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Good evening, welcome to Wednesday's Midlands Today from the
BBC. On budget day - the region's bus
and coach operators tell Chancellor George Osborne, "Your fuel duty is
killing us." it is a big industry and we have a role to play in
supporting rest of the manufacturing industry in the West
Midlands. Bridging the skills gap - thousands
of young people have a lift on to the career ladder.
From this to this, how a motorcycle crash victim is fighting back to
fitness. You know when Christmas is coming up and you're getting at
present you wanted - it feels like that.
Welcome to Midlands today. On Budget day, the region's bus and
coach operators told the Chancellor, you're fuel duty is killing us.
Here in the West Midlands, there are more than 60 coach and bus
firms, employing up to 10,000 people. And each day across our
region, more than 1.3 million passengers hop on a bus. But with
the price of diesel continuing to rocket, some operators have told us
they are now spending more than 25% of their income on fuel. Today, Mr
Osborne ruled out a cut in fuel duty, so how tough is it right now?
In our first Budget report tonight, Sarah Falkland has spent the day in
Warwickshire. The school runs are over for the
morning, Johnsons coaches are back at base in Henley in Arden. Time to
fill up the tanks again. Last year this company spent 1.7 �5 million
on fuel and this year the reckon it will be over �2 million. And that's
why the boss is in the drivers' room listening to the budget. The
Government has already said it's cutting the rebate on fuel duty for
bus operators by 20% next month. Peter Johnson is now hoping for
better news. I do not propose to make any further changes to the
fuel duty plans already set out. But there is none. I am really
disappointed he could not do more to promote bus travel. We are the
solution, not the problem. We can deal with congestion and can take
large numbers of people. In fact, the price of diesel is now at a
record high in the UK. Even though some of the burden is passed
directly to customers in higher fares, parts of the coach and bus
industry are struggling. Fuel costs a killing coach operators. There is
a major concern among some many companies because of the income it
is taking to pay for the fuel. it's not just the bus companies who
are suffering. By chance, the only petrol station in Henley in Arden
was temporarily closed today. The next nearest is seven miles away.
Local business people say they too are finding the high pump prices
too painful. The cost of fuel was going to finish small businesses
like myself, because we cannot afford to run the vehicles. We find
no that we are facing prices because of the climate and we
cannot afford to do so, cannot afford to get there. I put a full
tank in this morning and it is already telling me I'm running out.
And of course, there's still the leftover from Mr Osborne's last
budget. A planned 3% hike in fuel duty in August. He knows how much
money he is making and relying on that money because it is there and
it is ring-fenced. Us poor people have to pay it. A budget for
business? Critics say it's not enough to keep wheels of industry
rolling. One �54.90 pence for diesel, I saw
today. What is the verdict? This budget, so heavily leaked and
trailed in advance, MPs I have spoken to in those famous corridors
where Major to deliver that verdict even before the Chancellor stood up.
Labour were absolutely scathing in the reduction of the top rate of
income tax and Liberal Democrats equally celebrated the fact that
those higher threshold on income tax will take some of the poorest
earners out of the heaviest burdens of tax. Conservative celebrated
business-friendly measures such as the changes to corporation tax.
They will speak to the shadow business minister and to Karen
Lumley, a former company secretary and Conservative MP for
Worcestershire. One thing not on that list is any decision to
reverse the scheduled increase in fuel duty. We have heard from a
coach operator who said it is killing them. We had some difficult
decisions to make. We inherited the bigger its deficit of any
government cover. What could you have done instead? We have been
pulling very strongly for a temporary cut to VAT which that
have the immediate effect of bringing down the cost of fuel by
three pence, and would also put �450 into the pockets of hard-
working families up and down the country and kick-start the economy.
That is what we should have seen from the government today but they
have missed their chance. Is it really going to reach out to those
who need it most, for example, are really small start-up companies?
think they could benefit massively so by reducing corporation tax.
We're trying to get private jobs and to this country and we cannot
survive on public-sector jobs. We have to make Britain and the West
Midlands are place that is a good for businesses. The government
announces policies which are all well and good but then fails and
the implementation of those policies. We have seen the business
department failing to get credit ratings on track as they said they
would. The number crunchers were all over might interpret the real
subtext of this. From a business perspective, our correspondent
Peter Plisner has spent the day in Warwick, on the Heathcote
Industrial Estate, gauging reaction from companies there. And he joins
us now. Peter, how has Mr Osborne's speech been received? Are they
still worried about their futures? To make, we are with a company that
makes dustcarts and exports and all offer the world. The changes in
corporation tax have gone down well here. Elsewhere, it is mostly small
businesses, where there has been a mixed reaction.
Most small firms need for two copiers but despite that, this
company which supplies them, has lost out because of cuts in
government spending and reductions in bank lending. Today, they were
hoping for help from the Budget. The government promised a reduction
to red tape. We really cannot afford to employ people to going to
the minutiae I have all the legislation that comes out.
upstairs, the company's service manager had a bit different agenda.
He was more interested enough in the Budget would impact on him.
Improved personal allowances are stepper the right direction. That
will benefit a lot of people. Tax avoidance issue, for a high earners.
That is something that needed to be tackled. So will the Chancellor's
budget help the fitness of small businesses on this estate. It for
help this gem which moved here 12 months ago. Increases in personal
tax allowance could be good news here, something of the gym's corner
is looking forward to. allowance has gone up and people
feel like they have more money in their pockets so we will see more
members. Transport costs are high for this courier firm, and today,
thousands of parcels passed through this depot. The Chancellor froze
road tax for lorries but they wanted more. A it will help with
the vehicles this size but we run a lot of small vehicles and they are
not sure how it will affect them. What I would have really like to
see his boring fuel tax. Although most firms expected more help for
the Chancellor, there was the realisation today there was not a
lot more that perhaps could have been done. A budget to remember?
Probably not. What is the reaction here? What did
you think of today's budget? It was a steady as you call budget. What
we really need is consistency in government policy so we can plan
their business. I am pleased with the reduction in corporation tax
which means more money in the business for investment, so that is
pretty good. Anything you expected to see that did not happen?
particularly. The Government talks about reducing red tape and they
mentioned it again, but with not a lot of detail and we are not seeing
much underground. I would like to see more speed there. In terms of
growth, the growth figures were revised. For you and other
companies, that much be good for. The that always be good news for
everybody. That is positive. Our business is effect is slightly
different way because we sell to local authorities. Their spending
has been reduced recently as people tighten their belts, but
fortunately, now things are back to normal. Week... What about exports?
It helped that it keeps the economy on a stable footing. The exchange
rate is favourable for us at the moment. As with all budgets, it has
to be said, the devil is in the details and that will only happen
in the next few days. Peter, there's also some more
positive news coming out of Jaguar Land Rover today isn't there?
Jaguar Land Rover has confirmed it will be expanding to China. They
have agreed a multi-billion pound joint venture with the Chinese car
maker Chery. The agreement covers both building JLR vehicles,
creating a research and development facility and sales. China is
currently JLR's third biggest market.
And for the Budget details and reaction to the Chancellor's speech,
you'll find plenty of information on the BBC news website.
A 15-year-old boy has died after collapsing during a rugby match in
Worcestershire. Luke Chapman was a student at Haybridge High School in
Hagley. He was taken ill during a game at Baxter College in
Kidderminster. The air ambulance was called but he died in hospital.
The head teacher of Haybridge read a statement on behalf of the school.
We're all terribly shocked and upset by the tragic death of what
Chapman. -- Luke Chapman. He was a much-loved friend and student and
we will miss him very much. Our thoughts are with his friends and
the staff at this difficult time and the school will offer all the
support it can to those affected. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham had
extra special reason to be proud today as she handed the freedom of
the city to five army regiments. One of the 200 soldiers on parade
was the son of Councillor Anita Ward. He was shot and seriously
injured in Afghanistan 18 months ago. To complete the celebrations,
today is his 30th birthday. Giles Latcham reports and there is some
The odd man and her son prepare for a big day for Birmingham and their
family in particular. -- de Lord Mayor.
I am a mother of a serving Guardsman, so it is a big day for
This was on parade today, carrying the silver box containing the
scroll conferring the freedom of the city. Any vantage point will do
when the Foot Guards I town. should be proud of our soldiers. I
am. I think it is a brilliant day out.
The mayor's son was shot in Helmand 18 months ago. He is still
recovering. But he is determined to return to service. People can say,
after what you have been through, wouldn't you prefer to finish it
there? I think the first thing you get is an immense amount of pride
from seeing everybody help you and how everybody reacts. You just want
to continue to be part of that. Elements of the Irish, Welsh and
Scots Guards, as well as Coldstreamers and gut -- Grenadiers,
marched. As she took the salute, the Lord Mayor became tearful.
60% of the recruits are from the West Midlands.
A lot of people came to see it, and were happy about it. He has gone to
Birmingham with the freedom of the city. I'm quite proud. It is nice
to be on home turf. Some of the soldiers will provide
pomp and ceremony for the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics. Others
are soon to deploy to Afghanistan. For the Foot Guards, 2012 holds
many challenges. An emotional and special day.
Tonight it has been confirmed that a soldier from the second Battalion,
The Mercian Regiment has been killed in Afghanistan. He died
after an explosion from an improvised device in Helmand. His
family has been in Frome. -- informed.
On our economy debate on Monday, Lord Digby Jones once again
highlighted the employment skills gap. Looking at record youth
unemployment in the nation and in the West Midlands, every business
you go to, they would always say their problem is they don't have
enough skilled people. So what is being done? 4,000 people aged 15-24
are attending a skills event in Birmingham ending tomorrow. It
offers an insight into what is needed to launch a career.
The Skills Fair has been held annually for a number of years but
is increasingly important for young people in a shrinking jobs market.
Fifteen-year-old Sophie already has a fair idea of what she wants to do.
But she has come to look at other options. I want to go to college
and I think I want to go into teaching, possibly. But we will see
what happens when I get older. There are more than 50 exhibitors
here today, offering advice on many carriers. -- Koreas.
This is you go to school, you find something you like and then you
find a way of getting into it. So there's plenty for Sophie to see
- including motor sports! Or maybe not. This is hard. It just went
wrong after the first 20 seconds. So, time for a sharp exit. At the
next stall, a number of surprising things to learn.
It is different, being in the army. I did not know you could be a
teacher in the army. A If you fancy one of the creative
industries, there's plenty to see here, even if you need a strong
stomach. Just adding some special effects.
Quite a lot of opportunities out of there, in television, theatre,
photographic work, magazine work. Has there been anything to change
Sophie's mind? There are other options, but I'm
going to stick with teaching at the minute.
4,000 youngsters will visit this Skills Fair, and while may -- many
may see a scary feature, others have things to smile about.
That wound was realistic! Still ahead: The junior footballers
celebrating after finally getting a pitch to call their own.
And there's one day this week standing out above the rest. But
you will have to wait until later Last night, being reported live
from Shrewsbury Town to see if they could extend their unbeaten run to
20 games. And the answer is... Yes! The rock solid fortress repels all
invaders, including Cheltenham Town. But while it was good news in Leek
2, there was bad news for the Blues in their bid to make the
who dominated the first half. Nine minutes after the break, Chris
Maguire made it 1-1, and the game was turned on its head. This
challenge brought a second yellow card for David Murphy, and he was
not the only one to see red. Chris Hughton was left fuming. He said
the referee's performance changed the game. Portsmouth took full
advantage and scored three in the last half an hour. A defeat for the
Blues, leading them in the play- offs, but only just, on goal
difference. Any later rivals will have mist
strode the town's first goal. -- late arrivals. And early in the
Our home form has been outstanding. The results have been excellent. We
have got to start doing it right away from home. We have turned up
the tempo tonight and we have to take that into the away matches.
One late goal from Marc Richards gave Port Vale three points against
Hereford. Better not be lost to an even later goal against Northampton.
-- Burton Albion. Spare a thought for Walsall. They scored first
through Jon Macken, and with 17 minutes left, they were leading 2-1.
But then a last-minute equaliser denied them victory. It leaves them
in the relegation quicksand. Wolves said they are disappointed
that sales of early bird tickets are down by 18%. Just over 12,000
fans have committed to next season, compared to almost 15,000 at this
time last year. Meanwhile, the former manager Mick McCarthy has
given his first interview since getting the sack last month. He
says he would love to see his friend Terry Connor keep Wolves in
the Premier League. If he had left and they had a point
is somebody knew, I would not have had such a vested interest in it.
But he is a close family friend now, himself and his wife. They are
great pals. I have that even more of an interest in it, watching it,
and just wishing him well. For the past 12 years, the
Eccleshall Eagles have been flying high, but home games have always
been a problem. The young footballers have never had a pitch
to call their own. But now, thanks to the National Lottery, the Eagles
have landed, and they are said to build a permanent nest.
-- set to build. Celebrating after winning �50,000
for three new pitches. Eccleshall Eagles have almost 200 players, and
there are 14 teams, four boys and girls. They are all excited at the
prospect of better facilities. It is brilliant because we are
going to have new pitches that we can play on, and there will not be
tractors going over them. We have to keep transporting the
goals backwards and forwards all the time. It means we can get
better goals and stuff. It is going to help the club. It
will give us better pitches and the pitch we play on the moment is a
bit bumpy. It won't have the lumps in it.
These teams are among 13 groups in the West Midlands are sharing more
than �500,000 from the National Lottery Fund. The money has been
made available to make sure the Olympics has a lasting legacy. The
funding will help to bring this used to playing fields back into
use and create more sports pages. - - unused playing fields.
The team has been playing on rented sides until now.
Frequently, when you get bad weather, the pitch is bad and the
match is cancelled. In terms of playing on poor quality surfaces,
it is chalk and cheese. It just allows more matches to carry on. It
also means you get a better run. Work on the new Peters will begin
within six months. It is hoped they will inspire many successful
seasons for the Eagles. Good luck to them, not to mention
Stoke City, away at Tottenham Hotspur tonight. All the action is
on your BBC local radio station. The thank you.
You may recall back in January that we told you about John Parsons, the
motorcyclist from Stoke-on-Trent who had been left semi paralysed
after a hit-and-run incident. We are delighted to say he is
making excellent processed -- progress at a specialist hospital
in Shropshire. Getting out of his hospital bed and
into a wheelchair is a major breakthrough for motorcyclists John
Parsons. Last time we saw him was two weeks after a hit-and-run
driver left him for dead. He spent seven weeks lying on his back at
the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry, paralysed
from the waist down. One more go, then.
Now he has learnt to stand with the help of a physiotherapist. He has
been told he may progress to being able to walk across a room.
I have gone from thinking that I would never walk again and that I
would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, to being able to
walk short distances. I have got a goal, which is to walk out of here.
When you are little Christmas is coming and you are getting it
presents you want, it feels like that. You get the same excitement,
the same drive to do more than you should.
John's therapy has been imperative from the start as he learns to cope
with the dramatic changes to his muscles since the accident.
Staffordshire Police says several witnesses to the accident on the
A500 in January have come forward. But they have yet to chase the --
trace the driver. After breaking his spine, John faces longer in
hospital as he continued to make progress.
None of us know where we are going to get to, but the future is
looking good, because he is still knew logically improving.
His positive attitude has captained focus. He says if he knew the
driver was coming four, he would finally have closure.
finally have closure. -- was coming forward.
Fantastic news! Now the weather. A lovely day-to-day. It will
continue. It looks like we are into some sunny weather, and we can
offer you some rain as well by the looks of things. The beginning of
the week has been looking decent, with some sunshine and dry weather.
Respectable temperatures for the time of year. Really it is tomorrow
that is going to surpassed all others. To give us a head start,
tomorrow we are looking at a cold Otherwise, not too cold. Lows of
five or six Celsius, and then we have got the sunshine burning
through, across the region. It will go up to 15 or Celsius, which is
high for the time of year. The wind will continue through tomorrow.
Higher -- however, the cloud is going to thicken. That will bring
in some rain. Not a lot heading up from the south. Hardly any until
the middle part of tomorrow night. But all the cloud will keep it mild.
Compared to tonight, it is going to be mild. Friday itself is going to
be brighter with sunny spells. The be brighter with sunny spells. The
same applies for the weekend. Highs of 14.
A look at tonight's main headlines: A tax cut for Britain's top earners
in the Budget. The rate for them will go down to 45p.