12/09/2013 Midlands Today


12/09/2013

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

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headlines tonight: The collapse of a leading computer games company

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leaves 175 people out of work. They have been so loyal to us, it is the

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worst thing ever. We'll be talking live in the studio

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to Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls about the region's wider economy. Also

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tonight: A police presence in schools with uniformed officers

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based on site. Gives students opportunities to reach out.

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Visitors urged to disinfect their shoes to stop the spread of a

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disease threatening a popular beauty spot. Another wash out at Edgbaston

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— what impact's the lost business having on the books? Well that may

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not be the only fixture caught out by the rain this week — and for one

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day in particular, there's a storm brewing.

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Good evening. More job losses today in an industry that's been one of

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this region's success stories. The computer games design firm Blitz in

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Leamington Spa is shutting, with the loss of 175 jobs. Some staff were in

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tears when they heard the news. It comes after a week of highs and lows

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as far as jobs are concerned, although figures out yesterday show

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unemployment in this region is still well above the national average.

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So what's the true picture? We'll be speaking to the Shadow Chancellor Ed

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Balls at the moment. Here's our business correspondent Peter

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Plisner. Award—winning, highly respected and has a 23—year track

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record, but this is what the Blitz offices looked like today after the

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company became the latest casualty of the recession. Management blamed

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its demise on changes in the market and a lack of investors. We have

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looked after so many creative and talented people over the years they

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have been loyal to us and to break this news was just the worst thing

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ever. 20 miles away in Solihull — a very different story. Land Rover's

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state—of—the—art aluminium body shop opened a year ago. Earlier this week

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Jaguar Land Rover said it would be investing £1.5 billion into the

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business creating another 1,700 jobs. But suppliers know that some

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skilled workers will come from their own workforce — making things much

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more difficult for them. Solihull's Operations Director, Alan Volkearts,

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who's also on the board Local Enterprise Partnership agrees that

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concerted action is needed. Actions to address the skills gap is totally

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cross the suppliers base, it doesn't us if we do not improve that, we

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need to look at that in address the skills challenge.

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But JLR aren't the only employers with vacancies — companies with

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1,000 jobs to fill were looking for new recruits in Worcester today. It

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is quite hard because people have been put off going into construction

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because of the recession, it is searching in the right places but we

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want people to come to us so we can find the right job for them. Aye

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I've been looking for a job seven months, I have acquired for a few

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places. I have got qualifications and a 20 year career history. What

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you're looking for? Anything, just money at the end of the day. Why are

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there so many vacancies and semi—people unemployed? Part of the

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reason is some of those who are unemployed do not have the skills

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for the jobs that are on offer. Enter the Chancellor George

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Osbourne, in the Midlands today visiting various businesses. He's

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adamant that we're over the worst. This has been a difficult time for

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the country and families have felt that pressure on their budgets, it

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has been an uncertain time for many families. What I would say is that

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the economy is turning a corner and that means for families jobs are

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being created and jobs are more secure.

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Little comfort to workers at Wolverhampton Council which

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yesterday announced 1,000 redundancies. Yes, some things are

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getting better but there are obviously going to be many set—backs

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along the way. We're joined now by Shadow

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Chancellor Ed Balls. We have an unusual situation here in the West

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Midlands, unemployment figures are higher than the national average but

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companies such as Jaguar Land Rover are recruiting — they can't find the

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right people with the right skills, shouldn't your government have done

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more to equip our young people for manufacturing? Across the country we

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saw 250 —— 20,000 more apprentices. The schools and skills improved year

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on year. The skills gap goes back. These days, everybody needs skills

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to succeed. Over decades, when the Labour government was in power. I'm

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not denying the challenge. Grammar School, some people went to

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university or gobby apprenticeship, and other people could get jobs when

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you don't need skills. Everyday —— these days every job easier still.

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Jaguar Land Rover are struggling to fund the higher skills. There are a

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load of people that can't find work. In the West Midlands, country to

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what the Chancellor said, unemployment is up and employment is

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down. People are seeing the living standards fall month by month.

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Things are getting harder. Was the answer? You need to get young people

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into work because the best way to get skills from a job. It is harder

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to do it from out of work. We would repeal the bank bonus tanks.

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Guarantee work for young people. —— repeat the bank bonus tax. Today I

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have been seeing a house—building projects. We need more of that. We

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also need to do more to help families with their budget, energy

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prices, rail prices. Cutting the top tax for the richest will not do the

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job. Another big issue is high speed to. You have said there is no bank

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cheque. What is the limit? There is no blank cheque, that is the right

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thing. What is the limit? It is £42.5 billion at the moment. Value

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for money is two sides of the ledger. It is the cost, the cost is

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going up and up, going to do deliver the benefits in some of the economy

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and the investment? What we have seen in weeks and months is the cost

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is rising. People are asking questions, and the benefits they?

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The government need to do a better job. We need to scrutinise closely,

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what I have said and this is contrary to George Osborne, there is

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not a blank cheque unless we are persuaded it is value for money, we

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will not go ahead. Is losing credibility? It has taken a big

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knock in recent weeks and months. We have supported it, I want to see out

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region succeed, the West Midlands and your tea, I am an MP. If I speak

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to is the best way to spend the money, go ahead. That is the air.

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Are you persuaded that is the right way? £60 billion in the next three

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years. We should not decide to spend the money, I should not be a

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credible Chancellor if I say that whatever the cost, even if the

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benefits a question, go ahead anyway. That is not responsible.

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What better you would pull on the —— you would pull the plug on the

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project if the cost escalated? Of course. If I say whatever the cost,

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I would go ahead, that would be foolish. I would not say today, my

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limit on cost. It is more about the benefits, is a journey times, is a

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capacity? Will bring in investment? Will work for the whole country?

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Those questions have not been answered. Do you back it personally?

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Personally, I have backed the project, the evidence of rising cost

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and lower economic gains, it makes me think hard about this. I'm going

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to write a blank cheque. Is a vet is you —— is fair to say you are

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changing your mind? Do we take that as a yes? Thank you. Coming up later

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in the programme: a memorial in Wolverhampton to a forgotten battle

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and the handful of Sikh heroes who held off 10,000 tribesmen.

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30 secondary schools across four counties now have a permanent,

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uniformed police presence on site. Police community support officers

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are dealing with everything from cyber bullying to vandalism. Head

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teachers say the officers work directly with pupils and also with

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families and the local community. Joanne Writtle reports.

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At the Hadley Learning Community in Telford, pupils are getting used to

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someone new. A police community support officer, who deals with all

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kinds of things. I had to speak to a cheap —— student about the

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appropriateness of the BlackBerry. These are serious issues, if they

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are allowed to escalate, harm could come to children and people are very

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adversely affected by the actions of others. People are taking their

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lives because of cyber bullying. The school system is strong but I feel

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that having someone else around makes you feel a lot more secure and

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safe. Was it a problem? Are people will go for bullying and problems at

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home. It's being run in 30 schools across

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Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Warwickshire. The

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head teacher here says the officer will work on the playground and in

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classrooms, as well as dealing with bullying. I would never say there is

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no bullying in the school. With somebody like too many building, he

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can do any resolutions for us, work with young people and he will have

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the time to do that. It offers us an opportunity to communicate with

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people in school and the people within the community. We can use the

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school as a vehicle to reach into the committee to find that the

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issues affecting our students. In his safe, and it is reassuring for

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the kids of they don't feel comfortable going to the kids.

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Permanent police presence may be happening here, but it has not been

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adopted by neighbouring forces. Staff —— spokesman for Staffordshire

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police say they have a lot of contact with police. Next on there

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is a problem here, youngsters could find themselves being dealt with by

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the long arm of the law. The former MP for Redditch, Jacqui

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Smith, is to take up the top job at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in

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Birmingham. Ms Smith, who lost her seat in the General Election in

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2010, has been appointed as the hospital's new chairman. She'll take

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over from Sir Albert Bore at the start of December on a three—year

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contract. Prior to starting her political career, she worked as a

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teacher. Work's underway to try to prevent

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the spread of a disease which is killing trees at a beauty spot near

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Birmingham. Larch trees and bilberry bushes have been infected by

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Phytophthora at the Lickey Hills Country Park south of the city.

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An exclusion zone has now been set up in an effort to contain the

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disease. Bob Hockenhull reports. On the edge of Birmingham lie the

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Lickey Hills, 8,000 square feet of woodland enjoyed by thousands of

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visitors. But the area is under threat. There's been an outbreak of

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the fungal disease Phytophthora. If the disease takes hold, then that

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many, many trees will die. You need to act quickly, we tend to fell all

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of the trees within 100 metres of the infection by the end of the

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month. The disease first attacked rhododendron bushes here. It was

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then spread by spores in the air to larch trees — the first time the

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species has been infected in the West Midlands. The first sign of the

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disease in the trees is Ginger a colour. The leaves turn black and

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purple. That is at the point that it will release pores. People have been

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told to keep away from the infected area. Anyone going around have been

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told to wash bicycle tyres and shoes. The Rangers are spraying and

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burning the fungus to stop the spread of the disease. It is not the

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first time Phytophthora has struck in the region. Cedar trees have been

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infected on Cannock Chase. The Lickey Hills strain is more deadly.

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It has cut some of the walks off so we are hoping the problem will be

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resolved as soon as possible. I understand there is a lot of work.

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If the work prevents further outbreaks of Phytophthora, people

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will still be able to enjoy the precious landscape. This is our top

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story tonight: 175 jobs are to go in Warwickshire with the collapse of a

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leading computer games company. Your detailed weather forecast to come

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shortly from Shefali. Also in tonight's programme — we'll be

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asking why Edgbaston will miss out on Test cricket for another year.

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And how teaching seriously ill children art is aiding the hospice

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that treats them. A ceremony took place today to

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commemorate the role of Sikh soldiers in the British Army. On

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this day, 126 years ago, 21 Sikhs halted the advance of 10,000Afghan

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tribesmen. There was a wreath laying in Wolverhampton, which has the

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highest density Sikh population outside London. Kevin Reide reports.

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The battle of Saragarhi being commemorated at Wolverhampton's war

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memorial today. The city has more Sikhs than most others and so was

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chosen to remember the 21 soldiers who gave their lives protecting

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British interests in India. They'd managed to hold off 10,000 Afghan

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soldiers allowing reinforcements to arrive. Many from local Sikh temples

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came along as well as representatives from the British

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Army. It was a communications post and there were a number of posts

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along the north—west soap —— frontier, the 21 guys with air, it

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is difficult to Conran, 21 seeks defending one post from 10,000 patch

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tombs in the area. —— Afghans. He did five sorties in the force at the

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time trying to rescue the 21. The wreath laying was all about was

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organised by the Anglo—Sikh Heritage trail, set up to strengthen and

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celebrate bonds between the British and Sikh communities. There is a

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strong community in the UK of British Sikhs and there are

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third—generation Sikhs here. They want to link the Heritage between

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the past ancestors from Punjabi India and the British. In the

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country, we have Sikhs and other minority cultures that are based

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here so the Army needs to be inclusive and that is what we are

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trying to work to. A similar ceremony took place in Hyde Park

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today and there are plans to continue to commemorate in

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Wolverhampton each year Here's Dan Pallett with the sport.

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Warwickshire say they're a international will not affect. With

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India only playing one—day games at Edgbaston next year, officials are

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battling hard to maintain finances and reputation.

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This is what they'd come to see. The thrills and spills of international

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cricket. But they didn't have it for long. After 15 overs the rain came.

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And it wouldn't stop and the match was abandoned. Frustrating for the

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fans and for Edgbaston officials. Is disappointing, we are very

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disappointed for fans who came yesterday, it was a capacity crowd,

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they will get a refund through the normal process and it will have

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little impact on the scissors because we are able to ensure that.

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—— little impact on the business. Two years ago a test against India

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marked the opening of the £32 million pavilion. But despite it

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being loved by the cricketers there's no Test match cricket there

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for three years. So, have Edgbaston officials become complacent when

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bidding for matches from the ECB? The ECB process has produced more

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test mass jewellers —— test matches. The last two years we have missed

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out, we're putting things in place to make sure that Edgbaston is at

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the forefront of those decisions going forward.

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Brian Halford covers cricket for the Birmingham Mail. Today he was able

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to tend his garden in the sun — a contrast to yesterday's rain. He

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says Edgbaston's finances are getting tough — but it could be a

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lot worse. It would be a different situation if they are owed a bank,

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they owe all of the money to the city council and the council's

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judgement is that it has invested in the cricket club. There is no great,

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big issue. It is hard to see the time when Warwickshire will not be

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in debt. Australia and the Ashes return to Edgbaston in 2015 and

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Pakistan will play a test in 2016. But the bidding's underway for the

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three years after that and Edgbaston can't afford to miss out again.

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And Warwckshire weren't the only ones frustrated by last night's

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rain. The Birmingham Brummies speedway team are hoping to

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finishing top of the elite league. And they need only a point to

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guarantee first place but last night's meeting against Kings Lynn

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was postponed because of the rain. It'll now take place on Monday. In

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the Midlands are the Manchester United of the Speedway. We have

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wolves doing brilliantly, we might be world champion, we might finish

:19:43.:19:46.

number one in the league, we have got real aspirations for further.

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Absolutely, we are the top region at the moment.

:19:53.:19:57.

Football and the Midlands is one of the cheapest places in the country

:19:57.:20:00.

to watch Premier League football. A new survey shows the lowest price

:20:00.:20:03.

season tickets at Aston Villa, Stoke City and West Bromwich are all under

:20:03.:20:07.

£350. That compares to a national average in the division of £489.

:20:07.:20:11.

Arsenal's cheapest season ticket is almost £1,000.

:20:11.:20:20.

Wow! That takes your breath away. Had we keep it so low?

:20:21.:20:26.

Our clubs understand their fan base. They are keeping the prices down.

:20:26.:20:30.

But at Stoke city, they have given free coach travel to their away

:20:30.:20:34.

supporters. Unprecedented money coming into the game, they can

:20:34.:20:37.

afford it. At one of our clubs, if you renew

:20:37.:20:41.

our season ticket, they freeze the price. Had we measure up on the pie

:20:41.:20:50.

front? Crystal Palace and Kidderminster are

:20:50.:20:56.

the most expensive. They are famous throughout league

:20:56.:21:08.

football though! Dan Evans is playing tomorrow and he

:21:08.:21:14.

will be playing alongside any money. They face Croatia's number one. One

:21:14.:21:25.

picture can be worth 1,000 words it's said and that's been true at a

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Staffordshire hospice. Parents and staff have simply been

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lost for words about the quality of some of the paintings children have

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produced after working closely with artists. Tonight some of those

:21:39.:21:42.

paintings are on show, and we can go over live to our reporter Liz

:21:42.:21:45.

Copper. Liz. Looking pretty busy in the background?

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The exhibition has just opened on the first guests are just arriving

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for the viewing. There are around 40 pictures on display here this

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evening and this is artwork that is a benefit not just to the children

:21:58.:22:05.

but to their families too. We're going to get this tissue and

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make it like a pencil. She is six months painting. She has

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a rare blood disorder and has two bone marrow transplants. This is her

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picture in the exhibition. The best thing about painting is

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that when I do it really slowly and I calmed down and concentrate. It

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gives her a chance to express what she is feeling and she gets to use

:22:30.:22:33.

different techniques and it is an environment where she feels safe and

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it is really enjoyable. I can tell she is relaxed. Has been a great

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help for everything she has been through. It has been a good

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distraction in a positive way. The —— fabulous to do things to help a

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fantastic cause. Money raised will go to the Donna Louise Hospice in

:22:52.:22:57.

Stoke—on—Trent. It provides care for children across Staffordshire. The

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charity needs to raise £2.5 million per year to run its services. The

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art on display has been created by children and their families. They

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have been helped by the trust's resident art therapist in Council.

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Every time I look —— every time I sit down with somebody find

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something about themselves they did not know. They can use colour to

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express how they feel, I guess I specialise in doing landscape

:23:25.:23:28.

paintings. For them to put themselves in the painting and sit

:23:28.:23:32.

back and tells a story about where they are. Feely's work along with

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the other paintings will be available for sale. Or do neat and

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inspirational pieces of art. —— BB. Melanie, why did you decide to hold

:23:41.:23:58.

the exhibition. To show the breadth of the service and Donna Louise

:23:58.:24:02.

Hospice. It is not just about the end of care, is a sad and depressing

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place and we hope through the paintings, we can show people really

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what it is all about. The focus is on the life affirming nature of the

:24:15.:24:24.

work at the hospice. Children have fun on the come to the hospice. It

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is fun for the children are not scary. Seen the artworks today,

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we're getting a privilege to glimpse at the journeys of some of those

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children. You have got exciting plans in the next few months? Yes.

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We had got a government grant to refurbish buildings and we will tell

:24:46.:24:49.

everybody about our plans next week in a public meeting. 18th of

:24:49.:24:56.

September. Thank you for joining us. The standing of some of the

:24:56.:24:59.

artwork here is absolutely brilliant. —— standard. Exhibition

:24:59.:25:07.

here is free. All of the paintings will be on display until the end of

:25:07.:25:10.

September. Some good sunshine at times today,

:25:10.:25:16.

I'm glad to say, and not much rain. Beautiful at the University of

:25:17.:25:17.

Ulster where I was. —— roster. There are some rain already starting

:25:18.:25:32.

to get into some part of the region and this is going to be with us for

:25:32.:25:36.

much of the night. On the plus side is going to be quite warm and body.

:25:36.:25:42.

We are —— that is down to a warm sector at the moment. Once this has

:25:42.:25:47.

cleared, the next one to come through will be on Sunday, that may

:25:47.:25:53.

not left, the temperature by much but it is certainly big on drama. As

:25:53.:25:57.

you can see the moment, it is with the intense area of low pressure.

:25:57.:26:03.

All in all, it is going to be quite stormy on Sunday. Back to the rain

:26:03.:26:08.

that is pushing in from the West, this is moving eastwards through the

:26:08.:26:13.

night. It is going to be heavy at some stage of the night,

:26:13.:26:16.

particularly through the first part of the night. Through the early

:26:16.:26:19.

hours it should clear and we are looking at a lot of cloud, Miss

:26:19.:26:22.

Denmark. Quite muddy conditions temperatures falling. —— Mr and

:26:22.:26:27.

Merck. Although the heaviest of the rain, I

:26:27.:26:38.

have just said is reserved for Sunday, we have got more rain to

:26:38.:26:47.

come through. This is mostly western and central parts of the region and

:26:47.:26:50.

a portion of the North will be spared. So this will be heavy and it

:26:50.:26:54.

will be cool and fresh tomorrow as you can see, the temperatures to a

:26:54.:27:03.

minimum of 15, two 18 Celsius. Tomorrow evening is looking quite

:27:03.:27:06.

wet. It will spread to the south—east during the early hours.

:27:06.:27:16.

It will be a cool and fresher nights and it then tomorrow night. Over the

:27:17.:27:22.

weekend, Saturday will be the best day of the weekend. Sunday will be

:27:22.:27:24.

wet and windy. And 175 jobs are to go in

:27:24.:27:38.

Warwickshire with the collapse of a leading computer games company.

:27:38.:27:43.

We'll be back at 10pm. Have a great evening. Goodbye.

:27:43.:27:46.

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