21/03/2012 Midlands Today


21/03/2012

The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.


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Good evening, welcome to Wednesday's Midlands Today from the

:00:06.:00:12.

BBC. On budget day - the region's bus

:00:12.:00:15.

and coach operators tell Chancellor George Osborne, "Your fuel duty is

:00:15.:00:23.

killing us." it is a big industry and we have a role to play in

:00:23.:00:26.

supporting rest of the manufacturing industry in the West

:00:26.:00:36.
:00:36.:00:37.

Midlands. Bridging the skills gap - thousands

:00:37.:00:41.

of young people have a lift on to the career ladder.

:00:42.:00:46.

From this to this, how a motorcycle crash victim is fighting back to

:00:46.:00:52.

fitness. You know when Christmas is coming up and you're getting at

:00:52.:01:02.
:01:02.:01:06.

present you wanted - it feels like that.

:01:06.:01:11.

Welcome to Midlands today. On Budget day, the region's bus and

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coach operators told the Chancellor, you're fuel duty is killing us.

:01:15.:01:18.

Here in the West Midlands, there are more than 60 coach and bus

:01:18.:01:21.

firms, employing up to 10,000 people. And each day across our

:01:21.:01:24.

region, more than 1.3 million passengers hop on a bus. But with

:01:24.:01:27.

the price of diesel continuing to rocket, some operators have told us

:01:27.:01:30.

they are now spending more than 25% of their income on fuel. Today, Mr

:01:30.:01:35.

Osborne ruled out a cut in fuel duty, so how tough is it right now?

:01:35.:01:38.

In our first Budget report tonight, Sarah Falkland has spent the day in

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Warwickshire. The school runs are over for the

:01:43.:01:47.

morning, Johnsons coaches are back at base in Henley in Arden. Time to

:01:47.:01:57.
:01:57.:01:59.

fill up the tanks again. Last year this company spent 1.7 �5 million

:01:59.:02:02.

on fuel and this year the reckon it will be over �2 million. And that's

:02:02.:02:06.

why the boss is in the drivers' room listening to the budget. The

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Government has already said it's cutting the rebate on fuel duty for

:02:09.:02:12.

bus operators by 20% next month. Peter Johnson is now hoping for

:02:12.:02:21.

better news. I do not propose to make any further changes to the

:02:21.:02:27.

fuel duty plans already set out. But there is none. I am really

:02:27.:02:32.

disappointed he could not do more to promote bus travel. We are the

:02:32.:02:36.

solution, not the problem. We can deal with congestion and can take

:02:36.:02:40.

large numbers of people. In fact, the price of diesel is now at a

:02:40.:02:44.

record high in the UK. Even though some of the burden is passed

:02:44.:02:47.

directly to customers in higher fares, parts of the coach and bus

:02:47.:02:52.

industry are struggling. Fuel costs a killing coach operators. There is

:02:52.:02:56.

a major concern among some many companies because of the income it

:02:56.:02:59.

is taking to pay for the fuel. it's not just the bus companies who

:03:00.:03:02.

are suffering. By chance, the only petrol station in Henley in Arden

:03:03.:03:05.

was temporarily closed today. The next nearest is seven miles away.

:03:05.:03:08.

Local business people say they too are finding the high pump prices

:03:08.:03:17.

too painful. The cost of fuel was going to finish small businesses

:03:17.:03:24.

like myself, because we cannot afford to run the vehicles. We find

:03:24.:03:29.

no that we are facing prices because of the climate and we

:03:29.:03:34.

cannot afford to do so, cannot afford to get there. I put a full

:03:34.:03:38.

tank in this morning and it is already telling me I'm running out.

:03:38.:03:40.

And of course, there's still the leftover from Mr Osborne's last

:03:41.:03:46.

budget. A planned 3% hike in fuel duty in August. He knows how much

:03:46.:03:51.

money he is making and relying on that money because it is there and

:03:51.:03:57.

it is ring-fenced. Us poor people have to pay it. A budget for

:03:57.:03:59.

business? Critics say it's not enough to keep wheels of industry

:03:59.:04:09.
:04:09.:04:13.

rolling. One �54.90 pence for diesel, I saw

:04:14.:04:23.
:04:24.:04:27.

today. What is the verdict? This budget, so heavily leaked and

:04:27.:04:32.

trailed in advance, MPs I have spoken to in those famous corridors

:04:32.:04:37.

where Major to deliver that verdict even before the Chancellor stood up.

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Labour were absolutely scathing in the reduction of the top rate of

:04:41.:04:47.

income tax and Liberal Democrats equally celebrated the fact that

:04:47.:04:50.

those higher threshold on income tax will take some of the poorest

:04:50.:04:58.

earners out of the heaviest burdens of tax. Conservative celebrated

:04:58.:05:02.

business-friendly measures such as the changes to corporation tax.

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They will speak to the shadow business minister and to Karen

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Lumley, a former company secretary and Conservative MP for

:05:13.:05:17.

Worcestershire. One thing not on that list is any decision to

:05:17.:05:22.

reverse the scheduled increase in fuel duty. We have heard from a

:05:22.:05:27.

coach operator who said it is killing them. We had some difficult

:05:27.:05:31.

decisions to make. We inherited the bigger its deficit of any

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government cover. What could you have done instead? We have been

:05:39.:05:43.

pulling very strongly for a temporary cut to VAT which that

:05:43.:05:45.

have the immediate effect of bringing down the cost of fuel by

:05:46.:05:50.

three pence, and would also put �450 into the pockets of hard-

:05:51.:05:53.

working families up and down the country and kick-start the economy.

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That is what we should have seen from the government today but they

:05:56.:06:02.

have missed their chance. Is it really going to reach out to those

:06:03.:06:08.

who need it most, for example, are really small start-up companies?

:06:08.:06:16.

think they could benefit massively so by reducing corporation tax.

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We're trying to get private jobs and to this country and we cannot

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survive on public-sector jobs. We have to make Britain and the West

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Midlands are place that is a good for businesses. The government

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announces policies which are all well and good but then fails and

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the implementation of those policies. We have seen the business

:06:39.:06:43.

department failing to get credit ratings on track as they said they

:06:43.:06:48.

would. The number crunchers were all over might interpret the real

:06:48.:06:57.

subtext of this. From a business perspective, our correspondent

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Peter Plisner has spent the day in Warwick, on the Heathcote

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Industrial Estate, gauging reaction from companies there. And he joins

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us now. Peter, how has Mr Osborne's speech been received? Are they

:07:06.:07:15.

still worried about their futures? To make, we are with a company that

:07:15.:07:19.

makes dustcarts and exports and all offer the world. The changes in

:07:19.:07:23.

corporation tax have gone down well here. Elsewhere, it is mostly small

:07:23.:07:29.

businesses, where there has been a mixed reaction.

:07:29.:07:32.

Most small firms need for two copiers but despite that, this

:07:32.:07:36.

company which supplies them, has lost out because of cuts in

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government spending and reductions in bank lending. Today, they were

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hoping for help from the Budget. The government promised a reduction

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to red tape. We really cannot afford to employ people to going to

:07:55.:08:05.

the minutiae I have all the legislation that comes out.

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upstairs, the company's service manager had a bit different agenda.

:08:10.:08:15.

He was more interested enough in the Budget would impact on him.

:08:15.:08:19.

Improved personal allowances are stepper the right direction. That

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will benefit a lot of people. Tax avoidance issue, for a high earners.

:08:25.:08:33.

That is something that needed to be tackled. So will the Chancellor's

:08:33.:08:39.

budget help the fitness of small businesses on this estate. It for

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help this gem which moved here 12 months ago. Increases in personal

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tax allowance could be good news here, something of the gym's corner

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is looking forward to. allowance has gone up and people

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feel like they have more money in their pockets so we will see more

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members. Transport costs are high for this courier firm, and today,

:09:05.:09:08.

thousands of parcels passed through this depot. The Chancellor froze

:09:08.:09:13.

road tax for lorries but they wanted more. A it will help with

:09:13.:09:16.

the vehicles this size but we run a lot of small vehicles and they are

:09:16.:09:22.

not sure how it will affect them. What I would have really like to

:09:22.:09:27.

see his boring fuel tax. Although most firms expected more help for

:09:27.:09:30.

the Chancellor, there was the realisation today there was not a

:09:30.:09:34.

lot more that perhaps could have been done. A budget to remember?

:09:34.:09:41.

Probably not. What is the reaction here? What did

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you think of today's budget? It was a steady as you call budget. What

:09:46.:09:51.

we really need is consistency in government policy so we can plan

:09:51.:09:54.

their business. I am pleased with the reduction in corporation tax

:09:54.:09:57.

which means more money in the business for investment, so that is

:09:57.:10:04.

pretty good. Anything you expected to see that did not happen?

:10:04.:10:09.

particularly. The Government talks about reducing red tape and they

:10:09.:10:12.

mentioned it again, but with not a lot of detail and we are not seeing

:10:12.:10:17.

much underground. I would like to see more speed there. In terms of

:10:17.:10:22.

growth, the growth figures were revised. For you and other

:10:22.:10:26.

companies, that much be good for. The that always be good news for

:10:26.:10:32.

everybody. That is positive. Our business is effect is slightly

:10:32.:10:35.

different way because we sell to local authorities. Their spending

:10:35.:10:38.

has been reduced recently as people tighten their belts, but

:10:38.:10:48.
:10:48.:10:49.

fortunately, now things are back to normal. Week... What about exports?

:10:49.:10:54.

It helped that it keeps the economy on a stable footing. The exchange

:10:54.:11:00.

rate is favourable for us at the moment. As with all budgets, it has

:11:00.:11:04.

to be said, the devil is in the details and that will only happen

:11:04.:11:09.

in the next few days. Peter, there's also some more

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positive news coming out of Jaguar Land Rover today isn't there?

:11:13.:11:16.

Jaguar Land Rover has confirmed it will be expanding to China. They

:11:16.:11:19.

have agreed a multi-billion pound joint venture with the Chinese car

:11:19.:11:21.

maker Chery. The agreement covers both building JLR vehicles,

:11:21.:11:25.

creating a research and development facility and sales. China is

:11:25.:11:33.

currently JLR's third biggest market.

:11:33.:11:36.

And for the Budget details and reaction to the Chancellor's speech,

:11:36.:11:44.

you'll find plenty of information on the BBC news website.

:11:44.:11:47.

A 15-year-old boy has died after collapsing during a rugby match in

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Worcestershire. Luke Chapman was a student at Haybridge High School in

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Hagley. He was taken ill during a game at Baxter College in

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Kidderminster. The air ambulance was called but he died in hospital.

:11:59.:12:06.

The head teacher of Haybridge read a statement on behalf of the school.

:12:07.:12:10.

We're all terribly shocked and upset by the tragic death of what

:12:10.:12:20.
:12:20.:12:21.

Chapman. -- Luke Chapman. He was a much-loved friend and student and

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we will miss him very much. Our thoughts are with his friends and

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the staff at this difficult time and the school will offer all the

:12:29.:12:31.

support it can to those affected. The Lord Mayor of Birmingham had

:12:31.:12:34.

extra special reason to be proud today as she handed the freedom of

:12:34.:12:38.

the city to five army regiments. One of the 200 soldiers on parade

:12:38.:12:41.

was the son of Councillor Anita Ward. He was shot and seriously

:12:41.:12:44.

injured in Afghanistan 18 months ago. To complete the celebrations,

:12:44.:12:48.

today is his 30th birthday. Giles Latcham reports and there is some

:12:48.:12:58.
:12:58.:12:59.

The odd man and her son prepare for a big day for Birmingham and their

:12:59.:13:03.

family in particular. -- de Lord Mayor.

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I am a mother of a serving Guardsman, so it is a big day for

:13:09.:13:14.

This was on parade today, carrying the silver box containing the

:13:14.:13:18.

scroll conferring the freedom of the city. Any vantage point will do

:13:18.:13:24.

when the Foot Guards I town. should be proud of our soldiers. I

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am. I think it is a brilliant day out.

:13:28.:13:33.

The mayor's son was shot in Helmand 18 months ago. He is still

:13:33.:13:39.

recovering. But he is determined to return to service. People can say,

:13:39.:13:42.

after what you have been through, wouldn't you prefer to finish it

:13:42.:13:47.

there? I think the first thing you get is an immense amount of pride

:13:47.:13:54.

from seeing everybody help you and how everybody reacts. You just want

:13:54.:13:59.

to continue to be part of that. Elements of the Irish, Welsh and

:13:59.:14:03.

Scots Guards, as well as Coldstreamers and gut -- Grenadiers,

:14:03.:14:11.

marched. As she took the salute, the Lord Mayor became tearful.

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60% of the recruits are from the West Midlands.

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A lot of people came to see it, and were happy about it. He has gone to

:14:23.:14:30.

Birmingham with the freedom of the city. I'm quite proud. It is nice

:14:30.:14:35.

to be on home turf. Some of the soldiers will provide

:14:35.:14:39.

pomp and ceremony for the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics. Others

:14:39.:14:45.

are soon to deploy to Afghanistan. For the Foot Guards, 2012 holds

:14:46.:14:50.

many challenges. An emotional and special day.

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Tonight it has been confirmed that a soldier from the second Battalion,

:14:52.:14:57.

The Mercian Regiment has been killed in Afghanistan. He died

:14:57.:15:01.

after an explosion from an improvised device in Helmand. His

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family has been in Frome. -- informed.

:15:06.:15:11.

On our economy debate on Monday, Lord Digby Jones once again

:15:11.:15:18.

highlighted the employment skills gap. Looking at record youth

:15:18.:15:21.

unemployment in the nation and in the West Midlands, every business

:15:21.:15:28.

you go to, they would always say their problem is they don't have

:15:28.:15:34.

enough skilled people. So what is being done? 4,000 people aged 15-24

:15:34.:15:37.

are attending a skills event in Birmingham ending tomorrow. It

:15:37.:15:43.

offers an insight into what is needed to launch a career.

:15:43.:15:47.

The Skills Fair has been held annually for a number of years but

:15:47.:15:51.

is increasingly important for young people in a shrinking jobs market.

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Fifteen-year-old Sophie already has a fair idea of what she wants to do.

:15:57.:16:01.

But she has come to look at other options. I want to go to college

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and I think I want to go into teaching, possibly. But we will see

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what happens when I get older. There are more than 50 exhibitors

:16:10.:16:20.
:16:20.:16:21.

here today, offering advice on many carriers. -- Koreas.

:16:21.:16:24.

This is you go to school, you find something you like and then you

:16:24.:16:30.

find a way of getting into it. So there's plenty for Sophie to see

:16:30.:16:40.
:16:40.:16:40.

- including motor sports! Or maybe not. This is hard. It just went

:16:40.:16:48.

wrong after the first 20 seconds. So, time for a sharp exit. At the

:16:48.:16:51.

next stall, a number of surprising things to learn.

:16:51.:17:00.

It is different, being in the army. I did not know you could be a

:17:00.:17:03.

teacher in the army. A If you fancy one of the creative

:17:03.:17:07.

industries, there's plenty to see here, even if you need a strong

:17:07.:17:13.

stomach. Just adding some special effects.

:17:13.:17:17.

Quite a lot of opportunities out of there, in television, theatre,

:17:17.:17:22.

photographic work, magazine work. Has there been anything to change

:17:22.:17:26.

Sophie's mind? There are other options, but I'm

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going to stick with teaching at the minute.

:17:28.:17:34.

4,000 youngsters will visit this Skills Fair, and while may -- many

:17:34.:17:40.

may see a scary feature, others have things to smile about.

:17:40.:17:46.

That wound was realistic! Still ahead: The junior footballers

:17:46.:17:50.

celebrating after finally getting a pitch to call their own.

:17:50.:17:53.

And there's one day this week standing out above the rest. But

:17:53.:18:03.
:18:03.:18:06.

you will have to wait until later Last night, being reported live

:18:06.:18:11.

from Shrewsbury Town to see if they could extend their unbeaten run to

:18:11.:18:18.

20 games. And the answer is... Yes! The rock solid fortress repels all

:18:18.:18:22.

invaders, including Cheltenham Town. But while it was good news in Leek

:18:22.:18:27.

2, there was bad news for the Blues in their bid to make the

:18:27.:18:37.
:18:37.:18:51.

who dominated the first half. Nine minutes after the break, Chris

:18:51.:18:56.

Maguire made it 1-1, and the game was turned on its head. This

:18:57.:19:00.

challenge brought a second yellow card for David Murphy, and he was

:19:00.:19:05.

not the only one to see red. Chris Hughton was left fuming. He said

:19:05.:19:10.

the referee's performance changed the game. Portsmouth took full

:19:10.:19:15.

advantage and scored three in the last half an hour. A defeat for the

:19:15.:19:19.

Blues, leading them in the play- offs, but only just, on goal

:19:19.:19:23.

difference. Any later rivals will have mist

:19:23.:19:30.

strode the town's first goal. -- late arrivals. And early in the

:19:30.:19:40.
:19:40.:19:41.

Our home form has been outstanding. The results have been excellent. We

:19:41.:19:46.

have got to start doing it right away from home. We have turned up

:19:46.:19:49.

the tempo tonight and we have to take that into the away matches.

:19:49.:19:53.

One late goal from Marc Richards gave Port Vale three points against

:19:53.:20:01.

Hereford. Better not be lost to an even later goal against Northampton.

:20:01.:20:06.

-- Burton Albion. Spare a thought for Walsall. They scored first

:20:06.:20:12.

through Jon Macken, and with 17 minutes left, they were leading 2-1.

:20:12.:20:19.

But then a last-minute equaliser denied them victory. It leaves them

:20:19.:20:22.

in the relegation quicksand. Wolves said they are disappointed

:20:22.:20:28.

that sales of early bird tickets are down by 18%. Just over 12,000

:20:28.:20:32.

fans have committed to next season, compared to almost 15,000 at this

:20:32.:20:36.

time last year. Meanwhile, the former manager Mick McCarthy has

:20:36.:20:40.

given his first interview since getting the sack last month. He

:20:40.:20:44.

says he would love to see his friend Terry Connor keep Wolves in

:20:44.:20:48.

the Premier League. If he had left and they had a point

:20:48.:20:54.

is somebody knew, I would not have had such a vested interest in it.

:20:54.:20:59.

But he is a close family friend now, himself and his wife. They are

:20:59.:21:04.

great pals. I have that even more of an interest in it, watching it,

:21:04.:21:10.

and just wishing him well. For the past 12 years, the

:21:10.:21:13.

Eccleshall Eagles have been flying high, but home games have always

:21:13.:21:17.

been a problem. The young footballers have never had a pitch

:21:17.:21:21.

to call their own. But now, thanks to the National Lottery, the Eagles

:21:21.:21:26.

have landed, and they are said to build a permanent nest.

:21:26.:21:31.

-- set to build. Celebrating after winning �50,000

:21:32.:21:38.

for three new pitches. Eccleshall Eagles have almost 200 players, and

:21:38.:21:44.

there are 14 teams, four boys and girls. They are all excited at the

:21:44.:21:48.

prospect of better facilities. It is brilliant because we are

:21:48.:21:55.

going to have new pitches that we can play on, and there will not be

:21:55.:22:00.

tractors going over them. We have to keep transporting the

:22:00.:22:03.

goals backwards and forwards all the time. It means we can get

:22:03.:22:09.

better goals and stuff. It is going to help the club. It

:22:09.:22:12.

will give us better pitches and the pitch we play on the moment is a

:22:12.:22:18.

bit bumpy. It won't have the lumps in it.

:22:18.:22:23.

These teams are among 13 groups in the West Midlands are sharing more

:22:24.:22:29.

than �500,000 from the National Lottery Fund. The money has been

:22:29.:22:32.

made available to make sure the Olympics has a lasting legacy. The

:22:32.:22:36.

funding will help to bring this used to playing fields back into

:22:37.:22:45.

use and create more sports pages. - - unused playing fields.

:22:45.:22:49.

The team has been playing on rented sides until now.

:22:49.:22:53.

Frequently, when you get bad weather, the pitch is bad and the

:22:53.:22:58.

match is cancelled. In terms of playing on poor quality surfaces,

:22:58.:23:02.

it is chalk and cheese. It just allows more matches to carry on. It

:23:02.:23:07.

also means you get a better run. Work on the new Peters will begin

:23:07.:23:11.

within six months. It is hoped they will inspire many successful

:23:11.:23:19.

seasons for the Eagles. Good luck to them, not to mention

:23:19.:23:24.

Stoke City, away at Tottenham Hotspur tonight. All the action is

:23:24.:23:28.

on your BBC local radio station. The thank you.

:23:28.:23:32.

You may recall back in January that we told you about John Parsons, the

:23:32.:23:35.

motorcyclist from Stoke-on-Trent who had been left semi paralysed

:23:35.:23:39.

after a hit-and-run incident. We are delighted to say he is

:23:39.:23:42.

making excellent processed -- progress at a specialist hospital

:23:42.:23:48.

in Shropshire. Getting out of his hospital bed and

:23:48.:23:52.

into a wheelchair is a major breakthrough for motorcyclists John

:23:52.:23:58.

Parsons. Last time we saw him was two weeks after a hit-and-run

:23:58.:24:04.

driver left him for dead. He spent seven weeks lying on his back at

:24:04.:24:06.

the Midlands Centre for Spinal Injuries in Oswestry, paralysed

:24:06.:24:10.

from the waist down. One more go, then.

:24:10.:24:15.

Now he has learnt to stand with the help of a physiotherapist. He has

:24:15.:24:21.

been told he may progress to being able to walk across a room.

:24:21.:24:24.

I have gone from thinking that I would never walk again and that I

:24:24.:24:29.

would be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, to being able to

:24:29.:24:38.

walk short distances. I have got a goal, which is to walk out of here.

:24:38.:24:42.

When you are little Christmas is coming and you are getting it

:24:42.:24:47.

presents you want, it feels like that. You get the same excitement,

:24:47.:24:53.

the same drive to do more than you should.

:24:53.:24:57.

John's therapy has been imperative from the start as he learns to cope

:24:57.:25:03.

with the dramatic changes to his muscles since the accident.

:25:03.:25:08.

Staffordshire Police says several witnesses to the accident on the

:25:08.:25:14.

A500 in January have come forward. But they have yet to chase the --

:25:14.:25:19.

trace the driver. After breaking his spine, John faces longer in

:25:19.:25:21.

hospital as he continued to make progress.

:25:21.:25:25.

None of us know where we are going to get to, but the future is

:25:25.:25:28.

looking good, because he is still knew logically improving.

:25:28.:25:34.

His positive attitude has captained focus. He says if he knew the

:25:34.:25:38.

driver was coming four, he would finally have closure.

:25:38.:25:42.

finally have closure. -- was coming forward.

:25:43.:25:48.

Fantastic news! Now the weather. A lovely day-to-day. It will

:25:48.:25:53.

continue. It looks like we are into some sunny weather, and we can

:25:53.:25:58.

offer you some rain as well by the looks of things. The beginning of

:25:58.:26:05.

the week has been looking decent, with some sunshine and dry weather.

:26:05.:26:09.

Respectable temperatures for the time of year. Really it is tomorrow

:26:09.:26:15.

that is going to surpassed all others. To give us a head start,

:26:15.:26:25.
:26:25.:26:28.

tomorrow we are looking at a cold Otherwise, not too cold. Lows of

:26:28.:26:38.

five or six Celsius, and then we have got the sunshine burning

:26:38.:26:46.

through, across the region. It will go up to 15 or Celsius, which is

:26:46.:26:53.

high for the time of year. The wind will continue through tomorrow.

:26:53.:26:57.

Higher -- however, the cloud is going to thicken. That will bring

:26:57.:27:04.

in some rain. Not a lot heading up from the south. Hardly any until

:27:04.:27:09.

the middle part of tomorrow night. But all the cloud will keep it mild.

:27:09.:27:15.

Compared to tonight, it is going to be mild. Friday itself is going to

:27:15.:27:18.

be brighter with sunny spells. The be brighter with sunny spells. The

:27:18.:27:21.

same applies for the weekend. Highs of 14.

:27:21.:27:27.

A look at tonight's main headlines: A tax cut for Britain's top earners

:27:27.:27:31.

in the Budget. The rate for them will go down to 45p.

:27:31.:27:36.

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