Welcome to my blog!

I am one of the three Tamworth Borough Councillors for the Mercian Ward, first 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

Posted in Andrew James

Trade in So-Called Legal Highs Illegal from Today

trade in so-called legal highs illegalUnscrupulous dealers in psychoactive substances face up to 7 years in prison as the trade becomes illegal today.

The blanket ban on the sale, supply, importation and exportation of the dangerous drugs will apply across the UK whenever they are intended for human consumption.

Police will have new powers to shut down ‘headshops’ and UK-based online dealers, helping to protect potential users from harm and communities from anti-social behaviour.

Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime Karen Bradley said, “Too many lives have been lost or ruined by the dangerous drugs formerly referred to as ‘legal highs’. That is why we have taken action to stamp out this brazen trade.

“The Psychoactive Substances Act sends a clear message – these drugs are not legal, they are not safe and we will not allow them to be sold in this country. Those involved in the supply, production, possession with intent to supply and importation or exportation of a psychoactive substance now face a prison sentence of up to 7 years.”

Police will also be able to deploy new civil sanctions including prohibition and premise notices to allow them to shut down ‘headshops’ and UK-based online dealers, with up to 2 years in prison for those who fail to comply.

Our jails will also be safer with penalties of up to 2 years in prison for possessing a psychoactive substance in a custodial institution.

A world-leading testing programme to determine whether a substance is capable of having a psychoactive effect will help provide evidence to support enforcement action.

Legislation alone is not the silver bullet, and alongside the Psychoactive Substances Act, we continue to take action across education, prevention, treatment and recovery in order to reduce harmful drug use. This includes:

  • providing tools and information for those in the education sector to engage with young people to tackle the use of psychoactive substances
  • working with local areas to help them prevent and respond to the use of psychoactive substances
  • highlighting the risk of these substances to around 50 music festivals
  • publishing clinical guidelines to aid in the detection, assessment and management of users
Posted in Business, Community, Health, Parliament, UK | Tagged , , , ,

Nearly 600 Miles of Roadworks Removed for Late May Getaway

road repairsParents may not be able to rely on the British weather for bank holiday fun, but Highways England hopes it can help make the break better for all drivers as it lifts roadworks from Friday.

Highways England aims to complete or lift 188 sets of roadworks from Friday 27 May, leaving 97.4% of its 9,534 mile network free of roadworks in time for the holidays.  A map showing the locations of lifted and completed schemes is available to view.

The government is investing £15 billion to deliver the biggest upgrade to motorways and major A-roads in a generation.  Building new roads and creating smart motorways that keep traffic moving even in the busiest periods will cut congestion.

Highways England is delivering the upgrade and taking action now to reduce delays over this bank holiday break.

Key schemes, which are being completed, include 2.5 miles of repairs at junction 15 near Heathrow and six miles of work on the M6 southbound near Penkridge between junctions 13 and 12.

In addition, work on the M23 between junctions 9 and 11 near Gatwick is being stopped for the break.

Roads Minister Andrew Jones said, “We are delivering the biggest improvement to roads since the 1970s to improve journeys for drivers in the busiest periods and to create new capacity.  We do not want work to stand in the way of families during their bank holiday getaway, so I am pleased roadworks are being removed at so many locations.”

Highways England Director of Operations, Mike Wilson, said, “This May bank holiday, we’re helping drivers with their journeys by clearing roadworks across the majority of motorways and major A-roads in England.  As a parent, I know all too well how challenging a long journey with young children especially can be, so we’re keen to do what we can do to help families enjoy the late spring break.

“We’ve worked closely with other transport providers to ensure our network can cope with increased demand.  Of course, we still advise drivers to plan their journeys, check the latest traffic and travel updates, and the weather forecast, before setting out.”

People travelling with caravans and trailers are also urged to check their vehicles before they take to the roads for the first time this year – especially their tyres, to ensure they are not worn or damaged – to help avoid a potential breakdown or incident and help keep traffic flowing.

Highways England will complete 405 miles of roadworks at 136 locations before the bank holiday.  A further 52 sets of roadworks and lane restrictions will be removed across 184 miles of carriageway by 6am on Friday 27 May, until just after midnight on Tuesday 31 May.

By suspending or completing roadworks, more lanes will be open and many of the associated speed restrictions will be lifted.

For the safety of drivers and their passengers, lane restrictions or temporary speed limits will need to remain at 56 locations.

During the holidays, people may travel further and on unfamiliar roads.  For advice about driving on smart motorways, visit the smart motorways guidance page.  Drivers planning to use the Dartford Crossing are reminded to pay Dart Charge in advance or by midnight the day after crossing.

Drivers can get the latest travel information from Traffic England.

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

Illicit Tobacco Seized in Tamworth during Four-Day Operation Across Staffordshire

seized illicit tobaccoIllicit tobacco has been seized from premises in Tamworth as part of a national operation.

The operation, which was funded by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and supported by the Department of Health, saw 20 premises targeted in Tamworth, Rugeley, Burton and Newcastle.  These included shops, pubs and private addresses.

In total, 118,080 illicit and counterfeit cigarettes were seized, in addition to 31.75kg illicit hand rolling tobacco.  The intelligence-led operation tackled illicit tobacco supplies in nine regions of England, over six months, using specialist tobacco detection dogs.

Staffordshire County Council’s trading standards leader Gill Heath said, “This has been a highly successful, centrally funded operation, to reduce the amount of illicit tobacco in Staffordshire.

“We’d again like to remind people of the dangers it presents.  Aside from the content being unregulated, cigarettes fail to extinguish themselves when left to burn, presenting a real danger to people.  Illicit tobacco products are sold at cheap prices and won’t contain English and pictorial health warnings, which really undermines smoking cessation initiatives.

“While all tobacco is harmful, the illegal tobacco market and in particular the availability of cheap cigarettes make it harder for smokers to quit and remain smoke free.  We’d urge anyone with information about illicit tobacco sales to call our Fight the Fakes hotline on 01785 330356.”

Leon Livermore, CTSI chief executive, said, “The illegal tobacco trade costs taxpayers about £2 billion per year in lost revenue and is known to fund organised crime networks and criminal gang activity.

“Meanwhile, about 80,000 people die from smoking related diseases each year, in England alone, costing the overstretched NHS an estimated £2 billion.  Together we are winning the battle and figures show that the market share of illicit cigarettes has dropped from 21 per cent to 9 per cent in the last decade.

“Intelligence-led investigations like this keep illegal cigarettes and tobacco off the market and away from children and young people.”

Richard Las, deputy director of fraud and investigation service at HMRC, said, “HMRC works closely with other enforcement agencies to crack down on illicit tobacco in the UK.

“Seizing illicit product is only one of the tools used; the focus is on using a range of interventions, from penalties to prosecutions, to encourage compliance and maximise deterrent.  Partnership working with trading standards is vital in order to share intelligence and collaborate on joint exercises such as Operation Henry to target those areas with the highest levels of illicit tobacco activity.”

Launched last year and supported by the Department of Health, Operation Henry was the first large-scale coordinated trading standards investigation of its kind to tackle the supply of illegal tobacco.

It resulted in the seizure of more than 2.5 million cigarettes worth £614,488 with concealed tobacco products found in walls, under floorboards and inside furniture.

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

Alan Sugar Appointed Government’s Enterprise Tsar

lord Alan SugarLord Sugar has been appointed Enterprise Tsar as part of the government’s drive to get more young people to consider starting their own business or undertaking an apprenticeship.

As well as championing enterprise and apprenticeships among young people, he will encourage businesses to take on apprentices themselves.

Lord Sugar is one of the best known names in British business, and having built up two successful computer firms, Amstrad and Viglen, after leaving school at 16, he is ideally placed to champion the cause of both entrepreneurship and apprenticeships.

He will be undertaking a series of roadshow events across England, speaking to local school leavers and businesses.  He will be provided with support by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education.

Lord Sugar said, “I’m delighted to be taking on this challenge.  I built successful businesses with the support of hundreds of talented young people who learned their skills on the job, exactly the kinds of skills you learn in an apprenticeship.  But not enough of our young people know about apprenticeships and what they offer, and too few feel empowered to set up their own business.

“I’ll be travelling the length and breadth of this country to tell young people why apprenticeships are a great way for them to build their skills – and talking about the opportunities for starting their own business, hopefully instilling some entrepreneurial spirit.”

Skills Minister Nick Boles said, “We want every young person in Britain to get on and build a great life for themselves, whether it’s by starting an apprenticeship or setting up their own business.  Lord Sugar has huge credibility among young people and I am delighted that he has agreed to help the government bang the drum for apprenticeships and enterprise.”

Lord Sugar’s role will contribute to the government’s drive to deliver three million apprenticeship starts in England by 2020.

In last year’s summer budget, the government announced the introduction of the apprenticeship levy to increase the quality and quantity of apprenticeships in England.  An employer-led Institute for Apprenticeships will begin work next year and will have a mandate to regulate the quality of apprenticeships.

Lord Sugar, who quit the Labour Party last year, held a similar role under the last Labour Government.

Posted in Business, Parliament, Political, UK | Tagged , , , , ,

Early Completion for Roadworks on M6 Junction 5 Slip Road near Birmingham

roadworks M6 junction 5 slip roadImportant maintenance work to safeguard the M6 slip roads near Castle Bromwich in Birmingham is set to be completed this weekend – a month ahead of schedule.

Highways England has been carrying out vital structural maintenance work, including concrete repairs to the structure over the M6 junction 5 southbound entry slip road, to ensure the carriageway remains safe for road users.

It was expected that the southbound entry slip road at junction 5 would have to remain closed to motorists 24/7 until the end of June.  But contractors have worked hard to complete the work one month early – and in time for the half-term break.

All Highways England cones, signs and diversions will be removed by Friday night (27 May), leaving it fully open for drivers to access the M6 southbound from Castle Bromwich.

Highways England project manager Jess Kenny said, “We would like to thank drivers for their patience over the past few months while we have been carrying out this vital improvement work.

“We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to complete this work earlier than anticipated, and we hope that it brings smoother journeys for drivers, particularly during the half-term break.

“Over the next few months, we will need to carry out a couple of additional closures of the slip road to monitor performance, but this will be done overnight to ensure minimal impact on drivers.”

Posted in Community, England | Tagged , ,

Snooker Legend Steve Davis to DJ at Glastonbury Festival

Steve Davies djSnooker legend Steve Davis is to play a DJ set at this year’s Glastonbury.

Davis, who also presents a show on a radio station in Essex, will perform in the Stonebridge Bar.

He said, “There’s novelty value of some boring snooker player suddenly playing electronic music.  I’ve got my wellies ready and we’re going to go down there and bring our records.”

In the 1980s, Steve Davis won the World Championship six times and was ranked world number one for seven consecutive seasons.

It has not yet been confirmed which day of the festival Davis will appear on.

Asked about the genre of music he will be playing, Davis said, “It’s not necessarily techno.  We’re playing some stuff that’s electronic and some that will appeal that people who are into IDM [intelligent dance music].”

“Stuff that’s a bit more complicated and a little bit more leftfield than ‘doof, doof, doof’.”

“It’s more about trying to introduce some artists that you may not know exist, who are in a like-minded vein.  On the radio show, we get a good soundboard for what might go down well.

“Obviously, when you’ve got to have your foot tapping, you’re limited to what you can play.  You can’t put any stroky beard stuff out there.”

Davis started playing dance music on his local commercial radio station, but has since moved on to festivals and gigs.

He added, “It’s quite strange.  I’ve been doing a radio show in Brentwood, and I’ve joined forces with a musician, Kavus Torabi, who’s been in a few bands over the years.  We’ve got quite a mini following online, it’s a little bit culty.”

This year’s Glastonbury festival begins on 22 June on Worthy Farm, Somerset.

Posted in England, Entertainment, Sport | Tagged , , ,