07/01/2014 Midlands Today


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perhaps 48 hours of drier weather for many of us. But between now


Hello and welcome to Midlands Today. The headlines tonight:


Wrongly portrayed as scroungers ` a furious reaction from Birmingham


residents on benefits featured in a controversial documentary. That is


all it comes down to. Editing. Just the editing. They have portrayed us


to be, like, bad. Hard`done`by or playing the system?


We get your reaction. Also tonight, a catalogue of violent


disturbances. Leaked documents uncover a series of confrontations


between staff and inmates at Oakwood Prison. There's no indication this


problem is going to get it. There is every indication these problems will


get worse. The impact of flooding on the rural


economy. Farmers say it's costing thousands in lost crops.


Stargazing Live is back! We're live at a Birmingham telescope with an


unsung hero and an astronomical challenge. Fingers crossed for clear


skies! Well, I hope to have all the answers


you're looking in the forecast later, although after the week we've


just had, I can imagine you might not be expecting much. I think you


might be pleasantly surprised. Good evening. There's been a furious


reaction today to a television documentary about people living on


benefits in a Birmingham street. Police are studying abusive and


threatening messages posted on social media, including threats to


kill. And residents have reacted angrily, saying they've been wrongly


portrayed as scroungers. Channel 4 says it's standing by the programme.


Ben Sidwell reports from so`called Benefits Street.


Overnight this ordinary street in Birmingham has become nationally


known, but for all the wrong reasons. James Turner Street was one


of the best streets. Unemployed, unemployed! Now, one of the worst.


James Turner Street in Winson Green has been labelled Benefits Street. I


was a bit disgusted. They portrayed everybody to be on benefits and have


no ambition. That is how it came across. It just made it out as if


nobody was doing anything with their lives. It is disgusting. I don't


know why they said it was a benefit road. They said to us before it


started that it was going to be about a community street. I am very


disgusted with the way this programme portrayed the whole


street. And stigmatised the people on the street. Ofcom has already


received around 100 complaints about the programme. On social media the


response has been extreme, including death threats. It is frightening,


because like me, I have two kids. It is just wrong. The tweets could be a


criminal offence, and so, too, evidence of cannabis being grown, as


seen in the programme. West Midlands Police say they've been inundated


with comments from members of the public, many of whom are concerned


about the criminal activities shown on the programme. Today on BBC WM,


listeners weren't holding back. There is an awful lot of scroungers


who just don't want to work. They refer to it as their money, it is


not their money. Channel 4 told us it was a fair and balanced


observational documentary but one media expert said programme` makers


hold all the cards. I was almost nervous of the people who were in it


all the way through, thinking, you know, you don't know what you've


done. You said things that really you should not have said because the


programme makers are always in control. As a participant, you never


win in that sort of documentary. Most residents weren't keen to be in


front of camera today, but one of the stars of the show summed it up


for many. They were here for nearly a year and I know it isn't the


guy's fault who was doing the filming, it is the people doing the


editing. They are the ones who can cut the bits out and show the worst.


And all this after just one episode, with four more to go.


Well, over four million people watched the programme last night and


it's caused quite a reaction from you, who have been getting in touch


with us on our Facebook page, through Twitter and by email today.


Jasmine Palfrey wrote on our Facebook page, "Not everyone on


benefits is like that. It really annoyed and upset me. I'm on


benefits due to a disability". Khakan Qureshi tweeted that it


"portrayed a minority of residents in a negative light to fuel the


stereotypes of people claiming benefits".


Linda from Stratford`upon`Avon emailed, "I was disgusted with these


people who think it is their God`given right to live off the


taxes that I have to pay. I did notice that no`one went short of


cans of beer and cigarettes". Theresa Wilcox wrote on Facebook,


"It's scandalous that people make life`style choices like this and


those genuine claimants who are in need of help and support are made to


feel like scroungers". Just a very brief selection of the


comments we've had. Thank you for those.


Coming up later in the programme, how one man has built his own


defences to keep the flood waters at bay. There are two pumps in there,


actually. There is a small one and if it cannot cope, the big one


switches in automatically. Documents leaked to the BBC reveal


details of a catalogue of violent disturbances at the UK's biggest


prison, Oakwood, near Wolverhampton. A number of cells were damaged in


nine hours of disturbances on Sunday. The private company running


the jail today insisted the staff are doing a superb job. Here's our


reporter Sarah Falkland. Away from public view, what goes on


inside Britain's biggest jail? We've asked repeatedly to film inside here


but the Ministry of Justice and G4S, who run the place, have always


refused. But these documents shed some light. How late last year, for


example, a tornado team was drafted in to deal with around 18 inmates


attacking staff with pool cues and broom handles, many of them drunk on


Hooch. There's no suggestion that it was home`made booze brewed on Her


Majesty's premises that fuelled events of Sunday evening. Some have


described what happened as a riot. G4S's spokesman this morning used


other words. There was an instance of discipline problem that was dealt


with on Sunday by normal contingency planning. I'd need to make for a


clear that the staff at Oakwood doing a superb job. `` are doing.


David Wilson used to run the country's tornado teams and he's


worried G4S, bailed out by the Army with the Olympics, is now relying on


the state to keep control at Oakwood. We have the public sector


prisons going into a private company's firm, again, bailing them


out. Hopefully, the public sector prisons will be repaid for the money


it will cost to put in the Tornado teams but this is a situation


which, in terms of Oakwood, gives no indication the problem will get


better. There is every indication these problems will get worse. Last


year, Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons found getting drugs at


Oakwood was easier than getting a bar of soap. G4S insist things are


improving, and with a government committed to privatisation, it looks


likely they'll be allowed more time to prove their point. Labour say


they should be given six months to either shape up or ship out.


There's a warning tonight that Wolverhampton would go bust if the


City Council doesn't introduce even more drastic spending cuts


immediately. A report to be presented to tomorrow's Cabinet


meeting describes it as "the most challenging period the council has


ever faced". Our political editor, Patrick Burns, is here with me now.


Does this come as a shock? It is not the first big city authority to


raise the spectre of bankruptcy. Birmingham were talking in these


terms at year ago. So there is an element of political rhetoric on


this. Nevertheless, the stark numbers are clear enough. The


Government is requiring Wolverhampton to save another ?25


million over five years and that is above and beyond the 98 million they


had already budgeted for. No organisation could suffer a cut in


grants of that amount and be able to just simply deal with it. We are


really going under because of the way the Government has cut the grant


that has historically funded discounts, as it has indeed for many


councils up and down the country. So where are these cuts expected to


fall? The detail will have to wait until after that Cabinet meeting,


but the members have been recommended to put a halt on all


nonessential council spending for the remainder of this financial


year, and also to accelerate as many as 165 separate cost saving plans,


so some big and awkward decisions lie ahead. And only yesterday we


heard the Chancellor in North Warwickshire warning of a further


?25 billion cut in public spending after the next election, so there's


even more of this to come. Yes. More hard truths, said George Osborne.


His big hope is that enough economic regeneration will come through in


places like the eye safety foresight, with Jaguar Land Rover.


Just up the road from Wolverhampton. This will put enough money in


people's pockets to ease the dependency on local jobs and


services but there is a real debate about the future of local government


in this country, make no mistake. And there'll be more on the crisis


facing Wolverhampton Council in Pete Morgan's Breakfast Show on BBC WM


tomorrow morning. A prisoner who'd been on the run


since before Christmas has been arrested in Birmingham. Lee Wheeler


was allowed out from Sudbury Prison in Derbyshire on Monday 23rd


December but failed to return. He was arrested in Yardley this


afternoon. He's served three years of a nine`and`a`half`year sentence


for the manslaughter of Leon Kerr in Birmingham in 2010.


The Kidderminster Harriers manager Steve Burr has left the club today.


Burr, seen here on the right, has been in charge at Aggborough for


four years and has just guided them into the third round of the FA Cup.


He leaves with Kidderminster seventh in the Conference.


A farmer who lost ?200,000 of income as a result of the floods of 2007


says too many rules prevent him protecting his property. Bruce Udale


claims his land would be less vulnerable if the Environment Agency


eased restrictions on river maintenance, as Joanne Writtle


reports. Rain`lashed farmland and the River


Strine at Eyton in Shropshire. But the farmer here is endeavouring to


protect his land from the floods of previous years. Though he's bending


Environment Agency rules in order to maintain the river and keep it


clear. They don't really like us to take silt out of the bottom of the


river. They don't like us to take all of the weeds out of the river.


They don't like us to put the river banks up I. Yet if we didn't do this


sort of thing in this situation, the land either side would be flooded


fairly regularly. The Environment Agency argues it wants to make it


easier for farmers to carry out maintenance work while still


protecting wildlife and the environment. But bigger work, like


removing silt and bank protection, thus require landowners to contact


the Environment Agency for advice on getting permission. As storms


continued to batter, the NFU called for more funding for river


maintenance. Meanwhile, one flood expert claimed dredging rivers could


have further consequences on homes downstream. The board has got to go


somewhere, and in my book, having been flooded myself, and I'm sure


other homeowners would agree, that it is better if it goes onto


farmland rather than people's houses. Meanwhile, at Upton`on`


Severn in Worcestershire, electrical engineer Rowan Thomas is reaping the


benefits of using his skills to build his own flood defences ` a


pumping system and a 60`metre wall. There are two pumps in there. The


small pump is running at the moment and if that one cope, the big one


switches in automatically. It keeps everything dry. And as the winter


weather bites, this is the scene in Tewkesbury. Much of the town is


surrounded by water but homes are staying largely dry because of flood


defences. This is our top story tonight:


Wrongly portrayed as scroungers ` a furious reaction from Birmingham


residents on benefits featured in controversial documentary.


Your detailed weather forecast to come shortly.


And also in tonight's programme, as new car sales soar to pre`recession


levels, will it help boost the Midlands economy in 2014?


And the inventor whose device is used by millions of stargazers, but


it's never earned him a penny. I don't get any royalties for it and I


don't care! Vulnerable Children in


Stoke`on`Trent are being let down, according to some councillors. It's


been revealed a panel set up to visit children's homes have failed


to make almost 70% of inspections. The council has admitted the


situation leaves a lot to be desired. Here's our Staffordshire


reporter, Liz Copper. All children's homes in England have


to be visited at least every month for checks. The visits are overseen


by local councils. In Stoke`on`Trent, a panel of ten


councillors was setup, with duties including carrying out inspections


on children's homes, but it has emerged in the last couple of years


they completed fewer than a of those visits. It is poor for the


safeguarding of children. If you are not doing those visits, who are you


letting down? Those children. There's been renewed concern over


the welfare of children in care following a series of cases


involving sexual exploitation of girls, and the Government's reviewed


existing rules. In Stoke`on`Trent, to avoid falling foul of the law,


officials have carried out inspections in the absence of


councillors. Nobody wants to force people into something that happiness


is not their first interest. However, it is important as part of


parenting and the figures are there, you have got them there, and


the attendance leaves a lot to be desired. There are now calls for


more councillors to get involved in the way children's care is inspected


in the city. I think it is incredibly disappointing, I really


do. This is a moral obligation as far as I'm concerned. They are the


corporate parents and I will be watching now quite closely the


programmes such as yours and hopefully with you raising this


issue, it will see improvement, because it patently needs to


happen. Before Easter, new regulations will come in tightening


the rules on who can carry out these checks. All councils will have to


reassess how they inspect children's homes.


The UK's new car market is the strongest it's been since the


economic downturn began, according to figures out today. Business


surveys, too, point to growing confidence. And with several big


projects due for completion, 2014 is looking more promising for the


Midlands economy. It will also be a significant year for the


controversial high`speed rail project, which will link the region


with London. Here's our business and transport correspondent, Peter


Plisner. Keeping the wheels of economic


recovery moving is a big priority for many in 2014, and the latest


product from Jaguar Land Rover will certainly help. Its latest model,


the F`type, is built in the Midlands, with many parts made in


the Midlands, and it's boosting the region's exports. J`Lo was one of


the big economic success stories, `` stories of last year, with the


success set to continue. `` Jaguar Land Rover. As we look forward to


this year, we expect to see Jay Allard do very well. The focus now


moves from the four biggest cities that are struggling with pollution


and congestion towards the many, many large smaller cities inland.


That will be a bit more of a challenge for Jaguar Land Rover to


unlock those sales. But expansion is continuing, and this autumn sees the


opening of the company's new engine plant near Wolverhampton. There's


little doubt it'll provide a major jobs boost, employing more than 700


people. But what impact will this new facility have on the


manufacturing supply chain? Now`one's quite sure. JLR is


remaining tight`lipped about where parts for the engines made here will


come from. It's better news for the Midlands firm that's building the


new factory. Many expect a bumper year for the construction industry


in 2014. As we came through 2013, there became more work available to


bid for and over Christmas we were working on bids and had to go back


in on January and February, so I feel this will be a stronger market.


`` bids that had to. And things will really taking off at Birmingham


Airport. In April, it's due to open an extended runway. Work's now well


advanced on a project that has always been billed as providing a


major boost to the economy. The big thing consumers want is like at a


Formula One race. They prefer fewer stops on their journey and if you


get the strategy right, you get a better run, so direct flying is


better than flying through someone else's airport. The airport's also


looking forward to a direct connection to HS2, and 2014 will be


a big year for that project. Many documents related to a special


Hybrid Bill being debated in Parliament are being held at the new


Library of Birmingham. First of all, we're just coming to the end of


the consultation on the environment statement, and then it is down for


debate in the House with the bill being read and produced in front of


Parliament, going through a couple of times, hopefully then in time for


the election in 2015. A new engine plant, an extended runway, HS2. 2014


promises to be a busy and hopefully prosperous new year.


And Peter joins us now from a factory in Birmingham that makes


parts for Jaguar Land Rover and other car`makers. Peter, today's


news that car sales have reached a post`recession high can only good


news for the region's manufacturers? It certainly is, and this is one of


the firms reaping the benefits. This part drives the windscreen wipers on


a variety of models, including some land Rovers. Some of the components


in this part made in this factory. With me is the man `` the managing


director. This is great news. They have only gone up to prior to the


recession figures, which shows confidence has come back into the


economy and a car is one of the top three items people buy so it is good


to see those going up again. When order s for cars is up, orders for


cars `` order numbers for parts is up as well? Yet. Last year,


confidence is high to start with but it was slow in coming forward. All


of the order started coming in in the final three to four months of


last year. What is your prediction for this year? I would like to think


the economy will carry on growing and then the housing market. To move


and then we will be back to pre`2008. If confidence is high


amongst manufacturers it means they want to create new jobs, and that


has to be good for unemployment and the region as a whole. A positive


note to end on. Thank you. Providing it's clear, many eyes will


be on the skies tonight, as Professor Brian Cox returns to BBC


Two in Stargazing Live. We've sent our science correspondent, David


Gregory`Kumar, out to do a bit of stargazing of our own. David, what


are you looking for tonight? Thanks, Mary. Well, we're at the


University of Birmingham Telescope on the edge of the city, and tonight


we're looking for comets. We will be setting a comet challenge. But


first, we have a secret stargazing superstar living here in the


Midlands. He's a retired engineer who revolutionised amateur astronomy


with an invention he gave away for free.


This is no ordinary Coventry shed. This is the workshop of the man who


revolutionised amateur astronomy. How did you get into astronomy? I


started at about five years old when my dad took me out in the warm, even


in air. I was absolutely gobsmacked that the stars moved in the sky as I


saw one go from one side of a pour to another. `` of a pole. 40 years


ago, building your own telescope was a big part of amateur astronomy. But


John Wall was deeply unhappy with the design of a traditional


telescope`focusing mechanism. Focusing is one of the hardest


things in astronomy and anything you can do to make that easier is going


to enhance astronomy and looking at the stars and the experience will be


much better. So John created this ` the Crayford Focuser, allowing


cheap, smooth focusing of a telescope. It was an idea that swept


the world. Telescopes will be sold with them and people sell them


second hand as well, because there is quite a market in second`hand


equipment, so as revolutionised astronomy because it gives amateurs


a chance to get some top quality imaging and that is where this focus


has been really popular. So, did his invention making millions? It was a


gift to the community. I'd get any will tease from it but I don't care!


It is all over the planet now! It is owned by millions in Southeast Asia!


Tonight, Stargazing Live celebrates astronomy, so it's appropriate that


we celebrate John Wall and his invention, too.


Get a pen and paper because we will have a web address for you, because


you will be taking part, we hope, in our comet challenge. But we're here


at the University of Birmingham Telescope on the edge of the city,


and with me is Graham Smith. Graham, we're looking for something a bit


tricky this evening ` comets. Yes. Sadly, it disintegrated due to the


heat and gravity of the Sun, though. You took a still picture with your


telescope? Yes. Our first observation was this comet. Some


students joined me for breakfast one morning and we had a really good


time at such an early hour, surprisingly! This is our comet


challenge to our viewers. Yes. I expect you need binoculars to see it


from a light polluted, suburban background. Something like the West


Midlands. If it is Willie Darke, you might be able to see it with the


naked eye. So I really want to find from the people of the West Midlands


whether they can see it with their naked eye. So, that is our


challenge. It will give us an idea about light pollution here in the


Midlands. If you go to my blog, you will find details of the comet


challenge and more details of Stargazing Live events all over the


Midlands which are happening over the next three nights, and also a


bit more about John Wall, that unsung hero of astronomy.


And if you want to follow the rest of the BBC's coverage, switch over


to BBC Two from 8pm this evening. So we need to know if it's a good


night for stargazing, Shefali. All things considered, yes.


Absolutely. The stargazing event goes on for three days and three


nights and two out of those three will be good. It is tomorrow night


that will pose some problems and probably be a write`off for looking


at stars and skies. This is how it is looking across the country now.


You will see it in just a moment. Quite promising considering the


whole think it's off in just about an hourtime. This is the feature


spoiling things tomorrow. `` considering the whole thing kicks


off. We have this at land existing moving in that iceberg of yesterday,


which has American connections, and it will be much heavier. This will


have deflated as it arrives with us and then it slips South. Apt to


tonight, a few showers moving in from the West but these are later on


in the night. Actually, they will be over parts of Staffordshire and


Cheshire, so not so good for stargazing here, but drier


elsewhere. We continue with this line of showers affecting the north


of the region tomorrow morning but these will gradually fade, leaving


most of the a dry with spells of sunshine as well. You will notice


later on this area of rain lurking in the wings, and this is the first


sign of things turning wet into the evening and overnight. But for the


time of year quite mild, if you look at those temperatures. The winds


will be moderate from a south`westerly direction. This band


of rain will really pick up pace tomorrow evening and tomorrow night.


We have Met Office warnings for the west of the region in particular


with heavy outbreaks of rain, torrential in places, and even some


thunder. That is because of the amount of time it is with us and the


intensity not dying down. As for the rest of the week, well, Thursday


looks pretty dry. Turning colder with some frost on Thursday night


and some rain on Friday. Tonight's headlines from the BBC:


Yet more storms batter England and Wales, with hundreds of warnings and


alerts as more rainfall is forecast. A coalition row over immigration


targets, as a new survey shows three out of four people want to see


numbers cut. A furious reaction from families in


Birmingham who say they've been wrongly portrayed as scroungers in a


controversial documentary. And a catalogue of violent


disturbances, as leaked documents uncover a series of confrontations


between staff and inmates at Oakwood Prison.


That was the Midlands Today. I'll be back at 10pm, when we'll be hearing


from Lorely Burt MP, who used to be an assistant prison Governor. How


does she think the problems at Oakwood jail can be sorted out? Have


a great evening. Goodbye.


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