on fire. The fire happened on the night of De's 87th birthday and
Andrew never got the chance to wish him a happy birthday. Others like
to ask anyone who knows what happened that night to please come
forward to help the police and help our family find some answers.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact West Mercia Police
immediately. A murder inquiry is under way after
the body of an elderly woman was found at a cottage in
Worcestershire. The woman, who has not yet been formally identified,
was found dead yesterday morning at the cottage on the outskirts of
Bewdley. West Mercia Police have set up an incident room and say
they currently have more than 40 people working on the case.
New figures suggest there's a tough start in store for the region's
economy in 2012. The latest quarterly survey from the West
Midlands Chambers of Commerce shows fewer manufacturing firms are
expecting rising sales or the opportunity to take on extra
staff.The news came as the Prime Minister paid a visit to a new
Enterprise Zone in Herefordshire. These perks are destined for the
American market but the home market is a different story. We are
pushing hard and putting effort and investment into overseas market.
This company employs 220 people here in Walsall and makes machines
like this one which will be used in hospitals to sanitise medical
equipment. It is the kind of company that the government says
can help drive the economy but it is not growing as quickly as last
year, so it is employing fewer new members of staff. But echoes what
other businesses are experiencing. Page survey by the region's six
Chambers of Commerce shows that 35% of firms said their work force had
grown between July and September but the number fell to 31% in the
following three months. 23% of manufacturers cited inflation as
the biggest concern. But firms like Jaguar Land Rover are on the up and
Staffordshire's JCB has seen sales rise. Birmingham Paul Ince --
double ring has just reported one of his best Christmases ever.
Visiting the Herefordshire today, the Prime Minister said the private
sector is growing. The businesses I was talking to today expanding onto
the site include many businesses taking on more people. Of course it
is a difficult year but that does not mean the government should
stand back. It is time to roll parsley 10 helpers as Craig shops.
But in a region that has seen employment for faster than anywhere
else in the country, the Shadow Work impinges Minister says more is
needed. We have more than our fair share of the nation's unemployed
and low-skilled. Might I admitted that we knew more than our fair
share of the resources that the government is making available.
This firm is among those hoping that 2012 does not bring more of
the same. With us now is Jerry Blackett from
Birmingham Chamber of Commerce. It's all a bit confusing, isn't it?
One minute there are signs of real hope, the next minute it's all doom
and gloom. What's the truth of it? It is a bit of everything. We have
a bitter fatigue out there. Last year businesses felt it would be
tough and it was but we would have there bounce-back this year. But
demand is still weak. Prices is rising and inflation is becoming a
worry. Why is that such a problem? It is hurting profitability. The
profit margins are getting so tight that businesses are running hard
just to stand still. Raw-material costs, rail fare increases, the
threat of wage inflation, all of it is hitting confidence. Businesses
are not confident enough to go out and interested we are to create
jobs. Andy eurozone factor? Massively destabilising. 50% of our
exports go to Europe. He does not help when you see the euro in such
a terrifying state. All of that leads us to this data which shows
confidence really nothing and jobs not been created. And this region
needs jobs. We are the only region that has seen private sector
employer no riches. How optimistic are you for 2012? I am optimistic
because we have a great spirit of enterprise. The love of start-ups
in this region is increasing markedly. People cannot care worker
and they are starting their own businesses. The design credentials
in this region are terrific. I think if we can build on that and
get out and export. It is a big world out there, get out and have
A post mortem examination has confirmed a couple found dead at
their home had been stabbed to death. The bodies of 42-year-old
Mark Chandler, and 46-year-old Karen Climpson were found at their
house in Cheadle in Staffordshire on Monday. Police say they are not
looking for anyone else in connection with the deaths and are
treating it as a domestic incident. The plans to offer free parking to
shoppers in Coventry were thrown out today. The proposal involve
waiving charges to motorists are spending more than �10 in shops.
The council said it could leave a �10 million black hole in budgets.
But Coventry city centre looking reasonably busy for a wet and windy
day, but over the last five years the number of shoppers has fallen
by 6%. With 43 empty shops it's led to calls for free parking for
shoppers. The call for free shoppers' parking comes as the cost
of car parking in Coventry has steadily risen. The idea has been
brought to welcome by traders that we spoke to. No more than a pound
to park for the whole day. People coming into town they have to pay
for parking was a baker to a supermarket they get free parking.
I think any incentive to encourage people into the city centre to
shoppers a fantastic idea. There has been a steady rise in the cost
of parking in the city centre. In 2007, it cost around �2 to park for
three hours. In this car park today it now costs around �3. Back
coincides with a fault of the number of people using car park of
about 20%. The council stresses the economic downturn has played a big
part in that fall and says the idea free parking is both unworkable and
unaffordable. If you imagine just one person with one �10 where they
have bought an Apple somewhere, chewing them somewhere else,
newspapers, Ross, coffee and somebody would have to check that
it had all been done in the same day. The cost would be enormous.
With supermarkets and out of town shopping centres offering free
parking it's difficult for city centres to compete, but Coventry's
hoping a spruce up for the Olympics and other schemes will make it a
more attractive shopping destination.
An additional 500 police staff look set to lose their jobs in the West
Midlands. It had been predicted that 2,250 posts could go under
budget cuts, but that figure now appears to have risen. The increase
was revealed at today's meeting of the police authority, as Bob
Hockenhull reports. Budget cuts mean the West Midlands
force, the second largest in the country, must save �126 million by
March 2014. Previously it's been estimated 2,250 posts will need to
go by then. But today a revised figure of 2,764 was published at
today's West Midlands Police Authority. It's an increase of 500,
but senior figures were anxious to play down its significance.
latest projection you see news that figure slightly up. But indeed he
could move slightly down as other changes that we are undertaking
kicking as well. Under the revised cuts estimate, the West Midlands
force would have 115 fewer police officers than first predicted. 277
fewer backup staff. And 122 fewer community support officers. Those
representing rank and file police staff said they understand the
pressure to reduce budgets but warned that the scale would have an
impact on the service to the public. We have to be open and honest with
the public to tell them that we closed fewer staff the service that
we offer will have to be reduced. This new higher figure has emerged
at a time when the police force is looking to find a private sector
partner to help run some services. The chief constable said today that
that would revolutionise the way the forces run here in the West
Midlands. And it will be an operation that will have to rely
increasingly on technical advances to fight crime to compensate for
the reduced numbers of officers. Motorists heading from the Midlands
to London are being warned to change their route this weekend, as
part of the M6 and M1 motorways are closed at a crucial junction. From
tomorrow night, the Catthorpe Interchange near Rugby, where the
M6 meets the M1, is being closed for 36 hours. It's because a
flyover, which takes traffic onto the M1 is being demolished. The
closure will mean lengthy diversions. Here's Peter Plisner.
Preparing for the demolition - above and by the side of two of
England's busiest motorways. With the new viaduct complete and
already in use, this weekend the race will be on to remove the old
one. I am standing on what used to be the fast lane of the M6 heading
southbound before we join the M1. We can you road complete the job
now is to demolish the old viaduct and that will happen over the next
three days. Costing more than �21 million, the new viaduct was needed
because, quite literally, the old one was falling down. For more than
a decade, props like this have kept it in use. Just under 5000 tons of
concrete will be taken in demolition waste and we have
workers operating in a co-ordinated operation. And this bridge
demolition, also on the M1, shows just what will happen over the
weekend - instead of blowing it up, contactors will nibble away at the
concrete until the bridge has been completely removed. But the
demolition will mean lengthy diversions for some drivers. There
will be closures of the M1 northbound between junctions 19 and
20, and southbound between 19 and 18. Three days does not so much to
demolish a large structure like this. Are you confident you can do
it? Absolutely. We have a very good team on board to ensure it is a
success. And if it is, both motorways should be fully open
again by noon on Sunday. Cheltenham Town will aim to become
FA Cup giantkillers on Saturday when they play premier League high
flyers Tottenham. They'll have to overcome a gap of three divisions
to do it. But The Robins are in form - and they're in good heart
after being treated to their favourite meal out. As Dan Pallett
reports. Look what the FA Cup's cooked up
this year. For Cheltenham Town, every cup game means a slap-up feed
at their favourite chicken restaurant. It's become a tradition.
Have you done this evidence of Iraq? Yes. It seems to be working.
Yes, everyone enjoys it. Manager Mark Yates wants Cheltenham to
relax and enjoy themselves this week - because on Saturday they
face Premier League Tottenham and a gulf of three divisions. We are
under no illusions about the quality that they have. What ever
team that goes out there in a white shirt will be full of
internationals with pace, power and quality. We are not going to Burton
ourselves with too much of how good they are. And Cheltenham are
already smiling. They're second in league two and have lost just once
in their last 15 league games. Their cup run is an added bonus.
Whatever the outcome might think we will enjoy it. We have worked very
hard to get where we are and now it is a case of enjoying the next few
days, enjoy Saturday playing with some of the best players in the
world and seeing what we can do. be after a shed at the end? Yes,
though the kit man does not like it! The third round of the FA Cup
always serves up at least one surprise - Cheltenham Town are
hoping they can provide it. Lots of light to them. And BBC
Radio Gloucestershire will begin their build-up in Saturday's
breakfact show. Steve Kitchen's Matchday starts at 1.30, with full
match commentary and all the reaction from White Hart Lane.
The Tamworth goalkeeper Jonathan Hedge says he'll be checking the
weather forecast before Saturday's FA Cup tie at Everton. The Everton
goalkeeper scored this amazing goal during last night's 2-1 home defeat
by Bolton Wanderers. And his opposite number at the non-league
side says he'll be prepared for anything at Goodison on Saturday.
It was blustery and windy conditions at Goodison Park last
night and it bounced about 20 feet up in the air. The keeper try to
scrabble bag and it ended up in the back of the net. I think Tim Howard
was a bit surprised as he did not celebrate whereas he was me I will
be running all the way around the ground!
And we'll have more on the build-up to Tamworth's big day in tomorrow's
programme. Many of us will have ventured to a
panto over Christmas but how many of us regularly support our local
theatres? It's often not cheap, and with many of us watching the
pennies, theatres and arts venues across the region have come up with
a new way to lure us to more live performances. Satnam Rana has been
meeting some who have already signed up to it.
Three theatregoers with a passion for the arts. Sandra, Dot and Lorna
have always attended performances at The Belgrade in Coventry but now
they're going to commit a little more. We have not seen these before.
They have signed up to the I Like Theatre resolution - effectively a
pledge card promising to attend three or six shows across several
venues. There's no discount involved, just a commitment.
thought it would be something new and exciting to do, something a bit
different. A great idea and a good new year resolution. It's all the
idea of this man - artistic director of Stan's Cafe Theatre in
Birmingham. We are all working together so much more now that it
is an idea about bringing theatres together. It has come out of the
theatre committee wanting to reach more people. Many organisations are
facing budget cuts and this resolution card could be the answer
to retain audiences. Here at the Belgrade, audiences were down 14%
last year compared to the previous year. Box office is any one form or
PHI income we also have local- authority funding and funding from
the Arts Council and all of those incomes are under pressure. From
our point of view we feel we are in good nick to be facing these
challenges but it is going to be very interesting times.
Belgrave it is not the only venue taking part. Across the region, 29
venues and companies are taking part in the initiative. So, these
three ladies will have plenty of choices this year - and partipating
organisations have a better chance of keeping audience numbers up.
And where are you off tonight? A moth to the pantomime! Stand-in for
one of the Adli sisters! Well, let's talk weather again now - it's
been causing all sorts of problems. How are things looking for tonight
Some improvements. But it has felt like dazed each of year again today.
We saw the problem that Dublin's caused. We still have one flood
warning on the River Severn in Shrewsbury at the moment but to the
next few days those problem should ease because it is mostly dry wit
lighter wind. We have seen plenty of low pressure this week. This is
the one responsible for the stormy conditions last night and this
morning. But high pressure is starting to build from the West and
that will settle things down through the next few days. We still
have won a two showers feeding him from the north-west. As we go
through the night they will fade away. The wind will lessen and
under clear skies it will turn quite cold. Perhaps a bit lower in
the countryside. The Met Office have issued a yellow warning for
ice. As temperatures drop away they could be slippery surfaces tomorrow
morning. A cold, frosty start but a bright start and quite calm as well.
We will see a little bit more in the way of cloud feeding him from
the West by the end of the afternoon.She should stay dry with
temperatures up to seven or eight Celsius. Tomorrow evening, things
will turn a bit breezy but nothing like the last few days. A few bits
of brain as well. As we head into Saturday, here it is the ridge of
high pressure exerting its influence and settling things down
as we head into the weekend. For Saturday and Sunday is to be main
the fine and dry. Quite a lot of cloud at times and temperatures up
to nine or ten Celsius but the wind That is a relief! A look at
tonight's main headlines. The deaths of three elderly patients at
Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport - a male nurse is arrested. And
gale force winds cause havoc on road and rail - 6,000 homes and
businesses were without electricity. That's all from us this evening,