Welcome to my blog!

 I am one of the three Tamworth Borough Councillors for the Mercian Ward, elected in May 2011.  Do you have an issue I or any of my colleagues on Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council can help with?

Contact me by phone, e-mail or post

mobile: 07958 155 863
e-mail: Andrew-James@tamworth.gov.uk
post: c/o T.C.A., 23 Albert Road, Tamworth, Staffordshire, B79 7JS

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Jeremy Clarkson Caught Speeding

Jeremy ClarksonBBC’s Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson says he will have points on his licence for the first time in 30 years after he was caught speeding.

Writing in the Sun, Clarkson said he had been caught by a fixed camera while travelling between Whitby and London.

He said, “Sadly, I was going too quickly for the speed awareness course to be an option.”

Clarkson said he had written last month in “blind fury” about the amount of speed cameras on the route.

He added, “Well, it seems one of them got to me.”

His admission comes just weeks after he and his Top Gear team caused controversy during filming in Argentina for using a number plate that appeared to refer to the Falklands war. Clarkson has said the number plate was a coincidence and the programme’s producer has denied it was a stunt.

In 2008, Clarkson, who lives near Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire, was criticised for claiming he had driven at 186mph on a public road.

Posted in Community, England, Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Owners of Dangerous Dogs Face £20,000 Fines

dangerous dogPet owners face fines of up to £20,000 if they fail to take steps preventing dog attacks, as new laws come into force from Monday.

Authorities in England and Wales will be able to demand owners be trained, muzzle dogs or insert microchips. It follows changes made earlier this year enabling prosecution for a dog attack on private property.

Animal welfare minister Lord de Mauley said the government was taking “tough action” against negligent owners. Prison sentences for owners of violent dogs were extended earlier this year as part of changes to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and owners now face a maximum of 14 years for a fatal dog attack, five years for an injury and three years for an attack on an assistance dog.

In 2013, 6,740 people required hospital treatment for dog attacks – an increase of 6% from 2012. In total, 8 adults and 13 children have died from dog attacks since 2005 and in October last year, Jade Anderson, 14, was mauled to death by a dog, but the owner could not be prosecuted under the Dangerous Dogs Act because it did not happen in a public place.

But in May, the Act was amended to allow prosecution if the pet attacked someone who was on private property, regardless of the circumstances by which they were there.

Lord de Mauley said, “Dog attacks are devastating for victims and their families which is why we are taking tough action against those who allow them to happen. Police and local authorities will now have more powers to demand that irresponsible dog owners take steps to prevent attacks before they occur.”

Around nine postmen and women are attacked by dogs across the UK every day.

Shaun Davis, Royal Mail director of safety, health, wellbeing and sustainability, said he was “pleased” with the measure.

A manual will be released alongside the new legislation to help guide local and police authorities.

The national policing lead for dangerous dogs, Deputy Chief Constable Gareth Pritchard, said, “The practitioners manual gives police officers and other practitioners clear guidance on how to best implement the legislative changes, especially the early preventative measures such as community protection notices, to help prevent more serious events occurring in the future.

“It also provides a platform to share good practice between police forces and partner agencies and it will form part of the ongoing training of dog legislation officers across England and Wales.”

Posted in Community, England, Enviroment, Parliament | Tagged , , , ,

Conservative EU Referendum Bill Clears First Hurdle

David Cameron EU in outThe Conservatives’ second bid to enshrine an EU referendum into law has cleared its first parliamentary hurdle.

Conservative backbencher Bob Neill’s bill – which provides for an in/out referendum by the end of 2017 – was unopposed at second reading. Mr Neil said the bill was all about giving the British public a choice.

Similar legislation foundered earlier this year in the House of Lords when it ran out of debating time amid Labour and Liberal Democrat opposition.

Although some Labour MPs spoke out against Mr Neil’s referendum bill during Friday’s four-hour debate, no votes were recorded against it as 283 MPs voted in favour. The bill, which is backed by the Conservative Party leadership, would create a legally binding commitment to a referendum.

David Cameron has said he will seek to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership of the European Union if he remains in power after the election, prior to holding a referendum in 2017.

The Prime Minister has argued the UK needs a “better deal” on issues such as immigration, welfare and financial regulation although he is under pressure from Tory MPs to spell out what powers he will seek to claw back and what he will do in the event of not getting the concessions he wants.

Opening the debate, the MP for Bromley and Chislehurst said his bill was “about choice”.

He said, “It’s about giving the British people a choice of something that is fundamental to our constitutional arrangements and fundamental to our future.”

Labour eurosceptic Kate Hoey, who believes her party should back a referendum, said, “I just do not understand how anyone can make a reasoned case for not supporting this bill.”

Supporting the bill, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond drew parallels with the referendum on Scottish independence held last month, saying it was right to give British people a say.

He said, “The European Union had “morphed from a common market into a putative superstate. Ever closer union has led to ever greater disillusion.”

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God Only Knows

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Countdown for Firework Spectacular

Castle bonfire nightDon’t forget to book Saturday November 1 in your diary, when thousands of people are expected to flock to the Castle Grounds for Tamworth’s firework spectacular.

Last year, around 20,000 visitors came along to the free firework display – which was hailed as the biggest and best yet held in Tamworth.

The fun starts in the Castle Grounds at 6pm on Saturday November 1, with a funfair, fire performers and free face painting to entertain the crowds, as well as food stalls, family activities, workshops and a sparkler zone. Entry to the event is free.

The climax of the night will be a stunning 20-minute firework display set to music, starting at 8pm.

Tamworth’s fireworks have become one of the highlights in the town’s calendar, so make sure you don’t miss out this year.

Tamworth Borough Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Robert Pritchard, said, “We are proud to hold yet another FREE fireworks event. This is one of the top events in our annual outdoor programme and I would encourage everyone to come along to enjoy the show. As always, get there early because it is very popular.”

Posted in Borough / County Council, Community, Entertainment, Tamworth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wanted: Your Views on Tamworth’s Night Time Economy

Cllr Oates at Tamworth's Christmas lights switch-on in 2011

Cllr Oates at Tamworth’s Christmas lights switch-on in 2011

Residents are being urged to put forward their views about what Tamworth has to offer in the evenings.

Last month, a group was set up by Tamworth Borough Council’s Aspire and Prosper Scrutiny Committee to look at how many people use the town centre and what for, to identify any issues, which may be affecting the town’s night-time economy and what, could be done to improve what the borough has on offer.

And a short survey has now been released to help gauge the views of residents to help the group identify any patterns of activities people currently take part in, how they get to the town centre and what other facilities they would like to see.

Cllr Tina Clements, chairman of the Aspire & Prosper Scrutiny Committee, said, “Tamworth town centre currently has a lot to offer people, but we want to find out more about what people think of it.  This survey will help us to collect people’s views and get a better understanding of what people want from their town centre in the evening.

“In addition, it will help us identify any issues people may have which will give us a greater understanding of any problems which need attention.”

Cllr Jeremy Oates presented the report to the last scrutiny meeting, stating that
Tamworth should be a first-choice destination for people to visit at night, for meals, cultural events and socialising – and has more to offer at night than pubs and clubs.  This questionnaire is just one of the steps the committee is looking at, and will also be talking to local businesses to get their views.

The new sub-group is made up of Aspire & Prosper Scrutiny Committee chair Cllr Tina Clements, vice-chair Cllr Joy Goodall, Cllr Jeremy Oates, Cllr Tony Madge and Cllr Matthew McDermid.

Click here to complete the short survey

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Apprenticeships Steer People to Rising Employment Opportunities

jobApprenticeships in Staffordshire are steering people to the career of their choice as employment opportunities continue to grow, the county’s skills leader said today.

Speaking after this month’s job seekers allowance claimant figure dropped again, Staffordshire’s Learning and Skills leader Cllr Ben Adams said more businesses were realising the value of apprenticeships for them and the local workforce.

Today’s JSA claimant rate in Staffordshire has decreased again and now stands at 1.2 per cent as the county council and local enterprise partnership continue their drive to ensure the available workforce can meet the needs of businesses. Between August and September the number of JSA claimants in Staffordshire decreased by six per cent. Every district or borough saw a decrease over the same period with the largest drop in Tamworth (9.9 per cent).

Increasing the number of apprenticeships remains a priority for the county. In 2012/13, 9,620 people started an apprenticeship in Staffordshire in compared to 4,570 in 2008/09 – more than double over a five-year period. The county council’s own apprenticeship scheme has taken on over 600 apprentices since it started in 2009, helping them secure their chosen careers across a range of areas.

Staffordshire saw two of its businesses recognised at the recent regional Apprenticeship Awards. Precision sheet metal manufacturer KMF in Newcastle opened its own apprenticeship training centre on site in 2009. It provides apprenticeships, advance apprenticeships and other business qualifications and the company makes four to six full-time appointments every year.

Technology public relations firm Stone Junction is based at the county council-run Stafford Business and Innovation Centre. The company took on its first apprentice in 2013 and is currently recruiting for a further two. Managing director Richard Stone said, “We were one of the first companies in the UK to take up the PRCA’s (Public Relations Consultant’s Association) specialist level four scheme and it has already paid dividends. Stone Junction was Highly Commended in the regional Apprenticeship Awards and it’s a great feeling to have our hard work recognised.”

A new engineering and automotive skills centre in Tamworth opened in September and offers a range of courses and apprenticeship opportunities. The centre is located at a former vocational centre and at South Staffordshire College’s town campus.

Staffordshire County Council invested £1million in the project, which was matched by the local enterprise partnership. The Tamworth centre will form part of an advanced manufacturing and engineering hub delivered across the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire enterprise partnership area.

Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet member for Learning and Skills Cllr Ben Adams said, “We have seen a significant drop in the number of people claiming job seekers allowance in Staffordshire over the last year and the figure is at its lowest for seven years. This is tremendous for the county but we must continue to do all we can to ensure people have the right skills to make the most of these opportunities, working closely with business and education providers. Successful apprenticeships are a key part of this and it is commendable that businesses like KMF and Stone Junction are playing an important role.

“We are seeing the number of apprentices in the county increase all the time. This is good for business, for our workforce and for the economy.”

Any employers interested in taking on an apprentice can contact the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Helpline on 0300 111 8002.

Posted in Borough / County Council, Business, Community, Education, Staffordshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,