Colors: Blue Color

Andy Street, the former John Lewis boss, and the Conservative candidate for West Midlands Mayor, surprised many when he won the mayoral election on Thursday 4th May. Mr Street won the election on the back of making several promises to bring change and improvement to the West Midlands, and to ensure that the region was not left behind, in these changing times. The West Midlands Mayor will have control over transport, housing and jobs.

For our readers, here’s a refresher for what we at The Phoenix Newspaper believe are his key policies.

During the campaign, Andy Street highlighted the importance of developing a proper transport network within the West Midlands to ensure that people could get to work on time, and to do the things they wished to in their spare time. To this end, he proposed opening several new tram and train lines between Birmingham City Centre and various other areas of Birmingham, such as King’s Heath and Moseley. Mr Street has also discussed improving the car parks in Birmingham and other areas in the West Midlands to ensure better security for citizens and their cars.

Mr Street highlighted the importance of ensuring that people were given the tools to get back into work during the campaign as well. He focused on ensuring that apprenticeships were rolled out for the people, including digital apprenticeships, to ensure that the people of the West Midlands had the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive and changing world. Mr Street focused particularly on increasing youth employment through his digital apprenticeship scheme, and through ensuring that they were put through an employment boot camp to properly equip them for the world of work.

Housing was highlighted throughout the mayoral campaign as a serious issue for the people of the West Midlands. The candidates all expressed the ways in which they hoped to address this issue, Mr Street amongst them. Mr Street proposed building new houses on allotments of green belt, as well as on brown belt. This, he argued during the campaign would spread the balance of housing development, whilst also preserving valuable patches of green belt for conservation. He proposed that this method would help see 25,000 houses built in the West Midlands over three years.

Now that he has been elected mayor, Mr Street will have a tough task ahead of him. It will be interesting to see whether he is fit for the challenge!

The former John Lewis chief will lead the West Midlands Combined Authority and the cabinet consisting of the seven West Midlands Council Leaders.

Thanking his team, Street said: "I want to be a mayor who works for everyone across the West Midlands and binds all of our leaders together.

“That’s because ultimately that's what this job is all about - about building a team to champion the West Midlands, building an alliance with central government, with local people, that will put the West Midlands back in its rightful place as the leading region of the UK."

At the end of a close content, Street came out on top over Labour candidate Sion Simon by only around 4,000 votes.

A West Midlands mayor was part of the devolution deal between the WMCA and the government, which will see more than £1.1bn made available for investment in the region over the next 30 years.

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, said: “We look forward to working with Andy to help make the region the best possible place to start, grow and move a business and ensure a strong business voice is heard in the West Midlands Combined Authority.“While the General Election is understandably taking a significant amount of media and political attention at present, we would urge the new mayor not to lose time in their (relatively short) 3-year term and get straight to the business of establishing their office and delivering for the region.”

The Phoenix Newspaper wishes him well in his new role!

With the better weather and more opportunity to get outdoors to start training, now is the ideal time to commit to this year’s Heart of England Bike Ride.  Now in it’s 12th year this well-established, popular family bike ride organised by the Knowle and Dorridge Lions takes place to raise funds for the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and local causes.

Starting between 9.30am and 11.30am on Sunday 16 July at Packwood House near Solihull, cyclists have a choice of approximately 12, 18 or 30 mile circular routes (20km, 30km or 50km) along Warwickshire country lanes. Cyclists can take on the ultimate challenge and cycle approximately 60 miles (100km) by completing all three routes.

“This event seems to be going from strength to strength with over 750 riders raising more than £20,000 for charity last year,” says Knowle and Dorridge Lions organiser Paul Wheatley. “With a choice of 4 distances there is something for all abilities, families, teams & individuals. We received great feedback from riders last July who enjoyed the lovely atmosphere, getting fit, completing a challenge and raising money for charity, all at the same time.

It is a great opportunity to spend a Sunday with friends, family or colleagues cycling through the glorious Warwickshire countryside and villages. After the bike ride, food will be available to purchase from the Lions Club BBQ and there is free entry to Packwood House and gardens. It’s a great day out for everyone!”

The Lions are delighted to welcome back main sponsor Hollywood Monster. “This will be our 7th year supporting the Lions. They do a great job organising this and other fundraising events” says Chief Executive Simon McKenzie “We shall be entering a team and hopefully have a new Hollywood Monster to wave off the riders from Packwood House on the morning.”

Street racers are being warned they could lose their car, their job or even their liberty if they take part in a car cruise in the Black Country.

An injunction, introduced in February 2015, will remain in place following a High Court hearing on Thursday, April 27. It bans people from taking part in a car cruise anywhere within the four Black Country boroughs – Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and the City of Wolverhampton – or from promoting, organising or publicising such an event.

His Honour Judge McKenna sitting at the high court evaluating the injunction concluded that it had proven “successful” in reducing instances of car cruising. And the authorities are warning they won't hesitate to take action against anyone who breaches it.

The injunction defines car cruising as the act of drivers meeting on the public highway on an organised or impromptu basis to race or show off in their cars. Anyone who breaches it risks being in contempt of court, for which they could face up to two years in prison and a fine.

Police can also take action against individuals for traffic offences including driving without due care and attention, driving without insurance – no insurance policy covers illegal street racing – or driving an unroadworthy vehicle.

Already 13 people have been convicted of contempt of court since the injunction came into force and further prosecutions are pending. There has also been a significant reduction in car cruising activity across the Black Country.

Councillor Paul Sweet, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for Public Health and Well-being, said: "We welcome the judge’s stance on this and his comments on the success of the injunction. The four Black Country councils and West Midlands Police remain committed to the injunction as an important tool to cut anti-social behaviour and make the public safer.  

“Car cruising, has been eliminated in certain areas altogether and deters would-be car cruisers. We will remain vigilant and will not hesitate to take action against those suspected of participating in car cruises in the Black Country or indeed those who seek to organise them.

Superintendent Dean Hatton of West Midlands Police Roads Policing added: "The injunction enables us, together with our partners, to continue to tackle those individuals who flout the laws of the road and pose a danger for innocent members of the public.

"Anyone who is convicted of contempt of court by breaching the injunction could face jail or be hit with a large fine. At the same time, by committing traffic offences they could be banned from driving or have their car seized."

The injunction was granted in December 2014 and was sought to tackle the menace of car cruising, which was blighting the lives of residents and having a detrimental impact on businesses throughout the region. And it has had an instant impact, with police and councils reporting a significant reduction in car cruising across the Black Country, and the problem being eliminated altogether in many areas.

The injunction prohibits a number of activities and consequences typically associated with car cruising, including speeding, racing or driving in convoy, performing stunts, obstructing the highway, excessive noise, and causing the risk of harm to people or property.

The four Black Country councils and West Midlands Police secured the ground-breaking injunction after receiving hundreds of complaints about car cruising from residents and businesses over a number of years.

They ranged from complaints about dangerous driving, speeding and vehicles and spectators obstructing highways or residential or business properties, to excessive noise, littering, verbal abuse and intimidation.

Walsall College Foundation Art & Design students exhibited and sold their unique hand-made artists’ books at Walsall New Art Gallery.

Hundreds of visitors attended the exhibition and purchased limited edition books in support of upcoming talent.

As part of their course, Art and Design students made a range of different types of books using unconventional materials and printing techniques, and exploring a variety of themes.

Students also volunteered on the day to help manage the event and one student, Emily Wakeling, designed the poster and flyers used to promote the event.

Student, Jake Semper, said: “It was great to share our work with members of the public and see them take a keen interest in what we have produced. I received a lot of good feedback about my books which was really pleasing.’’

Foundation Art and Design Tutor at Walsall College, Maria Wigley, said: “It was a very busy day for the students and so well supported by family and friends and gallery visitors. Our students were able to interact with members of the public and see their work in a major international gallery.”

Foundation Art and Design Tutor at Walsall College, Sue Krejzl, said: “Following the success of this exhibition, we are now exploring more collaborative and work experience opportunities for students at the gallery to support their career progression.”

With 2017 being the fiftieth anniversary since homosexuality was decriminalised, it is fitting that the theme of this year’s Birmingham Pride event is love and pride. The event, held between Saturday 27th May and Sunday 28th May, promises to be a thrilling and promising event.

The event wishes to draw crowds from all walks of life, and to encourage people to come and celebrate love and happiness in their local communities. You do not have to be a member of the LGBT community to come and have a good time.

To that end, the events scheduled throughout the weekend promise to be exciting and entertaining for everyone who attends them. Performances from DJs such as James Silver, Cabaret acts such as Son of a Tutu and bands such as Basement Jaxx promise to bring a lot of fun and fire to the weekend. Furthermore, Sophie Ellis Baxter as one of the headliners for the weekend is sure to be a highlight of the weekend.

There are also a variety of other things for people to pursue if they’re not in the mood for music. These include thrill seekers funfares, community and market stalls selling a variety of wares, and of course stalls selling the best street food Birmingham has to offer.

Birmingham Pride promises to be a fun and exciting weekend, you’d be foolish to miss it!

Works on the latest phase of the Bilston High Street pedestrian and cycle link have now been completed – and it is now open to the public.

Temporary landscaping has been put in place ahead of the final development proposal being determined.

The council acquired and demolished seven derelict properties, improved the ground conditions and dealt with shallow coal workings, to pave the way for the works, which started in early February.

In addition to a wide path through the centre, the site benefits from grassed areas and shrubs, and the design of the temporary scheme enables the open space to be used for events in the town.

A new pedestrian and cycle crossing on Pinfold Street will also be installed later in the year to ensure the route is easy, safe and convenient to use.

The link runs past the Bert Williams Leisure Centre, South Wolverhampton and Bilston Academy, through to Bilston Urban Village - where new and improved areas of open space will be developed this year and where up to 450 houses are being built – through to Ladymoor Pool.

Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Economy, said: “The development of the Bilston High Street link is important to the economy of the town. It ensures that the town centre benefits from the investment being attracted onto the urban village site.

“Bilston Urban Village is a key part of the wider regeneration of the city, bringing new homes, new jobs and more investment.

“All of this demonstrates our commitment to Bilston and ensures it will continue to be a thriving area.”

While the final development is yet to be determined, the council was keen to see the establishment of the route to the High Street. This follows the construction of the link across Pinfold Street car park in 2015.

Tough powers that are helping put a stop to anti-social behavior in Seven Sisters could be extended for a further three years.

Haringey Council is consulting on plans to extend the duration of the existing public spaces protection order (PSPO), which bars a number of anti-social activities from taking place in the area.

Restrictions imposed by the PSPO, which was introduced last summer after being overwhelmingly backed by residents, are generally focused around the Wickes DIY store in Seven Sister Road and include:

Intimidating or obstructing others by congregating in groups of two or more

Persistently loitering

Approaching people for casual labour

Drinking alcohol in the street

Anti-social behaviour such as urinating in the street or being offensive

A gate has also been installed in the alleyway between Roslyn Road and Southey Road to keep out anti-social behaviour.

Since the PSPO was introduced, police patrols have seen more than 95 warnings issued. While anti-social behaviour has fallen, the existing PSPO is set to end this year and the council and the police believe an extension is the best way of continuing to tackle issues and achieve long-term solutions.

Cllr Eugene Ayisi, Cabinet Member for Communities, said: “These measures have helped us to make South Tottenham a cleaner and safer place for those who live and work there, but we know there is more still to do.

“Extending the PSPO will allow us to continue our work with the police to patrol the area and take tough action against anyone found to be making life a misery for local people.”

PSPOs were introduced in the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act. Those who breach the order could be liable for a £1,000 fine or £100 fixed penalty notice, issued by the police or the council.

The PSPO currently covers: Kerswell Close; Victoria Crescent; Culvert Road; Russell Road; Elizabeth Road; Southey Road; Greenfield Road; Birstall Road; Brunswick Road; Brunswick Road Park; Suffield Road; Westerfield Road; Braemar Road; part of Seaford Road; Watts Close; Kirkton Road; Lomond Close; Bomond Close; Maynard Close; Gourley Place; Gourley Street; Durnford Street; parts of Seven Sisters Road; Wickes Store car park; Stonebridge Estate, and parts of West Green Road.

More than half of pet owners believe not having insurance is too risky given the potential costs for treatment they could face, new research from insurance market experts Consumer Intelligence shows.

Its nationwide study found 53% say not insuring their pet is too big a worry despite concerns about the different policies available and the terms and conditions. Around two out of five (41%) of pet insurance customers find policies confusing.

Owners who do not buy cover blame the cost with 50% saying polices are too expensive while 28% believe insurance is not worth it. Dog owners are most likely to insure their pets, the research found, with around 64% paying for cover while 44% have insurance for cats.

It has proved worthwhile for owners with insurance - around one in five (18%) have claimed in the past five years while another 11% have made claims more than five years ago. Those who have claimed are happy - 74% of customers say the claim was resolved quickly and 92% said the quality of care was good or very good.

Consumer Intelligence’s pricing data shows that there are affordable cover options out there dog owners can insure from as little as £66 a year for accident only cover to as much as £363 a year for the most comprehensive lifetime cover. Cat owners would pay between £47 and £171 for the same type of policies.

John Blevins, Consumer Intelligence pricing expert, said: “Owning a pet is expensive and many owners take the view that buying insurance just adds to the bills.

“Pet insurance is a very complex purchase given the varying cover levels and product options to choose from including a wide range of vet fee options. This can make it difficult for customers to choose.

“Vet fee bandings can range from £500 to as much as £12,000 and with the majority of customers shopping around through price comparison websites it can be difficult to understand what they are buying 

“More than half of customers are not shopping around but three-quarters of those who do switch are able to cut their annual premium highlighting the benefits of researching the market.”

Apprentices at a Brierley Hill insurance broker were at the forefront of celebrations for the opening of their new premises.  Insurance Protector officially launched their new office space in Quay House on the Waterfront where plans are now in place to more than treble its workforce in the next five years.  This includes the recruitment of a further 10 apprentices in partnership with Stourbridge College.

Julie Tibbetts, Employment Skills Advisor at Stourbridge College said: “By aligning apprenticeship programmes to their company growth, Insurance Protector has a solid foundation from which to develop their own experts to take forward their business values.  

“The apprentices they have welcomed into their business over the last year are coming on in leaps and bounds and have excellent professional prospects ahead. 

“Much has been said about growth of the financial services sector across the Black Country and it will be fantastic if others follow in the footsteps of Insurance Protector by using their recruitment strategies to train and develop their workforces.”

Insurance Protector currently has three customer service apprentices and two business administration apprentices receiving on the job training while Stourbridge College assessors deliver their qualifications.

Bhabinder Kumar, Head of Retail at Insurance Protector, said: “Our apprentices are a key part of our expansion plans, so it’s fantastic to be able to recognise their contribution to the business and the career journey they are taking.  They all know that it’s as much about them putting into the business what they’d like to get back.  They’ve fully embraced the opportunities made available to them so we’re pleased to continue investing in their careers.”

He continued: “As a company, we’re continuing to welcome new clients and this is one of the reasons we made it our goal to move to bigger premises.  Since setting up in 2012, we’ve worked incredibly hard to serve the needs of local home and business owners, as well as develop niche products for the hospitality and leisure sector.  Going forward, we aim to develop our product range and perhaps explore new markets.”

Insurance Protector is the first company to relocate as part of Dudley’s new DY5 Business and Innovation Enterprise Zone.  The new office is an open plan 8,000sq ft office, which they have signed up to occupy for a minimum of five years.

Birmingham City Council and the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) have agreed to launch a street fundraising agreement for the city. The agreement was initially piloted through a three-month trial, but has now been extended on a rolling one year basis, as agreed by the Licensing and Public Protection Committee on 12 April 2017.

This signals a long-term commitment from both Birmingham City Council and the Institute of Fundraising to ensure that one of the UK’s biggest and busiest city centres in the country will remain a space for everyone to operate in and to enjoy.

Chris Neville, Head of Licensing at Birmingham City Council, said:  “Following the success of our trial agreement with the Institute of Fundraising, introduced last July, there’s been a significant reduction in the number of complaints we receive about face-to-face fundraising and its impact on the public and local businesses.

“This new 12-month agreement will see fewer fundraisers in the city centre, which we welcome, and we will continue to work in partnership with IoF going forward.”


A brave team of nurses, dubbed ‘Max’s Minions’, at Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham are set to tackle a challenge of endurance in aid of their young patients.

Julie Thomas, Elizabeth Checketts, Emma Goodaker, Demi Butler and Helen Whitehouse work at the Children’s A&E Department at Heartlands Hospital, and have set a daring challenge to complete the Wolf Run, which is taking place at Stanford Hall in Leicestershire on Saturday 3 June, to raise money to support patients.

Julie said: “We are really excited to be taking part in the Wolf Run to raise money for Heartlands Hospital Charity. The money will help us to refurbish the children’s A&E Department, and provide toys and equipment for patients.”

“It’s great that we are doing this as a team and we can’t wait for the day! We’d love to raise £1,000 so any donations, big or small, are hugely appreciated.”

Sian Averill, Fundraising Manager at Heartlands Hospital Charity, said: “We are thrilled to hear that Max’s Minions will be taking on the Wolf Run and would like to wish them the best of luck for the day. The Charity is delighted to be able to support staff as they make improvements to the hospital, and we’d like to encourage as many people as possible to get involved, either doing some fundraising themselves or supporting others in their quests!

“We can’t wait to see the photos after the event – good luck everyone!”

To sponsor Max’s Minions please donate to their JustGiving page by visiting To find out more about how Heartlands Hospital Charity supports patients, please go to or call 0121 371 4852.

Ambitious graduates and high flying businesses were celebrated at a glittering University of Wolverhampton awards ceremony.

The Business Achievement Awards recognise individuals and companies that have made an excellent contribution to enterprise and the regional economy.

The bi-annual awards held at the Molineux Stadium celebrate business collaborations and academic partnerships, graduate employment support and graduate start-up companies.

The winners on Wednesday, 26 April 2017 included Morgan Motor Company, who clinched Business Collaboration of the Year. The company works with the University to upskill the next generation of craftsmen and women, apply research to current design and manufacturing practices and develop new motor racing cars.

Santander won Strategic Business Partner of the Year. The banking giant has committed £120,000 in funding to the University over three years, which will fund students on an international study scholarship as well as international graduate work experience placements in Europe and South America each year.

The Graduate Start-up of the Year award was voted for by the audience on the night, and dAudio Music Group scooped the £3,000 prize to invest in their business. Broadcasting worldwide, the company works with independent musicians to discover, develop and promote new talent in Birmingham and surrounding areas.

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Oakes said: “The Business Achievement Awards enable us to celebrate graduates, employers and organisations who deserve recognition for their excellent contribution to business, enterprise and the economy.

“As a University, we are committed to ensuring our graduates have the best opportunities to gain work experience, internships and access to business start-up support. Our impressive 96% graduate employment rate is testament to the strong partnerships we have built with industry, business and the professions and the commitment of our graduates to reach their potential.

“All of the shortlisted individuals and organisations have made enterprising and innovative contributions to the region’s business landscape and they deserve to be incredibly proud of their achievements.”

A carefully chosen judging panel, made up of representatives from the region’s business community as well as representatives from the University selected the winners.

Ambitious plans to regenerate Tottenham Hale, the first phase of London’s largest Housing Zone, have moved a step closer after developer Argent Related and Haringey Council signed the Strategic Development Partnership (SDP) for the project.

The SDP provides the formal framework for the plans, which include around 900 homes including market sale, build to rent and shared ownership properties to be built over the next five years; the first homes could be available as early as 2020. The redevelopment next to Tottenham Hale Station – with Victoria line, National Rail and potential Crossrail 2 links – will also feature new shops, cafes and restaurants and community facilities. The station itself is undergoing £20 million of improvements, including a new landmark entrance.

Leader of Haringey Council, Cllr Claire Kober, said: This is a significant milestone in our ambitious plans for Tottenham Hale. We look forward to working with Argent Related to deliver hundreds of new homes, jobs and opportunities for Haringey residents.

The wider redevelopment of Tottenham Hale will also also see a new district health centre, an employment and skills programme for local people, improved green spaces and better access to the nearby Lee Valley Regional Park.

Argent Related will shortly begin engagement with local residents, community groups, schools and businesses to explain the vision for the area and invite feedback on various elements of the development.

Haringey’s partnership with Argent Related in Tottenham Hale is the latest in a series of major regeneration milestones for Tottenham, including the £750 million Tottenham Hotspur stadium; the £60 million Grainger Apex House development at Seven Sisters; a £32 million new rail and underground station at Tottenham Hale; town centre and public realm improvements at  Tottenham Green and Holcombe Market, and the opening of ADA, the National College for Digital Skills at Tottenham Hale.

Robert Evans, Partner at Argent, said: This partnership has come about because both Argent Related and Haringey are firmly committed to making Tottenham Hale a better place to live, work and spend time in. We look forward to progressing our plans and to presenting them to the Tottenham community.

Delays and rising costs in the planning system are driving small companies away from house building and slowing down attempts to tackle Britain’s housing crisis, a report claims today.

New research from NHBC Foundation shows that small builders are experiencing “deeply frustrating” delays, with a third waiting more than a year for local authority planning approval and nearly 80 per cent experiencing a significant hike in planning-related fees in the last two years.

The NHBC Foundation report ‘Small house builders and developers: current challenges to growth’ outlines the climate faced by small firms, using the experiences of almost 500 companies who typically construct less than 10 homes a year.

The report highlights the fact that the number of small firms active in house building continues to decline, accounting for just 12 per cent of market share in 2015, compared with 28% in 2008.

Earlier this year, the Government pledged “radical, lasting reform” to tackle Britain’s housing shortage, including accelerating the planning system by making it more accessible and increasing its support for small and more innovative builders.

Commenting on the report, NHBC Head of Research and Innovation Neil Smith said: “While the planning process is recognised as a necessary control, small house builders and developers continue to express considerable frustration with it. The increasing complexity, time taken to achieve a decision, and the unpredictability and inconsistency within the planning process are slowing the delivery of new homes and, in some cases, causing companies to leave this market.

“Greater certainty and more standardised approaches, clarity concerning the fees and tariffs, coupled with a more responsive service from planning departments would increase predictability and significantly help to speed up the process, thereby increasing the number of homes built.”

The report found that the lack of viable building land was also a major barrier for small house builders who raised concerns about shortage of skilled workers and a lack of interest among young people in becoming apprentices.

Black Country Chamber of Commerce are celebrating Dudley Zoological Gardens as their Member of the Week with the renowned tourist attraction currently celebrating their 80th Anniversary.

To mark this special milestone, Dudley Zoo will be holding their annual charity walk, Take A Walk On The Wild Side, which this year will be taking place on 6th May and raising money for their orangutan enclosure. In addition, there will also be celebrations at a post-walk party on the castle courtyard during the afternoon, with retro singers and birthday cake, as well as a display of archive photographs and memories from visitors.

As well as the aforementioned charity walk and party, the zoo will be running a series of celebratory events taking place throughout 2017, including castle talks and tours, as well as paranormal nights.

Furthermore, Dudley Zoo will be redeveloping several enclosures throughout the year, with the recent redevelopment of the capuchin having being completed, whilst work on their lynx and farm enclosures is now also underway.

Derek Grove, Zoo Director at Dudley Zoological Gardens, commented: “Everyone at Dudley Zoo is immensely proud to be celebrating our 80th Anniversary! Since 1937, we have welcomed millions of visitors from across the world to our unique site to visit our animals and 11th Century castle, helping to ensure that we play a vital part in the cultural heritage of the Black Country.

“Moving forwards, we are looking to build upon the resounding success of last year, which saw us welcome more than 310,000 visitors. With the redevelopments that we have planned across the site, as well as the range of celebratory events that we have taking place, our 80th year is set to be one to remember!”

Opening in May 1937, Dudley Zoo is constructed over 40 acres within a 200-acre densely wooded site, which also includes an 11th Century castle. In addition, the zoo is home to more than 200 species, including Asiatic lions, Sumatran tigers, Rothschild giraffes, Bornean orangutans, and Madagascan lemurs.

Black Country Chamber of Commerce wants to support businesses to grow and succeed, and Member of the Week is an initiative to celebrate the great work that our members are doing and to highlight the success stories in the local area.