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Superfast broadband firm given rescue plan deadline

BBC Spotlight

The company awarded the publicly-subsidised contract to deliver superfast broadband to thousands of rural homes in Devon and Somerset has been given a deadline to come up with a rescue plan for the programme.

Last September, Gigaclear admitted the project was facing significant delays and was two years behind schedule.

Connecting Devon and Somerset, the organisation in charge of the whole project, stopped paying Gigaclear nine months ago.

It has told the firm it must come up with acceptable plans by the end of July to fulfill the contract.

Computer cables
Getty Images

Weather warning for thunderstorms updated - and avoids Glastonbury

The Met Office has updated its weather warning for thunderstorms across the West.

It now mostly avoids Somerset - which could be good to avoid a soaked ground at Glastonbury ahead of the festival - and Bath, Bristol and most of Gloucestershire. But the warning encompasses most of Wiltshire.

It is active from now until 10am on Tuesday.

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The singing vet

The vet that loves to sing for animals and farmers
A man who is being dubbed 'The singing vet' says singing make his job more enjoyable for the animals he works with and the Farmers that ask for his help.

Alfonso Camass started getting operatic singing lessons in his late twenties when he lived in Italy.

He now uses his singing in his  veterinary work, because he feels it makes people and animals happy.

West to ramp up car charging points

Electric car

The West's electric vehicle charging network is being boosted with more than 120 new charging points.

The new points are being installed over the next year.

The £7.1m of government funding was awarded to Bristol City Council, Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset, in a bid to increase the uptake of electric vehicles (EVs).

Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, said the upgrade will help "both existing and future EV drivers".

"Ensuring we develop a resilient charging infrastructure will give more people the confidence they need to embrace this technology," he said.

Unused medication costing Somerset £5m a year


Unused medication in Somerset is costing the county nearly £5m a year, it has emerged.

Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group says its annual prescribing budget for the area is around £80m but nearly 16 per cent of that isn't used by patients.

Research commissioned by the Co-op has revealed nearly 30 percent of patients don't finish the course of medication they've been given.

13-year-old Josh, who has cerebral palsy aims to become a powerchair football star
Josh Lancaster, 13, plays for a Somerset powerchair team and has been told he has "great potential".

Devon and Somerset fire stations may close under changes

Ben Woolvin

BBC South West Home Affairs correspondent

Some fire stations may close under changes being considered by Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service.

The brigade is due to reveal options for change later on Wednesday.

Bosses said it was to bring an outdated service into the 21st Century.

Unions said closing any fire stations would be a mistake and they were concerned about a potential "lack of fire cover and increased response times".

Devon and Somerset Fire Service vehicle

Talking about a service delivery public consultation on its website, the brigade said it was originally designed over 50 years ago and that "since then, the make-up of our communities and the way in which people live their lives has changed significantly".

It added: "The majority of our existing 85 fire stations have been in place for well over 30 years and the firefighter duty systems have not changed since the 1970s."

Charity urges employers to take on ex-convicts


A Somerset-based charity is urging employers to take on ex-offenders who have just left prison.

According to the Ministry of Justice, getting a job can help reduce re-offending by a third.

The charity Key 4 Life helps young people in prison and on the outside offering programmes and therapy to prevent re-offending.

Eva Hamilton

Its founder Eva Hamilton said when employers hear they have been in prison, most people "don’t want to touch them with a barge pole" and think "they should be locked up and the key thrown away".

"But when they meet our young men... everything changes because [there's this] perception of that person being really nasty, [but] there's a really decent bloke in front of me."

Police forensics service faces a major shake-up

Ed Oldfield

Local Democracy Reporting Service

Jobs could be at risk in the Devon & Cornwall Police forensics service under a major shake-up.

Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer has revealed the force’s science support service is undergoing modernisation to take into account new digital processes.

But concerns have been raised about the impact of changes on the service in Plymouth, which has already seen the effect of cutbacks with fewer crimes being investigated by forensics staff.

Under the restructuring plan, fingerprint and chemical laboratories would be based with Avon & Somerset Police and Devon & Cornwall would host a digital centre. The force would also have a series of forensic hubs where staff would collect material from crime scenes for analysis.

Devon & Cornwall Police

The plan follows a decision in March to drop a plan to transfer employment of the Devon & Cornwall team to Dorset Police.

Mr Sawyer told members of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Panel that the changes could take between six months and a year, adding he hoped any staff who might lose their job could be retrained and redeployed, but redundancies could not be ruled out.

Discussions would be taking place with staff and the GMB union.

He said there were concerns about a backlog in forensics work which was having an impact on the progress of sexual offence cases.

Mr Sawyer said: “Digital fingerprints can be looked at as easily from Scotland as Saltash. We have to work in the real world.”

The chief constable was responding to a question about the changes from Plymouth Labour councillor Sally Haydon, who commented: “We don’t want to lose any of our highly skilled staff from here.”

Drink spiking 'doubled in three years'

Alcoholic drinks
Getty Images

The number of reports of drinks being spiked in the west of England has more than doubled in the past three years.

Police in the region said there were 104 incidents reported in 2018 compared to 49 in 2015.

The figures from Avon and Somerset, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire Police were revealed by a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The majority were recorded in the Avon and Somerset area, where 85 incidents were reported last year - up from 41.

Elderly and young unite over gardening project

The Growing Together project is designed to bring two generations together with gardening
A project in Wincanton has been bringing schoolchildren and the elderly together through gardening.

Year 1 students from Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Primary School, have been learning how to garden with the help of residents from Carrington House.

Debbie Hicks, who helps run the Growing Together project, says it benefits both the children and the residents in different ways.

Plan to deploy 'highly visible' police to disrupt criminal activity


Avon and Somerset Police will be using a new tactic to tackle crimes from theft to terrorism.

Highly visible police officers will be deployed in unpredictable ways as part of Project Servator, with the aim of disrupting criminal activity.

Officers will also be working more with the public to encourage reporting of suspicious or unusual activity.

Parts of A303 dualling 'may not happen'

BBC Spotlight

Plans to dual the entire length of one of the major roads in and out of the South West will be delayed, and some parts of the project may now not happen.

In 2014, the Department for Transport (DfT) identified eight stretches to complete the dualling of the A303 trunk road connecting the region to the South East.

Despite rising costs the DfT maintained it was committed to three of the projects, including the A358 Taunton Link Road, which is now a year behind schedule.

But the remaining five have been classified as "low to poor value for money", prompting fears they may fall by the wayside.


Police looking for wanted man Jordan Brown

Picture of man the police are looking for
Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Avon and Somerset Police are appealing for information on the whereabouts of a man who is currently wanted and missing.

Jordan Brown aged 25, is wanted for breaching a court order and failing to appear at Bristol Magistrates’ Court.He was due to attend court on 19 January in connection with a criminal damage case, and is from the Easton area of Bristol.

He is described as white, 5ft 8ins, medium build with brown eyes and dark brown hair.

Police have urged the public to not approach the man, but call 999 and give the call handler the reference number 5219108191.

If you know where he may be or have any other information which could help, call 101 and give the same reference number.

'Vulture' bird spotted in Somerset

A bald-headed great tit has been spotted in a garden in Somerset.

The tiny "vulture" bird was snapped by nature photographer Carl Bovis on Tuesday.

According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the bald bird has feather mites but after it molts it should "get back" a full head of feathers.

"Adult birds often develop this bald appearance during the nesting season because they are so busy building nests, laying eggs and raising their young, that they completely neglect themselves," a spokeswoman said.

"As a mum I can say this is pretty true in the human world too."

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The crisis in care


Over 10 months, a small team from the BBC’s Panorama programme documented the realities of how the care system is working in England.

Based in Somerset, they followed the stories of people needing care and of the people trying to provide it.

The pressures faced here are being felt across the country as the demand for help from an ageing population increases and local authorities struggle with tight finances.

Read what they found here.

Bath street vets help homeless pets
Vets in Bath are giving up their free time to give vital treatment to homeless people's pets.

Farmers fear crops will rot in fields

Regency Purchasing Group

Farmers across the region are warning of another crop crisis this year which could lead to supply shortages and increased prices.

Somerset-based Regency Purchasing Group, a procurement agency said it fears crops could be left rotting in the fields once again because there are not enough workers to help harvest them.

The Group said feedback from its members suggests 10,000 temporary workers are needed.

It wants the Government to increase its Seasonal Workers Scheme saying the pilot project, to allow 2,500 temporary workers into the UK, is not enough.

"In 2018, we commented on how food was left to rot and die in the ground because of a shortage of seasonal produce pickers, and the forecast for this year is looking even worse," said Regency’s Managing Director, Alex Demetriou.

He added if this is allowed to happen again it would be a "shameful situaiton" and "pitiful waste of produce".

"The industry has already proved that the claim of ‘seasonal migrants taking our job’ is simply not a valid argument, as proved by last year’s labour shortfall, which left product dying in the fields," said Mr Demetriou.

“There was certainly no sudden rush of British workers to help harvest and save the produce."

Mr Demetriou also pointed to the exchange rate as a factor putting off migrant workers from coming to the UK.

They face "a significant drop in income when they change their money back into their own currency", he said.

New patient transport service begins

A new transport service has started for non-emergency patients in Bath and North East Somerset, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire.

E-zec will run the service for patients who cannot travel by other means due to a medical condition or mobility need.

Patients who want to make use of the service need to be assessed against national eligibility criteria.

E-zec delivers services across the UK and currently provides non-emergency patient transport services across Dorset, Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.