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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Meet the Mercian Ward Councillors on Saturday

Mercian ward surgery October

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Mayor Launches Search for Festive Christmas Card Design

Mayor of Tamworth - Cllr Maureen Gant

Mayor of Tamworth – Cllr Maureen Gant

Primary school aged children in Tamworth are being invited to spread some festive cheer and win the top honour of switching on the town’s Christmas lights with the return of the Mayor’s Christmas card competition.

Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Maureen Gant, is looking for a design that will form the basis of her official Christmas card this year and as such will be sent to hundreds of dignitaries, community groups and individuals across the area.

As well as seeing their design in print, the winning child will also scoop £50 in Hobbycraft vouchers, donated by Community Together, and be invited to launch Tamworth’s festive season by switching on the Christmas lights in front of thousands of people during the celebrations in St Editha’s Square on Sunday, November 22.

Cllr Gant said: “I love Christmas and the excitement of the build up. During my year as Mayor I’d like to wish people a merry Christmas with a more personal and memorable card. Asking the children of Tamworth to design it seems a perfect way of doing this.

“I’m hoping it will also give youngsters the chance to let their creative talents flourish in a fun activity. We are open to all ideas. Entries can be a photograph, a drawing, painting or cartoon. Obviously it needs to be festive and it would be great if it could have a link to Tamworth.”

Competition organisers from The Mayor’s Office and Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts and Events team will be joined on the judging panel by a representative from the Tamworth Herald.

The contest is open to Tamworth children aged 4-11 and all primary schools in the town have been invited to take part. Children can also prepare their entries at home.

Designs must be submitted by Friday, October 23, and can be handed in at Tamworth Tourist Information Centre in Corporation Street and at Tamworth Borough Council’s main offices at Marmion House in Lichfield Street.

Designs need to be no bigger than A4 and must include the child’s name, age, contact details and school on the back. Participants must be available to attend the Christmas lights switch on event in St Editha’s Square from 5pm on November 22. Sponsored by Ankerside Shopping Centre, the festivities will include carols, performances and a special visit from Peppa Pig.

For more information contact the Arts and Events team at taroutdoorevents@tamworth.gov.uk.

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Tamworth’s 2015 Events Showcased in Online Videos

St George's Day - Tamworth Castle Grounds

St George’s Day – Tamworth Castle Grounds

Tamworth’s rich and varied programme of events is now being showcased in a series of videos on the Visit Tamworth website.

The videos show real life action from a selection of the events organised by Tamworth Borough Council and the Destination Tamworth Town Team to highlight the fantastic activities the area has had to offer so far in 2015.

This includes footage from the outdoor community production of Tigress, St George’s Day, Independents’ Day and the recent Tamworth Food Festival and Heritage Open Day.

Deputy Leader of Tamworth Borough Council, Cllr Robert Pritchard, said, “We have a fantastic programme of events in Tamworth and we really wanted to show visitors to the area what we are all about.  The videos capture the spirit of each day and therefore provide a great snapshot of what Tamworth has to offer.

“We are very proud of our events calendar in Tamworth.  Many of them are free and attract tens of thousands of people to the town each year. They are a great boost to tourism and the local economy, and these videos help to show that off.

“If you missed any of the events, why not have a look at the Visit Tamworth website, using the link www.visittamworth.co.uk/videos, to see what they are all about.  If you did attend then why not go online for a reminder of a fun day out, you may even spot yourself enjoying the festivities.”

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Is Your Toddler Using a Tablet Computer?

under 5 using tablet deviceAccording to a study by the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh, in families that own tablet computers, almost a third of children aged under five have their own device.

Researchers say, Children use their computers for more than an hour a day and the study showed YouTube was the most popular destination.

Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield said parents needed to check the appropriateness of what their infant children were using online.

The study revealed the widespread use of tablet computers among toddlers, averaging an hour and 19 minutes on weekdays and slightly longer at weekends.  Most were able to use touchscreens to control the computer and were using them to play games, watch television, films and online videos.

The Economic and Social Research Council funded project examined computer use in 2,000 families with one or more tablet computers – and found that 31% of under-fives had their own device.

Lydia Plowman of the University of Edinburgh said, “It may seem surprising that in homes with a tablet, nearly a third of under-fives have their own device.  But when parents upgrade their tablet, many pass on their older model to their children.  Budget models are also popular gifts.”

The study also involved the collaboration of the BBC’s CBeebies service for young children – and CBeebies was found to be one of the most popular apps for this age group.  Other popular online services and games were Disney, Angry Birds, Minecraft and Candy Crush.

A previous Ofcom study, published earlier this year, had shown that tablet computers were particularly popular with families with children, and among the 5 to 15-year-old age group, 71% of children had access to a tablet device at home.

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David Cameron to Promise 200,000 New Starter Homes in England

David Cameron 02David Cameron is to announce plans for 200,000 new “affordable” homes to buy in his closing speech to the Conservative conference today.

Builders in England will no longer be forced to offer low-cost rented homes in new developments.  Instead, they will be able to offer “starter homes” for first-time buyers under 40 as well, at discounted prices.

The Prime Minister will tell Conservative activists he wants to transform “generation rent” into “generation buy”.  Those who buy the new “starter homes” will be prevented from selling them for a quick profit under the new policy, which aides say will provide 200,000 new homes by 2020.

“When a generation of hard-working men and women in their 20s and 30s are waking up each morning in their childhood bedrooms – that should be a wake-up call for us,”

Mr Cameron will tell Conservative members in Manchester, “When a generation of hard-working men and women in their 20s and 30s are waking up each morning in their childhood bedrooms – that should be a wake-up call for us.  For years, politicians have talked about building ‘affordable homes’ – but the phrase was deceptive.  It basically means homes that were only available to rent.  What people want are homes that they can actually own.”

He will claim local authority planning rules demanding certain kinds of “affordable housing” hinder house building and he will promise to introduce more flexibility into the system.

Mr Cameron will also use his first conference speech since his Party’s victory in May’s General Election to set out the kind of country he wants to leave behind when he stands down as Conservative leader, after 10 years in Downing Street, suggesting he will carry on in office until as close to the 2020 election as possible.

He wants this to be a “defining decade for our country, the turnaround decade, one which people will look back on and say, ‘that’s the time when the tide turned, when people no longer felt the current going against them, but working with them’.”

After focusing on the economy for the first five years of his premiership, the Prime Minister will say, “over the next five years we will show that the deep problems in our society – they are not inevitable.”

He will talk about the social changes he wants to see – increasing social mobility, tackling extremism, reducing poverty and reforming Britain’s overcrowded prisons.  The Conservatives have used their week in Manchester to stress they stand for “security, stability and opportunity”.

The “starter home” scheme was first announced during the general election campaign and will see a discount offered on homes up to £250,000 outside London and £450,000 inside London.  Buyers are prevented from selling them on for up to five years.


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Education Secretary Says English Schools Must Offer Working-Day Childcare

Nicky Morgan MP - Education Secretary

Nicky Morgan MP – Education Secretary

Parents in England are to be given the right to request schools provide childcare for the full working day during term time and in the holidays.

said schools must take “reasonable steps” to ensure this is provided. Ms Morgan said her party must champion the interests of children and parents.

Speaking at the Conservative party conference, Ms Morgan said, “We’re going to give more working parents something the best schools already do. We will be giving families in thousands of schools a ‘right to request’ their school provides childcare for a full working day, before and after school and during the school holidays.

“If enough parents call for childcare at their local school, we will expect the school to take reasonable steps to accommodate it, in a way that works for them. Because we want working parents to have the confidence their child is in a happy and safe environment.”

Ms Morgan also used her speech to tell the conference that the Tories had “raised the bar on standards in schools with a rigour revolution”, for example by ending grade inflation and introducing a “tough new national curriculum”.

She said politicians and bureaucrats had been taken out of the classrooms, with 3,000 head teachers in good and outstanding schools trusted with the freedom to run those schools. A thousand failing schools had been transformed under the leadership of strong sponsors, she said, and more than 300 free schools had been set up by parents, teachers and community groups.

Ms Morgan also told the party-faithful the Conservatives had speeded up the adoption process to help young people find a loving home and provided “joined-up support” for children with special educational needs and their parents.

Ms Morgan told delegates that what united every Conservative was a belief in meritocracy.

She said, “That commitment to meritocracy means nothing if we don’t give every child the chance to succeed.”

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Working Grandparents to Share Parental Leave and Pay

grandparentsWorking grandparents will be allowed to take time off and share parental leave pay to help care for their grandchildren, the government has said.

The plan would extend the current system, which allows parents to share leave and statutory parental pay.

It was announced by Chancellor George Osborne as the Conservative conference began in Manchester.  Mr Osborne’s plan involves extending the current system of shared parental leave, which allows a total of 52 weeks off, to cover grandparents as well as a child’s mother and father.

Families will also be allowed to split statutory shared parental pay, which is £139.58 a week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

The Conservatives say the policy will particularly benefit single mothers who, without a partner to share leave with, will now be able to do so with one of their child’s grandparents.

Mr Osborne also hopes the option will allow parents to return to work more quickly if they want to.  He said more than half of mothers rely on grandparents for childcare when they first return to work after having a baby.

He said, “Research shows two million grandparents have either given up a job, reduced their hours or taken time off work to look after their grandchildren.

“Allowing them instead to share leave with their children will keep thousands more in the workplace, which is good for our economy.”

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