13/08/2013 Midlands Today


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Monaco. And join me shortly for a full


forecast never short on variety this week with everything from


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


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


months the Department for Communities and Local Government has


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


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


now been released. They include evidence of falsified invoices and


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


Service to re-open files on the case.


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


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


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


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


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


for business. But investigators found evidence that documents were


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


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


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


increase in professional fees charged. And finally project number


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


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


evidence suggesting a building certificate a legal document showing


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


finished. Bridgewater have been unavailable for comment.


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


over these issues three years ago. The Crown Prosecution Service


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


method has been taken to minimise any possible chance of this


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


changes have been implemented since the irregularities were uncovered.


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


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


authority but with partner agencies working together. These are dark


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


failings. Coming up later in the programme:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


than we were anticipating because governments make announcements which


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


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


that is your government, eight Conservative government. If they


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


through the local government procedures.


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


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


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


irreversible brain damage and later died because of the failure to


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


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


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


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


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


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


failed several times by the Alexandra Hospital in Redditch, but


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Four months after the failures on Ward 11 which specialised in


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


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


family and says that it has improved clinical processes and staff


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


been raised that it'll leave people isolated.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Organisations across Shropshire are now coming together to find a


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


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


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


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


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


recognised that the link was unsustainable in its present format.


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


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


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


and what it will be are yet to be decided.


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


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


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


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


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


the weekly fixed timetable buses that used to serve villages like


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


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


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


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


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


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


expect to hear about what happens next?


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


you heard, the community transport organisations that rely on


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


material with the band over the summer.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


quarter of all UK holiday activities now involve heritage.


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


Fund survey has highlighted the number of local jobs reliant on


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


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


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


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


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


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


Now it is one of the top five tourist attractions in


Worcestershire. They employ 30 people and support 50 jobs around


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


businesses are benefiting from Restoration tourism. This building


and compensation -- conservation company have never been busier.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


secret. With me now is the head of the


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


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


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


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


one quarter of us in our holiday activities do activities which


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


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


vital money. We believe in making organisations sustainable. We


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


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


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


see organisations demonstrating that they can attract tourists. Does it


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


good example is a place in Shrewsbury which we have just


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


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


good weather here and enjoying the success of the house.


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


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


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


at the Paralympics. As we approach the centenary of the


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


year before everything changed. Today our Rural Affairs


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


was still a tough way of life unchanged for decades.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


is helping a Black Country theatre group make their mark.


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


International World Festival of Amateur Theatre in Monaco. More now


This young actress has played a crucial role in getting memebers


from the Central Youth Theatre Group in Wolverhampton to the World


Festival of Amateur Theatre in Monaco. Tasked with fundraising for


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


have clear skies developing. Dry conditions. The lowest temperatures


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


rain through the night and temperatures already showing signs


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


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


Rail passengers face another inflation busting rise in their


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


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


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