13/12/2013 Midlands Today


13/12/2013

The latest news, sport and weather for the Midlands.


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Hello and welcome to Midlands Today. The headlines tonight: A warning to

:00:00.:00:07.

Christmas party`goers after dozens of women are sexually assaulted by

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unlicensed taxi drivers trawling the streets.

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Our message is for people to just be mindful and book their journeys home

:00:23.:00:25.

and make sure friends and family know where they are. We'll be

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hearing a victim's dramatic story of how she was assaulted by a driver

:00:30.:00:32.

taking her home. Also tonight: It's used by 60,000 passengers across the

:00:33.:00:36.

region, but now the popular ring and ride scheme is under threat.

:00:37.:00:41.

A lot of people depend on it, a lot of elderly people would not be able

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to get out at all. Joy for 200 workers, most of them

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with a disability, as Remploy finds a buyer for three factories.

:00:49.:00:51.

What goes up sometimes comes down ` passengers at New Street Station

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urged to mind their step on busy escalators.

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And the weekend weather's not looking great ` it's wet and windy

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for the next few days. I'll have your full forecast later.

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Good evening. The Christmas party season gets into full swing this

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weekend, but do you know who's taking you home at the end of the

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night? West Midlands Police are warning that bogus and illegal taxi

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drivers are targeting vulnerable women looking for cabs home after a

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night out on the town. The warning comes after 75 women were sexually

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assaulted by cabbies who picked them up either legally or illegally over

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the last two years. BBC Inside Out West Midlands reporter Anthony

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Bartram spoke to one of those victims.

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I'd got a lot drunker than I'd planned and I had to work the next

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day, so I decided I needed to go back to the hotel. The beginning of

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Sarah's story is far from unusual ` a boozy night out with friends in

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Birmingham. But it ended with a terrifying encounter with a bogus

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taxi driver who attacked her. He leaned over from the driver's side

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onto the passenger seat where I was sat and he started kissing my face

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and on my lips. I thought really at that point, it would have been best

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to just sit there and let him carry on because I thought I'd end up in a

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worse situation if I fought and tried to push him off. Shakeel Ahmed

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is now serving five years for a serious sexual assault. He wasn't

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even a minicab driver, but in the state Sarah was in, she didn't

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notice until it was too late. Our message is for people to just be

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mindful and to book their journeys home and make sure friends and

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family know where they are and where they are going. 75 similar assaults

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have been investigated in the past two years. The majority of the 4500

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private hire cars and 1500 black cabs to play by the rules, and while

:03:15.:03:20.

sex attacks are rare, there are other risks. If you just get into a

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private hire car that you have not, your journey is not insured, so you

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are putting yourself at risk. Always a private hire vehicle in advance.

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The council catches many illegally plying their trade every year. We

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joined an undercover police team to find those prepared to risk their

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livelihoods. We are about to look for some of these rogue drivers. How

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easy do you think it is going to be? I would say fairly easy,

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especially around areas like this with lots of students on nights out.

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We did find a number of cabbies playing by the rules, insisting we

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book ahead, but it didn't take long to find a ride who wasn't so fussy.

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He didn't get far. Unfortunately, there is a small proportion of

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drivers where greed will take over and they will take the opportunity

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for a quick, easy amount of cash to be made. But this driver now faces a

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charge of driving without insurance and could now lose his private hire

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license if convicted. Police warn that their passengers are risking a

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lot more by using them. I'm joined now by Chris Neville, the

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Head of Licensing at Birmingham City Council. Are you satisfied that

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enough is being done to put an end to it? We have never done more than

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we are at the moment in terms of taxi enforcement is. Last weekend,

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we had many officers out on the street, checking drivers and

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vehicles and making sure drivers were not picking up passengers who

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had not made bookings. The figures are alarming. 900 vehicles were

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tested and 20% were not roadworthy and 40% did not comply with taxi

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regulation. Some of them had minor fault and were not completely

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unroadworthy. But it is true that vehicles are not being kept in the

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condition they should be kept in. It seems that there has been an

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explosion in the number of taxis in Birmingham recently. A lot of

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vehicles are coming to Birmingham from other areas . It is a magnet

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because of the night time economy we have here. That in itself is not

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illegal, as long as people book the vehicles in advance. That is what

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drivers are not always doing. They are taking passengers at the side of

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the road, and then those journeys are not insured. That is the risk

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passengers are putting themselves at, apart from those very few people

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who will sit outside nightclubs, but tend to be eight taxi driver and

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then take passengers. What is your advice? Yellow mac when you plan

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your journey before you go out at night, think about how you will get

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home. Work out where the nearest black cab rank is so that you know

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what you are doing and you are not wandering aimlessly in the street,

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wondering how to get home. And you can see more on that when

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Inside Out West Midlands returns on BBC One in the New Year.

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Coming up later in the programme: They're meant to make life easier,

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but sometimes it doesn't work out like that ` the perils and pitfalls

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of the New Street Station escalators!

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A minibus service used by more than 60,000 people across the West

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Midlands is under threat because of cuts to transport budgets. Centro,

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which funds the ring and ride service, is having to cut budgets by

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10%, a total of ?14 million over the next two years. Our reporter joins

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us from Birmingham City Centre. Tell us more about what's being proposed.

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Well, Centro gets its money from seven local authorities, and they

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are going to cut the money they give. There are a number of options

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on the table. It is possible that child fares may rise to two thirds

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of adult fares. At the moment, they are half. Some bus services could be

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cut, and the ring and ride service could lose it ran substantially or

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even have to disappear. I have been talking to people who are not happy

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about that. For the elderly and the disabled,

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the fleet of 150 ring and ride minibuses is a lifeline. Take

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86`year`old Tom Richards, from Harborne. Unsteady on his feet, he

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says he wouldn't be able to do his shopping without the service. It is

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a shame, because I can't get about like I used to. It is a bloody good

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service. Other regular users, who pay 60 pence per journey, say ring

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and ride is much more than a means of getting from A to B. A lot of

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people would be isolated if they did not have ring and ride. It is their

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only means of seeing somebody once a week when they go shopping. 23,000

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passengers use the ring and ride service on a regular basis. If the

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service is discontinued, the worry is that hard`pressed care workers

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will have to step in to help those unaffected. Passengers also use the

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service for hospital appointments and trips to day care centres. Their

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mental and physical health will deteriorate, which means local

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authorities will have to intervene with more costly cap packages and

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ultimately have to take people into residential care, which is in

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nobody's best interests. And it's not just pensioners who fear

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isolation if ring and ride is axed. I can't use conventional can't ought

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because my chair will not fit in the taxi or a normal bus. So without the

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services of ring and ride, I would be lost. Transport bosses say

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they're sympathetic, but warn that these are the kind of tough

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decisions necessary when the money simply isn't there. Joining me now

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is the chairman of the passenger transport authority. Are you not

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targeting the vulnerable by going for the ring and write this?

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Absolutely not. As you indicated, we are faced with unprecedented cuts to

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the budget, because local authorities who fund us had those

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cuts to consider themselves. So they are asking us to investigate the

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possibility of a ?40 million cut in our budget, which will have an

:10:05.:10:07.

impact on all the services we provide. You are also looking at

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cutting concessionary fares for 40,000 children, again an easy

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target. Are there not staff you could cut first? But we have looking

:10:17.:10:28.

at staff. There are proposals that indicate a further cut could be

:10:29.:10:32.

made, 40% over the last three years. It is a problem for us. A lot of

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money is being spent on the Metro and an extension to the line. Could

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that not be scaled back 's that is funded through a different budget,

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Capitol. We are looking at the revenue budget. Well, there is a

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consultation process, and people who will be affected will be able to

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comment until the middle of January. A former Redditch postman who was

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jailed for life for attempted rape in 1997 has been freed by the Court

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of Appeal. Victor Nealon has spent the past 17 years in Wakefield

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Prison. But the court accepted that new DNA evidence cast doubt on his

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case. The 53`year`old has always denied the attack and his conviction

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has been quashed. He is angry about it, as you would imagine after 17

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years. Very frustrated. I have not been able to speak to him today

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because of his location, but I am sure he is happy to be released. It

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is the start of a difficult journey for him.

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A new report by MPs says building the High Speed Rail link between

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London and the north is vital for increasing capacity on the railways.

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Today's report on HS2 says it's the only way to deal with the long`term

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demands of passengers and freight. The Commons Transport Committee also

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says it'll play a major role in promoting economic growth outside

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London. Opponents say it'll be a waste of money as well as damaging

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the environment. It is important for the regeneration of Britain. We

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can't have all the jobs in the south, we have to rebalance our

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economy. For me, HS2 goes a little way towards doing that. 38 minutes

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from London to Birmingham means we are accessible to everybody within

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an hour. A thousand BMW agency staff,

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including some based at its Hams Hall site in Warwickshire, are being

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given permanent jobs this Christmas. The Midlands site is one of three

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factories which manufacture Minis. 700 staff will be told before

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Christmas and the remaining 300 in the new year.

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The BBC has seen leaked plans to cut general surgery at Cheltenham

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Hospital and move it to Gloucestershire Royal. The proposals

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are contained in a document from the Gloucestershire Hospitals Trust,

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which wants to centralise general surgery and breast surgery by 2018.

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The Trust says it's an internal document in its early stages.

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More than 200 jobs have been saved after a buyer was found for

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Remploy's car`part factories in Coventry, Birmingham and Derby. 179

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of those jobs are held by people with a disability. Today, the new

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owners have been talking about their plans for the future.

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All they wanted for Christmas was to keep their jobs. And today, workers

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at Remploy's automotive plant in Coventry got their wish. They've got

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new owners, along with two other sites in Birmingham and Derby. It is

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a big relief for many employees. The whole shop floor was cheering. A

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private company, Rempower, has bought the car component business

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from the Government for an undisclosed sum. There has been

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uncertainty here for the last two years, which is no good for the

:13:57.:14:01.

employees or the customers, because the motor manufacturers want to know

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they have security of supply. Remploy factories were established

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more than 60 years ago to provide work for people with disabilities.

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But last year, the Government said many weren't financially viable and

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would close. We have been moving out of our factory provision and

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focusing on supporting what the majority of disabled people want,

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which is to find employment in the mainstream. But Veronica Burton says

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it's not that easy to find work. This is my first proper job. Why do

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you think you could not find a job? Because I disabled. The takeover

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will help secure her job, along with more than 200 others. The turnover

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at the sites in Birmingham, Derby and here in Coventry is ?50 million

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a year. The new owners have big hopes, and they are making big

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promises. They are looking to double that turnover in four years. The new

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signs are already going up, making it clear that they're planning to

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stay. This is our top story tonight: A

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warning to Christmas party`goers after vulnerable women are assaulted

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by unlicensed taxi drivers trawling the streets. Your detailed weather

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forecast to come shortly.Also in tonight's programme: There's no more

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Fergie, so it's Lambert versus Moyes as Villa aim to rattle the Reds in

:15:34.:15:37.

the weekend's big football game. And the band that's building up a huge

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following in the United States, but how many people know about them back

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home in Birmingham? Network Rail is launching a new

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campaign to cut the number of accidents on its escalators. It's

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released CCTV film showing the dangers they can pose. Last year, 32

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people fell at New Street Station in Birmingham.

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I should not last. Whatever they were watching was certainly

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entertaining. It couldn't be a Network Rail safety video, could it?

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Oh yes, it is. Dull and corporate, it isn't. A new campaign about the

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dangers of escalators ` the man you've just seen fall was a real

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life passenger in Birmingham. Last year, 400 people took a tumble on a

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network where a skeleton. 32 of them were in New Street Station. There

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are 20 escalators here.. It is a like kind `` light`hearted reminder

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to people to take extra care on the escalators. Take a bit of extra time

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I don't try and run up the escalators. If you have luggage or a

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buggy, use the lift. The video should be on public display in the

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next few days. Onto sport now ` Dan's here. And

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another intriguing weekend ahead in the Premier League in many different

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ways. Yes. When Sir Alex Ferguson won his first League title with

:17:46.:17:48.

Manchester United in 1993, Aston Villa were their closest

:17:49.:17:51.

challengers. But in the 40 league matches between the two clubs since,

:17:52.:17:57.

Villa have only won twice. Now though Sir Alex is gone, so could

:17:58.:18:00.

this be the weekend that Villa finally break that stranglehold?.

:18:01.:18:03.

Even the most die`hard Aston Villa fan must be sick of seeing this game

:18:04.:18:07.

now. The constant reminder that August 1995 marked their last home

:18:08.:18:09.

league victory over Manchester United is a major irritation. But

:18:10.:18:13.

could this be the weekend Villa finally end that unwanted record? We

:18:14.:18:21.

have to give the fans something to shout about. If we can do that, they

:18:22.:18:26.

will be behind us. It will be a great atmosphere. If we can play a

:18:27.:18:30.

good game, we will see. The two managers certainly have plenty in

:18:31.:18:37.

common. Born in Glasgow, they both played for Celtic, but while Lambert

:18:38.:18:40.

went on to win the Champions League with Borussia Dortmund, Moyes'

:18:41.:18:43.

playing career never reached the same heights. In 1990 he was

:18:44.:18:45.

sweating through Shrewsbury's pre`season training session with the

:18:46.:18:50.

army in Telford. That was murder. It is not easy to get over some of

:18:51.:18:54.

these. As a manager Lambert's greatest achievement has been back

:18:55.:18:57.

to back promotions to lift Norwich into the Premier League. Moyes also

:18:58.:19:01.

won promotion with Preston before 11 years at Everton, which saw him

:19:02.:19:05.

voted manager of the year three times. Any manager, doesn't matter

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who it was or what country they came from, any manager would have trouble

:19:15.:19:18.

after the most successful manager Britain has ever produced. So I

:19:19.:19:25.

think the criticism is a bit over the top. But at least Villa fans do

:19:26.:19:30.

have some more recent happy memories, because it's four years

:19:31.:19:33.

almost to the day since Gabby Agbonlahor scored this winner at Old

:19:34.:19:38.

Trafford. So what can we expect from Villa tomorrow?

:19:39.:19:44.

Well, they're hard to predict. Just look at the last two matches. A

:19:45.:19:47.

surprise win at high`flying Southampton ` and then they lost to

:19:48.:19:50.

Fulham who had lost their previous six! And their home record's not

:19:51.:20:00.

great is it? There is a feeling that they are better away from home. But

:20:01.:20:06.

despite Man Utd's informed, Villa are outsiders to win. Let's talk

:20:07.:20:13.

about Albion now. They have had a bit of a wobble. It is a wobble. The

:20:14.:20:20.

2`0 defeat against Norwich City they are now down to 15th place, just two

:20:21.:20:26.

points above the bottom three. Head coach Steve Clarke says there are

:20:27.:20:30.

number of clubs at risk of relegation this season. Sometimes it

:20:31.:20:34.

is three, sometimes it is X. This year, there are a lot more than

:20:35.:20:38.

that. It has been an unusual season. Nobody really cast adrift.

:20:39.:20:46.

Maybe Sunderland will be thinking they have to pick up a couple of

:20:47.:20:52.

wins soon. And of course, you won't miss a kick of the weekend's action

:20:53.:21:04.

on BBC local radio. We also have BBC sports personality of the year. Good

:21:05.:21:13.

luck to our lad, Barry. Now, you might say Bluegrass music

:21:14.:21:17.

is more Birmingham, Alabama than Birmingham, West Midlands, but a

:21:18.:21:20.

band from Kings Heath in Birmingham are proving us wrong. The Toyhearts

:21:21.:21:23.

have recently returned from a five`month tour of Texas. As their

:21:24.:21:28.

reputation grows, a crime novelist has even incorporated them into her

:21:29.:21:37.

latest novel. Bluegrass and the Toyhearts, from

:21:38.:21:42.

Birmingham. That is not Birmingham, Alabama, as you would be forgiven

:21:43.:21:44.

for thinking. This family affair have roots firmly in Kings Heath. We

:21:45.:21:55.

grew up with our father playing us a lot of different types of music when

:21:56.:21:59.

we were young, and a lot of the grass and Western swing. Until we

:22:00.:22:03.

went to school, we thought that was normal for a family in Kings Heath

:22:04.:22:07.

to be exposed to this type of music. But we have always loved it,

:22:08.:22:16.

and it has come from there. The first time we saw an American band

:22:17.:22:19.

come over here and play, it really blew us away. We decided then, dad,

:22:20.:22:25.

you play the banjo, we want to start one of these bands. It may seem like

:22:26.:22:32.

taking coals to Newcastle, but the Toyhearts have just spent five

:22:33.:22:35.

months in Austin, Texas, one of the hotbeds of country music. They are

:22:36.:22:42.

very welcoming of the fact that you come from somewhere else, and you

:22:43.:22:48.

know so much about their music full of so we have always gone down well

:22:49.:22:51.

in that respect. One admirer of the band, Birmingham based crime writer

:22:52.:22:59.

Maureen Carter. So impressed, they feature in her latest novel Child's

:23:00.:23:04.

Play. Great band, aren't they? If you ask me, it is in the genes.

:23:05.:23:13.

Sarah frowned. Lovely young women in addresses and vertiginous heels.

:23:14.:23:16.

They are sisters. That is their dad. There is huge chemistry between

:23:17.:23:23.

that band, the family bond. That is not the case throughout the book. So

:23:24.:23:29.

it gives me an opportunity to let my detective have some reflection. This

:23:30.:23:35.

is another twist we did not expect it. It is a tick of our bucket list

:23:36.:23:40.

to be in a crime novel. We need more women in rock 'n' roll and

:23:41.:23:45.

literature, definitely. I Bluegrass meets blue murder. Am on the same

:23:46.:23:46.

page. Well, it's been a miserable Friday,

:23:47.:23:53.

grey and damp.I am hoping it'll be better for the weekend. Here's

:23:54.:23:58.

Rebecca. Not actually. It is going to be a

:23:59.:24:01.

grey affair. More of the same of what we have seen today this

:24:02.:24:09.

weekend. We are using more of your weather pictures in our bulletins,

:24:10.:24:12.

but how do you know you are getting the best shot? Here is my guide on

:24:13.:24:15.

how to take the perfect weather photo. In the West Midlands, we are

:24:16.:24:20.

blessed with some beautiful scenery, so there are plenty of opportunities

:24:21.:24:24.

to get a great that. Staffordshire photographer Chris Hap

:24:25.:24:28.

and knows how to make the best of the landscape . Rule number one, try

:24:29.:24:33.

and get out early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is

:24:34.:24:37.

at its lowest in the sky. Number two, try and imagine splitting your

:24:38.:24:41.

photo into three sections and try and place key parts of the photo in

:24:42.:24:49.

them. You don't always have to photograph wide`open landscapes, you

:24:50.:24:55.

can focus on little details. But even if you haven't got the latest

:24:56.:24:58.

high`tech camera, you can still get good results. Very nice. You have

:24:59.:25:06.

got your horizon on the bottom third. There are some nice autumn

:25:07.:25:09.

colour in the foreground and nice detail in the trees. Now it is your

:25:10.:25:16.

turn. We need your pictures, but they need to be in landscape. Send

:25:17.:25:22.

them in. Include your name and where you took it.

:25:23.:25:28.

This is my attempt. I am sure you can do much better, so have a go,

:25:29.:25:35.

but include your name. It is not going to be the perfect conditions

:25:36.:25:39.

for taking those pictures this weekend. It is a grey affair. We

:25:40.:25:43.

have 20 of rain to come, and those winds are picking up. The

:25:44.:25:47.

high`pressure which has been keeping us settled over the last few weeks

:25:48.:25:53.

has now moved away. The rain has now largely cleared away. Behind that,

:25:54.:25:59.

things are turning but a clearer. We still have some residual showers to

:26:00.:26:03.

come this evening, but under the clear skies, temperatures will fall

:26:04.:26:07.

away. The winds are picking up, so although they will drop into single

:26:08.:26:12.

figures, it will help keep the frost at bay. To start off tomorrow, it

:26:13.:26:18.

will be dry, with brightness, but not for long. The cloud will come in

:26:19.:26:24.

from the West. Most of us will keep the dry conditions for Match Of The

:26:25.:26:28.

Day before we see the rain moving in. It will be slow`moving, but

:26:29.:26:33.

there will be quite a bit of it. It is mild, but the winds are

:26:34.:26:36.

strengthening, making it feel fresher. That rain starts to push

:26:37.:26:41.

across us through Saturday night and sticks with us. Behind that, we will

:26:42.:26:48.

get clear skies. Temperatures will again fall away but with those

:26:49.:26:53.

winds, we will keep the frost at bay, so it will be a mild start to

:26:54.:26:57.

Sunday, but very similar to tomorrow. Those winds will be

:26:58.:27:07.

strengthening for a blustery day. We have two weather fronts, one from

:27:08.:27:11.

the north, one from the south. We could fall in the middle and avoid

:27:12.:27:14.

them completely, or we could see both of them. This marks the start

:27:15.:27:19.

of an unsettled period as we move into the start of next week.

:27:20.:27:25.

Tonight's headlines: Concern is growing for thousands of Syrian

:27:26.:27:29.

refugees facing an exceptionally harsh winter storm and freezing

:27:30.:27:31.

temperatures, with only tents for shelter.

:27:32.:27:36.

A warrant Christmas partygoers after dozens of women are sexually

:27:37.:27:38.

assaulted by unlicensed taxi drivers trawling the street is. That was the

:27:39.:27:44.

Midlands to. I will be back at ten o'clock with

:27:45.:27:47.

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