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

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Cross Party Support for Fire Safety Procedures in Tamworth

Policies and procedures for fire safety across all blocks of flats owned by Tamworth Borough Council have been successfully scrutinised by members of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

The cross-party committee called a special meeting to look at the issue in depth following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.  While the committee was confident that proper fire safety procedures are in place and up to date, the purpose of scrutiny is to research, support and review commitments to fire safety to ensure it remains a priority going forward.

During the meeting, senior members of the housing team and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service outlined the position of Tamworth Borough Council in respect of fire safety within all council-owned residential properties, including the high-rise flats.

Assurance was provided to the committee around all aspects of fire safety, including the current policies and procedures, ongoing commitments and about the reassurance issued to residents of Tamworth’s six high-rise buildings in the immediate wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.

Answers were also provided to a series of questions posed by members of the committee on issues such as cladding, the frequency of fire checks, smoke alarms, fire doors and sprinklers.

All questions were answered to the satisfaction of the committee members, including confirmation that there is no aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on any buildings within the council’s landlord stock.

In addition, Tamworth Borough Council had already committed to fitting sprinklers throughout the high-rise buildings as part of a planned refurbishment programme and consultations about this work are due to take place over the summer, with installation work to hopefully begin later this year.

Chairman of the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Andrew James, said, “It was a good, positive meeting with a great presentation from leading members of the housing team and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service who offered reassurance that everything that can be done is being done to ensure that Tamworth’s council-owned flats are safe.

“All of our questions were answered to our satisfaction and we are confident in the excellent work being carried out by the housing team.

“This was a great example of scrutiny at its best and of all parties working together to research, support and review commitments to fire safety now and in the future.”

Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Housing, Cllr Michelle Thurgood, said, “The housing team has once again demonstrated their commitment to residents in our high-rise flats by showing the focus on continual improvement and development.

“I welcome the work undertaken by the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee and their conclusions that we are exactly where we need to be.

“We will continue to lead the way on our policy and procedures, including the installation of sprinkler systems in the very near future”

Full minutes of the meeting are available on the Tamworth Borough Council website by following the links for ‘Council’, ‘Council Committees’ and ‘Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee’.

Posted in Andrew James, Borough / County Council, Community, safety, Tamworth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Still Time to Sign up to Staffordshire Fire’s Cadets+ Scheme in Tamworth

There is still time to sign-up to this summer’s Cadets+ Scheme with Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service.

The course, based at Tamworth Community Fire Station, starts on Saturday August 26 but the Service will be accepting applications until the end of the month.

Anyone interested in joining can get a taste of what the programme is all about at the open day in Tamworth on Thursday August 24 from 10am until 1pm.

The course gives people between the ages of 14 and 17 the chance to get an insight into the Service, learn new skills and develop existing talent in preparation for life and work.  The cadets also have the opportunity to achieve their Duke of Edinburgh’s Bronze Award.

Partner and Engagement Co-ordinator, Mark Downes said, “The Cadets+ scheme gives young people the chance to achieve great things, meet new people and improve the skills they will need to succeed in life.

“Anyone is welcome to pop along to the open days to meet the instructors and partners.  We would love to see as many young people as possible at the fire stations to show them what this programme is all about.”

To apply for the Cadets+ Scheme email Firecadets.enquires@staffordshirefire.gov.uk, or call Mark Downes on 01785 898 744 for more information.

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Proposals to Better Protect Holidaymakers Launched by Government

Enhanced regulations will better protect an extra 10 million UK package holidays booked online, under proposals outlined by Consumer Minister Margot James.

The Consultation on the Package Travel Regulations sets out the government’s proposals for the introduction of new consumer rights around package holidays.

Proposals outlined today include:

  • an extension to current protections to cover the millions of UK holidaymakers who buy package holidays online
  • a requirement for better information to be provided to travellers at the point of booking, making it clear what their rights to refund are
  • ensuring the business that puts the package together is responsible for the entire holiday – even if some elements will be fulfilled by third parties

According to the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), changes to how we book travel – such as using online booking sites to build personalised holidays – has created a gap in consumer rights, with 50% of holiday arrangements not currently financially protected if a company ceases trading.

Changes will provide clearer and stronger protections for holidaymakers, ensuring people who book holidays online enjoy the same rights as those who book with a traditional travel agent.

Consumer Minister Margot James said, “While consumer laws protect millions of holidaymakers from the fallout if a travel company goes into administration, the way we book holidays has changed significantly in recent years and it is important that regulations are updated to reflect this.

“On average UK households put aside £100 every month for their holidays.  The proposals outlined in this consultation will ensure that an extra 22% of holidays can be booked online with holidaymakers safe in the knowledge that they will get their hard-earned money back if something does go wrong.”

Government is encouraging travel agents, booking sites, trade associations and consumer groups to respond to the consultation, which runs for 6 weeks.  The European Package Travel Directive comes into force in July 2018.

Click here to respond to the consultation.

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Driving Lessons on Motorways Heading this Way

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced learner drivers will be able to have lessons on motorways in a bid to improve road safety.

The law change will be active from 2018, when learners will be allowed on motorways with an approved driving instructor in a dual control car.  This will provide a broader range of real life experiences and better prepare learners for independent driving when they pass their test.

Currently learners cannot drive on a motorway until after they have passed their test.  This means the first experience of motorway driving for many is as a new driver without the guidance of a driving instructor or the safety of a dual control car.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said, “The UK has some of safest roads in the world and we want to make them even safer.  Younger drivers are up to 7 times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with drivers over twenty-five and lack of experience is an important factor.

“Allowing learners to drive on motorways in a supportive environment will help them develop a practical understanding of how to use motorways safely before driving independently.”

Improving road safety is a priority for this government, and allowing learners on motorways with an approved instructor will better protect young drivers and other motorway users.  It will ensure the current generation of adults about to start their driving career have the best possible introduction to what should be a lifetime of safe driving.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said, “We welcome the news that learner drivers will be allowed to take lessons on the motorway under the supervision of an approved driving instructor in a dual-controlled car, something that motorists we surveyed were overwhelmingly supportive of.

“While motorways are statistically our safest roads, it can be daunting using them for the first time after passing the driving test.  Giving learners the option to gain valuable experience on our fastest and busiest roads should further improve safety and enhance the confidence of new drivers.”

The Department for Transport consulted on these changes earlier this year, receiving wide support from both learner drivers and approved driving instructors.  These changes apply to England, Wales and Scotland only.

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New Mercedes Dealership Set for Tamworth

Tamworth has been chosen as the prime location for a brand new Mercedes-Benz dealership and regional test drive facility in a major multi-million pound investment, which has been described as a huge coup for the area.

LSH Auto UK Limited, the UK subsidiary of the international Lei Shing Hong Group, based in Hong Kong, is in the process of securing a five-acre plot of land south of the A5 bypass in Ventura Park where they will deliver a brand new Mercedes-Benz dealership, with class leading showrooms, workshops, offices and a regional test drive facility – as well as creating up to one hundred jobs for the town.

Tamworth Borough Council has played a key role in securing the investment for Tamworth and facilitating the deal between Lei Shing Hong and owners of the land, Aucotts.  The authority will now be working closely with both parties on the detailed design of the property and the wider development scheme.

Although the land already has outline planning permission for employment-generating development, including a new access off the A5 slip road, a detailed planning application is now being prepared and is expected in the autumn.  The whole site is expected to create an additional 400 jobs.

Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration, Cllr Steve Claymore, said, “This investment is a significant coup for Tamworth and increases what is already a healthy confidence in the town as a perfectly placed investment opportunity.  LSH Auto UK Limited has chosen Tamworth for this facility due to its excellent connectivity and the strength of the existing quality offering in the area.

“This should be just the first phase of development on land south of the A5 bypass, which we hope will attract further inward investment to the town to become a major employment site and cement Tamworth’s position as a perfect place to do business on a global scale.”

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Nuisance Motorbikes in Glascote

Staffordshire Police are continuing to have reports of nuisance motorbikes in the Deltic fields area of Glascote in Tamworth.

Unknown offenders are riding hi powered road legal bikes across the fields onto footpaths which is a danger to the public.

If anyone has information regarding these incidents or details of any bikes or riders please call Staffordshire Police on 101.

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Domestic Violence Protection Orders Protect Victims and Help Reduce Police Demand

Staffordshire Police has said the introduction of orders to protect people from domestic violence has resulted in a significant drop in the number of incidents reported after an order is issued.

According to research conducted in partnership with Staffordshire University on Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs), once an order has been issued the number of reports of domestic violence in a case reduces by up to 75%.

On average, before a DVPO was issued, there were eight domestic-related incidents recorded. After a DVPO was issued, there was an average of just two recorded incidents.

Staffordshire Police have started to use DVPOs from 1 July 2014 and since then they have secured 521 to help us prevent incidents of domestic violence. This could mean over 3000 calls to the control room and then the subsequent officer deployments have been avoided since DVPOs began as the protection has been in place to reassure the victim.

The report said it confirmed there was a direct link between the issuing of a DVPO and a “significant reduction” in the number of calls from those involved after the order was issued. However the report also conceded that a reduction in calls is no guarantee that the abuse has reduced or stopped.

A DVPO can only be granted by a magistrate and then by law requires a perpetrator to not contact the victim or return to the address where the victim resides, even if it is the perpetrator’s home too, for 14-28 days. This can be done with or without the victim’s consent.

However before a DVPO can be issued, a Domestic Violence Protection Notice (DVPN) must be authorised by a Superintendent or higher. A DVPN exists for just 48 hours, but in that time Staffordshire Police can apply to the courts for a DVPO to extend the victim’s protection if the think it is necessary.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Brownsword, Deputy Head of Safeguarding at Staffordshire Police, said: “Domestic abuse is a widespread issue, which affects all communities and transcends age, race, sexuality and social status.

“Domestic related incidents in their majority are not one-off incidents. Instead, they often involve a pattern of abusive and controlling behaviour, through which the abusers assume power over their victim(s).

“It is gratifying to see that DVPOs are helping to make a difference and hopefully reducing incidents of domestic violence as a result. Our first priority is the safeguarding of the victim and family and so we will continue to monitor the effectiveness of our response and offer the best support we can to the victim.”

The report, called ‘Tracking the Outcome of Domestic Violence Protection Orders (DVPOs) in 2014-15’, was produced in partnership with Staffordshire University. We decided to conduct the research as it became clear there was no analysis on the effectiveness of DVPOs.

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