09/08/2013 Midlands Today


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Hello, and welcome to Midlands Today with Nick Owen and Mary Rhodes. The


headlines tonight: The Public, an arts and media centre in West


Bromwich that was controversial, costly and now closing. We will be


really upset. Where do we go? comes as the importance of tourism


to the economy is increasing and numbers of tourists Sara. -- are up.


Tourists brought in �6 billion to Birmingham and the Black Country


last year and this year could be better. It's essential, not just to


Dudley and the Black Country but to the West Midlands as a whole.


staff spread too thinly- why one accident and emergency department in


Shropshire may shut. Wizards of the web - the youngsters cracking the


code for business success in the future. The weather is eerily quiet.


We have ditched the heat and thunderstorms. What is in the


crystal balls for the weekend? Join of the line for a project that's


cost tens of millions of pounds of public money, The Public arts centre


in West Bromwich. Last night on Midlands Today we brought you news


of an uncertain future, we now know it's to close. From day one it's


been dogged by controversy, opening two years late in 2008 just as the


recession hit. The Public was supposed to put West Bromwich on the


cultural map but critics branded it a �70 million white elephant.


Recently, though, visitor numbers have risen - 380,000 last year.


Today, Sandwell Council revealed it can no longer afford �1.6 million a


year in running costs. Here's Giles Latcham with reaction to today's


announcement. Overly expensive and underused - the


story of The Public is all too familiar. And now the council wants


it shut by the end of November. Ironic, says the woman in charge,


given visitor numbers are up. think it is a shame for all of the


people that care and love this building, and all of those people


that spoke out, signed petitions and did other things to save it, that


there voice has not been heard. Opened five years ago, The Public


came to be known as the pink elephant. A report branded it not


fit for purpose. Ambitious interactive displays were plagued by


technical problems and the council had to rescue it from administration


as costs soared. No one from the council was available for interview.


In a statement, they said that the decision to close the building has


not been easy, but they cannot continue subsidising it to the tune


of nearly �1.5 million each year. That money is council taxpayer's


money. They say that in the face of cuts from central government, that


cannot carry on. But supporters say it is more than an art gallery and


the completion of a new shopping centre next door gave it a new lease


of life. Ever since the square has opened, there have been bands out


here. I've seen quite a lot of people. I don't think it should be


shut down, it's a nice building and it gives a creative touch. On the


top floor, small businesses rent space. This IT firm say the landmark


building is a hit with their clients in the Middle East. They now plan to


leave the borough. We purely came here because of the building. I


think it suited our business. We decided to come here. But, apart


from that, I don't think there is very much going on in Sandwell.


on the ground floor the weekly knitting circle are at a loss.


come here every Friday and meet up. We have become really close friends.


We will be really upset, Sandwell College could yet open a sixth form


on the site, but that's far from Sandwell Council, but no one was


The TaxPayers' Alliance. What is your reaction to the news of this


closure? It has been a sorry tale from beginning to end. People said


it was iconic. As far as I can tell, it is an icon to bad budgeting and


bad planning. A building that was supposed to cost �38 million and


ended up costing �72 million. It is sitting there now as a white


elephant, seeping away �1.5 million per year of taxpayer money. Is


�35,000 a week. Absolutely unsustainable. What would represent


value for money for taxpayers? council has to put into the public


domain what the options are, and ensure value for money is delivered.


Whether that is handing over to Sandwell College or looking at an


alternative solution to recoup as much money as possible. It is a huge


amount of taxpayer money that has gone on this project. At a time when


the council is having to make savings, the last thing it can


afford is to lose money at this kind of rate. But they need to get a move


on, because a mothballed building costs money? Of course, and they


must get on and make a decision, and make sure it is made in the open and


transparently, so people can see the options they are weighing up. They


also need to make sure they make the right decision. When the decision


was made to build this thing in the first place, it was very much the


wrong decision. Don't the people of West Bromwich deserves some kind of


arts facility? It had a slow start, but we had 380,000 visitors last


year. Where do they go now? I think it was far too ambitious in the


beginning. That is clear now. Even if visiting numbers have slightly


risen, you cannot justify that �30,000 per week subsidy for that


building. People will come up with their own solutions. I am sure that


the community will come together and look at ways, alternative venues,


where they can host events and meat. Perhaps in the longer term, they


could look to a slightly less ambitious way of ringing people


together for artistic reasons. The news of that closure comes just


as tourism in the region is on the up. Our hottest summer in years has


brought an increase in visitors, but could more be done to bring in those


ringed tailed lemurs are up nice and early for the expected summer


holiday visitors. While over at the meerkat enclosure, the tourist train


has just arrived. The zoo's been here for over 70 years, but new


generations keep arriving in their droves. In fact, visitor numbers in


the Black Country are up by 2%. wanted to see their favourite


animals. The animals and the train, he loves the train. Overall


attendance has been up, we have been doing well. This year, we are up


17%. In fact, 25 million visitors came last year. Tourism might be big


business, but it could be bigger. Tourism has become more and more


important to the Black Country, not least since the decline in


manufacturing in the 1980s and '90s. And it's reached the point now where


the visitor economy is seen as essential to the future of this


area. Birmingham and the Black Country's working on cross


promotion, but there are fears the region will be left behind. It is


absolutely essential that the government gives more money to this


part of the world to develop tourism. It's not just a question of


developing tourism. The future of the West Midlands is at stake. We


had to pull our finger out, get together and make sure we punch


above our weight. The last ten years, we have been falling behind.


Blists Hill in Telford is one of the biggest attractions in the region -


tourism here is a big employer. They say it's important the region as a


whole works together. Tourism has always been one of these sleeping


giants. Recent years, with things like foot and mouth, it has helped


people focus on the value of tourism in the local and national economy.


It is slowly getting up there. In Shropshire, tourism is the third


most important employer. sunshine's brought people out, but


it's continued investment will bring the midlands out of the shadows.


Coming up later in the programme: Coventry City's first home match of


the season this weekend, 35 miles away in Northampton. How many fans


will go? Another accident and emergency unit


is under threat tonight. Health chiefs across Shropshire say it's


unrealistic to have two in the county. They want to open up a


debate about the future of health care. It could lead to the closure


of an A&E department, but building a new hospital hasn't been ruled out.


Here's our health correspondent, off a plan to downgrade its accident


and emergency department. Save children's services! In 2011,


Shrewsbury fought and lost children's and maternity services in


favour of Telford 2013. And health chiefs have begun yet another debate


about the future of health care in Shropshire and haven't ruled out a


single hospital. We need to design a model that is fit for the future,


really. We haven't come up with any decisions as regards what that model


looks like, whether it is two or one hospital. We have been clear on the


consultation process. It needs to be clinically led. If an accident and


emergency were to be lost, Telford is the most likely because it is


less remote. They have been trying to find a solution for over a


decade, and it is not going to be easy because Shropshire is such a


large county. Both A&E departments are rammed to the gunwales. There


are 110,000 patients passing through each year and both are struggling


with capacity. But a �70 million new children's and maternity unit is


being built in Telford. Can that be safe without emergency cover?


we want to do is actually look at the way we provide services for


urgent care in a different fashion. Perhaps we need to stop thinking


about traditional A&Es. There are a whole group of people that could


come into the inpatient assessment areas and not go anywhere near A&E,


and that is the best care for them. The people of Shropshire just seem


frustrated by the need to fight. can just get on to politicians to


see if it helps, but will it help? We are near to Telford, so I would


be pretty upset. The reality is there isn't enough money or doctors


- but making services safe here will prove one of the hardest challenges


in our region. The body of Daniel Pelka, the


four-year-old who was abused and then murdered by his mother and her


partner in Coventry, has been released to his family. It follows


the end of the court case last week. Daniel's father Eryck has now been


given custody of his body and is said to be planning a funeral in


Poland. Six men have been convicted of a


range of violent offences committed during a birthday party that ended


with the death of a 16-year-old boy. Ben Morutare died in July last year


after he was stabbed in the leg. He'd been at a party at the Old


Comrades Club in Smethwick. An 18-year-old admitted his


manslaughter, a 19-year-old pleaded guilty to violent disorder, while


four other men were convicted on the same charge earlier this week.


The veteran Birmingham heavy metal band Black Sabbath are to be named


as living legends at a music ceremony hosted by a rock magazine


later this year. Frontman Ozzy Osbourne is expected to attend the


event in London with fellow band members Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi


in November. The group has recently enjoyed being top of the charts with


the album 13. They're also in the running to be named Band of the


Year. Coventry City Football Club are


facing millions of pounds in lost ticket sales while they play home


matches in Northampton for the next three seasons. The first one is on


Sunday. Attendances are likely to fall from close to 11,000 per game


to as low as 2,000. The club claim leaving the Ricoh Arena and building


their own stadium is vital to their long-term financial future. But


large numbers of fans are refusing to go with them. Nick Clitheroe has


spent the day with one of those supporters. Buying tickets to watch


Coventry City this weekend, but Michael Orton won't be travelling to


Northampton to see the first team. Instead he'll be at the Ricoh to


watch a team of club legends play a charity match. Michael is one of


thousands of fans of the Sky Blues planning to boycott their home games


this season. So this morning I took Michael on the 70 mile round trip to


Northampton to dig further into why feelings are so strong among the


fans about a plan which would see Coventry City play in Northampton


for at least three years, while the club build a new ground near


Coventry. Football clubs should be kept in their community, with all of


the traditions. This is what it feels like, going somewhere very


different. This is not Coventry, this is not our home. Michael wasn't


comfortable going into the ground, so we moved to the heights


overlooking Sixfields dubbed Jimmy's Hill by the fans. There is no future


for a Coventry City team in Northampton. It is as simple as


that. The very future of our club is in danger. If we want to keep


Coventry City, our club and our team, we need to get it back into


commentary. At a fans Forum, Tim Fisher revealed his best and worst


case scenarios for the move. team does really well, and people


like to watch winning football. We look at comparable is, other teams


have done it, you could get between 6000 and 7000 following. If the team


doesn't do so well, we could get that number as low as three. From


the numbers we have seen, 2000 could be optimistic. When they run out, it


will start a new chapter in the club's history, but maybe not one


that many will want to remember. You've been getting in touch about


what Coventry City fans should do. Lee Clark wrote on Facebook that he


wouldn't be renewing his season ticket as he feels cheated by the


club. Rob Knowles said that, while he respected the decision of those


fans who'd be travelling to see the match, he wouldn't be. And he's


hating the divide the changes have caused. Mo Farooq got in touch via


Twitter to say it was worthless to travel to another county for a home


game. Kelly Brown emailed to say she too won 't be going to Northampton -


she'll only take her family if they Our top story tonight: The Public -


an arts centre in West Bromwich that was controversial, costly and now -


closing. Your detailed weather forecast to come shortly. Also in


tonight's programme, recycling Godiva. Coventry's celebration of


the Olympic spirit heads home after a revamp. And from Premier League to


non-league. Why this ex-Spurs star is turning out for nothing for a


Hundreds of young people from all over the country are spending the


weekend in Birmingham for a massive "code camp" - a chance to come


together and create websites and phone apps, fuelled by pizza. The


idea is to inspire a generation of young computer programmers and our


Science Correspondent David Gregory-Kumar is with them now. So,


David, tell us more. This spring out of an idea in 2009, when volunteers


thought they would hold a camp. They threw open the Google headquarters.


They had space for 50 young people and only three were interested in


turning up. Clearly, something had gone wrong. Given that programming


is so important to the economy, it looked like the UK was in trouble.


Fast forward to today and things look much healthier. All week,


hundreds of kids have been working away at projects in centres across


the country. This one is at BBC Birmingham. It is a great


opportunity for teenagers to come out, work together, learn some code


and, at the end of it, have a project they can be proud of having


developed. It is not just teaching is about code, it's a lot about the


actual environment we will be going into if we go into development as a


career. The young developers are encouraged to work with data that's


available for free on the internet and come up with interesting ideas


for it. So, for example, one group has been playing around with online


maps and police crime data to produce a very different kind of


satnav. It is a snippet of Google maps, which shows on the website. It


shows where the high crime rate places are. So you can choose the


safest route and also get directions to it. And these programmers of the


future have already acquired the trendy internet hatred of vowels in


is a bit noisy with hundreds of children in there. With me is Emma


Mulqueeny from Young Rewired State. There is a big history of people


programming in their bedrooms and setting up big video game companies


for example. When did we fall out of that? It just became too easy, the


smart phones became too exciting and easy. It became much more simple for


these kids to interact with a game as a consumer, rather than creating


their own entertainment. It was forcing themselves to create their


own entertainment all of those years ago that made them invent those


wonderful games. Going back a bit, I remember programming with my mates,


but we were spotty young boys. Is that starting to change as well?


certainly is, there are a lot more girls interested. The whole thing is


becoming more mainstream. The spotty nerds thing is really stopping. You


can see from the children that we have a lot of different types of


children. Girls, definitely, are starting younger. They are learning


to code when they are seven or eight years old, with their parents, or


they are getting the idea from their friends at school. Getting them in


earlier is baking a big difference. Thank you very much. As well as free


pizza, there is also a free ice cream van. It is geek heaven here.


If I do and have to work, I would be here as well. The details will be on


the Facebook page. -- if I didn't have to work.


One of those coders, Lily, was just ten. Amazing.


Last minute preparations are underway for Coventry's Olympic Lady


Godiva to make a triumphant return to her home city tomorrow. The 18


foot puppet was pedalled to the capital by a team of cyclists last


year to represent the region as part of the cultural celebrations for


London 2012. Joanne Writtle caught up with them at a secret base


outside Coventry. A spectacular Lady Godiva puppet


wowed crowds from Coventry to London in 2012, in a dress designed by


Zandra Rhodes, and a coat by local artists. Today, though, at an


undisclosed location outside Coventry, efforts were being made to


cover her. Lady Godiva was looking as she did when she famously rode on


horseback through Coventry in protest against high taxes. Naked.


We are just putting Godiva's dress on, to give her some modesty well we


take her out. Last year the weather battered her. So in preparation for


her return to Coventry, she's had a make over: She had a hair do, she


had her feet painted, she has a new neck because she got whiplash. Roger


Medwell led a mechanical team from 17 engineering companies in


Coventry. It's always very busy, maintaining the bikes, Lady Godiva,


it's a bigger job cleaning her and keeping her ready to go at all


times. Some of the cyclists who pedalled her to London will take


part in her theatrical homecoming celebrations tomorrow. Others are


new. Jane McGaffney started cycling just three years ago, Market Drayton


is famous for gingerbread, sausages I learned to ride a bike and then


did 400 miles for charity. How much are you looking forward to tomorrow?


I can't tell you how delighted I am. More than 1500 people are expected


to follow Godiva around the country ring road tomorrow. There will be an


bikes, unicycles, roller-skates or simply on foot. -- they will be on


bikes. Market Drayton is famous for gingerbread, sausages and as the


home of Robert Clive - Clive of India. But not famous - so far,


anyway, for its football. Our reporter Ben Sidwell is in the


Shropshire market town for us tonight. Ben is that all about to


fields, the home of Market Drayton. It could be a bumper crowd for the


visit of Stoke city. Many of them will be coming to see the former


Tottenham, Wigan and Blackburn Rovers player Pascal Chimbonda, who


is now playing for all here, for The Gingerbread Men. London, population


8.4 million. Home of Premier League Tottenham Hotspur. Market Drayton,


Shropshire. The relation 11,773. Home of division one South side


Market Drayton Town. In footballing terms, miles apart. But there is a


link. This man. Pascal Chimbonda. has been good, you know? To have 90


minutes, every time I play a game, that is good. The fitness, it


improves, you know? If I want to play again at a high level, I need


to have a game like this and training. A French international


with 143 Premier League games under his belt, nobody expected him to


turn out for a club still four promotions away from league


football. Does everybody won his shirt? I suppose you can't afford


too many? If people want to pay for his shirt, we would be happy to give


it. But I don't think the directors would be happy about me giving them


away for fun. What is more, he is not being paid to play. I think I


need to pay them back, because they let me train and have some fun.


the dressing room, still shock at their team-mate. What he has done,


the World Cup, it's fantastic, it gives the lads a big boost. It gives


us a massive lift and gets the fans wanting to watch, just to see him in


a Market Drayton shirt. It's huge. With an average attendance of 75


last season, they will be hoping to hang onto their star player for as


long as possible. Well, Pascal Chimbonda is with us now. You are


still only 34, just a couple of years ago you were playing in the


Premier League. Great fun, but I bet there is something more, you want to


play at a high level? I want to be at a high level, because that is


where I belong. I hope to go up, and I will enjoy every time I spend


here, I will enjoy it. Hopefully in the future I will be in a good team


and enjoying my football again. have to let you go, the manager has


told me you have to get changed. Thank you for joining us. Let's


speak to the vice-chairman. This is publicity money cannot buy?


Absolutely, fantastic for the club and the town. It's great watching so


may people here, hopefully watching a great game of football. There must


be a real buzz around, to have somebody like this? I've been in the


pubs and the town, people have been talking about it, enjoying a great


day of football. Do you think you can keep hold of him for a while?


hope so, for a few more games. have got the programme here. I have


had a sneaky word with the manager. Between you and me, exclusive team


news, he will start the game today. A lot of bands here are very happy


to see that. -- fans. They are opening their clubhouse. There are


huge celebrations at Market Drayton town. What a surprise, he is going


to start! eyes on the weather forecast. This


one is not working to shabby. There will be some usable weather. I saw


yesterday's rain clearing this morning, giving a good sprinkling


for the gardens. Behind that, a ridge of high pressure settling down


nicely. We will be keeping that quiet weather into tomorrow. Mostly


dry through tomorrow. Quite a lot of cloud around at times, but some


brighter bits in that cloud and spells of sunshine. It will feel


warmer, with the wind a lot lighter. The wind has been gusty with a bit


of sunshine here and there. But it is looking like a fine evening. The


cloud will melt away for a time this evening. The cloud will be


thickening up later in the night. Quite a lot of cloud. But despite


that it will be fairly nippy. Temperatures down to 11 or 12


degrees in the towns. They could nip down into single figures for rural


spots. We could start the day at about eight or nine degrees. A


bright start, with some sunshine around early on. The small chance of


a shower clipping northern parts of Shropshire and Staffordshire. Even


those will be fading away later on. A dry and brighter picture, the


cloud will come and go. Temperatures are disappointing, but feeling a


little bit warmer with lighter wind. Sunday, we have weather fronts


creeping up on Sunday. We might be lucky and get them nipping us into


the morning on Sunday. In general, I think we are looking at the greater


chance of a shower on Sunday. Even those could fade away. Try and


brighter bits. Feeling cooler and fresher, with highs of 90 degrees.


The chance of a shower on Monday and Tuesday, but warmer and brighter


Let's recap tonight's top stories: An investigation begins into the


Government's controversial posters telling illegal immigrants to 'go


home'. And The Public - an arts centre in West Bromwich that was


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