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  1. British Gas plans to close an Oldbury office
  2. Plans to limit so-called "chuggers" in Birmingham
  3. One in four social worker posts are vacant in Birmingham and Walsall
  4. Walsall remain in touch for automatic promotion
  5. Updates on Wednesday 20 April 2016

Live Reporting

By Alex Homer

All times stated are UK

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Good evening from Local Live for Birmingham and the Black Country

That's it on Wednesday. Join us from 08:00 on Thursday for more news, sport, travel and weather.

Victoria Wood: Her career began in Birmingham

Victoria Wood worked as a barmaid in Harborne, Birmingham, in 1973, but her first job was with the BBC at its former Edgbaston base of Pebble Mill, while she was still a student at the university.

She worked on a late night programme on Fridays for local radio.

She won five Baftas including two for her one-off ITV drama Housewife 49. Her publicist Neil Reading said she had died aged 62 this morning after "a short but brave" battle with cancer.

Victoria Wood

Coming up on TV

Nick Owen

Presenter, BBC Midlands Today

The Prime Minister says a taskforce will hold talks with British Gas after it announced plans to cut nearly 700 jobs and close its offices in Oldbury. 

The BBC meanwhile understands nearly 500 workers at Aston Villa are to be made redundant.

And we will hear how an amateur football team from Wolverhampton, made up of gay, bisexual, transexual and straight players and coaches, will be the first of its kind to join a regular Sunday League in the West Midlands. 

More on these stories and others on the Midlands Today on BBC One at 18:30.

Watch: Latest weather forecast for the West Midlands

Shefali Oza

BBC Midlands Today

It's going to turn a lot colder after sunshine this afternoon. Lows of 4C (39F).

Find out what else is in store for us.

The weather for the West Midlands

County Championship: Middlesex draw with Warwickshire at Lord's

Middlesex 452 & 304-6 dec v Warwickshire 468

Richard Wilford


Middlesex's Adam Voges misses out on a century as Warwickshire keeper Tim Ambrose takes off his pads at Lord's and claims the first wicket of his career, the Australian caught by Keith Barker for 92. He immediately declares the Middlesex innings, bringing the game to an end.

No doubt about the star performer in this game - Middlesex opener Sam Robson, who made 231 and 106. the home side take 12 points, with 11 for the Bears.

Latest: British Gas cuts in Oldbury; row prompted Villa resignations; trailer draws complaints

Alex Homer

BBC Local Live

Here is a recap of our headlines this afternoon:

- Workers have told of their shock over British Gas plans to cut 684 Oldbury jobs

- The departure of David Bernstein and Lord King from the Aston Villa board was triggered by a bitter fall-out with the club's owner Randy Lerner

- A man has been ordered to remove his 40ft (12m) lorry trailer from his mother's front garden after it attracted hundreds of complaints

Slow and heavy traffic

BBC Travel

The M42 has a lane closed on the entry slip road and slow traffic northbound at J4, A34 (Shirley).  

There's also heavy traffic on M6 northbound between J6 A38(M) Aston Expressway and J7, A34 (Great Barr), because of an earlier broken down vehicle.

British Gas job losses: Massive shock for staff

Jennie Aitken

Reporter, BBC WM

I've been speaking to workers coming out of British Gas in Oldbury.

They have told me the announcement of 684 job losses came as a massive shock as they had not expected the news.

They were greeted by "a bit of an atmosphere" this morning before being dealt the blow in meetings.

Aston Villa: David Bernstein and Lord King left after Randy Lerner row

David Ornstein

BBC Sport

The departure of David Bernstein and Lord King from the Aston Villa board was triggered by a bitter fall-out with the club's owner Randy Lerner.

Bernstein and King wrote to Villa chairman Steve Hollis on Monday, tendering their resignations with immediate effect.

David Bernstein (right) talks to Brian Little (centre) and chairman Steve Hollis

After joining Villa in March and February respectively, Bernstein and King grew increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress they were able to make.

This came to a head when email communication between the pair, which included criticism of Lerner, was leaked to the US businessman.

National Union of Students elects Malia Bouattia as president

A student who has previously refused to condemn the so-called Islamic State has been elected as the next president of the National Union of Students.

Malia Bouattia, who will start in September, has also called Birmingham University a "Zionist outpost".

In a 2014 video from a Gaza and Palestinian Revolution event, she is seen calling on Muslims to support Palestinian "resistance".

Malia Bouattia

Football: Pulis hopes Berahino will 'step up and smash his next penalty in'

Rob Gurney

BBC WM Sport

Tony Pulis seemed very relaxed in the build up to tomorrow's game against Arsenal, chatting warmly about a range of issues, even discarding the ever-present baseball cap after the main conference when he spoke to me!

Plans for next season at Albion are ongoing, he says, and thinks Saido Berahino has responded well to his double penalty miss last weekend against Watford

If he's on the pitch when they next get one, Pulis said he'd be "incredibly disappointed" if Berahino didn't step up "and smash it".

And Pulis was glad to be off to France for part of Euro 2016, when the inevitable speculation about Berahino's future starts again in a few weeks' time at the season's end.

British Gas job losses: A government taskforce 'will be available' - PM

At Prime Ministers Questions, Warley's Labour MP John Spellar asked whether the government could help in response to the announcement of 684 job losses by British Gas in Oldbury.

"We will make sure that a taskforce of ministers is available to talk to the company, to talk to the local community, to provide all the assistance in terms of retraining and other things that can be done to help," said David Cameron.

The Oldbury office

Thief 'struggled to carry' his haul after an armed robbery in Pelsall

A thief who struggled under the weight of his own haul is being sought by police after an armed robbery at a Co-op in Pelsall. 

West Midlands Police said a lone offender threatened staff at the store on the High Street around 06:20 with what is believed to have been a handgun. He left on foot with cash in a holdall.

Det Con Neil Cunnington said the dark-clothed suspected "appeared to have been struggling to carry the bag as he took a large quantity of coins and we have reports of him staggering due to the weight".

Highest number of child deaths occur in the West Midlands

BBC News England

The biggest number of child deaths occur in the West Midlands, new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal.

This goes against the national trend, which has seen the number of babies dying before their first birthday in England and Wales fall to its lowest ever rate

Infant mortality figures

Comedian Victoria Wood dies aged 62

BBC Entertainment and Arts

Comedian Victoria Wood has died aged 62 after a short battle with cancer, her publicist has said.  

She found fame in the 1980s with her TV series Victoria Wood As Seen On TV.  

Her showbusiness career began when she gained a place on a drama course at Birmingham University. 

Latest: British Gas cuts; 'chugger' reduction plans; man told to remove lorry from garden

Alex Homer

BBC Local Live

If you are just catching up on Wednesday's news, here are our headlines:

- British Gas plans to cut 684 Oldbury jobs

- Plans to limit so-called "chuggers" in Birmingham will be discussed by councillors later

- A man has been ordered to remove his 40ft (12m) lorry trailer from his mother's front garden after it attracted hundreds of complaints

A man's home is his castle - except when it's his trailer

The owner of a lorry trailer has been ordered to remove it from his mother's front garden - after the "smack in the face" eyesore attracted hundreds of complaints. 

The former Marks and Spencer delivery wagon was backed onto the frontage of a house in Sheldon, Birmingham, in January and has not moved since.

The trailer

The 18-year-old refrigerated unit, fitted out as living accommodation with double-glazed doors, white goods and a bathroom, has been put up for sale by its owner, Iftikhar Azam, who is looking for offers around £2,000.

The 43-year-old said: "It wasn't meant to be here this long as I had a buyer for it, but he lost interest. Former deputy leader of Birmingham City Council, Paul Tilsley, likened the trailer's visual impact to "a smack in the face". 

Caldmore one-way system comes under fire

Daz Hale


Trade is being diverted away from Caldmore to Walsall town centre since a one-way system was introduced, residents and shopkeepers claim.

The system was introduced in February despite 1,500 people signing a petition objecting to the plan.

Akhlaq Hussain, chairman of Caldmore Traders Association, said one shop on Caldmore Road had closed since the new system came in and more would need to lay off people due to declining takings.

the one way system

When plans for the road system were revealed, the council said the move would ease traffic, improve road safety and reduce parking problems.

Football: Leeds United 2-1 Wolves

Leeds claim their third successive Championship win as two second-half goals defeated fellow mid-table Wolves, meaning Kenny Jackett's men have won three of their past 17 league games

Sol Bamba

British Gas job cuts 'a hammer blow' for Oldbury

Proposals to axe 684 British Gas jobs in Oldbury is 'a hammer blow' for the workforce, Unite the union says.

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Paresh Patel said the cuts would also have an adverse impact on the local economy.

"Unite's position is that we need to do what we can to keep this site open," he said.

British Gas sign

The Oldbury operation could be relocated between three other sites, Uddingston,near Glasgow, Leicester and Stockport, he added.

British Gas said that if the closure of the Oldbury office is confirmed, redeployment opportunities for people whose roles are affected would be explored.

Former Birmingham head teacher arrested for alleged sexual offences

The former head teacher of a school has been arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting adults and possession of indecent images of children.

Graham Hardy, from Kettering, who is retired from Birmingham's Calthorpe Academy, was arrested on 6 April.

The school has sent a letter to parents stating the alleged offences do not relate to any current or former pupils at the school.

Graham Hardy
Calthorpe Academy

Football: Preston draw 'sums up Blues' season since March' - Rowett

Adam Bridge


"Frustrated, angry, disappointed."

Birmingham City boss Gary Rowett said the performance in Tuesday's 2-2 draw with Preston in the Championship, summed up the Blues' season since March.

Rowett on Birmingham v Preston

Latest: British Gas cuts; 'chugger' limits considered; social worker vacancies

Alex Homer

BBC Local Live

Here is a recap of our top stories on Wednesday: 

- British Gas plans to axe 684 Oldbury jobs

- Plans to limit so-called "chuggers" in Birmingham will be discussed by councillors later

- One in four social worker posts are vacant in Birmingham and Walsall, the BBC has found

British Gas job losses: Compulsory redundancies will be 'hard to avoid' - UNISON

Of the 684 jobs at risk at British Gas in Oldbury, around 475 are members of the GMB union.

UNISON's national energy officer Matt Lay has meanwhile said: "British Gas might be losing customers, but it’s still a very profitable business.

“The scale of the cuts will make compulsory redundancies hard to avoid. We’ll now be working closely with British Gas to make sure that all workers affected are given as much help as possible to find new jobs, either within the company or with other employers in the area.”

British Gas job losses: Oldbury to be hit hard

It is understood all 684 jobs which could be cut are based in Oldbury. 

The cuts are part of thousands of posts Centrica, the owner of British Gas, said would go last July.

british gas sign

British Gas job losses: Staff are 'pawns to be sacrificed when it suits' - GMB union

Brian Strutton, national officer of the GMB union, said: "This announcement has come completely out of the blue and is further evidence of the way British Gas now sees staff as pawns to be sacrificed when it suits. 

"The news will be devastating for the workforce and the local community. 

"GMB will fight British Gas to try to protect every job we can but today things look bleak for the Oldbury workers." 

British Gas letterhead and gas hob in the background

British Gas job losses: Oldbury workers may be 'redeployed'

The company said it will consult workers and unions over the next 45 days and will "explore redeployment opportunities" for staff if the Oldbury office closure were to be confirmed. 

Claire Miles, managing director of customer operations, said: "Since last summer British Gas has been implementing a strategy to improve service and reduce costs, to ensure we can price competitively. We must also respond to the changing needs of our customers, and they increasingly want to contact us online. 

"For these reasons we are planning to consolidate our activity on fewer sites, and we have made the difficult decision to propose closing our Oldbury office and call centre." 

BreakingPlans to cut hundreds of British Gas jobs including in Oldbury

British Gas is proposing to cut 684 jobs and close an office in Oldbury under plans to "consolidate" its operations, the company has announced.

Teenager with gun hit speeds over 75mph in Birmingham car chase

Footage of a teenager who lost control of his car as he tried to avoid police, while clocking speeds of over 75mph on residential roads, has been released.

The chase was in the Maypole area of Birmingham in the early hours of 3 September, and the driver lost control near to Brandwood End cemetery.

Teenager jailed for gun possession after Birmingham car chase

The 17-year-old driver, who cannot be named due to his age, admitted possession of a firearm. Police said officers discovered his gun was originally designed to fire blanks but had been converted and loaded with live ammunition.

The teen also admitted possession of ammunition, dangerous driving, failing to stop and having no driving licence or insurance. He was jailed for three years and disqualified from driving for two years on Monday, West Midlands Police said.

'Inadequate' Dudley children's services saw a rise in social worker vacancies

Daniel Wainwright

Data unit - English regions

Almost a fifth of all children's social worker jobs in England are vacant, despite a rise in recruitment.

Councils are relying on agency workers to cover nearly 4,000 out of 5,500 otherwise empty posts.

The BBC has analysed official government figures which revealed Dudley, which has just been rated inadequate by Ofsted, see a large rise in vacancies. 

Figures show it had 15 empty posts out of 157 in 2014, rising to 44 out of 153 in 2015. It had just under 40 posts being covered by agency workers at that time.

The Department for Education (DFE) said it was investing £100m to recruit graduates and professionals.  

Football: Walsall remain in touch for automatic promotion place

BBC Sport

Substitute Kieron Morris earned Walsall a point against Swindon to keep the Saddlers in touch with League One's top two.

It means with a game in hand, Walsall remain three points behind fellow automatic promotion chasers, second-placed Burton. 

Kieron Morris
Rex Features

Hit-and-run driver who left schoolgirl fighting for life is locked up

Express and Star

A "callous" disqualified driver who left a schoolgirl fighting for her life after mowing her down on a pedestrian crossing has been jailed for 33 months.

Claudia Visser(left), aged 15, was seriously injured after being hit by a car driver by Adnan Ajram (right) who has now been jailed Read more at
Express & Star

Birmingham 'chuggers' could be cut by 70%

The number of street-based charity fundraisers or "chuggers" in Birmingham could be cut by 70% under plans for new limits to be discussed by councillors later. 

At present, up to 42 fundraisers can work across the city centre at a time, but the city council wants it reduced to 12.

A report revealed "high levels of annoyance" from people being "constantly approached", resulting in them avoiding parts of the city.


Full scale of vacancies for social workers revealed

Daniel Wainwright

Data unit - English regions

There has been rise in the number of vacant social worker posts across Birmingham and the Black Country.

The BBC has learned that last year there were 380 vacancies across our six local councils - that's a rise of 35% on the previous year. 

The figures show Walsall has the second highest rate in the West Midlands at 27%, with Birmingham third at 25%.

Child alone

Social workers say they are under constant pressure because of media coverage and criticism of their role in high-profile cases such as the death of Ayeeshia Jane Smith.

Local authorities say their staff leave for better pay as agency workers.

Latest: Chugger limits planned; social worker posts vacant; Villa 'to axe hundreds'

Alex Homer

BBC Local Live

Here are the top stories on Wednesday: 

- Plans to limit so-called "chuggers" in Birmingham will be discussed by councillors later

- One in four social worker posts are vacant in Birmingham and Walsall, the BBC has found

- There are reports Aston Villa will axe hundreds of jobs

Watch: Latest weather forecast for the West Midlands

Sara Blizzard

BBC Weather

It is going to be another fine, dry day. Highs of 15C (59F).

Find out what else is in store for us later.

Travel: M6 delays near Wolverhampton

BBC Travel

One lane is closed and there is queuing traffic on the M6 southbound at J10, for Wolverhampton, because of a breakdown, drivers are warned.

Good morning from Local Live for Birmingham and the Black Country

Alex Homer

BBC Local Live

Welcome back to our news, sport, travel and weather updates on Wednesday.

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