28/02/2012 Midlands Today


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Good evening and welcome to Tuesday's Midlands Today from the


BBC. Signs of recovery as a multi- million-pound plan his announced


for Staffordshire. With the right quality brights there is a real


opportunity. Jail for a con man. said, what sort of blind to you


want? He hadn't even told the court. -- porch.


Syrian exile's here wait anxiously for news of friends and family.


And primary school parents, furious as they had teacher takes a week


off in term time for a holiday. -- Good evening. Tonight: a group of


investors from Staffordshire announce multi-million pound plans


for a factory which would see a revival of truck building in the


Midlands. They've embarked upon a partnership with a firm owned by


the powerful Indian manufacturers the Hinduja Group. It's envisaged


trucks will be built at a new factory in Longton in Stoke on


Trent, potentially creating hundreds of jobs. There are over


90,000 people employed at vehicle manufacturers and within the supply


chain in the West Midlands The industry accounts for 5% of the


regions jobs. And it's estimated that 40% of all foreign direct


investment is in the automotive sector. Our Staffordshire reporter


Liz Copper has this exclusive report.


This is the first long dinner truck. It is a market -- market makers


hope will be recognised worldwide. It is being built in Prague in the


Czech Republic but will be sought - - sold by a consortium of


businessmen from Staffordshire. British manufacturing is not dead.


We are making more vehicles are in the UK than we have done for many


years, and this is part of the revival to stop so there is hope.


The long contract has been developed in construction with


Leyland apart of the Indian owned Hinduja. They are teaming up with


British entrepreneurs and designers. The name Lord Pym was selected to


reflect not just the origins of its investors, but also to appeal


specifically to the UK market. found that the brand recognition


for long pin in the UK had a British connotation to it. And in


general, a believe that the Stoke- on-Trent has an long history of


engineering pedigree in the UK. Prague is a city renowned for its


cultural and historic importance. It also has a rich manufacturing


and industrial heritage. It will be the manufacturing centre for this


new venture for the next months. Initially all the tracks would be


made in the Czech Republic, but there are well advanced plans for a


new factory in Stoke-on-Trent. So although Prague will continue to be


the production centre initially, eventually, it is hoped long can it


will be the location for a new UK factory. This is a town that has


seen the demise of some traditional industries and has a higher than I


care -- average unemployment rate. Already they have a sales and


distribution base, they are now looking for a site for an assembly


plant. It is our ambition to start assembly as soon as we can make it


viable in the UK, and to take on apprentices and use the skills


there and have them passed on. There is a danger some of the


skills might die out. Those long term ambitions could be supported


by the most recent sales figures for trucks. Industry insiders say


the market is growing. Entering any new market is to challenge but


there are great opportunities. It is a recovering market. I think


with the right investment and quality product so there is a real


opportunity here. As it emerges into the market it faces


competition from well established truck makers. But it is hoped this


newcomer will herald more success for the Midlands automotive


industry. Let's talk now to Jane Gratton,


from North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce - this sounds very good


news, potentially hundreds of jobs? Yes, this is really good news the


North Staffordshire and Stoke-on- Trent. It has the potential to


bring a couple of hundred much needed jobs, new skills, taking on


apprentices, and wealth creation in this area. For me, it is it a


really good sign of increasing confident in North Staffordshire as


a centre for manufacturing. What difference to think this could make


to the area? I think it will help to boost an already thriving


manufacturing centre. -- sector. We had already announced a �32 million


of investment in manufacturing plants from local companies, and


the businesses I'm talking to around and about the area are


saying that they have increasing confident now to bring forward the


investment plans they may have postponed during the recession. We


are seen a run -- rebalancing of the economy towards making things


again, and this is a positive sign. He does sound encouraging. What


more can you do as a chamber to try and get businesses to relocate to


Stoke and North Staffordshire? put together with our partners some


measures. We call it our red carpet treatment. But also, with


universities, we have a very strong support package to look at research


and development, innovation, design, production and exporting. There


really is a strong support network, including a thriving manufacturing


group, where businesses are helping each other to be successful at


manufacturing. Thank you. And on Midlands Today tomorrow, we'll have


a special report on an important landmark for Solihull based Land


Rover. Still to come this evening: Getting


empty houses back on the property ladder, but will it work?


I am alive at Port Vale with the latest on their financial problems


as they battle to stay out of administration. He tricked elderly


people out of thousands of pounds for building work which was never


completed or even started. Tonight, rogue builder Antony Mander is


starting a prison sentence after pleading guilty to obtaining money


by deception. Mander conned 17 elderly residents


in Staffordshire out of more than �100,000, convincing them that


building work needed to be carried out on their homes and getting the


money upfront. Ben Godfrey reports. Hiding his shame, this is 15-year-


old builder Antony Mander, described in court as a Perpetual


conman. -- 15-year-old. He spent three years conning pensioners


living alone. Sid Bloor's aunt is in her eighties. She paid Mander


for a new porch. As her husband had just died - he promised to complete


it by the time she returned from the funeral. He didn't bother. He


tricked her out of around �25,000. She hardly goes out now because of


parasite like him. He had �1,000 per been in the loft, don't know


what he did, but he didn't do anything. He would chances like,


touting for even the smallest bit of business. He would always ask


for cash up front, and then come back asking for more expensive work


to be taken on. The problem is that we didn't return to do the job.


Such was his desperation, he then drove some of his victims to a


cashpoint. Today, he was sentenced to three years and nine months


after admitting 29 counts of fraud. He's a repeat offender, with


previous convictions for deception. He has convictions dating back to


the 1980s. The law doesn't give us the power to ban people from


trading. If somebody continues to a friend, then we investigate the new


allegations. Trading Standards officials believe Mander tricked


his victims out of more than �100,000. Absolutely despicable. He


ripped me off for five grand. He is supposed to have done a garage


conversion than he did half the work, even sent me an invoice the


�6,000. Mander told his victims he was a straight and honest builder.


They left court in the knowledge that he's gambled their savings


away on betting websites. The mental health support given to


an "exceptional" student found hanged from a tree was "woeful", a


coroner said today. Melissa Martin Hughes, who was 18, was found


hanged by a passer-by next to a children's playground in a park in


Cheltenham. The death of Melissa, who was


predicted to get top grades in her A-level exams, was described by her


family as a "tragedy" which will "not easily fade". Andrew Plant


reports. Melissa Martin-Hughes was found


hanged in a park in Cheltenham in 2010. Added inquest into her death,


her parents said they had made it repeated requests to get


professional help for their teenage daughter. But her case simply


slipped through the system. She was a complex, beautiful daughter who


brought great joy to us all, and we miss her complex -- constantly.


would like to say that it goes without saying we feel let down by


the system. Melissa had made a cry for help in August 2009. It was


then that she was seen by a crisis team - run by the 2gether NHS


Foundation Trust in Gloucestershire - there to help with suicidal


feelings. But because of an administrative error, Melissa was


never seen by professionals again. By the time Melissa died, she had


had no contact with a mental health services are more than seven months,


and during that time had become more and more withdrawn. It was,


said the coroner, in retrospect, an opportunity to help her that was


missed. She did not receive a package of care and support that


was intended, and didn't have the opportunity to engage with our


service. Following her death, we undertook a full investigation and


identified a number of shortcomings in the service were provided to her.


Melissa had recently passed her exams with the highest possible


grades, and secured a place at a top university to study chemistry.


Her headmaster said she was a brilliant and exceptional people


who would never be forgotten. -- people.


Police in Coventry have sealed off an area of woodland after human


remains were found there. A member of the public made the discovery at


Wainbody Wood on Sunday. Forensic experts are now examining the


remains while officers carry out further searches of the surrounding


area. Three teenagers have been charged


with arson following a fire at a school in Sutton Coldfield.


Firefighters were called to the blaze at John Willmott school late


on Sunday night. Police have now charged a 19 year-old woman, a 14


year-old boy and a 14 year-old girl with arson, criminal damage, and


burglary. As our television screens are


dominated daily by scenes of appalling violence in Syria, it's


particularly distressing for Syrian exiles living here in the Midlands.


They're desperately trying to get word of their friends and relatives


and spread the news of just how serious things have become in their


Four thousand miles from home, Abdul Omar sits down to watch the


battle for Syria. There are times he and his extended family in


Wolverhampton want to despair, but how would that help. They have been


times when I have sat outside the embassy and screamed my head off.


But unfortunately, you come back to the real world, thinking, that does


not really help. Abdul works with opposition groups - this morning a


colleague in Homs is telling him about violence overnight. I would


not call it decent size, but you realise it is not the time to mourn


any more. The morning you do on your own time. The United Nations


has called for an immediate ceasefire but there's no sign of


President Bashar al-Assad's regime relenting.. Nadia was raised in


Stafford but she's half Syrian and lived in Damascus for two years.


have seen videos of people I have known who have been murdered, and


places that have been destroyed. It is unimaginable. You cannot escape


it. In Coventry, another exile's made it his job to gather reports


of killings and shellings and pass them to the media. But there's a


price to pay - his elderly mother disagrees with what he's doing, and


no longer speaks to him. Even my brother here is scared to


come in my house. In Syria, no one talks with me now. Next month marks


the anniversary of a conflict seemingly far from over, and the


pain's felt far and wide. Primary school parents are angry their


headteacher's been allowed to take a holiday during term time, when


they aren't allowed to do the same. Parents have been told they could


be fined �100 if they take their children out of school without


permission from the head. Cath Mackie reports. It was a normal


school day at Woodlands primary school in Telford. But among the


children and members of staff, there was a notable absence. The


headteacher - who's gone on holiday. Angry parents told us that John


Demmerling has taken his children with him - something the school


refused to confirm. He is the role model for the school. He is the


bond supposed to be put in the and scented to the children. We are not


allowed to. We found it rather shocking can quite disturbing.


he has been working solidly, then why not? The school moved to this


new site in January. It was agreed that staff who worked extra days


could take time off in lieu - as to pay them the extra would have been


too costly. In the run-up to the move, he worked the entire week


before Christmas to ensure the new school should open as planned. He


also worked through February half- term week to... This revelation has


coincided with reports that the Education Secretary Michael Gove is


planning to clamp down on parents taking their children out of school


in term time. The Department of Education is refusing to comment.


The policy here is to allow parents term time holidays only in


exceptional circumstances or they could face a fine of 100 pounds.


The Governors say Mr Demmerling's case is exceptional. The


headteacher himself was unavailable for comment. Thanks for joining us


this Tuesday evening - still to come: Agony for Darren Bent, as


he's out for the rest of the season. But will he miss Euro 2012 too? And


a reversal of fortune this week with Scotland the warmest place in


the country at 16 Celsius. But we can hardly complain with highs of


13 today. Is March going to be any better? Find out later. New figures


show that thousands of people are still on the waiting list for


houses and, with building work at an all time low, things aren't


getting any better. Now one council is planning to tackle the problem


by selling off empty houses at auction if they've been vacant for


more than six months, with debts to the authority of more than three


hundred pounds. Joanne Writtle reports. Boarded up homes scar


streets like these in Tunstall in Stoke on Trent. Now the city


council plans to get tough. If a property's been empty for more than


six months, and more than �300 is owed - in council tax or other


debts, the city council could exercise powers to sell it. We want


to bring peace homes back into use, not only to improve the look of


this city, but also to make sure that people who have not got


adequate properties and places to live, a family home, could use


these As we spoke to the councillor near empty houses in Fenton, a


landlord with several occupied properties gave his view. A I think


a better idea would be to give council to give money to the


private landlords and tell us to give a help with that. If they put


in a percentage, we will put in a percentage. There are 5,000 empty


properties in Stoke-on-Trent. Even though there are 19,000 council


homes, 3,000 families on the waiting-list. The homes would be


sold at auction, with a planned caveat to the buyer that the


property needs to be occupied within 12 months. Those living near


empty homes said they were keen to see things sorted out. Just get


them all done up and sorted out so people can live in them. A lot of


people are out in the street because of the environment around


this street. Boarding -- boarded-up houses. The government's announced


a cash injection to to help neighbourhoods suffering the blight


of empty homes: Councillors will discuss the plans later this week.


If approved the authority hopes to bring 200 homes a year back into


use. Twice he's been left out of the World Cup finals by England.


Now, Darren Bent is facing a heartbreaking hat-trick of missing


his third major tournament. Tonight, Alex McLeish said if Bent needs an


operation on his ankle, he'll definitely be ruled out of the


European Championships in June. But the Villa boss believes he's a


young man, who's still got a big career ahead of him. Darren Bent


signed off 2011 on a high note away to Chelsea. But if the champagne


corks were popping on New Year's Eve... The New Year itself has


suddenly turned sour for the �24 million striker. Ten minutes from


time in Saturday's game at Wigan, Bent collapsed in agony. It looked


serious, and so it proved. For Aston Villa, who need his goals to


survive in the Premier League, and for England, who head off to the


European Championships in June. these three with the injury to


Darren, we hope that that will cover itself before the summer.


Last night, on Twitter, Bent said "I'm gutted to be out for so long


at such a crucial part of the season, hopefully my recovery will


be as quick as possible." But how quick will that be? Jim Walker


knows a ruptured ankle ligament when he sees one. And luckily


mine's not one of them. The former Villa physio says Bent must have


suffered a grade 3 injury... And he'll have to there's no way that


Bent will be rushing back. It's a far bigger blow for Aston Villa


then it is buying them? Yes. If everything goes well, and if he


gets himself fit in the for five weeks before the European


Championships, the fact they he has not played a lot of football might


work in his favour. I would not rule out the European Cham budget,


but being a Villa fan, that is more important that it is right for


Villa! This season, Darren Bent has scored 10 goals for Villa and one


goal for England. His long term absence is a real body blow for


both club and country. Also some bad news for the club in general?


The accounts for the Cup had just been announced. Aston Villa made a


loss of almost �54 million during the previous 12 months. That is a


huge figure. That involves charges of �12 million for changing the


football management personnel, in other words, settlements for Martin


O'Neill and John what he didn't -- Gerard Houllier a. Presumably Randi


learn their carries on bankrolling They invested another �25 billion


for the club. There was record levels of income, of much the view


million pounds. -- �92 million. It was one of the turbulent times in


Port Vale's financial problems have claimed another victim with former


chairman Peter Miller resigning as a director as the club struggles


with mounting debts. Tonight they take on Crewe, and their fans will


be hoping the problems off the pitch won't affect the team. Our


sports reporter Dan Pallett's there this evening, so what's the mood of


fans tonight? Considering it should be one of the biggest games of the


season, it is pretty sombre. Both teams on the edge of the League Two


play-offs, but the thing that is dominating the pre-match talk is


the financial situation of the club. We wanted to speak to the club, is


that they turned it down, and we are out here because they turn down


a request from us to film in there. They speak to the supporters' club.


What sort of problems are the club in? It is as bad as it could get.


Ports -- Port Vale supporters have been disenfranchised. The club is


on the brink of extinction. It owes money to HM Marsay, the city


council, Ferris companies, and player's wages. -- H M R C. It


could be worse than that. The club has been badly managed, and there


are people that fear for the future of the club. As a lifelong fan, how


does -- how much does it mean? hurts a lot, and I can only


reiterate that it is total mismanagement by the board. It has


lasted frog -- we have asked for months and months to help them, but


they won't talk to us, and we could -- this could be one of our last


games. This has been going on for 18 months? 18 months. We tried were


with the board, and in December, they closed shop on us. They would


not let us use the facilities to have a supporters' meetings. The


membership of the supporters' club has shot up, and we are depressed


every time they have become to the game. We think you could be the


last time every time. Hopefully the team will cheer the fans up, but it


seems that administration beckons. That would mean a 10 point


deduction. Any hope of promotion this season would be gone. That


And you can follow Port Vale's match on BBC Radio Stoke tonight,


who'll also have regular updates on Burton's match at Swindon. And BBC


Hereford and Worcester will have full commentary on Hereford's match


at Gillingham. A seven year old boy's been dubbed a "Mini-Messi"


after his performance scoring goals in his local football league. Aiden


Smith from Castle Vale in Birmingham has scored 46 goals in


16 games. He's now using his talents to raise money for a


project set up in memory of another young footballer who was killed in


a road accident. He's being sponsored for every goal he scores


- and has so far raised �12,000 for Callum's Wish Foundation. At any


level, to knock in seven -- so many goals, he is very talented. We are


very proud of Aden that he is raising this much cash, and it goes


towards the appeal. He looks On the eve of March it's all


looking pretty benign - some slight variations in temperatures, a lot


of cloud but mainly dry Just a shame we're not bathed in sunshine


like that countryside. It's only by the weekend that things begin to


change. At the moment, we're being dominated by that rather prominent


are of High pressure but as soon as it relinquishes control, cold


fronts gain entry and so does low pressure, so it'll turn cooler over


the weekend with some rain right now though it's looking dry, a good


deal of cloud across the region and where we do get the breaks -


there'll be some mist patches. Temperatures dropping to a minimum


of eight Celsius. A bit grey to start with tomorrow, then, but as


with most days this week you'll find the cloud breaking a little


through the day and more particularly it seems tomorrow to


the East of higher ground. Temperatures are similar - around


13 Celsius with light winds. We may see a few more breaks tomorrow


night though - therefore, it may be a bit cooler with lows of around


six or seven and the outlook for Thursday and Friday, much the same.


Temperatures may be a little lower only because the nights may be a


touch cooler so more ground to make up for. There may be a bit of rain


on Friday night into Saturday. look at tonight's main headlines:


The wounded British photographer trapped in Syria for days has been


smuggled out of the country. And signs of economic recovery, as a


multi-million pound plan's announced to bring large-scale


truck-building to Staffordshire. That's all from us this evening,


but on tomorrow's Midlands Today we'll be seeing if Birmingham has


found the answer to stopping the huge increase in manhole cover


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