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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Spectre – James Bond’s New Movie Teaser Trailer

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Tamworth Leads the Way in Flying the Flag for St George

St George's Day - Tamworth Castle Grounds

St George’s Day – Tamworth Castle Grounds

Tamworth is continuing to lead the way when it comes to flying the flag of St George and celebrating England’s patron saint in style.

There has been much talk on a national level in recent years about the growing significance of St George’s Day and how the event has been overlooked for too long.  Tamworth, however, has been leading the way for almost a decade with its spectacular annual celebration, complete with medieval knights, jousts, archery, dragons and much more.

The ever-popular event now attracts thousands of visitors to the town, from both near and far.  News of its success has also been spreading to other parts of the country, especially since it was held up in Parliament last March as a shining example of how to celebrate England’s patron saint.

At the time, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP said, “The Tamworth St George’s Day festival is renowned throughout the country, if the not the world, and I hope that many councils across the country will be looking at how Tamworth uses St George’s Day to highlight its incredible heritage assets.”

With plans for this year’s free extravaganza on April 25th in full swing, Deputy Leader of the council, Cllr Robert Pritchard, is also urging other councils to follow suit by waving the flag of St George.

Cllr Pritchard said, “Tamworth is extremely proud to celebrate St George’s Day and our event is a family fun day everyone can enjoy.  The day features jousting, medieval camps, reenactors, children’s activities and, this year, the promotion of our local military’s four-legged mascot

“The event is also a great boost to the local economy as it helps bring customers into the local shops and restaurants.  I would encourage every council to do this because it is a great service for local residents and a huge boost for local businesses.”

Plans for this St George’s Day spectacular in the castle and Castle Grounds again include a whole host of medieval-themed fun activities and displays for the whole family to enjoy.  These include the grand joust, plays, a historical encampment, workshops, demonstrations and the return of a breathtaking five-metre long animatronic dragon.

The Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Richard Kingstone, is also running his own separate initiative in the build up to the big day to enable schools to proudly fly the St George and Union Jack flags.  During the past few weeks, he has delivered flags and poles to several schools and eventually wants each school in the borough to receive its own flagpole and flags and many have been paid for by local groups and businesses.

Cllr Kingstone said, “We need to be proud of our heritage and not be afraid to celebrate who we are.  It is vital our young people learn about English and British values within our education system and by donating flags and poles to all our schools, this project will hopefully contribute to just that.”

In 2013, UK think tank British Futures found the majority of Brits wanted to celebrate St George’s Day on a bigger scale but were waiting for someone to take the lead.  Last year, Prime Minister David Cameron said the patron saint’s day had been overlooked for too long and that the country should be celebrating what it means to be English.

Tamworth has been marking St George’s Day with its huge family festivities since 2008.

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Are You One of Staffordshire’s Top Artists?

Shire Hall Stafford

Shire Hall Stafford

Artists looking to see their works of art on a countywide stage are being encouraged to submit their artwork to the 2015 Staffordshire Open Art Exhibition.

The exhibition is now in its 25th year and helps to showcase the wealth of creative talent within the county by giving local artists the chance to display their work to a wider audience.

The competition is open to artists of all ages who were born in Staffordshire or who live, work or study in the county, with selected exhibits being displayed in the Shire Hall Gallery in Stafford.

Cllr Ben Adams, Cabinet Member for Learning and Skills, at Staffordshire County Council said, “We are very proud of this annual showcase of the wealth of creative talent we have here in Staffordshire.  The exhibition is always very popular with both new and established local artists and provides an ideal platform for them to show off their work to many more people.

“Staffordshire is a talented and creative county and we always look forward to receiving a fabulous range of paintings, drawings, sculptures and much more.  I would encourage all of our young artists as well as our more well known ones to have a go and enter their work in the competition.”

Artists should submit their entries to the Shire Hall Gallery on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 April. Submissions can include paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture, 3D mixed media and film & animation.  All works must be original and produced within the last three years.

The exhibition opens to the public on Saturday 16 May and will run until Sunday 5 July 2015. Entry forms are available at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/openart, from the Shire Hall Gallery or from a local Staffordshire library.

This year’s main prize of £1,000 is being sponsored by SCHOTT UK Limited.  Other sponsors include The Barnett Ratcliffe Partnership and The Paper House, Stafford.

Stafford Railway Building Society will once again be supporting the Under 16’s exhibition with three prizes of £50 to encourage all budding artists to have their work displayed in Stafford library.

For further information contact Gallery reception on 01785 278345.

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Time to Put the Record Straight Over Sir Robert Peel Hospital

Sir Robert Peel hospital

Sir Robert Peel hospital

I want to put the record straight over the Sir Robert Peel hospital and certain claims made in the local media.

Last Thursday Les Lawrence, Chairman of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, met Tamworth Borough Council’s Healthier and Safer scrutiny committee. He said that talks between HEFT and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust over future usage of Sir Robert Peel’s surgical theatre are continuing.

The meeting, which was held in public, was also told talks are ongoing for HEFT to take over 6 beds in the surgical ward. HEFT are also looking to use a ward at SRP for the recuperation of patients from their 3 hospitals Good Hope, Heartlands and Solihull hospital.

Mr Lawrence also said talks between the 2 Trusts over HEFT making use of the endoscopy unit. This paints a picture of a bright future for our hospital.

It goes without saying that the hospital isn’t closing; some individuals are pushing this message for their own political gain. I want to stamp out this politically motivated rumour.

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Tamworth Residents Urged to Taste Something New Before it’s Too Late

I am TamworthThere’s still time to try something new as part of a jam-packed programme of free arts taster sessions being held in community venues across Tamworth.

The 12-week initiative comes to an end on Saturday, April 4th and adults and children are being urged not to miss out on the opportunity to try a new hobby or skill free of charge.  Hundreds of people have already participated in a range of activities, including drama workshops, tap dancing, creative writing, street dance, painting, dressmaking, guitar playing, singing and crafts.

The aim is that the free sessions inspire people to take up a fun, new pastime in the long-term.  Many have already enquired about the availability of permanent classes, or set up their own groups as a result of attending a taster session.

And it’s not too late to get involved.  There are various classes and workshops running during the remaining few weeks to give people a taste of something new.  These include creative writing sessions, musical mash-ups, arts and crafts, performance mentoring, tap dancing, guitar lessons, drama, dressmaking and Latin dance.

Cllr Steve Claymore, Cabinet Member for Economy and Education, said, “The aim is to give people the opportunity to try something they’ve never done before, completely free of charge, and I would urge residents not to miss out on this fantastic opportunity.

“Even if you take your children to just one activity, or try one yourself, that hour spent could take you in a whole new direction.”

All the sessions are completely free of charge, and people can join in with as many as they like.  No experience is necessary, as the idea is to give Tamworth residents the chance to try something they may not have considered otherwise.

The sessions have also been effective in bringing more people through the doors at participating community venues such as St Francis’ Church in Leyfields, Tamworth Rugby Club, Tamworth Library, Amington One Stop Centre, Wilnecote Library, Tamworth Community Fire Station, St Martin’s Church in Stonydelph, Glascote Library and Tamworth Assembly Rooms.

Lee Bates, project co-ordinator of Community Together CIC, said, “Overall the sessions have been well received and we have definitely seen an uptake in attendance at each of our venues as a result of the taster sessions.”

The programme is part of the ambitious 12-month I Am Tamworth project, which is bringing a festival of dance, drama, visual art, music and writing to the borough.

Full details of all the taster sessions, including times and venues, are available by visiting the I Am Tamworth website, where the full brochure can be downloaded.

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Scheme to Support Vulnerable People in Tamworth to be Extended

TBCA pilot project, which provides housing support to Tamworth residents being discharged from hospital, is to be extended.

The Hospital To Home scheme has been running as a pilot project since last April.  It aims to prevent people having to stay in hospital longer than necessary because of housing issues, and supports them after discharge to allow them to live in their own homes.

The project is due to end this month, but will now be widened to provide more support to vulnerable households.

At Thursday’s Cabinet meeting, members agreed to is £30,000 Homelessness Prevention funding and £15,000 from the Housing Revenue Account to extend the project for a further year.

The decision to extend the project comes in the wake of the withdrawal of Supporting People funding by Staffordshire County Council last year, which has resulted in a reduction in important services to support households with complex needs.

The project will now be developed as a comprehensive crisis intervention and support service for people with complex needs, including homelessness, mental health issues, physical illness, social isolation, learning disabilities and substance misuse.  It is hoped that by working closely with residents with complex needs to provide help and support, they will be able to maintain an independent and healthy lifestyle, reduce the risk of homelessness and improve health across the borough.

Tamworth Borough Council is now asking suitable organisations to tender to run the service.

Cllr Michelle Thurgood, Cabinet Member for Housing & Waste Management, said, “It is vital that we protect the most vulnerable members of society and the extension of this project is an essential step in helping us to do that.”

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Health and Wellbeing Projects across Tamworth get £500,000 Funding

healthy cookingHealthy cooking on a budget, a mentoring scheme to help people get back into work and support for people with dementia and their families are just some of the projects, which have been awarded more than £500,000.

In December last year, the Tamworth Strategic Partnership announced that it had a pot of £550,000 available to fund projects to improve health and wellbeing in Tamworth – and asked groups to apply for funding.

The Tamworth Strategic Partnership is made up of Tamworth Borough Council, Staffordshire County Council, South East Staffordshire & Seisdon Peninsula Clinical Commissioning Group and Staffordshire Police, through the Police & Crime Commissioner’s Locality Fund.

Each of the four partners made funding available for projects to improve wellbeing in Tamworth over the next two years and invited applications for projects to create stronger communities, reduce social isolation, raise aspiration, improve health and help vulnerable groups.

The funding was available to private, public and voluntary sector groups and to those based outside the boundary of Tamworth – although projects needed to be delivered in Tamworth and for the benefit of Tamworth people to be eligible.

A total of 47 bids were received, all of which underwent careful evaluation to ensure they met the criteria for funding.

The successful projects are:

  •  Cooking Healthy With a Budget (Communities Together CIC) – a six-week course including healthy cooking demonstrations to groups across Tamworth
  • Wellies Grow It Cook It Eat It (Staffordshire Care Farming) – two eight-week programmes giving participants the skills to grow and cook their own food
  • Active Tamworth (Tamworth Borough Council) – four projects providing physical exercise at the Cornerpost Gym, free guided walks, sports for children & young people, community health champions
  • Physical Activity App (YOMP) – An app to encourage up to 4,000 Tamworth residents to sign up and get healthy
  • Bereavement service (CRUSE) – Bereavement support and counselling through one-to-one sessions, telephone sessions and group sessions
  • Volunteering For All (Support Staffordshire and Tamworth CVS) – Supported volunteering services for people who face barriers and challenges to enable them to take part in volunteering
  • Wellies 4 Work (Staffordshire Care Farming) – two eight-week programmes helping people to get back into work, including one-to-one mentoring sessions
  • Positive Steps For Change (Communities Together CIC) –Helping 160 people to make positive changes to their lives, including health, social and work life through the creation of a tailored action plan
  • Safe and Well (Brighter Futures) – Support for people with complex needs living in Tamworth
  • Dementia Support Service (Alzheimer’s Society) – one-to-one support for people with dementia, their family and carers
  • Home Visit Project (Home-Start) –Home visit support for families with issues including post-natal depression, isolation, disability etc

The contracts will begin on April 1 and will run for a year, with the option to extend for a further year.

Cllr Stephen Doyle, Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, said, “The Tamworth Strategic Partnership, working in this way, allows the four public sector organisations to bring together their funding and target it in a way which best benefits the people of Tamworth. By working closely with organisations across Tamworth, we have a much better understanding of what facilities and services our residents need.

“Commissioning these services will help us to achieve our priorities while ensuring support reaches those who need it. “

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