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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Diabetic Eye Screening Changes Announced

Changes to the Diabetic Eye Screening Programme delivered by Midlands Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (MPFT) have been announced.

Diabetic eye screening is a key part of diabetes care.  People with diabetes are at risk of damage from diabetic retinopathy, a condition that can lead to sight loss if it is not treated.  Screening is a way of detecting the condition early before a person notices any changes to their vision.

The demand for diabetic eye screening in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent has increased by more than 100% since it started in 2005.  There are now 72,400 patients and the Trust are expecting this to increase by a further 6,000 each year.

To meet increased demand, a screening model, which has more flexibility to change location and clinic capacity, is needed.

The local programme has also had an uptake rate that is lower than the national average despite a growing diabetes population.

To tackle these issues the Trust have remodelled the service by transferring diabetic eye screening from high street opticians into a number of dedicated NHS screening clinics across the county.  This has been rolled out in a phased manner, and will include the entire county by 1 January 2019.

Patients who require additional optical services such as sight tests and spectacles will continue to receive these from their high street opticians, and so will need to make two separate appointments.

They appreciate this is less convenient for patients, however the service change has been made for the following reasons:

  • A fairer spread of screening venues, regularly reviewed, which have been chosen to improve access for all people with diabetes across Staffordshire, with good transport links and availability
  • In house staff training ensures that there is consistency in every aspect of screening for all people with diabetes across the county, and local and national requirements are monitored on a regular basis
  • Patients will receive one-to-one support when attending screening and the dedicated screening staff can answer any questions they may have regarding their diabetic eye care
  • In house grading allows quick decisions to be made in the case of urgent referrals and direct referrals can be made where necessary, meaning safer care pathways

Patients will be offered an appointment at a local clinic but will be able to change this to a more convenient screening site if preferred.  The Trust will be continually assessing uptake and capacity rates.

They will also actively target patients and areas of greatest need by including regular ad hoc clinics to areas where our screening locations are some distance for the local population.  These will be held in places such as GP Practices, local supermarkets and mosques.  The Trust will specifically target patients in communities where screening uptake is lower and will provide interpreter services where required in order to encourage uptake from non-English speaking communities.

Following the changes from 1st October 2018, diabetic eye screening in Tamworth will only take place at Tamworth Health Centre in Upper Gungate.

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Tesco Fined after Employee Fractured Pelvis

Tesco has been fined £160,000 after a member of staff at a store in Thurrock was seriously injured when a cage full of goods fell onto them as they were unloading it from a lorry.

The employee suffered severe injuries, including a fractured pelvis, as a result of the incident at the Chadwell St Mary branch and had to be rushed to hospital.

Thurrock Council’s Health and Safety and Legal teams brought the action because the roll cage, which is used to deliver goods to shops, should only ever be moved by two people.  Tesco had a previous health and safety conviction for allowing a lone worker to move a cage at their branch in Waverley.

Tesco pleaded guilty to a charge under section two of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

Cllr Rob Gledhill, Leader of Thurrock Council commented, “It is vital that workers are properly protected and safe when they are doing their jobs.  We will always take action to ensure that proper standards are maintained by the borough’s employers.

“The size of the fine should serve as a deterrent and a signal to employers that we take the health and safety or our residents and others who work in Thurrock very seriously.”

Tesco was also ordered to pay £18,118 in costs to Thurrock Council and a victim surcharge of £120.

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Jail Terms for Gross Negligence Manslaughter to Increase

Employers or managers convicted of gross negligence manslaughter after a workplace fatality are likely to face longer prison sentences under a new guideline published by the Sentencing Council.

Applying to sentences delivered in England or Wales on or after 1 November, the new guideline is an attempt to bring consistent sentencing to sentences for all forms of manslaughter, but the Sentencing Council says it is likely to have the effect of increasing sentences in gross negligence cases.

When the Sentencing Council analysed sentences for the 16 offenders convicted in 2014, it found custodial terms ranging from nine months to 12 years, with four suspended sentences.

Giving the example of an employer where “long-standing and serious disregard for the safety of employees, motivated by cost-cutting, has led to someone being killed”, it states that “current sentencing practice in these sorts of cases is [currently] lower in the context of overall sentence levels for manslaughter than for other types”.

The new guideline sets out four levels of culpability for those convicted, with the sentence range for “very high culpability” offences starting at 12 years’ in prison, with a range of ten to 18 years.

The “high culpability” category, with a starting point of eight years’ custody and a range of six to 12, would occur if there was a “blatant disregard for a very high risk of death” or the negligent conduct was motivated by financial gain, or the avoidance of cost.

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Thefts from Vehicles Warning in Tamworth

Staffordshire Police is issuing a warning to remind vehicle owners to keep their cars locked and valuables hidden out of sight following a spate of thefts from vehicles in Tamworth.

Eighteen such incidents were reported over the past week, with the thefts occurring overnight in different parts of town. Stolen items have included cash, bank cards and sunglasses.

Chief Inspector Ash Farrington, Commander for Tamworth Neighbourhood Policing Team, said, “The investigation into this latest series of thefts from vehicles in Tamworth is a priority for our local policing team and we are following a number of lines of enquiry.

“However, we’re also reminding people of the simple steps they can take to stop themselves from becoming a victim of car crime. Make sure your vehicle is locked, even for short stops, and park in your garage or well-lit area.  Remove all valuables, sat nav systems, loose change, wallets, coats, bags; don’t leave anything on show for opportunistic thieves.

“If you’re a van owner, make sure tools and other equipment are securely locked away. Don’t leave items in your vehicle unattended or overnight and make sure building sites are secure.

“We also recommend marking any machinery or tools using an engraving set and place a sticker in your window to say you have done so.  It can be an effective deterrent.”

If you have any information about a theft from vehicle crime or want to report an incident, please call Staffordshire Police on 101.

Click here for more crime prevention advice.

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Scam Warning About Threatening Emails

Staffordshire Police is warning computer users not to be fooled by cyber criminals who send threatening emails in an attempt to trick them into transferring cash.

The fraudster, who has a Brazilian email address, contacts his victims via email and threatens them and their family unless they hand over huge sums of money.

The warning comes after a person in Tamworth reported an email to officers after becoming suspicious about its threatening nature and authenticity.  They received a demand for £10,000 to save their life and their family’s life.  No money was sent.

Usually scam emails are sent from outside of the UK, which makes it difficult for the police to trace the people sending them.  Often these emails refer to winning a lottery in a foreign country, asking for money to invest in a foreign business venture or to help someone in a foreign country who might be in need.

DC Ian Whitehouse, from Lichfield CID, said, “There is no suggestion that this perpetrator was even in the country and this was a simply ploy to scam the victim into handing over money.

“Thankfully in this case the victim didn’t hand over any cash and told police straight away about the threats that had been made.  If you find yourself in this scenario please contact police and do not hand over any money.”

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Big Seven Supermarkets Plastic Bag Sales Down 86%

Plastic bag sales in England’s ‘big seven’ supermarkets have dropped by 86% since the Government introduced its 5p plastic bag charge in 2015, helping to tackle the devastating impact of plastic waste on our environment.

New figures reveal customers of the country’s biggest supermarkets bought nearly a quarter fewer plastic bags last year compared to 2016/17 – a decrease of nearly 300 million bags.

This is equivalent to just 19 bags per person in England, compared to 140 bags since the government introduced a 5p charge in 2015 – a dramatic reduction of 86%.

Welcoming the figures, Environment Secretary Michael Gove said, “These figures demonstrate the collective impact we can make to help the environment by making simple changes to our daily routines. We want businesses to continue to look at what they can do to help improve our environment to leave it in a better state than we found it.

“It is only by working together we will reverse the rising tide of plastic waste finding its way into our rivers, seas and oceans and the catastrophic impact this is having on our marine environment.”

Plastic bags have a significant impact on the environment. Government scientists believe plastic in the sea is set to treble in a decade unless marine litter is curbed – with one million birds and over 100,000 sea mammals dying every year from eating and getting tangled in plastic waste.

A recent study by Cefas revealed since the 5p charge on plastic bags was introduced, which has taken over 9 billion plastic bags out of circulation, there has been an estimated 50% reduction in plastic bag marine litter.

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People with Hidden Disabilities to Benefit from Blue Badges

People with hidden disabilities, including autism and mental health conditions will soon have access to Blue Badges, removing the barriers many face to travel.

The Blue Badge scheme already means those with physical disabilities can park closer to their destination than other drivers, as they are less able to take public transport or walk longer distances.

In the biggest overhaul to the scheme since the 1970s, this will now be extended to those with less visible conditions early next year.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman said, “Blue badges are a lifeline for disabled people, giving them the freedom and confidence to get to work and visit friends independently.

“The changes we have announced today will ensure that this scheme is extended equally to people with hidden disabilities so that they can enjoy the freedoms that many of us take for granted.”

The new criteria will extend eligibility to people who:

  • cannot undertake a journey without there being a risk of serious harm to their health or safety or that of any other person (such as young children with autism)
  • cannot undertake a journey without it causing them very considerable psychological distress
  • have very considerable difficulty when walking (both the physical act and experience of walking)

The changes follow an 8-week consultation and are part of the government’s drive for greater parity between physical and mental health conditions.

Promotional video for the Blue Badge changes

See the full article.

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