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Hello and welcome to Midlands Today with Nick Owen and Mary Rhodes. The
headlines tonight: The collapse of a leading computer games company
leaves 175 people out of work. They have been so loyal to us, it is the
worst thing ever. We'll be talking live in the studio
to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls about the region's wider economy. Also
tonight: A police presence in schools with uniformed officers
based on site. Gives students opportunities to reach out.
Visitors urged to disinfect their shoes to stop the spread of a
disease threatening a popular beauty spot. Another wash out at Edgbaston
— what impact's the lost business having on the books? Well that may
not be the only fixture caught out by the rain this week — and for one
day in particular, there's a storm brewing.
Good evening. More job losses today in an industry that's been one of
this region's success stories. The computer games design firm Blitz in
Leamington Spa is shutting, with the loss of 175 jobs. Some staff were in
tears when they heard the news. It comes after a week of highs and lows
as far as jobs are concerned, although figures out yesterday show
unemployment in this region is still well above the national average.
So what's the true picture? We'll be speaking to the Shadow Chancellor Ed
Balls at the moment. Here's our business correspondent Peter
Plisner. Award—winning, highly respected and has a 23—year track
record, but this is what the Blitz offices looked like today after the
company became the latest casualty of the recession. Management blamed
its demise on changes in the market and a lack of investors. We have
looked after so many creative and talented people over the years they
have been loyal to us and to break this news was just the worst thing
ever. 20 miles away in Solihull — a very different story. Land Rover's
state—of—the—art aluminium body shop opened a year ago. Earlier this week
Jaguar Land Rover said it would be investing £1.5 billion into the
business creating another 1,700 jobs. But suppliers know that some
skilled workers will come from their own workforce — making things much
more difficult for them. Solihull's Operations Director, Alan Volkearts,
who's also on the board Local Enterprise Partnership agrees that
concerted action is needed. Actions to address the skills gap is totally
cross the suppliers base, it doesn't us if we do not improve that, we
need to look at that in address the skills challenge.
But JLR aren't the only employers with vacancies — companies with
1,000 jobs to fill were looking for new recruits in Worcester today. It
is quite hard because people have been put off going into construction
because of the recession, it is searching in the right places but we
want people to come to us so we can find the right job for them. Aye
I've been looking for a job seven months, I have acquired for a few
places. I have got qualifications and a 20 year career history. What
you're looking for? Anything, just money at the end of the day. Why are
there so many vacancies and semi—people unemployed? Part of the
reason is some of those who are unemployed do not have the skills
for the jobs that are on offer. Enter the Chancellor George
Osbourne, in the Midlands today visiting various businesses. He's
adamant that we're over the worst. This has been a difficult time for
the country and families have felt that pressure on their budgets, it
has been an uncertain time for many families. What I would say is that
the economy is turning a corner and that means for families jobs are
being created and jobs are more secure.
Little comfort to workers at Wolverhampton Council which
yesterday announced 1,000 redundancies. Yes, some things are
getting better but there are obviously going to be many set—backs
along the way. We're joined now by Shadow
Chancellor Ed Balls. We have an unusual situation here in the West
Midlands, unemployment figures are higher than the national average but
companies such as Jaguar Land Rover are recruiting — they can't find the
right people with the right skills, shouldn't your government have done
more to equip our young people for manufacturing? Across the country we
saw 250 —— 20,000 more apprentices. The schools and skills improved year
on year. The skills gap goes back. These days, everybody needs skills
to succeed. Over decades, when the Labour government was in power. I'm
not denying the challenge. Grammar School, some people went to
university or gobby apprenticeship, and other people could get jobs when
you don't need skills. Everyday —— these days every job easier still.
Jaguar Land Rover are struggling to fund the higher skills. There are a
load of people that can't find work. In the West Midlands, country to
what the Chancellor said, unemployment is up and employment is
down. People are seeing the living standards fall month by month.
Things are getting harder. Was the answer? You need to get young people
into work because the best way to get skills from a job. It is harder
to do it from out of work. We would repeal the bank bonus tanks.
Guarantee work for young people. —— repeat the bank bonus tax. Today I
have been seeing a house—building projects. We need more of that. We
also need to do more to help families with their budget, energy
prices, rail prices. Cutting the top tax for the richest will not do the
job. Another big issue is high speed to. You have said there is no bank
cheque. What is the limit? There is no blank cheque, that is the right
thing. What is the limit? It is £42.5 billion at the moment. Value
for money is two sides of the ledger. It is the cost, the cost is
going up and up, going to do deliver the benefits in some of the economy
and the investment? What we have seen in weeks and months is the cost
is rising. People are asking questions, and the benefits they?
The government need to do a better job. We need to scrutinise closely,
what I have said and this is contrary to George Osborne, there is
not a blank cheque unless we are persuaded it is value for money, we
will not go ahead. Is losing credibility? It has taken a big
knock in recent weeks and months. We have supported it, I want to see out
region succeed, the West Midlands and your tea, I am an MP. If I speak
to is the best way to spend the money, go ahead. That is the air.
Are you persuaded that is the right way? £60 billion in the next three
years. We should not decide to spend the money, I should not be a
credible Chancellor if I say that whatever the cost, even if the
benefits a question, go ahead anyway. That is not responsible.
What better you would pull on the —— you would pull the plug on the
project if the cost escalated? Of course. If I say whatever the cost,
I would go ahead, that would be foolish. I would not say today, my
limit on cost. It is more about the benefits, is a journey times, is a
capacity? Will bring in investment? Will work for the whole country?
Those questions have not been answered. Do you back it personally?
Personally, I have backed the project, the evidence of rising cost
and lower economic gains, it makes me think hard about this. I'm going
to write a blank cheque. Is a vet is you —— is fair to say you are
changing your mind? Do we take that as a yes? Thank you. Coming up later
in the programme: a memorial in Wolverhampton to a forgotten battle
and the handful of Sikh heroes who held off 10,000 tribesmen.
30 secondary schools across four counties now have a permanent,
uniformed police presence on site. Police community support officers
are dealing with everything from cyber bullying to vandalism. Head
teachers say the officers work directly with pupils and also with
families and the local community. Joanne Writtle reports.
At the Hadley Learning Community in Telford, pupils are getting used to
someone new. A police community support officer, who deals with all
kinds of things. I had to speak to a cheap —— student about the
appropriateness of the BlackBerry. These are serious issues, if they
are allowed to escalate, harm could come to children and people are very
adversely affected by the actions of others. People are taking their
lives because of cyber bullying. The school system is strong but I feel
that having someone else around makes you feel a lot more secure and
safe. Was it a problem? Are people will go for bullying and problems at
home. It's being run in 30 schools across
Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Warwickshire. The
head teacher here says the officer will work on the playground and in
classrooms, as well as dealing with bullying. I would never say there is
no bullying in the school. With somebody like too many building, he
can do any resolutions for us, work with young people and he will have
the time to do that. It offers us an opportunity to communicate with
people in school and the people within the community. We can use the
school as a vehicle to reach into the committee to find that the
issues affecting our students. In his safe, and it is reassuring for
the kids of they don't feel comfortable going to the kids.
Permanent police presence may be happening here, but it has not been
adopted by neighbouring forces. Staff —— spokesman for Staffordshire
police say they have a lot of contact with police. Next on there
is a problem here, youngsters could find themselves being dealt with by
the long arm of the law. The former MP for Redditch, Jacqui
Smith, is to take up the top job at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in
Birmingham. Ms Smith, who lost her seat in the General Election in
2010, has been appointed as the hospital's new chairman. She'll take
over from Sir Albert Bore at the start of December on a three—year
contract. Prior to starting her political career, she worked as a
teacher. Work's underway to try to prevent
the spread of a disease which is killing trees at a beauty spot near
Birmingham. Larch trees and bilberry bushes have been infected by
Phytophthora at the Lickey Hills Country Park south of the city.
An exclusion zone has now been set up in an effort to contain the
disease. Bob Hockenhull reports. On the edge of Birmingham lie the
Lickey Hills, 8,000 square feet of woodland enjoyed by thousands of
visitors. But the area is under threat. There's been an outbreak of
the fungal disease Phytophthora. If the disease takes hold, then that
many, many trees will die. You need to act quickly, we tend to fell all
of the trees within 100 metres of the infection by the end of the
month. The disease first attacked rhododendron bushes here. It was
then spread by spores in the air to larch trees — the first time the
species has been infected in the West Midlands. The first sign of the
disease in the trees is Ginger a colour. The leaves turn black and
purple. That is at the point that it will release pores. People have been
told to keep away from the infected area. Anyone going around have been
told to wash bicycle tyres and shoes. The Rangers are spraying and
burning the fungus to stop the spread of the disease. It is not the
first time Phytophthora has struck in the region. Cedar trees have been
infected on Cannock Chase. The Lickey Hills strain is more deadly.
It has cut some of the walks off so we are hoping the problem will be
resolved as soon as possible. I understand there is a lot of work.
If the work prevents further outbreaks of Phytophthora, people
will still be able to enjoy the precious landscape. This is our top
story tonight: 175 jobs are to go in Warwickshire with the collapse of a
leading computer games company. Your detailed weather forecast to come
shortly from Shefali. Also in tonight's programme — we'll be
asking why Edgbaston will miss out on Test cricket for another year.
And how teaching seriously ill children art is aiding the hospice
that treats them. A ceremony took place today to
commemorate the role of Sikh soldiers in the British Army. On
this day, 126 years ago, 21 Sikhs halted the advance of 10,000Afghan
tribesmen. There was a wreath laying in Wolverhampton, which has the
highest density Sikh population outside London. Kevin Reide reports.
The battle of Saragarhi being commemorated at Wolverhampton's war
memorial today. The city has more Sikhs than most others and so was
chosen to remember the 21 soldiers who gave their lives protecting
British interests in India. They'd managed to hold off 10,000 Afghan
soldiers allowing reinforcements to arrive. Many from local Sikh temples
came along as well as representatives from the British
Army. It was a communications post and there were a number of posts
along the north—west soap —— frontier, the 21 guys with air, it
is difficult to Conran, 21 seeks defending one post from 10,000 patch
tombs in the area. —— Afghans. He did five sorties in the force at the
time trying to rescue the 21. The wreath laying was all about was
organised by the Anglo—Sikh Heritage trail, set up to strengthen and
celebrate bonds between the British and Sikh communities. There is a
strong community in the UK of British Sikhs and there are
third—generation Sikhs here. They want to link the Heritage between
the past ancestors from Punjabi India and the British. In the
country, we have Sikhs and other minority cultures that are based
here so the Army needs to be inclusive and that is what we are
trying to work to. A similar ceremony took place in Hyde Park
today and there are plans to continue to commemorate in
Wolverhampton each year Here's Dan Pallett with the sport.
Warwickshire say they're a international will not affect. With
India only playing one—day games at Edgbaston next year, officials are
battling hard to maintain finances and reputation.
This is what they'd come to see. The thrills and spills of international
cricket. But they didn't have it for long. After 15 overs the rain came.
And it wouldn't stop and the match was abandoned. Frustrating for the
fans and for Edgbaston officials. Is disappointing, we are very
disappointed for fans who came yesterday, it was a capacity crowd,
they will get a refund through the normal process and it will have
little impact on the scissors because we are able to ensure that.
—— little impact on the business. Two years ago a test against India
marked the opening of the £32 million pavilion. But despite it
being loved by the cricketers there's no Test match cricket there
for three years. So, have Edgbaston officials become complacent when
bidding for matches from the ECB? The ECB process has produced more
test mass jewellers —— test matches. The last two years we have missed
out, we're putting things in place to make sure that Edgbaston is at
the forefront of those decisions going forward.
Brian Halford covers cricket for the Birmingham Mail. Today he was able
to tend his garden in the sun — a contrast to yesterday's rain. He
says Edgbaston's finances are getting tough — but it could be a
lot worse. It would be a different situation if they are owed a bank,
they owe all of the money to the city council and the council's
judgement is that it has invested in the cricket club. There is no great,
big issue. It is hard to see the time when Warwickshire will not be
in debt. Australia and the Ashes return to Edgbaston in 2015 and
Pakistan will play a test in 2016. But the bidding's underway for the
three years after that and Edgbaston can't afford to miss out again.
And Warwckshire weren't the only ones frustrated by last night's
rain. The Birmingham Brummies speedway team are hoping to
finishing top of the elite league. And they need only a point to
guarantee first place but last night's meeting against Kings Lynn
was postponed because of the rain. It'll now take place on Monday. In
the Midlands are the Manchester United of the Speedway. We have
wolves doing brilliantly, we might be world champion, we might finish
number one in the league, we have got real aspirations for further.
Absolutely, we are the top region at the moment.
Football and the Midlands is one of the cheapest places in the country
to watch Premier League football. A new survey shows the lowest price
season tickets at Aston Villa, Stoke City and West Bromwich are all under
£350. That compares to a national average in the division of £489.
Arsenal's cheapest season ticket is almost £1,000.
Wow! That takes your breath away. Had we keep it so low?
Our clubs understand their fan base. They are keeping the prices down.
But at Stoke city, they have given free coach travel to their away
supporters. Unprecedented money coming into the game, they can
afford it. At one of our clubs, if you renew
our season ticket, they freeze the price. Had we measure up on the pie
front? Crystal Palace and Kidderminster are
the most expensive. They are famous throughout league
football though! Dan Evans is playing tomorrow and he
will be playing alongside any money. They face Croatia's number one. One
picture can be worth 1,000 words it's said and that's been true at a
Staffordshire hospice. Parents and staff have simply been
lost for words about the quality of some of the paintings children have
produced after working closely with artists. Tonight some of those
paintings are on show, and we can go over live to our reporter Liz
Copper. Liz. Looking pretty busy in the background?
The exhibition has just opened on the first guests are just arriving
for the viewing. There are around 40 pictures on display here this
evening and this is artwork that is a benefit not just to the children
but to their families too. We're going to get this tissue and
make it like a pencil. She is six months painting. She has
a rare blood disorder and has two bone marrow transplants. This is her
picture in the exhibition. The best thing about painting is
that when I do it really slowly and I calmed down and concentrate. It
gives her a chance to express what she is feeling and she gets to use
different techniques and it is an environment where she feels safe and
it is really enjoyable. I can tell she is relaxed. Has been a great
help for everything she has been through. It has been a good
distraction in a positive way. The —— fabulous to do things to help a
fantastic cause. Money raised will go to the Donna Louise Hospice in
Stoke—on—Trent. It provides care for children across Staffordshire. The
charity needs to raise £2.5 million per year to run its services. The
art on display has been created by children and their families. They
have been helped by the trust's resident art therapist in Council.
Every time I look —— every time I sit down with somebody find
something about themselves they did not know. They can use colour to
express how they feel, I guess I specialise in doing landscape
paintings. For them to put themselves in the painting and sit
back and tells a story about where they are. Feely's work along with
the other paintings will be available for sale. Or do neat and
inspirational pieces of art. —— BB. Melanie, why did you decide to hold
the exhibition. To show the breadth of the service and Donna Louise
Hospice. It is not just about the end of care, is a sad and depressing
place and we hope through the paintings, we can show people really
what it is all about. The focus is on the life affirming nature of the
work at the hospice. Children have fun on the come to the hospice. It
is fun for the children are not scary. Seen the artworks today,
we're getting a privilege to glimpse at the journeys of some of those
children. You have got exciting plans in the next few months? Yes.
We had got a government grant to refurbish buildings and we will tell
everybody about our plans next week in a public meeting. 18th of
September. Thank you for joining us. The standing of some of the
artwork here is absolutely brilliant. —— standard. Exhibition
here is free. All of the paintings will be on display until the end of
September. Some good sunshine at times today,
I'm glad to say, and not much rain. Beautiful at the University of
Ulster where I was. —— roster. There are some rain already starting
to get into some part of the region and this is going to be with us for
much of the night. On the plus side is going to be quite warm and body.
We are —— that is down to a warm sector at the moment. Once this has
cleared, the next one to come through will be on Sunday, that may
not left, the temperature by much but it is certainly big on drama. As
you can see the moment, it is with the intense area of low pressure.
All in all, it is going to be quite stormy on Sunday. Back to the rain
that is pushing in from the West, this is moving eastwards through the
night. It is going to be heavy at some stage of the night,
particularly through the first part of the night. Through the early
hours it should clear and we are looking at a lot of cloud, Miss
Denmark. Quite muddy conditions temperatures falling. —— Mr and
Merck. Although the heaviest of the rain, I
have just said is reserved for Sunday, we have got more rain to
come through. This is mostly western and central parts of the region and
a portion of the North will be spared. So this will be heavy and it
will be cool and fresh tomorrow as you can see, the temperatures to a
minimum of 15, two 18 Celsius. Tomorrow evening is looking quite
wet. It will spread to the south—east during the early hours.
It will be a cool and fresher nights and it then tomorrow night. Over the
weekend, Saturday will be the best day of the weekend. Sunday will be
wet and windy. And 175 jobs are to go in
Warwickshire with the collapse of a leading computer games company.
We'll be back at 10pm. Have a great evening. Goodbye.