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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New Name and New Services at Tamworth Advice Centre

The service which provides free, independent, impartial and confidential advice to anyone in Tamworth who needs it has a new provider, a new name and more services, but it’s business as usual for the people who use it.

From Monday April 3, the debt and general advice service based at Marmion House in Lichfield Street will be renamed Tamworth Advice Centre and will be provided by Citizens Advice Mid Staffordshire.

The new provider will be bringing in a number of improvements, including a switch to an appointments system and more ways of access to the service for customers, including webchat and Skype.

Free digital skills workshops will also be on offer, giving customers the opportunity to gain new skills.

Tamworth Advice Centre will continue to use its own reception area in Marmion House, which is staffed from 10am to 4pm Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, and from 1am to 5pm on Wednesday. The telephone will also be answered from 9am to 5pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 12noon on Friday for advice and appointment bookings.

The new number for advice and booking appointments with Tamworth Advice Centre is 03444 111 444 and the email address is tamworthadvicecentre@gmail.com.

Although the service is switching to an appointment-only system, people in crisis will still be able to drop in for emergency help and advice.

Dawn Green, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Mid Staffordshire said, “I am delighted to be working closely with Tamworth Borough Council to be delivering this exciting new service. While core services will remain the same, it’s an opportunity for us to expand and enhance the advice provision available to Tamworth people.

“I am looking forward to providing a quality advice service for local people across Tamworth.”

Cllr Stephen Doyle, Cabinet member for Communities & Wellbeing, said, “The changes at Tamworth Advice Centre will provide greater flexibility, while continuing to provide the people of Tamworth with the help and advice services they need.

“The switch to an appointment-only system will give those using the service more time to discuss their issues without feeling under pressure, as well as reducing time spent waiting around.

“The new and improved service will offer an early intervention approach to resolving issues, which will reduce the numbers of people needing intensive support.”

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Calling All Knitters – You Can Help People with Dementia

The Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance and Cllr Andrew James are inviting knitters in Tamworth to pick up their needles and use their craft skills and creativity to help people with dementia.

As part of its ongoing commitment to raising awareness of dementia and working towards making Tamworth a dementia friendly community, the Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance – of which Tamworth Borough Council is a member – has launched a campaign to encourage people throughout the borough to knit Twiddle Muffs, which will be distributed to people with dementia and organisations, which help them.

Twiddle Muffs are double thickness hand muffs, which have buttons, bows, pompoms, zips and other bits and bobs attached both inside and out.  Some have pouches and pockets for hankies.  People with dementia often have restless hands, and the Twiddle Muffs provide something to occupy their hands, as well as providing visual, tactical and sensory stimulation and helping to reduce anxiety.

Kind-hearted knitters of all abilities are now being sought to create their own Twiddle Muffs and donate them to the cause.  A pattern for Twiddle Muffs, which can be created in any colour or variety of shades, can be found on Tamworth Borough Council’s website.

The completed Twiddle Muffs can be handed to staff at the Tourist Information Centre in Marmion House, Lichfield Street, where they will be collected together.  Donations of wool, buttons, ribbons, beads or any other items, which could be used to create and decorate the Twiddle Muffs, will also be gratefully accepted.

The Twiddle Muffs will be distributed during Dementia Awareness Week, which runs from Sunday May 14 to Saturday May 20.  There will be a number of events taking place throughout the week – with more details being revealed closer to the time.

Cllr Andrew James, Lead Member and Chairman of Tamworth’s Dementia Action Alliance steering group, said, “Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance is working towards making Tamworth a dementia friendly town.  This is a great way for the community to help people living with dementia feel supported and make Tamworth a better place for people living with dementia.

“I would encourage anyone who is able to support this campaign by knitting Twiddle Muffs, or to donate things to make them, to take them in to the Tourist Information Centre.  Your help and support will make a real difference to people living with dementia in Tamworth.”

The Twiddle Muffs campaign is just one of the many steps, which the Tamworth Dementia Action Alliance and Tamworth Borough Council are taking in the journey towards achieving dementia friendly status for the borough.

Dementia friendly communities aim to help people with dementia and their carers feel safe, supported and able to remain involved in community life.  There are more than 100 dementia friendly communities in the UK – and Tamworth is well on the way towards joining their ranks and achieving dementia friendly status.

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Meet the Mercian Ward Councillors on Saturday

Mercian ward surgery March 2017

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£20 Million for D-Day Landings Memorial

D DayThe British servicemen and women who gave their lives in the D-Day landings and in the Normandy Campaign will be commemorated with a new memorial, supported by £20 million, the Prime Minister and Chancellor today announced.

The monument will be built at the site of the fierce fighting during and after D-Day.  For the first time, a memorial will carry the names of the estimated 21,000 members of the British Armed Forces and Merchant Navy, plus those from other nations who fought directly alongside them, who lost their lives in the D-Day landings and the Normandy campaign.

As well as commemorating those who died in Normandy, the memorial will also pay tribute to several thousand sailors and airmen who were lost at sea, and those who died from their wounds after being brought back to the UK for treatment.

The memorial will be unveiled in Normandy on 6th June 2019 – the 75th anniversary of D-Day – and many of the remaining veterans, and the families of those who fought, are expected to be present for a parade at the D-Day landing grounds.

The Normandy Memorial Trust, supported by The Royal British Legion, has been the driving force behind the project and will now launch a fundraising appeal to build on the government’s contribution.

The £20 million government funding will come from LIBOR fines levied on the banking industry.

The Chancellor is planning to meet many of the Veterans on the eve of their departure at Southwick Park, outside Portsmouth, in June before they return to the Normandy Beaches to pay their respects to those who did not return home.  Southwick Park is home to the historic D-Day Map Room and was the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force, from where the operation was planned and coordinated by General Montgomery and General Eisenhower.

The design and location of the memorial will be confirmed in due course by the Trust.

George Batts MBE, Legion d’Honneur, former National Secretary of the Normandy Veterans’ Association said, “It has been the dream of Normandy Veterans for many years for there to be a British memorial in Normandy dedicated to all those from the British Armed Forces who lost their lives in the D-Day Landings and in the Normandy Campaign which followed.  This generous commitment by Her Majesty’s government will finally enable us to realise this ambition in time for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in June 2019.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said, “We must never forget the courage, sacrifice and selflessness of the British servicemen and women who gave their lives in the D-Day landings.  Located close by the beaches where they began the liberation of Europe, the Normandy Memorial will be a fitting tribute to them and a place where people can gather to reflect on their extraordinary achievements.

“Its unveiling on the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019 will provide a timely reminder that we should never take our freedom for granted.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond said, “This will be a fitting reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by British men and women on D-Day for the freedoms we enjoy today.  We have a duty to ensure their names will be remembered for generations to come.  It is only right we support this project as we look forward to the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings in 2019.”

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FA to Fund Study to Examine Links between Playing Football and Dementia

dementiaAn independent university is to conduct a “six-figure” Football Association study into whether there is a link between playing football and dementia.

It will examine if dementia is more prevalent in former footballers than the rest of the population.

Three members of England’s 1966 World Cup-winning squad Martin Peters, Nobby Stiles and Ray Wilson have Alzheimer’s.

“We are taking it seriously,” said FA chief executive Martin Glenn at the annual meeting of the International Football Association Board.

UEFA, European football’s governing body, has already commissioned a research project, which is being supported by the FA.

Former England captain Alan Shearer will present a BBC 1 documentary this summer on the issue.

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Schools to Teach 21st Century Relationships and Sex Education

sex-educationThe Government has tabled amendments to the Children and Social Work Bill, which will make it a requirement that all secondary schools in England teach relationships and sex education (RSE).

The amendments also allow the Government to make regulations requiring personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) to be taught in all schools in England – primary and secondary, maintained and academy – in future.

Relationships education, RSE, and PSHE are designed to ensure pupils are taught the knowledge and life skills they will need to stay safe and develop healthy and supportive relationships, particularly dealing with the challenges of growing up in an online world.

Currently only pupils attending local-authority run secondary schools – which represent around a third of secondary schools – are guaranteed to be offered current sex and relationships education, and PSHE is only mandatory at independent schools.  Neither are currently required to be taught in academies.

The Government is proposing the introduction of the new subject of ‘relationships education’ in primary school and renaming the secondary school subject ‘relationships and sex education’, to emphasise the central importance of healthy relationships.  The focus in primary school will be on building healthy relationships and staying safe.  As children get older, it is important that they start to develop their understanding of healthy adult relationships in more depth, with sex education delivered in that context.

The statutory guidance for RSE was introduced in 2000 and is becoming increasingly outdated.  It fails to address risks to children, which have grown in prevalence in recent years, including online pornography, sexting and staying safe online.  As a result now is the right time to address these issues.

The Government is already taking action to address this with the introduction of a new internet safety green paper later this year, which will set out a series of steps to make the internet a safer place for young people.

This will be complemented by a comprehensive programme of engagement by the Department for Education (DfE) with stakeholders to set out suitable, age-appropriate content on RSE, which focuses on mental wellbeing, consent, resilience, age-appropriate relationships and sex education, and keeping safe online.  Regulations and statutory guidance will then be subject to full public consultation later this year, and we expect to see children and young people being taught this new curriculum in schools as soon as September 2019.

Schools will have flexibility over how they deliver these subjects, so they can develop an integrated approach that is sensitive to the needs of the local community; and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with their faith.

Education Secretary Justine Greening said, “RSE and PSHE teach children and young people how to stay safe and healthy, and how to negotiate some of the personal and social challenges they will face growing up and as adults.  These subjects form part of the building blocks young people need to thrive in modern Britain.  At the moment, too many young people feel they don’t have the RSE they need to stay safe and navigate becoming an adult.

“It is time to make this change to ensure all children and young people have access to these subjects and to update the current statutory guidance for RSE which was introduced nearly 20 years ago, in 2000.  We need high quality, age-appropriate content that relates to the modern world, addressing issues like cyber bullying, ‘sexting’ and internet safety.

“We will now begin a review and gather expert opinions to ensure these subjects really have a positive impact on young people.”

Both young people themselves and parents are calling for a consistent approach on RSE.  A survey of 16 to 24 year olds carried out by the Terence Higgins Trust in July 2016 showed that 99% of young people thought RSE should be mandatory in all schools; and 1 in 7 had not received this education.

The amendments will continue to allow parents a right to withdraw children from sex education, and schools will be required to publish a clear statement of their policy and what will be taught, so that parents can make informed decisions.  As is already the case where sex education is currently mandatory, schools will also have flexibility over how they teach these subjects so they can ensure their approach is sensitive to the needs of the local community and, in the case of faith schools, in accordance with the tenets of their faith.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said, “NAHT have long advocated age-appropriate sex education and PSHE for all pupils in all schools, to help prepare young people for the challenges they will encounter in their adult lives and the current challenges they will face beyond the school gates.  We welcome the duties set out today and look forward to playing our part in ensuring RSE/PSHE delivers for young people.”

Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan, said, “We are thrilled the Government has listened to our campaign to provide all school children with age-appropriate school lessons on sex and healthy relationships to help keep them safe.  Barnardo’s has long campaigned for this vital education so children can better understand the dangers in the real world and online.

“We believe this will give children the knowledge and skills they need to help prevent them being groomed and sexually exploited.”

Sarah Green, Co-director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said, “This is a real step forward in ending violence against women and girls and we commend the Government for listening to experts and responding.  It opens the door to high-quality RSE that will let young people have the essential conversations about consent, respect and LGBT equality.

“Quality RSE is a chance to talk with young people about how men and women treat each other, and to challenge the attitudes, which minimise or make excuses for abuse of women and girls.  It is a chance to emphasise such violence is always unacceptable, whether on our streets or in our schools.”

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Joint Works to Support Hew Homes Development Set to Begin Next Month

roadworks signCareful coordination of works to support a major new homes development in Tamworth will mean a big reduction in the number of roadworks and less disruption for people and businesses.

The Bellway Homes development adjacent to Ashby Road and the northern side of the railway bridge will see 535 houses and a new school built.

Work has already started in the area, which will see the provision of new access and utility services including water, electricity, telecoms, gas and sewerage to the site, while making sure existing services to the local community are not affected.

To allow the works at the bridge to be carried out safely, the B5493 Ashby Road will be closed to through traffic from 6 March.  Highway and utility teams will be working together to minimise disruption and the closure is expected to last no more than a month.

Access to homes, businesses and the Landau Forte Academy along Ashby Road, will be maintained via Comberford Road/Upper Gungate junction.  Traffic access cannot be maintained across the railway bridge during the works.

Further phases of work will involve a new footbridge across the railway line and highway resurfacing work, which may see further overnight only closures.

Staffordshire County Council’s highways team have been working closely with the utility companies to co-ordinate the works and reduce the impact.  By combining road, utility and services works, it is estimated to have reduced the roadworks period by a month and avoided a possible five further sets of individual traffic controls.

Cllr Mark Deaville, Staffordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport said, “We’re always striving to work smarter and more closely with our partners when works are needed to support developments like this.  The Bellway Homes project is a significant one for Tamworth, bringing hundreds of much needed homes, which we’re pleased to support.

“This is a good example of how we can really cut down on disruption for local communities through careful planning and coordination.  With major developments such as this, there will inevitably be some disruption as a result of the road closure, but every effort has been made to limit this.  We would thank people for their co-operation while the work is being carried out.”

Nearby residents and businesses are being notified about the scheme, informing them why the work is needed and details about accessibility during the works.

A clearly signed temporary diversion will be in place during the works period.  The A5 and M42 via junction 10 are likely to offer a suitable alternative route (in either direction).  And, for those unable to use motorways, a route suitable for all traffic types will be signposted on site.

Further updates on the work along with diversion routes are available at www.roadworks.org.

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