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

New Castle Grounds Community Hub Open to All

tamworth-cicA new community hub offering fun activities for all ages, as well as helpful advice and support in a range of areas, has opened its doors in Tamworth’s Castle Grounds.

The Community Together CIC Hub has set up in the former outdoor swimming baths, known as the Activity Centre, offering a full programme of daily activities available to the whole community, as well as a new café serving healthy food and drink.

Sessions and support on offer include a job club, work experience and volunteering opportunities, IT support club, walking and cycling groups – with up to six free hires of a bicycle if participants do not have their own and want to give it a try.  New mums with pushchairs walking group, healthy cooking sessions, painting and pottery clubs, befriending sessions and a Senior Wednesday club including pick up and drop off, a cooked meal, games and quizzes.  In addition, arts, crafts and games tables are set up for people to drop in and enjoy on a daily basis.

Community Together CIC is a not-for-profit community interest company, which hosts services and events for the Tamworth area based out of various satellite locations across the borough.

The organisation wanted a town centre location to act as central point between the satellite Community Café sessions and was given the opportunity to lease part of the Activity Centre by Tamworth Borough Council.  It now shares the building with the Tame Anker Bowls Club, which has been based there for 20 years.

The project was made possible thanks to funding of £164,090 from the Big Lottery Reaching Communities Fund, which has helped pay for the centre to be refurbished including a new kitchen, new flooring and redecorating throughout.

Tamworth Community Together CIC is made up of seven members of staff plus an army of 54 volunteers who deliver 149 hours of support and activities each week.  This means most sessions are offered free of charge, or at low-cost to cover fees and materials.

This year the Community Together CIC team has been awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service for its tireless efforts in growing the venture from an initial Community Café session designed to bring young and old together, to the large programme of activities and support provided today.

The award will be presented by the Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire Mr Ian Dudson during a special ceremony at the Hub on Thursday September 22, where the facility will also be officially opened.  A variety of invited guests including volunteers, partner organisations and civic dignitaries including the Mayor of Tamworth, Cllr Ken Norchi, will be on hand to show their support for the new venture.

Tamworth Community Together CIC Project Co-ordinator, Lee Bates, said, “Our satellite sessions are usually open one day a week at various locations throughout the town, but the Hub is open full-time Monday to Friday.  This enables us to provide support on a more full-time basis so we can offer a lot more help and activities.

“Many of the sessions we offer are in response to a need from the community, such as the job club and IT support, so if there’s anything anyone has a particular need for then we will see what we can do to help.

“It’s all about bringing people together and I’d invite anyone who’d like to find out more to pop in at any time.”

Cllr Stephen Doyle, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Wellbeing, said, “There is so much on offer to people at the new Hub, whether it’s popping in for lunch or a cuppa, meeting new people through one of the clubs or activities, or seeking practical help and support.  The Community Hub is going to be a real asset to the town and I would encourage everyone to drop in and see how they can get involved.”

Cllr Joy Goodall, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Environment and Culture, added, “The Activity Centre is a great building in a wonderful location and it’s fantastic to see it now being used to its full potential and for the benefit of the whole community.”

The Hub is initially open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, with a late opening on Thursdays until 8pm.

More information is available from the Community Together CIC website, or Facebook page.


Posted in art and culture, Borough / County Council, Community, Education, Entertainment, Health, Tamworth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Meet Your Mercian Ward Councillors Tomorrow

Mercian wards three Borough Councillors. Richard Kingstone, Andrew James and Michael Geatorex

Mercian wards three Borough Councillors.
Richard Kingstone, Andrew James and Michael Geatorex

Tamworth Borough Council’s Mercian ward councillors will be holding their next residents surgery tomorrow, Saturday 10th September.

The monthly surgery will take place at Tamworth Rugby Club in Wigginton Park from 11am until noon.  The meetings are well attended by the three Mercian ward councillors and residents alike.

If you have a concern affecting the North side of Tamworth or just want to meet your elected representatives then why not pop into the rugby club.  Michael Greatorex, Andrew James and Richard Kingstone to support residents with their concerns.

Cllr Greatorex said, “If you live in Mercian ward and have any concerns, questions or comments about the area you would like to raise with your local councillors, please come along and meet us on Saturday.

“If residents cannot make the surgery we can be contacted by telephone, in writing or via email.  Our contact details can be found on the Borough Council website or by calling Tamworth Borough Council on 01827 709709.”

Mercian ward covers Lichfield Road, Riverside, Coton Lane, Coton Green, Leyfields, Comberford Road, Coton Lane Estate, Ludd Lane and Freville Close.

Posted in Andrew James, Borough / County Council, Community, Tamworth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Alzheimer’s Drug Study Gives Tantalising Results

healthy brain - severe Alzheimer'sA drug that destroys the characteristic protein plaques that build up in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s is showing “tantalising” promise, scientists say.

Experts are cautious because the drug, Aducanumab, is still in the early stages of development.  However, a study in Nature has shown it is safe and hinted that it halts memory decline and larger studies are now under way to fully evaluate the drug’s effects.

The build-up of amyloid in the brain has been a treatment target for many years.

This study of 165 patients, was designed to test Aducanumab was safe to take.  After a year of treatment, it also showed the higher the dose the stronger the effect on amyloid plaques.

The researchers then carried out tests on memory and found positive effects.  However, 40 people dropped out of the study, half because of side effects they experienced, such as headaches.  These too were much more common with a higher dosage.

The next phase of research – phase 3 – involves two separate studies.  These are recruiting 2,700 patients with very early stage Alzheimer’s across North America, Europe and Asia in order to fully test the drug’s effect on cognitive decline.

Dr Alfred Sandrock of the biotech company Biogen, which worked with the University of Zurich on the research, said, “Phase 3 really needs to be done and I hope it will confirm what we have seen in this study.  One day I could envisage treating people who have no symptoms because if you have amyloid in the brain it’s likely you’ll develop Alzheimer’s one day.”

However, there have been many disappointments in Alzheimer’s drug development, and it is over a decade since the last drug for people with the condition was licensed.

Other experts have welcomed this latest research, but with caution.

Dr David Reynolds, chief scientific officer at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the results provided “tantalising evidence that a new class of drug to treat the disease may be on the horizon.”

And Dr James Pickett, head of research at the Alzheimer’s Society, added, “What is most compelling is that more amyloid was cleared when people took higher doses of the drug.  No existing treatments for Alzheimer’s directly interfere with the disease process and so a drug that actually slows the progress of the disease by clearing amyloid would be a significant step.”

However, Dr Tara Spires-Jones, of the Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at the University of Edinburgh, said, “I am cautiously optimistic about this treatment, but trying not to get too excited because many drugs make it through this early stage of testing then go on to fail in larger trials.”

And John Hardy, professor of neuroscience at University College London, said, “These new data are tantalising but they are not yet definitive.”

Posted in Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Finance Experts Needed for Independent Panel

PCC logoPeople from Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent are being given the chance to join an independent panel to strengthen public scrutiny of policing.

The Ethics, Transparency and Audit Panel (ETAP) was launched under the “New Dawn of Transparency” agenda by Matthew Ellis, the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Staffordshire, and aims for policing in Staffordshire to be the most open and transparent in the country.

Eight members of the public currently sit on the panel and meet regularly to examine the work of the police.  Recent reviews, available on the PCC’s website, include financial strategy, expenses, the IT strategy, body worn video use and Taser use.  The rigour and scrutiny brought by the ETAP has received national recognition.

ETAP particularly need qualified accountants who have an analytical approach and eye for detail to help with the scrutiny of public finances.  They will take a lead on issues of financial reporting, internal audit and external audit so that they can discharge ETAP’s statutory duties as set down by the PCC and in the terms of reference.

The Panel is looking for people who have a minimum of five years’ management experience as a qualified accountant as well as an ability to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of public accounting and governance requirements.

It is especially important to be able to demonstrate how they would support openness and transparency in the financial affairs of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, (OPCC) and support other ETAP members’ role in ensuring this is maintained.  Those applying for ETAP must be based in Staffordshire.

As well as financial experts, ETAP requires more members of the public to join the panel in a general capacity.  Appointments are made for a minimum of two years with work on ETAP taking up to three days per month.  An attendance allowance is available.

Application forms are available at http://www.staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk/eta from today, 30 August, with a closing date of midday on Monday 19 September.

Interviews for successful candidates will take place at the OPCC Block 9, Weston Road, Stafford on 27 and 29 September.

Mr Ellis said, “Honest and independent scrutiny by the public is crucial as we strive to set the bar higher and create a new dawn of transparency in policing.  This is about being open and transparent so that public confidence across policing and criminal justice is improved.

“This panel has used its wide-ranging and rigorous powers to scrutinise forensics, Taser use, body worn video use as well as how officers tried to support a man who was in mental health crisis to make sure decisions made by the police are correct and in the best interests of the public.  We’re looking for more members of the public with financial expertise to step forward and get involved in this vital work.”

Posted in Community, Staffordshire | Tagged , , , , , ,

UK Remains Number One Investment Destination in Europe

money UKBritain has benefited from record-breaking inward investment by foreign companies, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has announced.

Across the country, 2,213 inward investment projects were secured in 2015 to 2016, an 11% increase on the previous year.  This lead to around 116,000 jobs being created or safeguarded – the second highest number on record.

Almost 1,600 new jobs a week were created by foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2015 to 2016.  UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), now part of the Department for International Trade (DIT), helped to secure 4 out of 5 of the projects that created these jobs.  Since 2010, nearly 390,000 new jobs have been created through foreign direct investment in the UK.

Read DIT inward investment results for the tax year 2015 to 2016.

The department has recorded more foreign direct investment projects than ever before and, according to the EY UK Attractiveness Survey, the UK’s strong performance sees it retain its spot as the number one place in Europe for foreign investment.

Responsible for promoting British trade across the world, DIT helps secure investment from overseas companies for projects in the UK.  The department’s annual FDI figures are based on UK job creation and number of projects secured.

International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox, said, “These impressive results show the UK continues to be the place to do business.  We’ve broadened our reach with emerging markets across the world to cement our position as the number one destination in Europe for investment.

“This continued vote of confidence in the UK will help attract foreign investment to create jobs, security and opportunities for people across the UK.”

Dr Adam Marshall, Acting Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said, “Keeping the UK attractive to overseas investors is important for our future success.  Last year’s up-tick in foreign direct investment is a welcome boost to business, and a good indicator of underlying confidence in the UK economy.

“As Britain approaches a time of economic change, we must continue to welcome investors that are willing to make a sustained, long-term commitment all across the country.”

The USA remained the UK’s largest source of inward investment providing 570 projects.  This was followed by China (including Hong Kong) with 156 and India with 140.

Demonstrating the UK’s attractiveness to an ever-widening pool of global investors, investments originated from a record 79 countries and the UK became the top European destination for projects from emerging markets.  Projects from Latin America rose by 240% and those from Central and Eastern Europe surged by 131%.

The regions and the devolved administrations also played an important role in the UK’s success:

  • the Northern Powerhouse saw a boost to FDI projects by nearly a quarter (24%) in 2015 to 2016
  • 14,797 new jobs were created in the Midlands Engine – a rise of 9% from the year before
  • 5,443 new jobs were created in Wales – an increase of 7% from the previous year – through 97 projects; in total, almost 7,000 jobs were created or safeguarded by FDI
  • Northern Ireland secured 33 projects, which created and safeguarded a total of 3,144 jobs with the number of jobs per project rising to 95, the highest figure in the UK
  • Scotland attracted 108 projects, with 5,905 jobs created or safeguarded

The department records wider types of inward investment projects, including mergers and acquisitions and those that are not publicly announced by foreign investors.

Therefore, the FDI project figures reported are different from those reported by external organisations, such as EY and FT, who track FDI project flows mostly based on investment announcements.

These external organisations report on calendar year, while the department’s statistics are for financial year

Drawing on information from EY’s UK Attractiveness Survey 2016, the Financial Times’ FDI Report 2016 and OECD’s FDI in Figures (2016), the UK ranks first in Europe for FDI projects in total and for FDI projects from high-growth markets.

  • record number of inward investment projects into the UK in 2015 to 2016
  • annual figures also reveal investments generated second highest number of jobs ever
  • UK is the top European destination for investment from emerging markets
Posted in Business, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Better Journeys on the way for Rail Passengers across the West Midlands

trainRail passengers across the West Midlands network are set for better journeys with a host of extra services and benefits under plans announced today by Rail Minister Paul Maynard.

Bidders for the new franchise will be required to deliver hundreds of extra services, new ticketing options and much increased capacity.  The publication of the invitation to tender details the minimum level of improvements bidders hoping to secure the next franchise will need to include in their detailed proposals.

Benefits will include:

  • space for more than 20,000 additional passengers to travel into London and Birmingham in the morning peak though the introduction of longer trains
  • more than 300 extra Sunday services across the franchise by 2021, including 50 new services in each direction between Birmingham and Longbridge and the same between Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield
  • more evening services from Birmingham to Lichfield City, Bromsgrove, Kidderminster, Whitlocks End and Dorridge and later Saturday last services from Birmingham to Wolverhampton, Bromsgrove and Liverpool
  • a new hourly service from Birmingham and Wolverhampton to Crewe via Stafford and Stoke-on-Trent
  • free Wi-Fi on all main line services by the end of 2019
  • new ticket options for part-time travellers which provide better value options for customers who travel fewer than 5 days a week
  • new direct peak time services between Walsall and London

Additionally there will also be a requirement for bidders to provide at least 60 apprenticeships as part of the franchise.

Rail Minister Paul Maynard said, “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since the Victorian era and today marks a key step forward in giving passengers better journeys across the West Midlands and beyond.  This franchise serves both commuters and long distance passengers and these benefits will deliver extra and smoother journeys for customers using these services.”

The current franchise is operated by London Midland and covers a combination of commuting and long-distance services spanning the Midlands, south-east and north-west as well as services to London Euston and Liverpool Lime Street.

West Midlands Rail Ltd (WMR), which has been set up by the 14 Metropolitan, Shire and Unitary authorities from across the wider West Midlands, has worked collaboratively with the Department for Transport (DfT) to design, specify and manage the new franchise.

Councillor Mark Winnington, WMR Chair and Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic Growth, said, “Today’s announcement is a game changer in that it is the first time the West Midlands has had this level of involvement in shaping what a train company has to deliver for local passengers.

“The region has come together to grab this devolution opportunity with both hands and we believe that together with the Department for Transport we have set out a railway that brings real benefits not only for passengers but also for local businesses, supporting economic growth and jobs.

“The authorities of the West Midlands are united in this and believe the region better understands what it needs from its railway and that having greater responsibility for its management is good for passengers, good for the economy and good for taxpayers.”

Bidders are encouraged to include proposals for additional benefits over and above the minimum requirements published today.  It follows an extensive public consultation, which attracted almost 2000 responses.

The short listed bidders for the franchise are:

  • London and West Midlands Railway Limited, a subsidiary of Govia Limited (a joint venture between Keolis and Go-Ahead Group)
  • West Midlands Trains Limited, currently a wholly owned subsidiary of Abellio Transport Group Limited with East Japan Railway Company and Mitsui & Co Limited as minority partners

Bidders for the West Midlands franchise have until 29 November 2016 to submit their bids, with the new operator planned to take over the franchise in October 2017.

Posted in Business, Community, England, Staffordshire | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Work Continuing to Repair One of Britain’s Iconic Road Structures

Spaghetti JunctionHighways England recently lifted full weekend closures of Spaghetti Junction sooner than anticipated, which opened up an opportunity to reduce the overall duration of the ongoing work to replace waterproofing and repair damaged concrete on the road.

By extending the programme for two weeks now, Highways England can fully utilise the existing programme of repairs and avoid further disruption to motorists of between six to eight weeks.

The scheme was originally due to finish on 5 September but will now be completed mid-September.  Two narrow lanes on the out of city road A38(M) will now remain in place until the work is completed.

Highways England Regional Divisional Director in the Midlands, Andrew Butterfield said, “By completing the work now, we can fully repair this section of the carriageway and reduce the duration of work and more importantly the risk of emergency repairs during the colder and wetter winter months.

“Safety is our number one priority and these repairs are vital in helping us to protect this iconic structure for years to come.  We continue to work closely with Birmingham City Council to manage the repair programme and although further work is likely in the future, we are making sure that we fully utilise the existing programme of repairs to minimise disruption.”

Motorists travelling into Birmingham city centre can find out more information about trains, buses and trams online.  Information on the scheme, including a map of diversion routes and closure details, is available on the Highways England website.  Drivers can get live traffic updates from Traffic England or by following @HighwaysWMIDS on Twitter.

The Highways England Customer Contact Centre is also available 24 hours a day on 0300 123 5000.

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