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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Birmingham City Fan Jailed for Pitch Attack

A Birmingham City fan has been jailed for 14 weeks for attacking Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish during the second city derby.

Paul Mitchell, of Rubery, Worcestershire, ran on to the pitch and hit Grealish from behind about 10 minutes into Sunday’s game.

Mitchell, 27, admitted assault and encroachment on to the pitch at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court earlier.

His solicitor, Vaughn Whistance, said, “He cannot explain what came over him yesterday morning.  His initial foolish intention was to just go on to the pitch and whip up the crowd.”

Mitchell, of Cock Hill Lane, was also ordered to pay £350 in fines and costs and has been banned from attending any football matches in the UK for 10 years.  The £350 includes £100 in compensation for Grealish’s “pain, discomfort and shock.”

The Villa midfielder was able to continue with the game at St Andrew’s and went on to score the winning goal in the 67th minute.

Mitchell, a pub worker, claimed he was not drunk when he invaded the pitch and punched Grealish in the jaw.

Jack Grealish said, “I cannot help but feel how lucky I was in this incident.  It could have been so much worse had the supporter had some sort of weapon.”

Birmingham City apologised to both Grealish and Villa immediately after the game and said Mitchell had been banned from St Andrew’s for life.  He has also been banned from away games.  The club said there were “no excuses” for his behaviour, which “has no place in football.”

West Midlands Police said it was also investigating “offensive social media posts” that appeared after the goal referencing Grealish’s younger brother, who died when the midfielder was four.

Birmingham City said it had banned another supporter for life over the “vile and malicious” tweets.

Read the Full Article

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Working Together to Tackle Knife Crime

Staffordshire Police is calling on partners, parents, schools and the wider community to come together in support of a national operation to tackle the issue of knife crime.

This week (11-17 March), under Operation Sceptre, the force will be rolling out a wide variety of enforcement and educational activities, with the support of partners, to help reduce the impact of knife crime in the communities of Staffordshire.

Superintendent Ricky Fields, strategic lead for knife crime at Staffordshire Police, said, “Staffordshire Police continues to see increases in recorded crime involving the possession or use of knives alongside increases in overall violent crime.  Knife crime is, unfortunately, a visible part of communities in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent and not an issue we can tackle on our own.

“We are doing lots to tackle knife crime and we are actively pursuing those who intend to cause harm within Staffordshire’s communities.  We will do all we can to bring offenders to justice, however, enforcement is just one element of the response needed.  Knife crime cannot and must not be treated in isolation.

“The threat of knife crime increases when considered with street gangs or drugs activity.  Our approach is not to criminalise young people but to safeguard them and protect them.  With partners, parents and schools we need to understand why young people choose to carry knives, because we have seen a marked increase in recent years in Staffordshire.”

Staffordshire Police’s neighbourhood policing teams will be visiting schools and colleges to educate young people on the dangers and consequences of carrying knives, setting up proactive knife operations in busy town centres to detect and deter habitual knife carriers, and organising knife sweeps in knife crime hotspots to discover any knives concealed in public areas.  The force will also be continuing in its efforts to deter offenders through the use of stop and search.

To complement this activity, a targeted social media campaign aimed at those most likely to commit offences with a knife will be rolled out.  This hard-hitting campaign will shine a light on the stark realities of knife crime and youth violence.

Supt Fields added, “We must encourage young people, parents, schools and other public bodies to have conversations about knife crime.  This week of targeted activity will hopefully help to raise the profile of this important topic and help us to prevent the terrible events that have been seen recently in other areas of the country.”

Staffordshire’s Commissioner Matthew Ellis, said, “We have seen in recent months the sickening violence involving knives in some parts of our country.  Police in Staffordshire have seen an increase in recorded crime involving the possession or the use of knives, although some of this can be attributed to an increase in stop/search and a more proactive approach to tackling violence.  The tragedies we have seen elsewhere relating to knives are a timely reminder that this could happen here unless urgent and proactive action is taken.

“The knife crime summit we held in July 2018 has resulted in positive and proactive work with young people to educate and prevent the risk of involvement in this behaviour.  I have this week written to strategic leaders from all key agencies to invite them to come together to develop and refresh strategies and actions that need to be taken.  Policing must play a significant role in this issue but other public agencies also play a vital role in dealing with the scourge of knives and knife crime.”

Knife crime has increased in Staffordshire by 5% (32 crimes) over the past rolling 12 months (1 March 2018 – 28 February 2019) with personal robbery where a knife is used having increased by 20%.  The top three neighbourhood policing teams in Staffordshire for knife crime are Stoke-on-Trent North, Stoke-on-Trent South and Tamworth.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council was recently awarded £226,000 following a bid to the national Supporting Families Against Youth Crime Fund.  The money will be used to provide extra training and support to help children who might be vulnerable to criminal exploitation and their families.  The council’s youth offending service is also working with schools and the charity Street Doctors to deliver targeted sessions to children who might be at risk of carrying knives and offensive weapons.

Cllr Randy Conteh, Cabinet Member for Housing, communities and safer city, said, “Knife crime has no place in our city and communities and we are committed to working with partners to stamp it out.  The majority of people do not carry knives and are generally safe within the city.  We are putting a lot of work in with schools to educate children and young people about the risks and dangers of carrying knives and weapons, and the dire consequences doing so could have on their future.”

To support the Operation Sceptre campaign, you can share messages on social media using the hashtag #opsceptre.

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Exciting New Season of Events Revealed for Tamworth

Live musical shows, theatre performances, St George’s Day extravaganza, Tamworth in Bloom celebrations, outdoor cinema and We Love Tamworth festival – these are just some of the highlights lined up in Tamworth’s exciting new season of events.

Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts and Events team have been working hard to create a new and varied line up of shows and acts for Tamworth families and visitors to enjoy over the coming months.

This includes more Assembly Rooms on Tour, taking some of the theatre’s favourite performers out into community locations, and popular seasonal outdoor events.

The new season begins on March 19 when Tamworth Assembly Rooms continues on tour at Two Rivers School Torc Theatre for an exciting week of theatre and drama.

This popular annual Hastilow Drama Festival provides performance groups with the opportunity to enter the celebrated All England Theatre Festival by demonstrating their talent with three One Act plays being showcased each evening.

The next performance is the musical classic ‘Annie’ which will be performed at Landau Forte Academy from April 17 to April 20.  Tamworth Musical Theatre Company presents this hit production set in 1933 New York during the grip of The Great Depression.  The story follows a fiery young girl, Annie, who lives in an orphanage run by the strict and cruel Miss Hannigan.  This production will appeal to people of all ages and is guaranteed to get audiences singing along to well-known classic songs such as ‘Tomorrow’ and ‘Hard Knock Life’.

Free activities include the popular St George’s Day extravaganza on Saturday, April 20.  This annual celebration brings together a host of activities for all the family and attracts thousands of visitors each year.  Don’t miss the new live-action medieval jousting team and a living history encampment featuring a host of medieval games.  Other new additions to the programme are a fire-breathing dragon and children’s craft activities including The Big Sow.

Touring theatre returns on April 27, at St Francis Church, with an award-winning folk duo, Ninebarrow.  This fantastic duo will perform songs that are inspired by English folk traditions and storytelling.

Quantum Theatre presents the heart-warming tale of friendship, adventure and mayhem of Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’ – for the whole family to enjoy.  Bring a blanket and a picnic and head to Dosthill Park on June 16.

Prior to this year’s outdoor theatre in Dosthill Park this June, everyone is invited to a free family workshop teaching the art of willow weaving on May 18.  A brand new ‘Wind in the Willows’ trail will be launched with all the favourite characters from the story brought to life, in time for the theatre performance.

Tamworth Borough Council’s programme of Summer Bandstand Concerts begins on Sunday, June 22 and will see a variety of bands, singers and clubs taking to the stage to delight audiences on weekends throughout the season.

The full 2019 line-up is as follows:

  • Saturday June 22 –  Tamworth Twangers Ukulele Group
  • Saturday June 29 –   Andy Smith with Muriel & Rik
  • Saturday July 6 – Music Under the Stars (evening)
  • Sunday July 7 –  Tamworth Wind Band
  • Tuesday July 16 – Blooming Tamworth with Amington Band
  • Saturday July 20 -Tamworth Voices
  • Saturday July 27 –  Tamworth Musical Theatre Company
  • Saturday August 3 – The Tones
  • Saturday August 17 – 58s Blues Band
  • Saturday August 31 – Amington Band

58’s Blues Band

In addition to the annual weekend bandstand programme, two new music events have been added to this season’s line-up.  Tamworth Arts and Events Team have put together an evening of Music Under the Stars, to celebrate the 130th birthday of Tamworth Assembly Rooms and its long-awaited re-opening later this year.  The bandstand will be alive with toe tapping tunes once performed by iconic bands at the Assembly Rooms.  Songs from The Beatles, Rolling Stones and many more, will be presented by musicians Sonic Harmony, Liam Rhodes and Daniel Hatton, as they take to the bandstand on July 6 at 7pm.

Then join Amington Band for an afternoon celebration of Tamworth in Bloom, on July 16.  Sit back and take in the beautiful Castle Grounds, listening to a variety of popular and traditional brass band music.

All space boys and girls are also invited to the launch of Tamworth Library’s Summer Reading Challenge on July 13.  This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of man landing on the moon with the theme ‘Space Chase’.  An interactive workshop will start at 10am and 1.30pm for children aged 4 –11 years old.

The programme would not be complete without the annual Outdoor Cinema on August 10.  Get your popcorn ready, sing, dance and join us in our 7th year of summer cinema in Tamworth Castle Grounds.  The winning films for this year’s event, as chosen by members of the public, are Bohemian Rhapsody and Beetlejuice, so get ready for us to rock you and scare the night away.

September concludes this season’s events programme with the annual We Love Tamworth festival, which will bring the Castle Grounds to life on September 14 with a host of activities for children, grown-ups and four-legged friends too!  This year will see the return of the much loved dog show as well as community stalls organised by Tamworth Lions and a dedicated Children’s Zone.

Cllr John Chesworth, Cabinet member for Culture and Operational Services, said: “This is another great line up of events, with some exciting new features alongside the more popular festivities which have put Tamworth on the map in the recent years.

“Providing quality entertainment for our residents and attracting visitors to the town remains a key priority for the council and our thanks go to the Arts and Events team for organising another fantastic selection.  We hope to see lots of people coming out to take part in the fun.”

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Secure Your Vehicle – Spate of Vehicle Thefts

Staffordshire Police are urging owners of keyless entry cars and high-performance vehicles to protect themselves from theft following a spate across the county.

Thieves are targeting high value performance vehicles such as Audi, Mercedes, BMW and Fords, which are left parked on driveways or in the street.

The majority of thefts occur overnight and the cars targeted tend to be only a  few years old.

Staffordshire Police have issued the following advice:

  • Keeping all keys out of sight and away from doors and windows
  • Installing a home security system and setting an intruder alarm at night
  • Installing and activating a tracking device on your vehicle
  • Install good outside lighting
  • Check if your keyless entry fob can be turned off. If it can, and your dealer can also confirm this, then do so overnight
  • Store your keys away from household entry points and windows. Keeping your keyless entry fob out of sight is not enough – thieves only need to gain proximity to the key to amplify the signal.  Drivers are also being urged to keep both sets of keys in a faraday cage or pouch which blocks the signal from the fob

Keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighbourhood, and report anything unusual to the Police.

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Tamworth Residents Could Get Funding to Replace Broken Gas Boilers

Tamworth residents on a limited income could benefit from new funding for broken gas boilers, as part of the Emergency Central Heating Offer scheme.

Tamworth Borough Council is one of the few local authorities nationally to be able to access the Emergency Central Heating Offer (ECHO), available through the council’s Home Energy Advice Tamworth (HEAT) service.

A broken boiler during the winter months can be a chilly and stressful experience for most people.  For those in poor health, elderly, or with limited incomes, the prospect of cold related ill-health is very real and many worry about ending up in hospital.  With widespread reports of pressures on the NHS in the winter months due to cold conditions, HEAT are keen to do all they can to help householders stay warm in their homes.

A Belgrave resident phoned HEAT after their insurance company refused to repair the boiler because it had broken down five times since September.  The pensioner, who suffers with paralysis, had free boiler replacement through the scheme.

HEAT advisors also applied for the Warm Homes Discount on behalf of the resident, saving £140, checked they were on a suitable tariff and signed up them up to the Priority Services Register.  Thanks to HEAT, this resident can face the winter in a warm home.

The HEAT scheme is run by Tamworth Borough Council in partnership with Marches Energy Agency and Beat the Cold.  It offers free help and advice about staying warm.

Davina Allen, Project Manager for HEAT, said, “HEAT advisors can discuss qualifying criteria and make applications on behalf of residents over the phone, should they qualify.

“HEAT is particularly keen to hear from households where certain health conditions call for extra heat at home.  Such households can also be signed up for the Priority Services Register, a scheme run by Western Power Distribution offering extra help during power cuts.

“As well as funding for boiler replacements, the service can offer advice on insulation, energy tariffs and discounts.

“We often take calls from people concerned about neighbours or friends who are struggling either with a crisis like a broken boiler, or who face daily decisions about whether to heat or eat.

“Many people struggle on with broken or intermittent systems, unaware that they could be eligible for help.  With the new Emergency Central Heating Offer and home visit support available, we hope to be in a position to help.”

HEAT can be contacted on Freephone 0800 0432 815 or on heat@tamworth.gov.uk  Advice is free and impartial to all residents.  Funding is subject to eligibility criteria, and callers will need to provide personal information such as their household income or the benefits they receive, as part of the assessment.

More information on tackling fuel poverty is available from the National Energy Action website.

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EastEnders Safety Concerns Raised by Watchdog

The condition of the external film set used for the BBC1 soap opera EastEnders has led to health and safety concerns.

A report published by the National Audit Office (NAO) warns the outdoors set is in such poor condition that there have been delays in filming “due to health and safety concerns.”

The original set was built in 1984 and originally expected to last two years.

“Degradation has led to increasing filming delays owing to stoppages in production due to health and safety concerns, and there are ongoing maintenance costs to ensure filming can continue,” the report states.

In 2013, the BBC proposed building a temporary set, two-thirds of the size of the existing external filming site, called E20, while it constructed a new permanent set.

It expected E20 to cost £59.7 million and to be completed by August 2018, but in October 2017, the BBC reported internally that its revised plans were no longer achievable due to forecast delays and cost increases.

As a result of more realistic plans, the BBC now forecasts E20 will cost £86.7 million – 45% more than the original budget.

The report states, “The BBC considers E20 as critically important as it has the intended benefits of: maintaining EastEnders’ competitiveness; allowing new technology and high-definition filming to be used; and introducing design, structural and health and safety improvements.”

Read the Full Article

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Tamworth Residents Urged To Act Fast To Secure Their £140 Energy Bill Discount

Thousands of Tamworth residents could benefit from a £140 rebate as the Warm Homes discount scheme is rolled out to new energy suppliers.

Offered by energy suppliers, many schemes are now open and operate on a first-come-first served basis.  Many smaller suppliers are involved in the scheme this year for the first time.  Residents are being urged to contact Home Energy Advice Tamworth (HEAT) on 0800 043 2815 for more information and to apply.

The HEAT scheme is run by Tamworth Borough Council in partnership with Marches Energy Agency and Beat the Cold.  It offers free help and advice about staying warm.

The discount is available to those on a low income and in receipt of certain means-tested benefits.  Eligibility criteria for people may also include:

  • Your household energy supplier on July 8, 2018 was part of the scheme
  • A member of your household receives employment related benefits
  • You are over 65
  • You have a disability
  • You live with a child under 18
  • You spend a significant portion of your income on energy bills.

Residents who receive the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit will once again qualify automatically for the discount.  They should have received information from the Department for Work and Pensions.

Davina Allen, Project Manager for HEAT said, “With many suppliers announcing price rises, it’s more important than ever that eligible households claim their discount to help with their heating bills over the winter.

HEAT advisors can discuss qualifying criteria and make applications on behalf of residents over the phone, should they qualify.  If you think you qualify, you should contact us without delay.

“HEAT is particularly keen to hear from households where particular health conditions call for extra heat at home.  Such households can also be signed up for the Priority Services Register, a scheme run by Western Power Distribution offering extra help during power cuts.

“As well as getting the £140 discounts, we often find there are other ways we can help, such as accessing a grant to improve heating or insulation.”

More information on tackling fuel poverty is available from the National Energy Action website.

If an eligible applicant is successful, £140 will automatically be deducted by the provider from their winter 2018-19 energy bill by the end of March 2019.  The Warm Homes Discount is a separate from, and will not affect, any Cold Weather Payments or Winter Fuel Payments.

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