28/11/2013 Midlands Today


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Louise, thank you. That's all from the BBC


Hello and welcome to the programme. The headlines tonight: 950 jobs to


go in the Midlands as energy firm NPower closes sites in Stoke on


Trent and Oldbury. We are looking at cutting costs and


improving customer experience but there are a lot of people impacted


by that. I'm live in Stoke, where unions have


accused NPower of "serving up a Christmas nightmare".


Also tonight, catastrophic failures at Walsall Hospital. Staff failed to


follow basic child protection procedures which could have saved a


baby's life. It seems the smallest mistake they have made and it had


the biggest consequences. Breaking new ground ` the Swedish


safety firm investing millions and creating new jobs in a technology


park in Nuneaton. From the Sydney Opera House to the


Regal Cinema in Evesham ` violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy.


And as shortlived as it was, it was nice while it lasted, but it's out


with the mild now and back to the cold. But for how long? I'll have


the answers later. Good evening.


A major blow to the Midlands, as the energy firm NPower cuts nearly a


thousand jobs. 950 employees will be made redundant at sites in


Stoke`on`Trent and Oldbury. The company employs just over 2800 staff


at ten sites across the region. Earlier this year, the firm cut 300


jobs at Kingswinford. In a moment we'll be assessing the impact of


today's news and I'll be speaking to a director of NPower. But our


coverage begins with Liz Copper, who has been following today's


announcements. Arriving at Fenton at first like to


hear the news they had been braced for. 550 jobs will go here by June


next year. Disappointing, but inevitable, I think. I think


everyone expected it. That does not make it feel better. It would have


been nice if it had been handled better. I am gutted. Out of work. It


will be a hammer blow for the area as an economic entity. And at


Oldbury, 400 more jobs will be lost with the closure of one of the


country's three officers in the Black Country. The government is


promising help. We need to work closely with NPower, understanding


their proposals in more detail and then work with the local authority,


local MPs and other agencies to make sure those affected can find job at


it Jack `` job opportunities that are out there. This is where the


jobs will go, outsourced to India. They say they hope to get better


customer service. I find it hard to believe they will get better


customer service in Bangalore than in Fenton when it comes to meter


reading, helping customers, the kind of human conversations that we know


customers want. But the company disagrees. It says the changes will


drive more efficient customer service. We work in a competitive


environment and our job is to keep energy bills low and improve


customer service, which is why we are doing this. In Stoke`on`Trent,


the economic intact will be keenly felt. Just weeks before Christmas,


this is bound to lead to an uncertain festive period for workers


and their families. Unions have been critical of the company's timing.


Coming a few days before their prices to consumers are going up I


over 10%, I feel gobsmacked by what they are doing. We had no idea they


would offshore almost 1500 jobs across the UK to India in order to


cut costs. The unions have missed helpful staff, who will be facing


the New Year looking for new jobs. `` they have promised help for


staff. Sarah Falkland is outside NPower's offers tonight. One man who


lives just up the road has just said what has been happening today is out


of order. I have spoken to some staff this evening. One woman said


there were tears in her department and there is a lot of


disappointment. But mostly, people did see this coming. Not scale,


perhaps, but they saw job losses coming. They were hopes on the


introduction of Project Atlas, the new computer system, but that was


not to be. Nobody thought the entire call centre would shutdown, and the


manner in which they were told has been the twist of the knife. They


sat in front of a video message lasting 15 minutes this morning and


that is how they found out. Unions say it is a slap in the face for a


loyal British workforce. Stoke on Trent and the Black Country


have been unemployment black spots for years. Currently 8.5% of people


living there are unemployed, that's well above the national average of


7.6%. So how can these areas recover? Ben Godfrey reports.


Stoke`on`Trent and Oldbury were once the engine rooms of our region's


Manufacturing growth. Today's job losses, in the service industry,


remind us of its difficult demise. 950 staff are wondering what is next


for their careers, and those of their bosses. You are the head of


sight. Are you losing your job? I will be going through the same


management restructure as the rest of NPower. Places like Oldbury and


Stoke are industrial heartlands but they lost thousands of jobs in


manufacturing over the last 20 years. It was the service sector,


jobs like at NPower, that reinstalled a sense of confidence


and employment. But people are worried the bubble is about to


burst. We need to bring industry into the area, not services. It is


going overseas. What can you do? It is hard to get into work. People


will continue to work NPower at two other sites and Oldbury. Business


leaders are trying to stay positive. It is bad news, but in the overall


context we have an area that has created 2000 jobs in development,


and more companies applying and succeeding in at light `` in


applying for the regional growth fund. Recruitment companies are


preparing for a busy few weeks. They should take heart that the job


market has been picking up since August. We have seen a huge number


of vacancies coming to the West Midlands. The West Midlands is the


fastest`growing job market in the whole of the UK. So the employment


landscape is changing again. NPower's restructuring has reignited


a debate. Should an improved customer experience come at the


expense of local jobs? Joining me now is NPower's


Communications Director, Guy Esnouf. Good evening. Customer bills will go


up I over 10% on Sunday. Not great timing. You are making more money on


that and saving money on job losses. We have to put that in context.


People are worried about bills going up, so this action will help to keep


bills down. We only control a small amount of the bill, but we have to


be responsible to get those costs now when we can. It will also help


to improve customer service. I would like to correct a couple of things.


Whenever you are in NPower customer and you ring up, you will still get


someone in Britain when you call. Firstly, all British voice calls


will be from here. Secondly, it whole lot of companies already do


this sort of model that we have got. BMW, Marks Spencer, The National


Trust, they have exactly this model. But we need to concentrate on the


impact on people working for you in the Midlands. We heard some of the


employees saying it could have been handled better. Your employees heard


they were going to lose their job in a video. We are a major Midlands


employer. After this we will still be that all stop we will have 500


people in Oldbury. 950 people will have lost jobs. Yes, sadly. That was


a hard decision because that is part of our heartland. We wanted to get


everybody together today. We are such a diverse company, which has


been one of the problems. We needed to get a uniform message. Today,


what matters is clarity. There was so much speculation yesterday and a


lot of what was said was wrong. We thought we needed absolute clarity.


We have a huge unemployment problem in the areas of the black country


and in Stoke. Should improve customer service, which is the


message you are keen to put out, come at the expense of local jobs


and supporting the local economy? Improving customer service is one of


the reasons. The other one is keeping down energy bills. We have


to balance the interests of customers and employees. That has


been hard to do. One of the reasons it has taken so long is that we


wanted to make sure we got it right and it did improve that experience.


We are still a major employer in the Midlands and we are proud to be.


This will actually help that continue. Is there support you can


offer these people? We will definitely be helping them. Those


who can move to another location in the company, we will certainly help


them do that. We can start working with job centres. The government has


already said they will be rallying round to try and help and we will


play our part where we can. Thank you.


And there's more on the NPower job losses and what it means on the BBC


News website. Coming up later in the programme:


Sentenced to eight years, the former Gloucestershire coroner who stole


nearly ?2 million from vulnerable clients.


An independent investigation is to be opened into the death of a


16`month`old baby, following catastrophic failures at a Walsall


Hospital seven years ago. Kyle Keen's father was never told that


staff failed to follow basic child protection procedures, which could


have saved his life. Michele Paduano reports.


Robert Keen says he is over protective of his daughter, Larissa,


and there's an empty space they can never fill. Kyle died from a brain


bleed after being abused by his stepfather. But Mr Keen was never


told that the hospital had found suspicious bruising on Kyle's back


and shoulder, but failed to report it to social services. I don't want


anybody to go through what I have had to go through, me, my daughter,


my family. We do not want anybody else to have to go through this. We


want the hospital to follow the procedures and stick to them.


It might have made a difference. Mr Keen had also seen bruises on


Larissa and baby Kyle. Instead, Tyrone Matthews was sentenced to


four and a half years for manslaughter. It started with


bruising on his face, all over his head. His arms, his legs. I took


pictures. Why did you do anything at the time? I didn't know who to go


to. A junior doctor at Walsall Manor


Hospital warned a consultant on two separate occasions that Kyle should


have been referred to social services the week before his death.


In 2007, after Kyle's death, the hospital's board minutes wrongly


suggest bruising was due to sepsis. In 2009, the findings of a


safeguarding review did show the consultant overruled nurses. But it


wasn't until 2013 that the hospital finally obtained the complete


safeguarding report. The Chief Executive, Richard Kirby,


was in it `` not here at the time. He said recommendations were acted


upon. The new review is to better establish how this incident was


dealt with and whether there are further lessons that can be learned.


Dr David Drew was clinical director in the children's department and


treated Kyle on the day of his death. He says a second


investigation into the whole children's department was carried


out in 2010 by the Royal College of Paediatricians, but he was the only


doctor allowed to see it. Kyle never figured in their report and we have


never been able to find out why, because six months after the review


reported, it was suppressed. The trust board was never allowed to see


it. And we have now found out that the whole panel was made to sign


gags. Robert Keen hopes this independent


review will finally establish what happened and whether the trust was


sufficiently open. A Coventry man has been jailed for


life for stabbing a family of four to death at their home in April


2011. 54`year`old Anxiang Du, who also owned a business in Birmingham,


was convicted of murdering the Deng family at their home in Northampton.


A court was told he'd carried out the attack after losing a ten`year


legal case against them. He's been ordered to spend a minimum of 40


years in prison. The former coroner for


Gloucestershire has been jailed for eight years for stealing nearly ?2


million from weak and vulnerable clients. The judge said Alan


Crickmore's crimes were the worst case of dishonesty he'd ever seen in


a solicitor. Giles Latcham reports. Once a pillar of the Gloucestershire


community, Alan Crickmore arrived at Southwark Crown Court, his disgrace


complete. Court heard that at his solicitor's practice in Cheltenham,


targeted elderly and infirm clients, habitually overcharging and


plundering their estates. He built personal relationships with some


victims, exchanging birthday cards and gifts. He would bring them back


gifts from holiday. Little did they know that they had paid for his


holiday with money he had stolen from them. He pilfered nearly


?900,000 from a trust set up by a wealthy pensioner to benefit his


family after his death. He became a personal friend to the family and we


thought he was up standing as a solicitor and County coroner of


Gloucestershire. When this came to light, it is horrendous. From the


estate of a Polish war veteran, you stole ?25,000, the money funding a


luxurious lifestyle. Expensive holidays, fine wines and food.


Throughout the enquiry, he continued to draw his ?60,000 per year


coroner's salary. It was very frustrating. It does not do any help


to my budget to pay someone for three years not to work. He


eventually admitted the theft and another court hearing is planned to


establish whether assets owned by his family can be sold to compensate


victims. A new scheme to help women who would


have been sent to prison has been given extra funding to expand its


service. More than half the women in prison last year served sentences of


less than six months, but now there is an alternative, as rehabilitation


courses are being offered for the first time in England and Wales at a


farm near Bridgnorth. Liz Roberts has more.


Just four weeks ago, Donna was facing a prison sentence. A homeless


alcoholic, she had breached the terms of the license. But instead of


custody she was brought to Willowdene Farm. You get therapy


twice a week, pretty intense therapy. I have done quite a few


courses, and I have certificates to take away. It has given me


confidence. I have done my CV, so it has been really good. The farm has a


history of providing training and rehabilitation from male offenders,


but this is the first time a residential course has been offered


for women to keep them out of was an altogether. The majority of female


offenders also have children. This enables us to work with them,


addressed the issues with therapeutic resources and break the


generational effect of offending which gives the children a hope of


living a better purposeful lifestyle. The majority of women


offenders pose no risk to public safety, and a prison sentence is


frequently an ineffective response. So far, just ten women have gone


through the programme. It has now been awarded ?48,000 by West


Mercia's police and crime commission, so it can double in


size. It is down to a partnership with West Mercia probation trust,


but there are fears that local expertise could be lost when


government plans to privatise the service are brought in next year. It


has taken three or four years for us to develop to the point that we have


this women's residential programme. It is really making a difference. I


will hope whoever wins the contract and succeeds the probation trust


want to continue this, but we simply do not know if they will want to, or


if it will fit their business plan. The funding will increase capacity,


enabling up to 30 female offenders to come here each year. The hope is


that this will continue to give more women the chance of a better future.


Our top story: 950 job losses/ energy firm NPower


is to close site. The weather shortly for the Midlands. Also


ahead, nearly six decades at the track`side, Barry, the loyal money


to an Harriers member is up for an unsung hero award.


Boarded up and abandoned, the sin are now swirling with the sound of


Nigel Kennedy. `` the cinema. This is the motor industry research


Association near Nuneaton, which is slowly expanding. Today, Swedish


firm Haldex announced it is setting up a technical centre on site. The


enterprise is expected to grow until 2020, creating new jobs.


A specialist in safety systems for heavy goods vehicles, Swedish firm


howled X was showing off its latest breaking system. The test tracks and


technology make this an ideal site or its future growth. We took a


global decision to consolidate our facilities and the UK was high up


there because of the services offered on site, and the second


point is the quality of the engineers within the region, of


which we have managed to secure several. Famous for its role in


testing new cars, this site is getting an additional role, helping


create new jobs. Costing around ?300 million over the next ten years, the


site will be developed and is set become one of Europe's leading


research and development sites for the automotive industry. We have


created 242 so far, high`tech jobs, highly skilled jobs. It also brings


on apprenticeships and graduate training programmes, so ringing in


young people and giving them skills. Enterprise zones are designed to


attract business to an area by offering things like reduced


business rates and a streamlined planning process. Here, they are


expecting to create 2000 jobs by 2020. Some have already been created


and more will follow as a result of today's announcement. Yet more


inward investment for the West Midlands, promising new jobs and


helping the region maintain its position as a centre of excellence


for advanced automotive engineering. He has been a loyal member of the


Nuneaton Harriers for almost 60 years, and during that time, Barry


has coached hundreds of athletes. Now he is one of five finalists in


our search for the BBC Midland sport's unsung hero.


It is fine and dry, cold and crisp, perfect for Barry's training night


at Nuneaton Harriers. This evening, the focus is on the 400 metres and


the eager bunch are champing at the bit. Got it? He was only 15 when he


first ran for the Harriers. He finished last in a four mile road


race and nearly threw in the towel. But a club member persuaded him to


carry on, and so he did, for the next 59 years. He is my hero because


he does everything for the club. He does not think about himself, it is


just for the members. He is great, like royalty of the track. Everyone


loves him. The stadium is Barry's second home. Five days a week, over


59 years, equals countless happy hours spent coaching, cleaning,


painting and pushing athletes to achieve their potential. Now the


club resident, Barry simply cannot see what this unsung hero fuss is


all about. There are times when I think, I have to go down again


tonight, oh, no, but when I get here, it is different. There is


always a lot of answer, as you might have noticed. Friends that I have


made in the sport since being involved with the club, all over the


country. Unsung until now, but unappreciated, never. Barry's


lifetime of loyal service guarantees the future of Nuneaton Harriers will


run and run. We will meet the remaining finalist


tomorrow. As one of the world's most famous


classical musicians, Nigel Kennedy is more used to performing at huge


concert halls, so you would not expect to play in a small cinema in


Worcestershire. But that is what he has been doing this week.


For the people of Evesham, it was hard to comprehend. It is unheard of


before today. This is the first time we have had anything so big here. We


are delighted it has been refurbished, and to have such great


names is a brilliant opportunity. Forget the Royal Albert Hall, this


week, Nigel Kennedy is performing at the Regal Cinema. Fantastic


atmosphere, a beautiful, warm audience. It is lovely to be close


to the people. It is unusual to be closer to the balcony than you are


to the stalls. Five years ago, the Regal Cinema was set to be turned


into flats. It now attracts 20,000 people each month, with more than


half coming from outside the town. It is the best thing that has ever


happened here. It is proof that it was all worth while and if you get


your act together, you can create something exceptional. Nigel Kennedy


has proved that is possible tonight. But it is not just the fact that


they are attracting people like Nigel Kennedy. It is also giving


Evesham a much`needed boost. During the four concert run, nearly every


hotel in town is full. Nigel is performing at the Regal Cinema until


Saturday. Sounding as good as ever. It has


been a big day for our former colleague K Alexander, officially


made an MBE by the Queen at Buckingham Palace. She was a


familiar face on Midlands today for more than 30 years, until her


retirement last year. The award is for her services to broadcasting and


for her charity work. Let's turn to the weather. At the


beginning of the programme you warned that cold weather is coming


back. warned that cold weather is coming


The shrine and I was not lying. The way that it felt today is how it


should feel for this time of year. If you felt the cold recently, it


has not been your imagination. We have provisional figures for


November and they bear out that it has been colder than normal but also


sunnier than usual, for the Midlands at least. But it has also been quite


dry. As I said, the cold is making a comeback in the next couple of days.


At the same time we should finally get rid of some of the cloud. What


is doing this for us is a rush of north`westerly wind that is flowing


in behind this incoming cold front. Being a cold front, it would also


bring colder air. We will see the changes occurring tonight. The wind


will mix everything up. Because we have the cold front passing through,


it will introduce more cloud and some light outbreaks of rain or


drizzle. But it is not going to amount to much. Under the cloud


temperatures will remain above freezing, well above freezing. The


wind is also partly responsible for keeping temperatures up. But a lot


of the cloud will overlap into the morning, so a fairly dull start to


the day. Why the afternoon, the wind will start to take effect and we


will see sunshine breaking through. `` by the afternoon. The range


should be out of the way but we will see showers flowing in through the


Cheshire cat and clobbering the north of the region. Some of these


could be heavy. You will find that tomorrow night, everything changes,


and into the start of the weekend it will turn cold.


Our top story ` the loss of 950 jobs here in the Midlands. Energy firm


NPower is to close sites in Stoke`on`Trent and Oldbury. Sarah


Falkland is in Stoke`on`Trent. What is the future for the workers? In


the short`term, unions will meet with management on Monday. What can


they salvage? I don't know. Stoke City council have announced this


afternoon that they are launching an emergency task force to help


workers. Somebody has launched a Facebook site urging people to


boycott NPower if they are angry with the outsourcing to Mumbai. If


you are a commuter into Stoke, have a look at the road behind me. It is


a very busy road. You could say the writing has been on the wall for a


while, because this building always used to carry it illuminated job


vacancies. That disappeared a few weeks ago. I did not want a new


staff, and sadly they did not want any staff. `` they did not want new


staff. I will be back at 10pm. There is


plenty more on the BBC News website. Have a good evening.


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