Colors: Blue Color

Amazing who you can bump into at your local cinema! Cineworld put together the all-star audience to celebrate the line-up of films showing in IMAX® in 2017, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Transformers: The Last Knight and Wonder Woman.
As if the star-studded audience assembled in the auditorium isn’t dazzling enough, hidden away is a local Birmingham landmark.
Can you spot all the stars from the 10 IMAX blockbusters? Tweet your favourite film from the selection, tagging @Cineworld & #IMAXFilmFest, and you may be surprised with free film merchandise from Cineworld.
With tickets reduced to £3 per film for the day, fans will have the chance to see blockbusters brought back to the IMAX® screens at Cineworld Birmingham Broad Street and Cineworld Birmingham NEC, including Disney’s The Jungle Book, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and The Martian.
Paul Millington, Cineworld Birmingham Broad Street General Manager, said: “We’re thrilled that the IMAX® Film Festival is back for the second year running.
Kris Unthank, Cineworld Birmingham NEC General Manager, adds: “Especially as Cineworld saw over 20,000 tickets sold last year! At £3 a ticket, there’s no excuse not to come down on Saturday April 8th and catch one of these wonderful films in IMAX® – we can guarantee you won’t be disappointed! Book tickets online now to secure your seat!”
Giovanni Dolci, IMAX Managing Director, Europe and Africa, added: “We were extremely pleased with the positive fan reaction we saw last year and look forward to partnering with Cineworld once again on the IMAX® Film Festival to present an exciting new line-up of beloved films in the immersive IMAX® format.”
IMAX®’s cutting-edge projection system, which delivers crystal-clear images, coupled with customised theatre design and powerful digital sound system, creates a unique environment that makes audiences feel as if they are in the film.

Britain is a nation of mummy’s boys and girls, whose mums are their best friends, according new research. A survey of 2,010 UK adults carried out by One4all, the Post Office gift card, found almost half of Brits (43%) say their mum is one of their BFFs.

1 in 4 (24%) speak to their mum every day, while 29% see them at least once every week.

This could be in part down to the role mums are now playing in the lives of their offspring. Many support with childcare when they become grandparents and Brits now live in the family home for longer before they flee the nest – suggesting Brits spend more time with them.

When quizzed on the relationship they have with their mothers, respondents said she plays a much bigger role in their life than just a parental figure, a quarter said they enjoy socialising with their mum.

Almost 1 in 3 (31%) said they would turn to their mum first with any good news, while 30% would reach out to their mum if they were in trouble, suggesting she’s more than just a shoulder to cry on

Aoife Davey, group marketing manager at One4all Gift Cards commented: “It’s really lovely to see ahead of Mother’s Day just how much of an important role British mums are playing in their children’s  lives, even when they have grown up.

“From the number of respondents who consider their mum one of their best friends, to the amount Britons see and speak to their mums, it’s clear to see that the relationship is in fact more of a friendship, out of choice, rather than a parental one.”

Millennials are leading the trend – 25-34 year olds were the age group who most commonly count their mum as a BFF.

There was some love lost however between British adults and their mums during the teenage years - adolescent Brits spent six years avoiding quality time with their mum as they grow up, before turning 20 and realising that mum is the word.

The biggest mummy’s boys and girls can be found in London, where almost 1 in 3 (31%) speak to their mum every day, followed by Sheffield, where 29% of locals do the same.

Improvements to Sheepwash Nature Reserve in Tipton mean visitors of all ages can enjoy and use more of the 'hidden treasures' it has to offer. Sandwell Council and volunteers in the reserve's friends' group are working together on a range of projects.

The new pathway from Tame Road into the reserve links with pathways towards Dudley Port train station.

The council has also opened up old tunnels from the Oldbury end of the reserve and thinned out trees to let more light into the park and show off the lakes and wildlife.

This summer, a 3km charity fun run is planned as well as events with schools to make more people aware of the conservation work.

People can also join Sandwell Stride's popular walk around Sheepwash every Friday at 10am. Meet at Great Bridge Library, Sheepwash Lane, Great Bridge, Tipton.

Councillor Richard Marshall, Sandwell Council's cabinet member for leisure, said: "Sheepwash is a fantastic nature reserve that we want the local community to use and get more involved in.

"I want to thank everyone who's been helping to improve Sheepwash, including volunteers in the friends' group.

"On a recent walk around the reserve, I was struck by how extensive it is. It's full of wildlife and great scenery that is free for people of all ages to enjoy.

"A recent fire at the reserve was a bit of a setback, when some of the rubber pellets we're using for the paths were set on fire, but I am pleased to see improvements continuing and hope more and more people will discover this 'hidden treasure' over the coming months."

Friends' group member, Christine Adams,said: "I've been a member of the Friends' Group for 15 years and have walked the area every day for the last 26 years as well as visiting the area when I was a child.

"It's a very special place, safe to walk a dog and a haven for wildlife.

"We're extremely pleased with the the new pathway, it's amazing and beautiful to walk on and we'd love more people to come and enjoy the reserve."

Christine added that the Friends' group was looking to recruit more volunteers to help maintain and look after the reserve as well as looking to attract more funding for future projects.

Birmingham is the obvious location for Channel 4’s new home outside of London, Birmingham City Council leader John Clancy said yesterday.

Councillor Clancy has extended an invitation to Culture Secretary Karen Bradley to visit Birmingham “to see for herself the rich pool of talent this city has to offer”.

Ms Bradley yesterday announced a period of consultation into moving Channel 4 out of the Capital.

Her statement came after the BBC last year confirmed it was moving part of BBC Three to the Mailbox, further enhancing Birmingham’s reputation as a media city.

Councillor Clancy said: “Channel 4 has a Government remit to demonstrate ‘innovation, experiment and creativity’, so what better location than Birmingham for a television station at the cutting edge of arts and culture?

"Not only is this a phenomenally creative city, we are also a young city - Europe's youngest. We have more under 25s than any other UK core city, with a rich pool of talent available to meet the demands of training the next generation of media professionals.

“Birmingham, with its culturally diverse population and with 108 different languages spoken, is the type of place where Channel 4’s audience lives, making this city a perfect spot for relocation.

"Birmingham has an established digital sector. Three of the top ten locations for ecommerce start-ups in the UK are in the West Midlands and Greater Birmingham contains 380 media and broadcast companies.

“There are 1,000 students currently studying film, TV, media and animation in the city, while more than a quarter of the UK’s games workforce is based in the region.

"Add to that the fact that by 2026, thanks to HS2, London will be just 45 minutes away, and it becomes obvious that Birmingham is a natural choice for Channel 4

“I urge the Culture Secretary to visit Birmingham as soon as possible to see for herself why this city is the perfect location for Channel 4.”

Celebrating the commonwealth’s contribution in the West Midlands, some of the region’s leading figures gathered to extol its virtues whilst marking a special book-signing session of the latest release from the award-winning author and business manager, Dr. Christopher A. Johnson.

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A number of noted guests, at CEAL (Community Education Academy of Leadership), in West Bromwich, in the West Midlands, were on hand to emphasize the impact made by people from the Indian sub-continent, and surrounding areas, and their importance to the economy, not just here, in the UK, but worldwide.

Highlighting the impact made by prominent figures of South East Asian descent, Dr. Johnson’s book. ‘The Anatomy of Britain’s South Asian Entrepreneurs,’ profiles the impact of not only Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi business success, but it offers fascinating insights into the wealth creation of Afghanis, Nepalese and Sri Lankans combined, exploring the challenges and opportunities for South Asian firms as well as other Minority Ethnic businesses in the UK.

The symposium, chaired by Councillor Preet Kaur Gill, Sandwell Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, welcomed the presence of special guest speaker, Neena Gill CBE, MEP for the West Midlands, plus Alfred Williams, Chair of Wolverhampton City Credit Union, who spoke of the importance of creating self-reliance when it comes to finance and savings, Amrick Singh Ubhi Director of the Nishkam Centre in Birmingham, Birmingham BID chair, Dipak Shilat, former Operations Manager at The formerly known Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Harminder Kaur Bhogal Project Manager of CEAL and Councillor Rupinderjit Kaur Wolverhampton City Council presented the S.H.I.E. (Sandwell Heritage Icons Empowerment) Project and Jean-Pierre Melo of the Smile4Africa community organization.

“BREXIT is a concern as the commonwealth has made massive contributions to the UK over the centuries,” said Gill, “and Dr. Johnson’s book is vital in highlighting the cultural exchanges we’ve experienced over time.

It is vital to create dialog within the commonwealth to highlight theses contributions and develop greater links.”

Speaking on the ethos of the book, Dr. Johnson said; “Our collective roles – in war and peace time - have to be recognized. BREXIT has unleashed great intolerance amongst us, so we must cherish our different perspectives. ‘The Anatomy Of Britain’s South Asian Entrepreneurs’ is aimed at doing just that.

Our collective Caribbean-African-Asian entrepreneurship over the century must be celebrated, not ignored. The book, therefore, is for those interested in social cohesion, history, heritage, policy makers, universities, colleges, researchers, professionals, enterprise development, international business management and other business education.”

CEAL launched ‘The Anatomy of British South Asian Enterprise’ in December 2016.

Council chiefs have backed a new three-year deal with Rights and Equality Sandwell to help promote good community relations and tackle hate crime and discrimination.

Councillor Syeda Khatun, the council’s deputy leader, said it was vital to invest in services to support people who are vulnerable, victims of crime or at risk of discrimination, exploitation, abuse and violence.

She said: “We have a long history of strong community relations and partnerships here in Sandwell but we need to build on these and strengthen them further.

“We are responding to various challenges and threats – including hate crime and so-called ‘hidden crimes’ such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and modern slavery.

“We’re also working with our communities to promote cohesion, protect young people and prevent the threat of terrorism and people being radicalised.

“Rights and Equality Sandwell has been established in Sandwell for more than 10 years. It makes an important contribution in supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities.

“Together with the police, NHS and local organisations, we can strengthen our response and further promote good community relations and equality.”

As part of the new agreement, Rights and Equality Sandwell will need to attract funding from other sources to complement the council’s support. It will also need to help other local groups and organisations develop local projects and attract investment.

Key aspects of the plan include dealing with hate crime; protecting children and young people from exploitation, abuse and radicalisation; supporting vulnerable migrant communities; and providing training for organisations about safeguarding, violence, exploitation and ‘hidden crimes’, including FGM and modern slavery.

Permjeet Panesar, chief executive officer for Rights and Equality Sandwell, said: "We are delighted to embark on a new three-year partnership with Sandwell Council to carry on playing a leading role in tackling discrimination and inequality and working together to support all communities across the borough.

"Through this grant opportunity we are encouraged that the council has affirmed its confidence in working with RES at a time when we are seeing an increase in highly divisive rhetoric at national and international levels in relation to community relations, immigration and extremism.

"Sandwell has a long tradition of belonging, where people of different faiths and cultures share a strong sense of unity, empathy and solidarity with those who suffer injustice.

"Rights and Equality Sandwell, established in 2003, was formerly known as Race Equality Sandwell until 2011 when the organisation expanded its remit to promoting the rights for all of the protected characteristic groups (age, disability, gender re-assignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation) as defined by the Equality Act 2010.

"RES has developed a reputation as a champion committed to equality and working towards creating fairer and more inclusive opportunities for all.

"Looking ahead, working in partnership with the Sandwell Council and other partners, there is both significant opportunity and a challenge for all of us to strengthen anti-discrimination rights and protection for all our communities; increase advice, support and advocacy for those who experience discrimination and harassment; and target practical proposals for action to tackle hate crime and extremism."

Inspirational and achievable is a mantra for BBC Gardeners’ World Live, making the Show a much-loved fixture in the keen gardener’s calendar for the past 25 years. The APL  Avenue enters its second year at the 2017 event – a Show Garden competition in conjunction with The Association of Professional Landscapers, it gives the opportunity for five APL Landscape Contractors and chosen Designers to build gardens at the Show and be seen by over 90,000 visitors over four days.

With a front or small back garden theme, the gardens are inspirational and, most of all, relatable. "APL Avenue Show Gardens at BBC Gardeners' World Live have a real achievable feel and will provide great take-home ideas and lots of inspiration. I can’t wait to see them in the flesh" says Adam Frost (APL Avenue Selection Panel Member, Gardeners' World presenter & award-winning garden designer)

The winning contractors and designers going forward to build their Show Gardens at BBC Gardeners’ World Live are:

The Artemis Landscapes ‘Living in Sync’ Garden Contractor: Artemis Landscapes, Kent Designed by: Viv Seccombe Sponsors: Neal’s Yard A front garden designed for a professional, urban couple taking inspiration from their keen interest in biodiversity, combined with their community spirit to transform the space from tarmac into an inspiring paradise for wildlife, with year-round plant interest and alluring details. To combine stimulation and practicality, features of the garden include wildlife-friendly planting, sculptural bug towers, functional bin and bicycle storage made from sustainable wood and recycled paving. The main feature tree (Crab Apple) is wildlife friendly and the wide plant borders are surrounded by embedded recycled bottles which give flashes of jewelled colour in the sunlight.

Big Fish Landscapes Garden Contractor: Big Fish Landscapes, Herefordshire Designed by: Cherry Carmen, Cherry Blossom Landscapes A back garden designed for a middle-aged couple looking to upgrade their garden to match their renovated house. They are enthusiastic nature and art lovers and would like a space that looks like art through their glass sliding doors. The innovative decking area converts into lounge chairs, a perfect viewing platform. A moss graffiti wall is a natural and wildlife friendly way to introduce art into the garden and to spruce up a plain wall. While architectural log piles attract mammals, bees and insects and a large tree and pergola create a bird friendly canopy and privacy.

Lanwarne Landscapes Garden Contractor: Lanwarne Landscapes, Hertfordshire Designed by: Martin Lines, Lanwarne Landscapes Sponsors: London Stone, The Garden Trellis Co., Ternex, The Lapa Company, DB Renovations, Urban Planters, The Japan Garden Company, DEAMER Ltd. A back garden designed for a couple in their early thirties to complement their modern refurbished house and offer a private space for them to relax in after long hours in the city. The garden includes an outdoor kitchen and fire pit created from granite and stainless steel to give a clean contemporary edge which is balanced by bee and butterfly friendly planting along with pebble fountains to allow insects to drink safely. Low level planting in pink, blue and white colours are complemented by the fencing and pergola and create the illusion of added space.

Living Gardens ‘It’s Not Just About The Beard…’ Garden Contractor: Living Gardens, Lancashire Designed by: Peter Cowell & Monty Richardson, Living Gardens A hipster back garden created for a couple who live on the fringes of a city society. With no plans to settle down with children they’re looking to change their current concrete yard into an oasis of urban greenery, inspired by the industrial themed local bars and clubs. The main feature is a floating lounging platform with a bespoke steel wood burner and beanbags, creating space to entertain, party and relax. An outdoor bar made from reclaimed materials, along with place to grow fruit and veg, creates a quirky functional area. The industrial theme is surrounded by rich green foliage with splashes of colour and trees for privacy.

Pro-Gardens ‘CLIC Sargent’ Garden Contractor: Pro-Gardens Ltd, Oxfordshire Designed by: Jamie Langlands, Pro-Gardens Ltd Supporting Charity: CLIC Sargent who provide specialist support for young cancer patients and their families. A fantastical back garden created for a young family - to inspire imagination, adventures and memories with their children. The predominant feature within the garden is the magical folly located in the rear left, aimed at capturing the childhood memories of adults whilst creating new ones for children. A small enclosed patio and seating area is well hidden behind a curved Carpinus hedge - the perfect place for a quiet moment of reflection or a relaxing drink. An old path lined with fragrant lavender meanders towards the folly, passing colourful herbaceous planting and characterful trees.

A dozen community groups in Sandwell have benefited from more than £50,000 worth of improved facilities between them thanks to the generosity of the four companies refurbishing thousands of council homes in Sandwell.

The Hands-on Help scheme has seen Sandwell Council’s four construction partners – Keepmoat, Lovell, Vinci Facilities, and Wates Living Space and their suppliers - working on three projects each over the last 12 months.

The firms donated 1,350 hours of free labour along with a host of materials and their building expertise to benefit the thousands of people who attend the hundreds of activities, clubs and social events hosted by the community groups every week.

Groups were invited to bid for help through the scheme and work carried out included repairing a leaky roof, redecorating tired community halls, refurbishing out-dated kitchens and replacing old toilets.

One of the successful bidders was The Church of the Good Shepherd with St John, in West Bromwich which benefited from a brand new kitchen in their church hall.

The transformation included taking out the old kitchen, upgrading electrics, painting the walls, ceiling and woodwork as well as pressure washing the floor. As well as supplying and fitting the new kitchen, Lovell, who carried out the work also donated a new electric cooker.

Hazel Bloxham, church warden, said: “Our church hall provides a venue for many local clubs and activity groups.

“The kitchen’s previously poor condition was making it difficult to prepare food safely and stopping the wider community from attending activities here.

“We are extremely grateful for everything that has been done and the new kitchen is so much more practical and attractive for people to use.”

Another beneficiary was the 291 Community Association at Wesley Methodist Church, also in West Bromwich which has benefited from new toilet facilities

Derek Percival of the association, said: “Our original building dates back to the 1930s and the toilets were last refurbished in 1972 – and you could tell.

“We are absolutely delighted with the installation of a disabled toilet and nappy-changing facility. We can now better serve our users and attract more bookings for the building."

Emily Addis, 25, from Sutton Coldfield, was crowned the winner of the 60 Seconds to Change Your Life competition yesterday at The Photography Show (The NEC, Birmingham), winning a package worth over £15,000 to help kick-start her career in photography, in association with Training byLUMIERE and Nikon.

The competition, which was launched earlier this year, required aspiring photographers to submit a 60-second-long video, describing why they hoped to be considered for the competition and how it would change their life. Following additional challenges, including the submission of a creative selfie and a task to capture an image yesterday around the NEC, the three chosen finalists, Emily Addis, Evie Lewis and Wayne Richards took to the Live Stage at The Photography Show to take part in a live photo shoot in front of a packed audience.

Emily Addis said: ‘I am over the moon to have been chosen as the winner and so grateful to have been selected from such an incredible bunch of creative photographers. I have recently quit my job in retail to follow my aspirations of becoming a professional photographer and taking part in the competition was a case of make or break; I am thrilled to be starting my career!’

The full prize package includes, six months’ training starting September 2017 (Training byLUMIERE), essential kit for business (Nikon D500 + AF-S DX NIKKOR 16-80 VR, Create Branding marketing package, 1 year unlimited subscription to 3XM Client Galleries plus a trip to the Loxley Colour lab along with an extensive range of branded product and marketing supplies and software from Light Blue Software), equipment and insurance (a Manfrotto tripod, LED light and bag, MagSphere and MagBounce from Magmod, a WD My Passport Wireless Pro 3TB, 12 months insurance from Towergate Camerasure) plus one-year subscriptions to the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography Plan, including Lightroom CC and Photoshop CC and a subscription to Digital Camera magazine (Future publishing).

Brent Kirkman, owner of Training byLUMIERE and one of the four judges on the panel, said: ‘Emily shone through in all of the competition challenges and we are really looking forward to helping her towards building a successful business in the photography industry.’

Birmingham City Council’s Birmingham in Bloom competition is on the lookout for green fingered council tenants and neighbourhood heroes.

The annual competition shines a light on council tenants and lease holders who green up their environment and take pride in their communities.  This year’s competition – which starts and closes earlier than previous years – is going a step further with three awards that recognise tenants and young people who improve their neighbourhoods and support people in their community.

Joan Goodwin, chair of the City Housing Liaison Board, said: “Birmingham in Bloom celebrates the work put in by tenants and leaseholders to bring colour and pride to their communities through their gardening skills.  This year we thought we would celebrate how people in our communities support each other too with some new awards and prizes for those people who really go out of their way to help their neighbours.”

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for housing and homes, Cllr Peter Griffiths, added: “Birmingham in Bloom never fails to impress with community gardens, vibrant flower displays and tasty produce.  This year I would really like to encourage people who haven’t entered before to get creative with their gardening skills and think about who makes a difference in their community.  I would also like to thank our sponsors for their continued support for this event which shows what we can achieve when we all work together.”

The deadline for entries is 30 June 2017. Entry forms are available at local libraries and leisure centres or online at and there are lots of great prizes on offer for district and citywide winners in the following categories –

Best front garden – display with the most impact, variety of plants, special features, design and layout Best balcony – visible display of colour, creative with space, ie hanging baskets or window box Healthy Start Award – home grown produce, ie vegetable patch or allotments Community Garden – street or community garden Cleaner Greener Community Award – recognising tenants who have improved the appearance of their neighbourhood Young Person/Group Achievement Award – recognising how young people and young people’s groups have made a positive contribution to their neighbourhood Helping Hand Award – a tenant/leaseholder who has helped someone in their community ie with their garden, waste collection or grocery shop

District winners and their guests will be invited to the awards ceremony at the Banqueting Suite in the Council House on 27 September 2017.

Cash prizes, trophies and gardening tools are sponsored by: Fortem, Glendale, idverde, Keepmoat, The Conservation Volunteers and Wates.

City of Wolverhampton Council has been handed £478,000 government funding to help fulfil a long-term plan to grow the number of electric taxis in the city. The news was announced this morning by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) as part of its £20 million Taxi Scheme.

The funding means work can now start in the city on building the infrastructure to facilitate electric taxis as they become more readily available over the next decade. An initial 24 charging points will be installed over the next three years, with the aid of match funding from council capital and revenue budgets.

It fits in with wider work to promote low emission vehicles by the West Midlands Combined Authority. Cabinet Member for City Economy, Councillor John Reynolds, said: “We are working closely with the taxi drivers in the city on this project.

“Electric taxis bring many benefits. They improve air quality and public health, make the city more attractive, support the economy of the Midlands, and support innovation and transformation, as well as help reduce carbon emissions.”

Parminder Sekhon, Chair of Wolverhampton Taxi Owners Association, added: “This is great news and these new facilities will help protect the trade as our industry embraces new technologies. Whilst drivers would like to purchase low emission vehicles, it needs to be a viable business option, there are costs associated with these vehicles, any support available from central government and the licensing authority will help drivers make the change to newer cleaner vehicles.”

The council is aiming to convert 16% of both the Hackney and private hire fleets in the city to electric vehicles by 2020.The government will provide top up grants of £7,500 to purchasers of the least polluting category of new electric Hackney carriages.

A network of taxi charging points in and around the city centre will be developed over a three-year period.

Mike Hibbert, financial director of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC), is to retire after 22 years in the role. When he was appointed in 1995 it was the organisation’s first full-time financial appointment at Board level, with the Chamber’s affairs having been looked after by honorary treasurers since its inception in 1813.

Since then the role has expanded into a broad brief and Mike, 60, has been at the forefront of managing the Chamber’s property affairs, its pension funds and also had spells in charge of the Chamber’s international division and work programme, which oversees start-up businesses.

“It was this wide diversity of the role which interested me so much,” says Mike. “I haven’t just been involved with the financial affairs of the Chamber but, of course, these have been central to what I have been doing.

“The possible development of the Chamber’s leasehold site in Edgbaston has been a huge responsibility in conjunction with colleagues and still very much at the forefront of the Chamber’s future.”

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, said: “Mike’s input at the Chamber has been invaluable. The job has required a broad area of expertise and he has been instrumental in guiding the Chamber’s fortunes, which at times have been challenging, over the past two decades.

“On a personal level, Mike has been a great support and source of counsel since I joined the Chamber. He has been a fantastic colleague and an important part of the Chamber's recent developments.”

Born in Oldham and educated at Aston University, Mike qualified with an administrative/management degree and joined the accountancy firm Whinney Murray, forerunners of what is now EY (Ernst and Young).

Originally, Mike joined the Chamber on a three-month secondment under the then chief executive Bob Moore.

“Since then I have worked with three other chief executives – Sue Battle, Jerry Blackett and Paul Faulkner. I have also worked with 22 different Presidents from many aspects of business life, including property, finance, law, education, engineering, television, entrepreneurship and marketing – and this has been one of the other appealing and diverse elements of the job.

“The other fascinating part has been involvement with so many business interests in the city through their membership of the Chamber.

“All of this has made the job an amazing experience and it has been an honour to work in an organisation that has such a magnificent and integral heritage as part of one of the most important cities in the world.”

Mike says that the most challenging period of his time at the Chamber came with the financial downturn at the same time as the Chamber’s Business Link contract ended following a re-organisation of business support by the government.

He says: “The Chamber had a turnover of £36 million when Business Link was with us and we had to cope with losing a large proportion of that as well as the impact of the biggest global financial downturn in living memory.

“Those were pretty challenging days and it has been particularly rewarding to come through them and establish a Chamber that is financially strong and making sustained surpluses for the benefit of our members.”

Mike and his wife Susan, who he met at Aston University, have a son and two daughters, and has recently become a granddad..

“That will keep me busy but I hope to have more time to pursue my other interests, including travel and walking” says Mike. Paul Faulkner added: “Mike will be a hard act to follow and we are starting a recruitment process for a Chief Financial Officer.

A staggering 27,500 items which help people live safely and independently are loaned out to Sandwell residents every year. And adult social care services make sure that 93 per cent of people who need aids – like walking frames, high seated chairs, perching stools and toilet-related accessories – get them within seven days of being requested.

Now Sandwell Council's cabinet member social care, Councillor Ann Shackleton, is reminding people that wherever possible the council collects and recycles items when they are no longer needed.

The service, which integrates adult social care and health in a pooled budget, called the Better Care Fund, recycles more than half of items which are then suitable to be loaned out again.

The value of these recycled items in 2016/17 totalled a staggering £1.5m, enabling the service to significantly reduce spending on new equipment.

Figures released show more than 12,000 people are currently provided with equipment, to help keep them safe and living independently in their home, with another 2,500 active users of Telecare in Sandwell.

Councillor Shackleton said: "One of the major achievements of the past 12 months was to merge the ordering of equipment and Telecare onto the same system, which has allowed health and social care professionals access to a single ordering system and removed a lot of duplication.

"People who need equipment have it delivered within seven days of request and we are now aiming to increase the recycling rate of many of the items loaned out. I would urge anyone who has loaned items that are no longer needed to let us know so we can collect and recycle them for other people to use.

"The service has also introduced a dedicated occupational therapist role, which has led to greater knowledge of equipment and its suitability as well as realising significant year-on-year savings."

Prevention Stores is the council's in-house provider of equipment and Telecare in Sandwell and loans all kinds of household items to enable people to live safely and independently.

Telecare is the provision of a range of equipment and sensors that alert a carer or professional if something has or hasn’t happened in a property, for example, a person not returning to bed during the night after visiting the toilet. Other sensors include remote smoke detection, medication reminding devices as well as pagers to alert carers to any emergencies. Many items can also be linked to Sandwell’s Community Alarms service.

Work is underway to complete a further 110 homes in Erdington – and the first of the new homes will be ready to hand over from April this year. The new homes are part of a second phase of redevelopment of the Lyndhurst housing estate by Birmingham City Council, providing both social housing for rent and houses for sale.

Birmingham City Council’s cabinet member for housing and homes, Cllr Peter Griffiths, said:  “This second phase of development will see 110 more houses, bringing the total to 251 quality homes.  As with the first development we are providing both social housing and houses for sale, making sure that we continue to tackle our housing shortage and provide homes for a range of needs and family size – from one to five bedroom properties.  The income gained from houses sold from this latest development will be reinvested into the council’s housing stock of social housing.”

Chris King, managing director for Kier Living added:  “Kier Living are committed to providing Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust and the communities in which we are working with high-quality homes and facilities. Our aim is to develop desirable and vibrant new homes at Abbey Fields in Erdington which will breathe new life into the area and make a huge difference to local people.”

Since 2012, the council has been developing new homes on the estate where a clearance programme of poor quality housing has been ongoing for a period of years.  Rebranded as Abbey Fields, the development has been undertaken as part of the council’s Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust programme.

The first phases of the redevelopment are now completed providing 141 new family homes. Of these 76 were for outright sale and 65 for social rent as new council homes.

The current phase under construction by Kier Living Limited will provide a further 110 new homes of which 85 will be for rent and 25 for outright sale. The homes include a range of two, three, four and five bed houses.  The first of the new homes will be handed over in April 2017. This phase of development is to be completed by June 2018.

Homes for sale in this phase of development are to be provided as part of the council’s own direct sales delivery arm, Forward Homes.  Abbey Fields is just one of the three schemes being delivered as part of the Forward homes programme.  Income generated by the sale of these homes will be reinvested into the council’s own housing stock.

The first eight homes for sale – not due for completion until June – have already been reserved, and the remaining will be released for sale shortly.

Alongside the creation of the new homes, work is also due to start on the new Abbey Fields Park in the centre of the estate in June 2017.

A “lifeline” adult social care service for people in Sandwell is helping almost 80,000 callers a year, latest figures show. Sandwell Council’s Enquiry answered 78,000 requests in the last year as members of the public, carers and health professionals sought assistance and guidance. The team also receives up to 160 email enquiries a day at peak periods.

Enquiry supports local residents and their relatives and carers, health professionals and other services. Councillor Ann Shackleton, the council’s cabinet member for social care, visited Enquiry team members at the Independent Living Centre, Smethwick, to find out more about the service.

She said: “Enquiry is part of our wider independent living team and the staff there do an excellent job. It’s a lifeline service for the many thousands of people who use it.

“We want to help people get the right services at the right time, so that they can keep their independence, stay safe and have a good quality of life.

“People get guidance and support on a whole range of enquiries on matters that are very important to them. Where necessary, Enquiry refers people to key workers and other specialist adult social care teams for the support or advice they need.

“The range of enquiries is quite remarkable – from requests for blue badges, personal care assistance and equipment and adaptions in the home to hospital discharges, safeguarding concerns and mental health support.

“Another key aspect of the team’s work is to give advice on home maintenance and staying safe and independent to people with disabilities, older people who may be frail and those with particular health problems.

“I was very impressed with team members’ commitment to helping people resolve their issues, and it’s good to know this kind of high quality support and advice is available.”