18/01/2012 Midlands Today


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


The headlines tonight: Unemployment is up again in the


region to nearly a quarter of a million so why are there more than


30,000 job vacancies? Whether these jobs just don't fit the aspirations


of the people who live and work in this region, it is very


disappointing. Our advice was ignored and the


Government's strategy may have harmed people - doctors hit out


over the handling of swine flu. can't imagine that the special


arrangements saved anybody's life or even saved a day of sickness.


Angry teachers threaten to go on strike again over plans to turn a


primary school into an academy. And at a time when every penny


counts, how you can tell the real Good evening, welcome to


Wednesday's Midlands Today. Tonight, business leaders accuse the


Government of not acting quickly enough and say confidence is


falling as unemployment rises again. The number of people without a job


now stands at 243,000. That's up 9,000 on last month's figure. That


translates to 9.2% of the workforce which is higher than the national


average. At the same time, figures released today by the Department


for Work and Pensions show that there are plenty of jobs available


with more than 32,500 vacancies being advertised in the region's


From frontline to phone line. Gareth Towle was a soldier for ten


years serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Back on Civvy Street, he went


looking for a job. This was not the first place I came to. It is so


hard to find a job coming out. I sent about 30 applications out and


nothing came back so I am lucky here.


He got lucky at Autonet Insurance in Stoke-on-Trent which employs 500


people. They've come up with a new way of recruiting staff. We started


recruitment innings which allowed people the opportunity to come and


talk to us -- recruitment evenings. Sell themselves instead of relying


on a CV. The irony at a time of growing


unemployment is that job centres across the region have around


30,000 vacancies. Employers complain of a skills shortage, but


getting a foot in the door is still a problem. It's terrible, I have


applied for 20 jobs in the last two weeks. Any feedback was back none


at all. What are you applying for? Anything really. Cleaning, bar work,


shops, factory worker put it seems there is nothing.


Just yards away in Worcester city centre, a new retail site's being


built. When ASDA advertised 300 jobs here, it was reported that


3,500 people applied. The Government's now being urged to


kick-start growth by investing in big infrastructure projects to


create jobs now. Unemployment is the most serious issue facing the


region now. With the eurozone crisis, growing uncertainty and it


is likely to get worse for some time to come so if we want to be in


a better place next year, and nationally avoid 3 million


unemployed, we need to get going now and start soon. This company


employs 28 skilled people on the side.


What I'm being told is a key issue is confidence, or in this case,


lack of it. And it's only when business regains confidence in the


economy that they'll start recruiting. What we are reacting to


is the news of potential eurozone problems, potential double-dip


recessions, the problems of banks' lending to each other and that is


affected people's confidence. We do not want to get caught out like in


200 wait. -- like in 2000 a date. - - like in 2008.


But with key manufacturers like Jaguar Land Rover expanding, and


the feel-good factor from the olympics and the Queen's diamond


jubilee, business leaders are hoping 2012 will restore faith in


the economy. Joining us now is our political


editor, Patrick Burns. More disappointing news on the job


figures today. What's been the reaction at Westminster? Labour MPs


are more than disappointed. Liam Byrne says we are looking at an


unemployment emergency. He has a constituency in Birmingham and has


one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and it is


proof that the Government's measures are not working. But talk


to local Conservative MPs and they say that their measures need more


time to work through. Things like the work programme, the work


experience project and the youth contract. Joining the here at


Westminster are a Labour MP for Stoke South, the shadow Justice


Secretary and Gammon Williamson, the Conservative MP for South


Staffordshire for -- Gavin Williamson. Birmingham Chamber of


Commerce who are not usually the sternest critics, say that you


should be acted more quickly to arrest this problem. What we are


doing is addressing this by putting in place things like


apprenticeships, 160,000 subsidised new jobs for young people, getting


them off unemployment benefit and getting them into proper work and


430,000 new apprenticeships, that is what we are creating. A solid


progress that Gavin is talking about? Here we go again,


unemployment soars in Conservative Government. This is an emergency


and even in Gavin's constituency, it is up again. This government


needs to act. But you are saying you would not reverse the cuts so


you cannot take too much issue with that. We are not saying that. We


are saying we would need to make cuts, because in 2015, the


projected date of the next general election, will inherit an appalling


situation we will have to act quickly to reverse that. We have


also found that there are around 30,000 vacancies. Does that say


something about the absence of skills? Should jobseeker's reassess


expectations? We are seeing the Government putting in an enormous


amount of effort creating new jobs. Jaguar Land Rover announces they


will create new jobs in my constituency and Amazon, private


sector companies creating jobs. We need to get the right skills and


that is what we are doing with apprenticeships. We are not seen


those skills, though. It is ridiculous to say these things


because what we need to have is a proper programme like we had under


Labour where people are trained for those jobs. Thank you to you both.


Next week, the growth figures which there is lot of speculation for. It


is likely to show that we are contracting as an economy. It will


probably not lift the mood but for that, back to you in the studio.


Coming up later, the caring owner spending thousands of pounds on a


rescue team to find his beloved pet dog, Alfie.


The Government strategy to fight swine flu was "excessive and may


have harmed people". That's the claim being made by two senior


public health doctors in a new report. They also say their advice


was ignored after a cluster of cases of the H1N1 virus in


Birmingham. The pandemic in 2009 was the largest of its kind in 40


years. Here's our health In 2009, Britain's focus was on


Welford Primary School, the first hotspot for swine flu. The


Government's focus was on containing the disease. But within


four days it had spread through five schools. For public health


doctors Andrew Rouse and Jacky Chambers, it became clear that


swine flu was a mild disease and the response was excessive.


time had come to move to the treatment phase of this pandemic


and we basically, our advice was ignored.


They claim that a local action plan was overruled. Policies may have


led to greater infection and treatment delay. New systems were


set up that simply didn't work. They almost brought to a chaotic


end, existing hospitals, GPS systems, out of our systems and put


lot of people at risk whereas I cannot imagine that the special


arrangements saved anyone's life or even a day of sickness. Concerns


about Tamiflu were also ignored. Their claim, that there was little


scientific evidence for giving it to healthy people and that it was


unethical to give it to children because it made them ill, were


backed up today in the Cochrane Report.


The official report into swine flu was by Dame Deirdre Hine. She told


me that she was working quickly but she openly and honestly identified


deficiencies and lessons to be learnt. The conclusions of that


review were really a bit of a whitewash in terms of what needed


to be learned and our view is that we still yet have to learn the


lessons of how this country dealt with the swine flu pandemic.


Government published a new pandemic flu strategy in November in which


more emphasis is placed on local decision-making in the early


decisions and just finding out how dangerous a virus is and less on


trying to contain it. But our doctors argue that it could


be worse in future because legislation being considered would


hand more power to the Secretary of State over public health.


And our Michele joins us now. Scathing criticisms we heard in


your report, have decisions being taken at all? The regional director


for public health says that those experiences are not her experiences


and NHS West Midlands has also said they do not accept those


experiences. They said there was obviously a need of clear control


circumstances because this was a pandemic and you have to have some


control from the centre but clearly there are issues to do with the way


in which these things are directed. And that they do not have power


over trust boards to tell them what to do, they can only guide them.


are talking about this nearly three years on so why should we care?


There are issues about whether people died because of this because


people were not taken to hospital because the advice was they may


have swine flu which is actually a mild disease and they may have had


something far more serious. Beyond that, an issue to do with the


future in that the Government has plans to create an organisation


called Public Health England which will actually concentrate the


powers in a body which is related to government and so it would


become an organ of the Civil Service and issues happening then


may happen again and they want the flexibility to be able to have a


local response to an epidemic. One man has died and another


suffered a broken arm in an incident at a cement works in Rugby.


Emergency services were called to Cemex UK's plant at Lawford Road


just before 2am this morning. The Health and Safety Executive is


investigating. Cemex was fined �200,000 over the death of one of


its employees in an explosion three years ago.


Detectives investigating the murder of a couple in Birmingham say they


don't believe the theft of gold was a motive. Avtar and Carole Kolar


were discovered at their home in Handsworth Wood a week ago. Last


night police were granted a further 36 hours to question a 37-year-old


man arrested on Monday. Teachers furious at plans to turn


their school into an academy say they're planning to go on strike


next week for the second time over the issue. Education Secretary


Michael Gove says, to improve standards, under-performing schools


should be run by outside sponsors. A number of secondary schools in


our region have already made the switch. Critics say the changes are


unfair to families and amount to Montgomery Primary in Sparkbrook is


a school, which according to Ofsted, is making satisfactory progress.


But the Government says that's not good enough - it's under-performing.


Education officials came here with a firm message. The school should


be an academy, with sponsorship. The fact that schools are being


told by the Government they should become an academy has caused much


controversy and this school next Wednesday, Thursday teachers will


go on strike. We have asked Birmingham City Council for a, and


they said it was a matter for the Government. In a statement, the


Mohammed Ashraf sympathises with striking teachers. With a daughter


in Year 6, he's calling for proper consultation. If the Government


wants to see this big society, and empowering people, why do they


force people against our wishes or without us having a say?


At the Westwood Academy in Coventry, the school cook's been replaced by


a former Royal Navy chef. One freedom, the head says, of a


comprehensive school becoming an academy last September. A local


computer firm is a sponsor and Ofsted has just rated its teaching


as "outstanding". Suddenly where money would have been top sliced,


all that money comes into the school so we have to be much more


careful about how we spend that money and look for improvements in


services for the children and the catchment area we serve.


Around a dozen primaries in Birmingham alone could become


academies. Campaigners say there's no evidence it'll improve standards.


There are virtually no primary school academies in existence so


there is no academies. The Government cannot 0.2 successful


primary academies because it there are not any -- cannot point too


successful. Schools that are improving will


still be considered under- performing if new targets for


English and maths are not met. The Education Secretary is facing a


showdown with his critics, who he's described as "enemies of reform".


Staff at the BBC's studios at The Mailbox in Birmingham have begun a


24-hour strike. About 80 members of the broadcasting union, BECTU,


walked out in protest at plans to transfer jobs and production to


Bristol. The move would affect programmes currently made in the


city including Coast, Countryfile and Hairy Bikers. Protesters claim


it will turn Birmingham into a media ghost town. Moving these jobs


to Salford or Bristol says no money, it does not make a better plan,


there is nothing strategic about it. They have got a 25 Lydia lease and


we have no idea what they are going to do with it. -- a 25 year lease.


The BBC didn't want to put anybody up for comment but in a statement,


a spokesman said: It is disappointing that BECTU members


have gone ahead with industrial action and we remain open to


We apologise to our audience for any disruption to service.


Still to come in tonight's programme, who'll come out on top


as Wolves and Blues prepare to meet again in the FA Cup?


Yes, let's hope they're not rained off. It's turning wetter and


windier, and as for the temperatures, is that it for the


mild weather or is there more? Find The price of gold has travelled


with investors rushing to buy it as the economy struggles. It has led


to a big increase in trying to pass off cheap imitations as the real


things. Birmingham's Assay Office is offering courses to pawnbrokers


and antique dealers so they do not get ripped off.


Buying and selling gold is big business. This firm in Birmingham's


Jewellery Quarter has seen turnover increase from �12 million five


years ago to �250 million now. But that old saying that "all that


glitters is not gold" is ringing truer than ever. One in ten


customers are trying to sell fake gold. Five years ago, it was one in


a 100. It is really shocking, some of the things. Sometimes they have


got nine inside a shank but when you tested, sometimes it is just


not gold at all. This box of mixed gold is worth


�100,000. These 22-carat gold And �100,000 of precious metal goes


into a melting pot, and is poured into a mould to make gold bars.


The price of gold is around �34 per gram, compared to �10 five years


ago. Nearly 70 tonnes of fine gold was scrapped in the UK and Ireland


At Birmingham's Assay Office people are flocking to a one-day course to


learn about the trade. It's thought to be the only one of its kind.


originally started a because people ask us. The first course sold out


in short notice. This will be followed by another course in two


weeks which is already sold out and we are looking desperately for more


day it. -- Maude date. The British Jewellers' Association


is working on plans for guidelines surrounding buying and selling gold.


We are putting together a code of conduct so people buying gold work


to a common set of standards. They will keep records of the


transactions being taken place and if they have CCTV, they will have


images. The Birmingham Assay Office tests


and hallmarks precious metals. Experts there are passing tips to


others in their one-off courses to protect the reputation of the


That is fascinating. When John was there and our cameraman, three


customers came in with more than �100,000 worth of gold in that time.


Astonishing. A dog owner is spending thousands


to find his beloved terrier, Alfie, who went missing five days ago.


It's thought Alfie is lost in a badger sett but all efforts to find


him have failed. Now the worried owner has called in a specialist


rescue team whose main task is to find earthquake victims buried in


the debris. Joan Cummins reports. Alfie? Alfie?


Rod Chivers and his family have been maintaining at a vigil at this


disused railway line in Rugby since his pet terrier Alfie disappeared


on Saturday. It is the not knowing which is destroying me. It was my


wife's dog and she died three years ago. It is my lifeline.


Alfie had vanished into an entrance hole of a badger sett, before the


family could start searching. They had to gain a licence from Natural


England who allowed them to employ a drain expert with an underground


camera. Despite probing eight meteres of tunnels, no sign of


Alfie. Today, four days after his disappearance, the family called in


search experts from West Midlands Fire Service. Specialist listening


devices and probes usually used to detect casulaties in earthquakes


were used through the undergrowth. If Alfie is detected under


legislation, the firefighters have to get permission to disturb the


badger sett. Rod agreed to pay �700 an hour to


use the services of the search specialists but despite repeatedly


testing the area, there was still no sign or sound of Alfie. With the


equipment we have, we have done as much of a search as we can of that


back as possible. I am confident if Alfie work there, making any sort


of indication, we would have located him. Unfortunately that has


not been the case. When you have to accept the inevitable? No, no. He


is out there somewhere. We will find him.


It's said that dogs are man's best friend. Today demonstrated


perfectly by a man determined to stop at nothing to find his best


We would love to give you some good news, but we cannot yet.


And the search for Alfie is continuing tonight. Still no news


on his whereabouts at the moment. There's a Midlands derby in the FA


Cup tonight. But Wolves against Birmingham City isn't exactly a


sell-out. Ian Winter is live at Molineux. A bit quiet for a match


night but that is not because it has at 8 o'clock kick-off. Or


because it's live on TV. It's typical of a growing trend. Just


look at the facts. In 1954, 36,000 were here to see Blues beat Wolves


in the FA Cup. Tonight, the crowd could be around one third of that


figure. But there's one player who doesn't mind a bit.


Coming in from the cold. The nightmare is finally over for


Michael Kightly. The Wolves winger has battled back from the same


career-threatening injury as Owen Hargreaves, patella tendonitis.


That's baffled top surgeons across Europe and beyond. You were such a


huge favourite with the bull fans before injury and a lot of them


have feared that they would never see playing in a shirt again -- a


favourite with the Wolves fans. Happily... I know I am through that


and I can hopefully show them that I am still the player I was.


COMMENTATOR: And here is Michael Kightly.


Kightly's loan spell with Watford proved a huge success. He scored


three goals, was Man of the Match half a dozen times, and now he's


played the last two games for Wolves. Don't be surprised if he's


left out tonight, to be fresh to face Aston Villa on Saturday. And


judging from the goalless bore at St Andrew's, it could be a good one


to miss. Why it is on TV after the first game, I don't know, after the


first game. It was a fairly flat affair pulled up lightning cannot


10 days ago, fewer than 15,000 fans saw the game at St Andrew's and


tonight, the crowd could be even smaller. For those who watched the


first one, probably won't come back. At 14,000 not coming already put up


the difference is, let me tell you, it will be a barnstorming, rip-


roaring Cup tie. Put more pressure on off to win it, they are the home


team. -- put more pressure on Wolves to win it. I'm quite looking


forward to it. Last season in the Premier League


at Molinuex, Wolves beat Birmingham 1-0. No-one would be shocked if


You can see the full interview with Michael Kightly on the Midlands


Today Facebook page. So, could the clubs do more to encourage fans not


to abandon the FA Cup? Jez Moxey is the Wolves chief executive. There's


a lot more football today than there was in 1934. It is 24 hour


media coverage of the sport. We had to pitch it right, ticket prices,


and we have done that tonight. Above all else, we need to play


attractive football and win games and they will come. Is there a case


for scrapping FA Cup replays altogether? I think if you're not


careful, you can dilute the competition too much and I do not


think that is an agenda at the moment. We have to make sure that


we win and don't have a replay. have slashed the ticket prices.


Mick McCarthy has promised an attacking formation. Are you going


for it tonight? We have won the FA Cup four times in our history. 4th


round for nine consecutive years and we were like to do that again.


This time around with Sheffield United, a special club, faced in


the next round. Thank you, may the best team win.


Don't forget BBC WM has full coverage on tonight's game. And on


Friday, we'll have a special profile on Robbie Keane, by his


best pal, Matt Murray, before Wolves play Villa in the Premier


Mick McCarthy is a man who gets things off his mind. He does not


sit on the fence! Here's Shefali with the weather


We have got some cloud and a bit of light, drizzly rain but that will


be over and done with before the heavier stuff piled in. It will be


a mild night. The mild conditions are from today and these were our a


maximum temperatures. Hereford was the warmest place with highs of


around pole Celsius and that is way above the average -- around 12


Celsius. This is what we have across us right now. Drizzly rain


and cloud. The main band of rain comes in from the West. It will be


heavy in places to. The north of the region will be drier than


elsewhere and and all of this, feeling mild with lows of around


seven Celsius. Hill fog and the breeze will pick up as the rain


heads in soap tomorrow morning, quite windy and it will be fairly


wet as well. This whole band moves to the south so much drier across


all parts by the afternoon. Sunshine as well in between is the


cloud breaks up. Temperatures tomorrow with highs of nine Celsius


in central and southern parts but as cold ANA's into the North,


temperatures a bit lower. -- but as cold moves into the North. A warm


front moves in through on Friday and we will be into warm sectors


are temporarily temperatures pick up on Saturday and showers through


A look at tonight's main headlines: UK unemployment hits a 17-year high.


Figures for the three months to November show the jobless total hit


nearly 2.7 million. And figures for the West Midlands


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