13/08/2013 Midlands Today


13/08/2013

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with Nick Owen and Mary Rhodes. The headlines tonight: A government

:00:12.:00:15.

investigation finds it's probable there's been fraudulent activity at

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Stoke City council. These are dark days within Stoke-on-Trent 's recent

:00:20.:00:24.

past. This is an not something we would condone or something we would

:00:24.:00:29.

like to ever have to replicate. A 55-year-old woman suffered brain

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damage and later died. She is never going to watch my

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children grow up or be around to see me get married.

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isolated as plans are announced to drop a rural bus service.

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Why a group of Black Country actors are about to bestride the stage in

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Monaco. And join me shortly for a full

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forecast never short on variety this week with everything from

:01:00.:01:10.
:01:10.:01:21.

temperature highs and lows to investigation has found it's likely

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that there's been fraudulent activity at a local council. For

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months the Department for Communities and Local Government has

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refused to show the BBC its report into Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

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But after a legal challenge by Midlands Today, the findings have

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now been released. They include evidence of falsified invoices and

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tender documents. Tonight an MP has called for the Crown Prosecution

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Service to re-open files on the case.

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Three projects which received more than �16 million of tax payers'

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money. This scathing report has laid bare what's described as, evidence

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to suggest that, on the balance of probabilities, fraudulent activity

:02:00.:02:06.

has occurred. This is the first of the projects investigated, the

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Excelsior Works, it was supposed to be developed into a thriving site

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for business. But investigators found evidence that documents were

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falsified and to increase the cost for work here. Then there's the

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second project, this former pottery works on College Road, known locally

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as Just Mugs, here too evidence of a false invoice and an artificial

:02:23.:02:30.

increase in professional fees charged. And finally project number

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three, Bridgewater Pottery. Many used for work on its Victorian

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buildings has had to be paid back. Investigators say there's some

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evidence suggesting a building certificate a legal document showing

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the work's been completed and signed off, was produced before work was

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finished. Bridgewater have been unavailable for comment.

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Stoke-on-Trent MP Rob Flello raised concerns with Staffordshire Police

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over these issues three years ago. The Crown Prosecution Service

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decided against bringing charges. He now wants that decision reviewed.

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think the CPS needs to be reopening their files and looking at a

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prosecution in the public interest. That's the first thing I'll be

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calling for. The second this is that the current Chief Executive, who of

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course wasn't the Chief Executive at the time, but nevertheless has had

:03:19.:03:23.

this report on his desk for about a year and has known about our

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allegations going back a number of years, I shall be asking for the

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Chief Executive, JVDL to write to me assuring me that every possible

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method has been taken to minimise any possible chance of this

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happening again. Stoke-on-Trent City Council's Chief Executive insists

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changes have been implemented since the irregularities were uncovered.

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But he also accepts the implications are serious. It is absolutely

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horrendous and smacks of systemic failings, not only within the local

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authority but with partner agencies working together. These are dark

:03:58.:04:03.

days within Stoke-on-Trent 's recent past. This is not something we would

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condone or something we would like to ever replicate. The result of

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this investigation is that more than �1 million has had to be repaid. Tax

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payers have also had to foot the bill for the �20,000 the

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investigation cost. Politics in Stoke-on-Trent has been in turmoil

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for years and disillusioned voters have failed to turn out in great

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numbers for local elections. So how have these revelations gone down?

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think they've lost faith, I really do. They seem to be spending money

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where it isn't needed and not producing it where it is somehow.

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We're having a lot of things done which we should be positive about.

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You would be if you could see that it looked better or that you got

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better service, but I don't think a lot of people do actually find that.

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So that's why they're not voting. Inspite of the damning findings of

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this report into these projects, nobody's been sacked at the council.

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This despite what's been described in this report as serious systemic

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failings. Coming up later in the programme:

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We're live in Worcestershire to see how heritage tourism is creating and

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:05:21.:05:23.

for multi-million pound savings. Walsall Council now needs to save

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�100 million over the next five years, which is twenty million more

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than expected. It follows the �32 million that's already been saved

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over the last two years. And that's led to 450 members of staff leaving

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the council in the last four years. We're joined in the studio now by

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the leader of Walsall Council, Councillor Mike Bird. What was your

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immediate reaction when you were told you had to save an extra �20

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million? To be fair, we had already forecast it would probably be worst

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than we were anticipating because governments make announcements which

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are generally not true. We had budgeted for this figure. You are

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saying that the government is making announcements that are not true but

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that is your government, eight Conservative government. If they

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want to kill local government, they are going about it). They don't seem

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to understand the magnitude of the problem. We have only got a certain

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amount of controllable budget. We do start requirements, laid down in

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statute. We've got left is �275 million, and we've got to find a

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large amount from that. How will that affect people? We will have

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fewer people, less money to do the work and people have to expect less

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for their council tax. What is the real impact? It's hard to say at the

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moment. Things will not be finalised until October. Then we will put

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plans for consultation and I do hope people will use the website. People

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can send their feelings through, to say what they want us to do with

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their money. Whatever they say, it will make little difference in a way

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because it is �100 million you have to save. It will be. But it will

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help us to prioritise where that will fall. What we have to look at

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is where we have extended services which are free or subsidised. Those

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subsidies are going to go. Only yesterday, there was a report... We

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have all got to make brave decisions. We've taken out the low

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hanging fruit, pruned the branches and it looks like we will have to

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drop a feud trees down. How will this play out at the ballot box?

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think the Conservatives will get a kick in. Although the Labour

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government that does this night, we are now sweeping up the day breed

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and we are doing the work, the dirty work, for central government,

:08:02.:08:12.
:08:12.:08:16.

through the local government procedures.

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A family from Worcestershire's received a six figure sum in

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compensation after a nurse failed to carry out a blood sugar test on an

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insulin-dependent diabetic. Margaret Pitt, who was 55, suffered

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irreversible brain damage and later died because of the failure to

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discover her low blood sugar. Three years on, her family are

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coming to terms with the terrible mistake that left diabetic, Margaret

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Pitt, severely brain damaged and then ended her life. I could be

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talking to you like this in ten or 20 years, and it would still be just

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below the surface. It would still affect me the way it does now. I'm

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sorry. Seen here on a television programme, 55-year-old Mrs Pitt was

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failed several times by the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, but

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it was the gross failure of Sister Jackie Charman to test her blood

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sugar before bed time that caused the mother of three's death. She is

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never going to watch my children grow up, she will never be around to

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watch me get married. She is not here. That woman has got to deal

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with that for the rest of her life. If anything, I pity her. I pity her.

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At the inquest, Sister Charman said that she did carry out the check,

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but her evidence was rejected. family also referred the matter to

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the nursing and midwifery Council. They are currently looking into the

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matter. They have formed a decision that there is a case to be answered.

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Four months after the failures on Ward 11 which specialised in

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diabetes care, the ward was involved in a national scandal over basic

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failures in care. The hospital has offered an unreserved apology to the

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family and says that it has improved clinical processes and staff

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training to ensure that such mistakes don't happen again.

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Despite the failures, Mr Pitt doesn't blame the Alexandra

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hospital. He's grateful for the care his wife received over many years, A

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rural bus service run by Shropshire Council is to end in October. The

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number of people using Shropshire Link has been falling since it was

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set up five years ago. The council says it's costing �2,000

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a day in subsidies. But with no firm plans to replace it, concerns have

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been raised that it'll leave people isolated.

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Arriving on time and to order by those that needed. For these

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passengers, this bus provides a lifeline. It is important to me

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because I don't drive. I've got to get into shrews briefer different

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things. It is important to me, yes, it is. I've used it for medical

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appointments. A lot of people use it to go to the hospital. My neighbours

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use it to go shopping. We go to Sainsbury's and it is their only

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form of transport. If it goes, I don't know what people will do.

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Shropshire Council says it is a luxury they can no longer afford.

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It's as numbers are so low that each bus carries fewer than six

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passengers per day. That is a running capacity of just 17%. Some

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journeys are subsidised by up to �150 each. It is hoped the answer is

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with people like these, community transport groups run by volunteers.

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Organisations across Shropshire are now coming together to find a

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solution but they have serious concerns. There is a danger to us

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that we tried to take on more than we can chew. We all feel very

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concerned there will be people left without transport in rural areas in

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Shropshire. One councillor says plans should have been put in place

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earlier. It is a mess, it is. There was a report last November. It was

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recognised that the link was unsustainable in its present format.

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It was costing too much money. Nobody did anything. Trotter Council

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are promising to provide a safety net service for people in rural

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areas who have no other form of transport. Exactly what that means

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and what it will be are yet to be decided.

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And Liz joins us now from the village of Plealey near Shrewsbury.

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Liz, a tough balancing act for the council. They have to save money,

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the service doesn't seem to be greatly used but it's still an

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important lifeline, isn't it? It is. That is the real problem for

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the Council. This service was only started a few years ago. It replaced

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the weekly fixed timetable buses that used to serve villages like

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this and take people to their nearest market town. The reality is

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that fewer people are using it. The people I spoke to a earlier today

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had some criticism for the council, saying they should have done more to

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encourage users to get on the bus and make it more sustainable, so

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those people that really do need it could continue to use it.

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What about the people who live in outlying districts? When can they

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expect to hear about what happens next?

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There isn't really a lot of time to come up with an alternative plan. As

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you heard, the community transport organisations that rely on

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volunteers are now rapidly trying to come up with a plan. Shropshire

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council is keen to hear from people but it says it will let people know

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within the next few weeks. Jon Brookes, the drummer with indie

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band The Charlatans has died at the age of 44. Jon, from Burntwood in

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Staffordshire, had suffered a seizure on tour with the band in

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2010 and had been receiving treatment for a brain tumour. He'd

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undergone several operations, but he'd still been working on new

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material with the band over the summer.

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This is our top story tonight: A government investigation finds it's

:14:16.:14:23.

probable there's been fraudulent activity at Stoke City Council.

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Your detailed weather forecast to come shortly from Shefali. Also in

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tonight's programme: Country life in the Midlands in 1913, the year

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before the world changed. And we find out how an Oscar winning

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actor's helping an aspiring group of youngsters from the Black Country

:14:39.:14:49.
:14:49.:14:50.

How are you spending the summer holidays? Chances are it could well

:14:50.:14:54.

involve a trip to a stately home or museum. It's estimated more than a

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quarter of all UK holiday activities now involve heritage.

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It can have big benefits to the local economy. A Heritage Lottery

:15:03.:15:06.

Fund survey has highlighted the number of local jobs reliant on

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venues like Croome Court in Worcestershire. And that's where our

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reporter Ben Sidwell is tonight. Ben, Croome Court has become an

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important part of the local economy, hasn't it?

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It has. Welcome to the gardens here. They are holding a party this

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evening for many of the volunteers here. The rising popularity is

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nothing short of incredible. 15 years ago, hardly anybody came here.

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Now it is one of the top five tourist attractions in

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Worcestershire. They employ 30 people and support 50 jobs around

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the area. That is not bad for somewhere that 20 years ago was set

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to become a hotel. For years, this place was a secret,

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hidden away in the Worcestershire countryside. It was known by only a

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few. I started here in January 2004 and I was the only permanent

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full-time member of staff at that point. Our reception at the time was

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attempt at our catering at the moment -- at that moment was a

:16:08.:16:11.

vending machine. But things have changed. For the National trust

:16:11.:16:14.

sites across the country, nowhere has seen a bigger increase in

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visitor numbers than here. There is a growing interest in heritage and

:16:20.:16:25.

an appreciation of how rich this area is. We have the first of

:16:25.:16:34.

capability Brown 's landscapes. an area as rule as this, 150,000

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visitors each year means much-needed money into the local economy. It is

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a huge boost for a number of local companies. They are my best customer

:16:44.:16:48.

and they've got a very high profile, being National trust. They are

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hugely important to me. It is not just in Worcestershire where

:16:55.:16:59.

businesses are benefiting from Restoration tourism. This building

:16:59.:17:06.

and compensation -- conservation company have never been busier.

:17:06.:17:11.

Projects like this amount to 60% of our turnover. It keeps us pretty

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much going for 12 to 18 months. That is what a project of this size will

:17:16.:17:23.

take us. There is a huge amount of restoration work that lies ahead.

:17:23.:17:26.

Until five years ago, this was still a family residence and although part

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is now open to the public, there is plenty of restoration to go. Once

:17:31.:17:34.

these rooms are restored, we will be able to open them to our visitors

:17:34.:17:38.

and bring back some of the original contents of this house, which should

:17:38.:17:42.

see a rise in visitor numbers. We will need new people to look after

:17:42.:17:46.

those fantastic contents when they come back. It is expected visitor

:17:46.:17:51.

numbers will top 200,000 in the next few years. It is no anything but a

:17:51.:17:57.

secret. With me now is the head of the

:17:57.:18:00.

Heritage lottery fund in the West Midlands. We've seen this success

:18:00.:18:04.

story. What is the situation across the rest of the region? Everywhere

:18:05.:18:09.

you see this can of engagement with people and it shows how heritage

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tourism really does engage people, make people want to visit so that

:18:13.:18:18.

one quarter of us in our holiday activities do activities which

:18:18.:18:28.
:18:28.:18:30.

involve heritage. It is many billions across the UK for heritage

:18:30.:18:36.

and tourism. For the economy here, that is such a vital money. It is

:18:36.:18:42.

vital money. We believe in making organisations sustainable. We

:18:42.:18:46.

invested �6.7 million here. You can see through these volunteers that

:18:46.:18:50.

this party have they are managing to maintain that investment. We've

:18:50.:18:59.

invested similar amounts as other museums. Across the region, we can

:18:59.:19:06.

see organisations demonstrating that they can attract tourists. Does it

:19:06.:19:09.

mean heritage sites are more likely to be safe now? It certainly does. A

:19:09.:19:15.

good example is a place in Shrewsbury which we have just

:19:15.:19:21.

recently given a �20.8 million grant to. They were rescued the currently

:19:21.:19:24.

derelict building. Fantastic news. As you can see, people enjoying the

:19:24.:19:31.

good weather here and enjoying the success of the house.

:19:31.:19:36.

Ellie Simmonds has struck gold on the opening day of the world

:19:36.:19:39.

Championships in Canada. The 18-year-old won the 400 metres

:19:39.:19:43.

freestyle by some 20 seconds. She won gold in the same event last year

:19:43.:19:47.

at the Paralympics. As we approach the centenary of the

:19:48.:19:51.

outbreak of World War I, we're looking at the Midlands in 1913, the

:19:51.:19:53.

year before everything changed. Today our Rural Affairs

:19:53.:19:57.

Correspondent David Gregory-Kumar looks at farming in Shropshire. That

:19:57.:20:07.
:20:07.:20:08.

was still a tough way of life unchanged for decades.

:20:08.:20:11.

This is Acton Scott Historic Working Farm, near Church Stretton in

:20:11.:20:15.

Shropshire. Time for a taste of country life in 1913. So what can I

:20:15.:20:19.

expect? Life in Shropshire is hard in the countryside. It is known as a

:20:19.:20:26.

very low-wage region. It's an... And agricultural labourer will earn 15

:20:26.:20:31.

shillings a week, if he is lucky. It was a hard life. The work was hard.

:20:31.:20:34.

The family struggled to get by on those wages. The diet was very

:20:34.:20:42.

meagre. My father was a wagon until he was 22 on the family farm. He

:20:43.:20:47.

said that anybody had talked about the good old days never lived

:20:47.:20:52.

through them because it was cruel. He would be about six o'clock and

:20:52.:20:59.

come in at lunchtime. He would be absolutely done in. It is haymaking

:20:59.:21:03.

that has been lined up for me is my first farm job but at least I don't

:21:03.:21:08.

have to start at 6am. I go like that, and then like that, then like

:21:08.:21:16.

that. It turns out, a seeds down the back are pretty itchy. Oh, no!

:21:16.:21:22.

getting worse. While the men work in the fields, there is plenty for

:21:22.:21:26.

women and children to do as well. In Shropshire, the summit is the time

:21:26.:21:36.

to pick berries. She went to the workhouse and picked three children

:21:36.:21:41.

out. She had enough money eventually to buy her own squatters cottage.

:21:41.:21:48.

Then another gentleman told me that his father had bought his first pair

:21:48.:21:53.

of false teeth on the back of the Berry money. Fortunately, there is

:21:53.:22:00.

plenty of course based help on the farm. There is a lot of Heath

:22:00.:22:04.

Robinson type equipment. Sometimes I think there are machines here which

:22:04.:22:06.

are well preserved because whoever made them in their local time, they

:22:06.:22:13.

were rubbish, so they never got used. They are in immaculate

:22:13.:22:23.
:22:23.:22:25.

condition. Some of them are not as good as they could be. They will

:22:25.:22:34.

have had a sense of what was going on, whilst things still stayed the

:22:34.:22:40.

same, like they'd been for centuries. With the haymaking of

:22:40.:22:47.

1913 done, it was time to take it back to the barn. By the time the

:22:47.:22:54.

harvest of 1914 was ready, things would be very different.

:22:54.:22:57.

One of Hollywood's biggest stars, two time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey,

:22:57.:23:00.

is helping a Black Country theatre group make their mark.

:23:00.:23:04.

He has a charitable foundation which is sending the young actors to the

:23:04.:23:06.

International World Festival of Amateur Theatre in Monaco. More now

:23:06.:23:16.
:23:16.:23:18.

This young actress has played a crucial role in getting memebers

:23:18.:23:21.

from the Central Youth Theatre Group in Wolverhampton to the World

:23:21.:23:25.

Festival of Amateur Theatre in Monaco. Tasked with fundraising for

:23:25.:23:35.
:23:35.:23:36.

the trip Katherine Lea wrote to the Kevin Spacey Foundation. They told

:23:36.:23:40.

me the amount that we were successful four, 2000 �500, so we

:23:40.:23:46.

were a bit like oh, OK, that's really good. I told my mother. It

:23:46.:23:50.

was shocking. We didn't expect it but it was a good moment, yeah.

:23:50.:23:53.

after a preview performance of Burnt By The Sun tonight at The Grand

:23:53.:24:01.

Theatre, the cast will fly to Monaco next week. The festival was set up

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in 1957 to celebrate amateur theatre across the world. For these young

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people, it's a rare opportunity to showcase their talents but also to

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take part in workshops, alongside international artists. There's a

:24:14.:24:21.

sense of excitement and nervous anticipation. It hadn't sunk in

:24:21.:24:25.

until about last month that we are actually going. Now we are thinking

:24:25.:24:29.

it is a week ago and there are going to Monaco to represent the UK. I

:24:29.:24:33.

think we are still a bit spellbound really. It's a very special

:24:33.:24:37.

opportunity. I've never done anything like this before. I've

:24:37.:24:47.
:24:47.:24:47.

never expected anything like this to come my way. For Jane Ward this is a

:24:47.:24:53.

perfect birthday treat. She set up Central Youth Theatre 30 years ago.

:24:53.:24:57.

Good things do happen in this city, they are just not necessarily

:24:57.:24:59.

shouted about all the time. It's shouted about all the time. It's

:24:59.:25:08.

really good tip at Wolverhampton on the map, so people know where it is.

:25:08.:25:12.

This would be a performance of a lifetime, with the blessing of a

:25:12.:25:19.

Hollywood giant. I got rather damp when I was out and

:25:19.:25:29.
:25:29.:25:30.

about earlier. How's it looking from the forecast earlier. Fortunately,

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today is a sign of things to come later this week. It is looking

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changeable with heavy rain at times. Bearing that in mind, we are not

:25:36.:25:46.
:25:46.:25:48.

doing too badly. If you doubt whether the shooting stars exist at

:25:49.:25:55.

all, we have photographic evidence. This photograph was sent in by Nick.

:25:55.:26:02.

He spotted these showers at ten o'clock last night. In the nights to

:26:02.:26:06.

come, I am not sure you will be able to see anything because it would be

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rather cloudy. There is a whole lot of activity coming in from the

:26:11.:26:14.

Atlantic. The timing of these will be during the night so that is when

:26:14.:26:18.

we will have the heaviest of the rain. Right now, if you showers in

:26:18.:26:22.

the east of the region but there is some late sunshine and that is more

:26:22.:26:26.

than just a subtle hint that things will be improving later. Clyde will

:26:26.:26:31.

melt in the early hours which is the best time to watch these meteors. We

:26:32.:26:35.

have clear skies developing. Dry conditions. The lowest temperatures

:26:35.:26:39.

will be in rural spots, where we could head down to eight or nine

:26:39.:26:45.

Celsius. A bit of missed developing as well. The best of the sunshine

:26:45.:26:48.

will be in the eastern half of the region first thing. Very quickly,

:26:49.:26:53.

like today, the code will come in from the west introducing a spot of

:26:53.:26:57.

rain here and there. A lot of dry weather tomorrow and temperatures

:26:57.:27:01.

will be slightly higher at 19 or 20 Celsius. The bulk of the rain will

:27:01.:27:05.

come through tomorrow night. This is going to mainly affect parts of

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Staffordshire and the western half of the region. Some heavy pulses of

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rain through the night and temperatures already showing signs

:27:11.:27:20.

of increasing. Thursday its self will be my dear. It will be

:27:20.:27:23.

noticeably warmer with a lot of cloud, showers and fresher showery

:27:23.:27:32.

Rail passengers face another inflation busting rise in their

:27:32.:27:35.

fares. It's the 11th year in row. And a government investigation finds

:27:35.:27:38.

it's probable that there's been fraudulent activity at Stoke City

:27:38.:27:42.

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