Archive for January 16, 2012

Click here to find out more!Flop Government NI scheme creates just 1,200 jobs in the whole of the West Midlands 

 Treasury’s admission that the scheme nationally has cost more to administer than the support it provided.

Just 1,200 jobs across the entire West Midlands region were supported by the Government’s flagship jobs creation scheme, Treasury figures have revealed.

George Osborne, the Chancellor, announced in July 2010 that businesses in regions where the private sector was struggling to create jobs would enjoy a £5,000 discount on National Insurance payments for new employees.

The scheme, which applied to the first ten employees hired, was designed “to help create new businesses in those regions where the private sector is not nearly strong enough”, he said.

But official figures suggest the policy has been a flop in the West Midlands.


Just 434 businesses successfully applied for the discount – and just 1,241 jobs were supported.

It follows the Treasury’s admission that the scheme nationally has cost more to administer than the support it provided. Across the country, firms have received discounts of £6 million to support 10,000 jobs, while the administration costs so far have been £12 million.

The discount was available in every part of the UK except London, the South East and the East of England.

In the whole of Birmingham, 231 jobs were supported. A breakdown of successful National Insurance holiday applications by constituency shows that 97 of these were in Ladywood, which includes much of central Birmingham.

In Coventry, there were 49 successful applications. And in Wolverhampton, there were 46. In Solihull, 22 jobs were supported. In Bromsgrove the figure was 25 and in Redditch it was 23.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, admitted the results of the policy had been disappointing in a speech last week.

Talking to business leaders in Maidenhead, he said: “The scheme has not worked as well as we hoped. It was too complicated and too targeted at specific businesses.”

He added: “You can come up with all the schemes in the world but there’s no scheme that’s as good as controlling spending and keeping taxes down. Just like every business needs to control costs, governments aren’t any different,” he added.

The National Insurance holiday was to help rebalance the economy by helping create private sector jobs in areas considered overly reliant on the public sector, which were likely to be hardest-hit by spending cuts.

Labour has called on the Government to extend the scheme to other parts of the country.

Shadow Treasury spokesman Owen Smith MP said: “Now that the Prime Minister has admitted the scheme has failed – and more importantly why it failed – the Government should heed Labour’s calls for the tax break to be extended to all small firms that take on extra staff in every part of the country.”

The most recent unemployment figures show that the West Midlands has an unemployment rate of 9.2 per cent, above the UK rate of 8.3 per cent.

This is lower than Yorkshire and Humberside, the North East of England and London, but higher than every other part of the country.

It means 243,000 people are unemployed in the West Midlands. The figure is up by 1.1 per cent over the past 12 months.

The number of people in work in the West Midlands fell by 1.4 per cent over the past year – the second biggest fall in the country, after the north east which suffered a fall of 1.5 per cent.


Peacocks, Past Times And Bonmarche Go Into Administration


 The Kingfisher Shopping centre in Redditch has the two stores currently trading in the Centre 

The owner of clothing chains Peacocks and Bonmarche has said it plans to place both businesses into administration.

The Peacock Group, which employs a combined 11,000 staff, said it made the decision after discussions with lenders over the future of the group broke down.

The parent company said it would seek a potential buyer for the Bonmarche business, but will appoint an administrator in the meantime.

Elsewhere, gift retailer Past Times fell into administration and confirmed 507 staff were made redundant before the move, with a further 67 job losses announced when KPMG were appointed administrator.

Peacocks trades from 611 Peacocks discount clothing stores and 394 Bonmarche shops in Britain.

The firm said it was in advanced and exclusive talks with a potential purchaser of Bonmarche.

It did not name the suitor, although a source familiar with the situation told Reuters news agency that the private equity firm Sun European Partners was seeking a deal that could involve a pre-pack administration of Bonmarche.

Sun European Partners declined to comment.

Cannabis Factory

Police in Redditch have seized a large number of cannabis plants from a house in Easemore Road in Redditch.

Following a tip off from a member of the public on Friday 13 January, the house was searched and around 120 plants were found in various rooms of the property.

The cannabis plants were subsequently seized, along with the hydroponics equipment used to help them grow.

Enquiries are underway to trace the person responsible for growing the plants and anyone with information is urged to call Redditch police station on 0300 333 3000 quoting 609S 130112, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.


50 Lambs get coats to keep them warm

Woolly coat ... newborn lambs have been given jackets to stop them from getting hypothermia as weather turns cold

Woolly coat … newborn lambs have been given jackets to stop them from getting hypothermia as weather turns cold

THIS newborn lamb may look ready for a game of footie but the youngster’s orange bib is actually the only thing protecting it from an early grave.

An unseasonably warm January has led to many sheep giving birth early — but as the temperature plummets the little lambs are now at risk of developing hypothermia.

Farmer Will Willison, from the Old Yarr Estate and sheep farm in Redditch, Worcs, has been forced to dress all 50 of his newborns in lammacs, or lamb jackets, to protect them from the cold snap.

Keeping warm ... lambs stay close to their mum

Keeping warm … lambs stay close to their mum

 The animals were born three weeks early on January 4 after a mild New Year, but as the temperature began to drop Will, 37, and his wife Nina, 37, had to act quickly to dress them in their new kit.

The fluorescent orange tabards made from polythene plastic not only conserve heat, they also offer protection against foxes as the rustling material and bright colour help to act as a deterrent to predators.

All kitted out ... lambs and farmer's wife Nina

All kitted out … lambs and farmer’s wife Nina

Bromsgrove Mental health nurse admits to sexual relationship with patient

A Worcestershire nurse faces being struck off after having sex with a mental health patient in her care.

Wendy McClure was assigned to the patient when she started a forbidden sexual relationship, a disciplinary hearing was told.

The 43-year-old, from Blackwell, Bromsgrove, admitted a Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) misconduct charge of having a sexual relationship with a patient between July and September 2009.

McClure was working for Worcestershire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust as a gateway mental health worker when she started an affair with a man referred to her for depression.


It was when the liaison turned sour that McClure phoned up her boss Catherine Glenholmes to confess the affair, a NMC panel heard.

“McClure told Ms Glenholmes that she had tried to end the relationship, but the patient would not leave her alone,” a NMC spokesman said.

“She also stated the patient had threatened to tell the Trust about the relationship.

“Ms Glenholmes asked the registrant if she had had sexual intercourse with the patient and she confirmed that she had.

“The registrant’s behaviour was clearly a serious breach of her professional duty to establish and actively maintain clear sexual boundaries at all times with people in her care.”

McClure’s role involved assessing mental health patients in the community and referring them on to counselling if necessary.

An investigation by the Mental Health Trust resulted in McClure being sacked for gross misconduct in February 2010.

But following an appeal, she was reinstated, given a final written warning and allowed a non-medical job that did not involve contact with patients.

Trust bosses were now considering offering her a phased return to medical nursing work under supervision, the NMC was told.

McClure, who did not attend the hearing, wrote in a statement that her judgement had been clouded as she was under stress.

She added that it would never happen again. She wrote that she felt “immense shame” and had learnt a “great lesson”.

The NMC spokesman added: “The panel has no doubt the registrant’s misconduct in this case amounted to a breach of a fundamental tenet of the nursing profession.

“The panel is not satisfied that McClure has demonstrated full insight into the seriousness of her misconduct and, in particular, the extent of the damage which her sexual relationship is likely to have inflicted on the vulnerable patient concerned.

“The revelation of her relationship to her employers was only made several weeks after she had received advice from colleagues, in whom she had confided, that her relationship was unprofessional, and only after the patient threatened that he would report her to the Trust.”

The NMC panel ruled McClure’s fitness to practise was impaired and decided to adjourn sentencing until a future date.

The available penalties range from being banned from working to a suspension or written warning.


West Mercia Police is one of the country’s top 50 employers of gay people, Dropping 11 places from last year.

 West Mercia was ranked joint seventh against the other police forces.

WEST Mercia Police has been ranked one of the country’s top 50 employers of gay people.

This year it has been ranked 49th in the list of the top 100 gay-friendly workplaces, a drop from 38th last year.

Stonewall, a charitable organisation that campaigns and lobbies for equality, produced the list.

Ben Summerskill, from Stonewall, said: “Competition for a place in the Top 100 was fiercer than ever this year.

“With new, more demanding criteria, every employer securing a position in the Top 100 has performed impressively – and the participating employers collectively employ over 1.9 million people.”

West Mercia was ranked joint seventh against the other police forces in the list while the force’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Group was named a star performer.

Rob Hall, chairman of West Mercia’s LGBT Representative Group, said: “This is an excellent achievement for the staff and communities of West Mercia Police.

“This is our fourth year in the top 100 and although we have dropped slightly from 38th position last year, we have done really well to come within the top 50 considering the changes to the marking criteria.

“This is still a fantastic accomplishment and it reflects West Mercia Police’s commitment to diversity and equal opportunities.”

The police had to complete a nine-part report and provide evidence to support the questions asked.

They were then ranked according to criteria ranging from implementation of effective equality policies, practical demonstrations of good practice in recruitment and mentoring to how they engage with lesbian and gay staff.

Stones Thrown At Buses In Redditch

Police in Redditch are appealing for witnesses and information following a number of incidents of stones being thrown at buses in the Winyates and Church Hill areas.

The latest incident which happened at 4.30pm on Saturday, 14 January, resulted in a brick coming very close to a female passenger who had an infant sat on her lap. A brick smashed a large window on the side of the bus which will cost around £1,200 to replace.

Sergeant Neil Billingham from Redditch North East Local Policing Team said:” The incidents have been going on for some time at different locations along the bus lane route but after an initiative we ran last November they stopped.

“The initiative was stopped in the New Year but as incidents of stone throwing have started again it has had to be re-activated.”

The initiative involves officers (some in uniform and some in plain clothes) travelling on various buses around the town to offer reassurance and to prevent the incidents happening in the first place. It has proved successful and a number of arrests have been made.

Sgt Billingham added: “We take the matter very seriously and anyone caught throwing items at moving buses may well face the very serious charge of criminal damage where life is endangered. This could mean facing a prison sentence.

“We would appeal to those responsible to think about their actions. What they may perceive as fun can often have serious consequences. Apart from the financial cost, the most recent broken window was very near to a young mother with an infant in her arms and could have lead to them being seriously injured.”

A bus driver who asked not to be named said ” drivers will refuse to work at night in Redditch if it continues, we had problems a couple of years ago with kids throwing stones at buses then it seemed to calm down 

Someone could be killed if a driver lost control i think bosses will look again at running at night.”

Witnesses or anyone with information should contact Sgt Billingham on 0300 333 3000, quoting incident 474-S-140112, or ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

Aircraft causing a stir in Worcester

Look out of your window, good people of Worcester. See the aviation contrail which seems to be going around in a circle? Well, that’s the aircraft’s third pass this morning and no, we don’t know what it’s all about either

It could be a Military training exercise

Military aircraft responsible for ‘drone’

MILITARY training exercises linked to “current operational theatres” have been revealed as the source of the latest mystery aircraft noise heard above Worcestershire – and they will carry on for the forseeable future.

Defence chiefs have revealed the droning engines reported by residents in Kempsey, Powick and south Worcester over the past few months are down to two aircraft carrying out “essential training”.

The C-130 Hercules transport plane and a Britten Norman Islander are of the same aircraft type which caused a series of complaints last summer, which the Ministry of Defence also explained as training.

In a letter to Peter Luff, Mid-Worcestershire MP, under secretary of state for defence Kevan Jones apologised for the latest disturbances caused by the planes but said they were “part of essential training over the Worcester area”.

“The aircraft are not breaching air regulations,” he said.

“The activity is linked to current operational theatres and this will continue for the foreseeable future.”

Mr Jones said the aircraft were flying within an area designated as low flying zone 4 which covers part of south Worcestershire and were not breaching regulations as they kept above 2,000ft.

Mr Jones said the Hercules had been flying above 20,000ft. Although the smaller Islander plane flies much lower it is still above the minimum altitude.

Speaking earlier in February when fresh complaints about the noisy aircraft first surfaced, an RAF spokesman said the description of the engine noise suggested the planes could be on a radar calibration exercise.

Bob Jenkins, who had forwarded several complaints to Mr Luff from people living in and around Powick, said he was “entirely satisfied” with the explanation.

Mr Luff said: “It is an inconvenience for people in the area but I think the need is clear.

“I’m grateful to the MOD for responding. It’s a bit more detail than I had expected.”

The number for MOD air complaints is 020 7218 6020 or alternatively people can send an e-mail to

royal yacht for jubilee

It has been suggested the taxpayer should donate the Queen a new royal yacht to mark her diamond jubilee


It has been suggested the taxpayer should donate the Queen a new royal yacht to mark her diamond jubilee

Cabinet minister Michael Gove has suggested the taxpayer should donate the Queen a new royal yacht to mark her diamond jubilee.

The Education Secretary made the proposal in a letter to Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt which has been obtained by The Guardian.

Labour said the idea demonstrated Mr Gove was “out of touch” to think such expenditure was appropriate at a time when school budgets were being cut. A new yacht is likely to cost in the region of £60 million.

But, in his letter, Mr Gove wrote: “In spite, and perhaps because of the austere times, the celebration should go beyond those of previous jubilees and mark the greater achievement that the diamond anniversary represents.”

He writes that the Queen’s “highly significant contribution” to Britain and the Commonwealth should be recognised with a “lasting legacy”.

“Events such as proms and the party at the palace organised for the diamond jubilee, and street parties, although excellent, are transient,” he writes. “It would be appropriate to do something that will mark the significance of this occasion with fitting ceremony.

“My suggestion would be a gift from the nation to her majesty; thinking about David Willetts’s excellent suggestion of a royal yacht, and something tangible to commemorate this momentous occasion.”

Mr Gove also argues that the diamond jubilee celebrations should not be secondary to the Olympics. “The diamond jubilee must not be overshadowed by the Olympic Games, but form an integral part of this great year for our country,” he writes.

Labour Party deputy chairman Tom Watson said: “We’re all looking forward to the diamond jubilee. The significance of the occasion should be celebrated across the country. But Michael Gove has shown he is out of touch with this proposal.

“When school budgets are being slashed, parents will be wondering how Gove came even to suggest this idea. This is not the time to spend £60 million on a yacht.”