12/09/2013 Midlands Today


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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.


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