The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.
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Hello and welcome to Midlands Today. The headlines: We're not
privatising the force - some services are put out of contract.
They are trying to reassure the public that it is not about taking
police out of public ownership. Two people are arrested over the
brutal attack on a 90 three-year- old in Birmingham.
Houses demolished in Cheltenham after a gas explosion - the owners
face a 12 month wait to return home. It is just a complete upheaval. It
is almost as though life will never be the same.
And getting on track - the BMA's World Championship come to
Good evening and welcome to Thursday's Midlands Today from the
BBC. Tonight: West Midlands Police is not for
sale. That was the blunt message from the force's Chief Constable
Chris Sims today. He was speaking after accusations from unions that
core police services face privatisation. In March, both the
West Midlands and Surrey forces invited bids from the private
sector for �1.5 billion of policing services. But in another
development today, Surrey's Chief Constable announced their plans
were being put on hold until after the Olympic Games. Here's our
Out on the streets the police are hard at work. They say they're
cutting crime to its lowest level in years - down ten per cent.
Policing has changed enormously over the years and it is due to
change even more. But today's event was about public relations, and the
chiefs wanted to put the message across that West Midlands Police is
not for sale. The force has to save �126 million.
They, along with Surrey Police, are looking at a business partnership.
So a private company could take over some existing police roles.
But doesn't that mean privatization? No, says the force.
We are really trying to reassure the public that this is not about
taking police out of public ownership.
Unions and the Police Federation called today's event a smokescreen
and claimed core police jobs would be privatised.
I'm talking about the people who answer 999 calls, the people who
deal with crime scenes, the people who handle cases - all of these
people are part of the police. Scaremongering, say the police
chiefs. We are not asking people to take
over as police. Policing is an accountable public service. We are
in the Business of correcting some really serious myths that are
scaring the public. But the new Chief Constable of
Surrey, Lynne Owens, called for a delay in the process and for more
public consultation. It's claimed there that private firms have been
told that they could bid for jobs like guarding crime scenes,
patrolling neighbourhoods and collecting CCTV. One advert by a
private security company is offering jobs for child abuse
investigators. The Chief Constable denied that his force would
privatise such a sensitive role. That is absolutely not what was
done as police -- West Midlands Police is trying to do.
Investigations are a core part of policing and will continue to be
done by police officers. Tonight, West Midlands Police said
the decision made by Surrey would not have any impact on the progress
of its ongoing tendering process. But questions and controversy
surrounding this issue will not go Earlier I spoke to the deputy
secretary for the West Midlands Police Federation, Steve Grange,
from our studios in Southampton. The Federation represents the
interests of rank and file police officers. He gave his thoughts on
the comments from Chris Sims. Our concerns with a privatisation
issue within the miss Wigan's -- West Midlands - it is a joint thing
with Surrey. The Chief Constable there has suspended their part of
the programme. It is a jointly funded danger. They are putting in
�1 million, we are putting in �2 million, the government �3 million.
That is going to have an effect with the bits going forward. There
was a bid as conference in London where a procurement nineties has
gone out to companies to bid for services. That notice is very far-
reaching. Do you think the West Midlands
should put this on hold, as they have done in Surrey?
I do, yeah. There needs to be a period of consultation. The police
authority are going to be asked next week at a meeting in
Birmingham as to whether they believe it is right to give the
rest of the money to go forward with this venture. I think it is
time to actually have some proper consultation and to think about
whether this is the best way to go. But Chris since is saying this is
back of his work. If you look at the notice, it has
gone out to these companies and its is very far-reaching. It covers
everything that does not require the power of arrest. I know he said
the rank of constable in the West Midlands is sacrosanct. I welcome
that. But clearly there are some important functions that these
private companies have been asked to take on which it comes down by
police staff. -- which are carried done.
Detectives investigating a brutal attack on a 93-year-old woman in
Birmingham have arrested two people. Emma Winnall suffered severe
injuries at her home more than two weeks ago. A man and a woman were
arrested this morning and are being questioned on suspicion of assault.
We can cross now to our reporter Bob Hockenhull, who's outside Mrs
Winnall's home at Moseley in Birmingham. Bob, what more can you
tell us about these arrests? A 56-year-old woman and a 28-year-
old man were arrested at their home in the neighbouring suburbs just
before 6:30am. The police have said that this was not as a result of a
tip-off from the public but as a result of information from a
routine inquiry. The two are being held as a police station, but they
have not said where. This was a crime that are poor people in this
area and those living beyond. Emma Winnall suffered a fractured skull,
a broken arm and wrist and a partially severed finger in the
attack. A reminder of what happened - she was discovered unconscious in
her bed and she was covered in blood. On May sixth, she was able
to talk to detectives. She told him the attack had left her shocked and
confused. On May eighth, her daughter appealed for help to catch
the attackers. On May ninth, crime stoppers offered a �5,000 reward.
What more have the police been saying this evening?
The police have said that Emma Winnall remains in hospital in a
poorly condition. That is 17 days after the attack. They say that
even though two suspects are in custody, this remains very much an
ongoing inquiry. The reward of �5,000 are still on offer and
anybody with information can Bob Hockenhull, thank you very much.
Still to come in tonight's programme:
The Chelsea Flower Show's coming up but one Staffordshire grower's
plans have been hit by the wet Families living near the scene of a
gas explosion in Cheltenham stayed away as their homes were pulled
down today. Two houses had to be destroyed after the blast which
shook Rosehill Street a week ago. Many are still living in hotels and
rented accommodation. And now others who live nearby are coming
together to raise money for their Once again the peace in Rosehill
Street is shattered, but this time the demolition is deliberate. With
cracks widening by the day, at least two houses either side of the
one that exploded have to come down. The property was assessed as beyond
repair. In fact it was a dangerous structure. So the council pushed
through the legislation so that we could demolish it.
Inside these homes, family possessions. Many will be lost
forever, but here the demolition teams have been salvaging
belongings. It may not be much, but for the
families it's a small reminder of what was once their home. The
community is pulling together here, though. A planned street party is
still going ahead to raise money for those affected by the explosion.
We're going to send out letters to local businesses over the next week
to see how they can help. If they have got anything to donate to last,
that could be really helpful. -- to In contrast, at a school, the
annual charitable fund day. But this year it's taken on added
meaning. Enjoying throwing wet sponges at pictures of her teachers
is Catherine Drinkwater. It's a welcome distraction because it's
her house that's being pulled down today.
This event will help raise hundreds of pounds to replace clothes and
other belongings she's lost. So, some comfort amidst the pain of
what's happening. At least now the families can start to think about
rebuilding their lives and their homes.
As soon as it happens to somebody that knows you, it is more urgent
to help. Katharine is such a lovely A man's died after falling from a
bridge over the M5 in Worcestershire. It happened at
Junction 4 of the motorway near Bromsgrove this morning. Ambulance
crews were called but the man was confirmed dead at the scene. The
southbound carriageway was closed for three hours.
The pub and brewing company Marston's has announced half-year
pre-tax profits of �33.5 million, a rise of 15 per cent on the previous
year. The Wolverhampton-based company, which makes Marston's and
Banks' beers, saw an increase in sales of premium ales in the six
months to the end of March. Food sales were also up in its
nationwide chain of 2,000 pubs. The body of a Shropshire serviceman
killed in Afghanistan on Saturday has been flown back to the UK.
Corporal Brent McCarthy, of the RAF Police, was shot dead by Afghan
national police officers. He is the 34th serviceman from the Midlands
to be killed in the conflict. A senior MP has called for improved
security for British troops Corporal Brent McCarthy had been
stationed at RAF Brize Norton for the past two years. Today, the 25-
year-old's body was returned in a On Saturday, while providing
security in Helmand Province, Corporal McCarthy was shot dead by
members of the Afghan police force. His parents say they've only been
given vague details about what happened.
Nobody can tell me the facts and exactly what has happened because
of the investigations are but a bang on. I'm proud of him
regardless. -- that are going on. He was just a lovely young man.
This is a joint Afghan and British patrol filmed by the BBC in Helmand.
Corporal McCarthy is just one of 20 foreign service men and women
killed this year by Afghans they serve alongside, in so-called
green-on-blue attacks. We remain vigilant at all times and
keep risk to a minimum. But it is an important element of what we do
here. We show the Afghans that we trust them.
More than 9,000 British troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end
of 2014, but hundreds of soldiers could stay to train Afghan forces.
One Birmingham MP, who sits on the Defence Committee, says they must
be better protected in time for the security handover.
Those who will remain who will be responsible for the security, I am
not convinced that the Afghan troops will be sufficient to
provide that production. In a statement, the MOD says an
investigation into Corporal McCarthy's death is underway but
Children could soon be taught pottery skills again. Experts in
the ceramics industry want pottery put back onto the school curriculum
to help plug a growing skills gap. The number of people working in the
industry has fallen from a peak of around 24,000 to around 8,000 now.
A pilot project is now running in Stoke-on-Trent to try to fire up
young people to consider ceramics as a career, as Laura May McMullan
reports. Wade Ceramics is one of the biggest
manufacturers in Stoke-on-Trent. Bosses here say traditional skills
are in short supply. They've never been busier, yet they're still
struggling to fill vacancies. think in the past what has been
happening is children have followed in the footsteps of their parents.
Unfortunately, parents have now decided not to work in the industry
so they are not following them. that is one of the main focuses of
this project. To get the skills back. Brownhills Academy in Stoke-
on-Trent is one of five local schools taking part in the year-
long programme alongside Staffordshire University. Staff
here say re-introducing traditional skills is vital. It is about
bringing those kinds of materials back into the classroom because
they are very used to using the computers, which are very clean and
tidy. It is about bringing their confidence back about using these
different materials. And this group enrolled on Staffordshire
University's M.A course are the future generation of ceramic
designers. Students here have set up their own award-winning company
Flux, with well over �100,000 in orders. But despite the success,
the university's ceramic design undergraduate degree course is
running at a loss. It does reflect a reality that we need to redress.
And if we want to make changes, they have to start at an early age.
Companies like Wade are staging a strong fightback with year-on-year
profits. And just as the back stamp says "made in Stoke-on-Trent",
experts want the next generation to be trained in Stoke-on-Trent.
A gold medal sweet pea grower says this spring's terrible weather
could scupper his chances of success at Chelsea. The world-
famous flower show opens in London next week. Derek Heathcote, who's
been in the sweetpea business for over 20 years, says he's struggling
to get enough flowers to fill his stand. Sarah Falkland's been to his
home in the village of Stowe-by- Chartley in Staffordshire. Hello!
Welcome to Derek's greenhouse. The ambient culture today is 19 degrees.
But not enough for Chelsea. Just look at the flowers. No peas on
them whatsoever. They should be heaving with flowers now and there
is nothing at all. It is heartbreaking. Basically, the cold
might have been down to two, three degrees. And it is that cold spell
and a lack of sunshine to bring them out. Derek's a famous name in
the world of sweet peas. He's won gold at Chelsea five times. His son
Andy works alongside him. They cross-pollinate plants to create
new varieties. This is Charlie's Angels. Put your nose on that and
smell the perfume! Each new variety takes seven years to create, this
one for the Queen. It's called Diamond Jubilee and will showcase
at Chelsea. This weekend, they will start snipping the stems for
Chelsea. They need 2000. At the moment they reckon they have only
500. So he's having to call up friends who grow his own Eagle
sweet pea varieties to lend him some. Is it worth it? Of course,
yeah. It is enjoyable to do, despite the setbacks we get. But we
get it every year anyway, so we are learning to live with it! What is
it about Chelsea? It is so prestigious as a show. You can put
your new varieties out there for the world to see and the world
comes to Chelsea to see the flowers. They can't sweet-talk them into
flowering. For many of Derek's plants it'll be Hampton Court, not
Chelsea. Good luck to him! There will be
more from Sarah on Monday's programme.
Still to come, Ben Sidwell with a bizarre tale of knitting and outer
space. Find out what rugby and rubber chickens have to do with
NASA and space exploration! I think you have dropped a stitch!
Well, there's nothing out of this world about the weather, unless
cloud, rain and the cold is freaking you out this spring! But
that could all change next week. Here's Dan with the sport, and the
nerves are jangling in Cheltenham. Cheltenham Town are just 90 minutes
away from Wembley and a place in the League 2 play-off final. They
take a two-goal lead into tonight's semi-final second leg against
Torquay. And the fans are hoping their excellent play-off record can
continue. Remember this? Ten years ago Steve
Cotterill led Cheltenham to play- off triumph at Cardiff's Millennium
Stadium. How about this? In 2006, John Ward's team rode an open-top
bus to celebrate returning Cheltenham to the third tier of
English football, and the weather couldn't spoil the party. In short,
when the Robins are in the play- offs, they win them. Fans are
hoping for a repeat. Absolutely! They will do it now. They deserve
to go up. We support them all the way. Really good display. But
confident? Of course, absolutely! And it's not surprising they're
confident, after winning sunday's first leg 2-0 against Torquay. But
don't expect them to sit back and defend tonight. We have to be
organised and disciplined. But we can go on playing the same manner.
We scored a couple of goals and could have had a few more. We have
played some good stuff and I want that to continue. It's already been
a memorable season at Whaddon Road. Now they want a trip to Wembley and
promotion, to round it off in style. It would be massive. It has been a
very good year for the championship because we have had such a good run
in the FA Cup. And if we get to Wembley, that would make them
really happy. And then for the supporters, it would round off a
really good season. And if history's any judge, stories
involving Cheltenham Town in the play-offs tend to have a happy
endings. And there's full match commentary
of the game on BBC Radio Gloucestershire this evening.
Coverage starts at 7.05pm. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer is the new
bookies favourite to be the next manager of Aston Villa. It follows
widespread speculation that Randy Lerner has flown to Norway for
talks. The former Manchester United striker led Molde to the League
Championship in Norway in 2011. The man he could replace, Alex McLeish,
has released a statement today saying he was honoured to have
managed Aston Villa. McLeish says his one regret is that he wasn't
able to achieve more for the supporters and their high
expectations. A state-of-the-art BMX cycling
track is being built at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham
as the city prepares to host the World Championships. Competition
will be particularly tough as it's the final qualifying event for the
Olympics. The track itself has been designed by a firm in Shropshire
and built using dirt from a Birmingham quarry, as Nick
Clitheroe reports. This must be every BMX biker's
dream having a World Championship track all to yourself. A track
that's risen from the dust 3,000 tonnes of it. And when the World
Championships begin at the NIA next week, places at the London Games
will be up for grabs. That's why these men are working long days
turning 8,000 palletts, 3,000 of limestone and 18 tonnes of steel
into a stunning race track. It has been quite a long time in the
making and quite a challenging process but it is really shaping up.
Hopefully, they will be really surprised. The World Championships
hasn't been in an arena for a long time and apparently it is riding
well, riding fast. It has taken a week to put this up but after the
championships, they only have 48 hours to take it all down. But it's
not just the elite who'll be dreaming of riding this track.
2,000 amateurs, including 20 from the Birmingham BMX Club, will
compete at the Worlds. To have that many riders in such an event is
great for the club. I have been training really hard so looking
forward to riding it. Riders from New Zealand and Australia have
already been training here for the Championships. But for one world
rider, this is home. Because Ben Martinez is a member of the
Birmingham Club but will ride for Bolivia at the Worlds. I have been
chasing the World Championships since I was a kid. I think this is
it now. It is very important for me and for my country as well. And for
the club. And with so much at stake, no wonder the workers on this track
are in pursuit of perfection. A great event. Before ago, a century
for the club today meant they have posted 557 for six. They needed
another 347 to avoid problems. Now the strange tale of a knitter
from Warwickshire who's turned her hand to space clothing. On Sunday,
when NASA launches its latest mission, the space explorer will be
wearing an outfit made by Sue Drage from Rugby. And the traveller will
be entertained on the journey by a podcast from a BBC local radio
station. Ben Sidwell explains all. Space - the great unknown, where
only a few men, women and one On Sunday, NASA launches its latest
mission manned, or should that be poultried, by a chicken called
Camilla. For the first time her uniform has been made here in the
UK. So who did they ask to design it? Stella McCartney? Vivienne
Westwood? No. Sue Drage from Rugby. I think it only took me about two
weeks, as I say, because I had to have several attempts of knitting
it and it didn't fit right. It is rather difficult knitting for a
rubber chicken! And this is what she will be wearing for her latest
mission. The whole outfit knitted by using plastic bags. As she has
been training for her latest mission, Camilla was not able to
come across. Sir Charles has bravely agreed to step into the
breach. Good afternoon, Charles. What was it like being a
bodyguard... The woman responsible for arranging everything, BBC
Coventry and Warwickshire's Vic Minnett. Her afternoon show has
become a firm favourite with the team at NASA. So much so that when
Camilla the chicken lifts off on Sunday, she'll be kept entertained
in space by a podcast of Vic's radio programme. NASA love our show
and now they're taking us into space with a rubber chicken wearing
a suit we knitted out of carrier bags! It doesn't seem real, does
it?! So on Sunday, if you look up into the sky and think you can see
a flying chicken in a space suit, you might not be wrong!
Speechless! All the best to Camilla. She is very plucky! Now over to the
It has been quite a struggle this spring but this bit of news might
perky opera little bit. It looks like high pressure could dominate
midweek next week onwards. Power -- perk up a bit. We now have low
pressure affecting us. But it has been cloudy today. But we have a
degree of uncertainty as to what will happen this weekend because we
are in between this high and low. We have this rain but this pressure
will determine how much we get. It will be cooler because of the
strength of the wind. Back to tonight, we have got quite a bit of
cloud across us right now but all day we have had this front feeding
up from the South. By tonight, we will see the majority of the rain
restricted to the north of the region. Elsewhere, looking much
dryer. Cloud with bricks developing and underneath that, and
increasingly north-east of the breeze, with temperatures not going
much below five, six degrees. A cloudy start to the day tomorrow.
We will see some bricks and sunshine developing tomorrow
morning, but then it thickens up tomorrow morning. -- some breaks.
Patchy rain later on. Highs of 13, A look at tonight's main headlines:
David Cameron says he won't stay silent as the eurozone heads for