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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