Colors: Blue Color

Following the explosion in Manchester last night, free App citizenAID has been highlighted as it is an app and pocket guide that has been developed to advise members of the public on what they can do if involved in a multiple casualty incident, including a bombing or a shooting. The simple system enables the public to keep safe and offers guidance on how to provide life-saving immediate aid for the injured around them.

citizenAID has been set up by a team of senior clinicians with military and civilian experience and is a part of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham Charity. This deep experience of blast and gunshot injury has been gathered during recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and is the basis of the information provided in the guide. For more information please see, where you will also find a public information film on immediate actions that will save lives in the aftermath of a bombing (this film carries a ‘discretion advised’ warning).

Professor Sir Keith Porter, co-author of citizenAID said, “The events in Manchester last night sadly highlight the need for everyone to be empowered with the knowledge that they may need if they are caught up in such an incident. The citizenAID app is free to download and I would encourage everyone to do so, and to familiarise themselves with its content.”

One of the aims of citizenAID is to give the younger generation the tools that they need to keep themselves safe and to help to treat others. The events of last night have once again highlighted the importance of this.”

Last week the three main parties in Britain and Northern Ireland released their manifestos. It seems that the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour all agree that the key areas of policy for a future government will be: the economy, housing, healthcare and Brexit.  With two weeks to go until the general election on 8th June, here is a quick look at how the three main parties compare on the key policies.

On the economy, all three parties are in agreement that more needs to be done to encourage growth and investment. Whilst the Conservatives wish to lower taxes and improve corporate governance, the Liberal Democrats and Labour wish to provide proper scrutiny of big companies and ensure that those who can afford to are paying an appropriate amount of tax, through a 1p increase in income tax as proposed by the Liberal Democrats, or a 5% increase in income tax for those earning over £80,000 in the case of Labour. Both the Liberal Democrats and Labour would use the British Business Bank to provide investment and funds to small and developing businesses, whilst the Conservatives remained vague on how they wished to promote small business.

Brexit sees all three parties taking completely different stances. The Conservatives are in favour of a ‘hard Brexit’ meaning leaving the EU completely including the customs union and the single market, taking back control of immigration and leaving the European Court of Justice. They would also replace or amend laws that were implemented when the UK was part of the EU through a Great Repeal Bill. Labour wishes to leave the EU but go for a ‘soft Brexit’ meaning that Britain remains part of the customs union and the single market, but prevents freedom of movement. Labour would also seek to guarantee the rights of European citizens currently living in Britain, as well as the rights of British citizens currently living in Europe. The Liberal Democrats would remain in the single market, the customs union and allow for freedom of movement. They would also wish to hold a referendum on any deal signed between them and the EU, and allow the people the final say, giving them the chance to completely reject the deal and remain in the EU.

Healthcare is a big issue for many voters within the country, and considering the ageing population this is no surprise. It is also no surprise therefore, that all three parties have promised significant investment into the NHS. The Conservatives have promised £8 billion of investment throughout the next Parliament, with £1 billion of that going toward Mental Health funding. The Liberal Democrats would use the 1p increase in income tax to help increase funding for the NHS and A and E, they would also set up a cross party consultation group to assess how the NHS is performing and whether it needs to adapt and change, and if so how that change might be implemented. Labour would invest £30 billion into the NHS, and would invest heavily in GP services. They would also develop a Child’s Health Index to assess how healthy the children in the country are and how their health can be improved.

On housing, the three parties appear to vary between have clear cut and costed proposals and vagueness. The Conservatives promise to use the Homelessness Reduction Act to half homelessness by 2022, and to end homelessness completely by 2027. They would also seek to modernise the home buying process through increased emphasis on their ‘Help to Buy’ Scheme and increasing protection for renters through introducing procedures that make the renter the priority in law. The Liberal Democrats would seek to build 300,000 new houses by the end of the 2022 Parliament. They would use the Housing and Development bank to attract investment into the country for housing development. They would also introduce ‘Rent to Buy’ schemes to ease people into the housing market. Labour would build 100,000 new houses using brownfield sites, 4,000 of which would be for those with a history of rough sleeping. They would also reintroduce housing benefit for 18-21 year olds.

All three parties have provided fully detailed manifestos to go alongside these key policies, that are available on their websites. If you have not already done so, please do register to vote. And do remember to turn out on Thursday 8th June, to get the government you want!

By Vivek Rajkhowa

Birmingham-based DriveSafe & StaySafe has called for increased safety education after new data have revealed that road traffic is the biggest killer of teenagers globally.

Road injury accounted for a tenth of more than 1.2 million deaths among 10 to 19 year olds worldwide in 2015, while in Britain in the same year road accidents killed 145 people and left 3,166 more seriously injured in the same age group, according to newly released World Health Organisation figures.

Most of the teenagers that were killed by road injuries are classed as “vulnerable” road users: pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.

DriveSafe & StaySafe, a not-for-profit organisation that is campaigning for road safety education to be part of the UK national curriculum, recently completed the successful piloting of its new ‘Walking to School Safely’ early learning book featuring new safety heroes The Conies within 27 Birmingham primary schools.

Fay Goodman, Managing Director of DriveSafe & StaySafe, said: “It is tragic that so many teenagers are killed needlessly on the roads, with all the devastation this causes families and friends. We need to start now in educating children as young as four on how to keep safe and be aware of the environment around them, and in ensuring schools, colleges and all educational outlets continue to promote the message of how important it is to follow sensible road safety procedures.

“I would also like to see more government awareness campaigns to remind families of the dangers on the roads and the need for drivers to be more careful and conscious of children and young people around them.”

DriveSafe & StaySafe’s ‘Conies: Walking to School Safely’ pilot scheme proved so successful that teachers from all 27 schools in Yardley, Hall Green and Hodge Hill - locations identified in the 2016 Birmingham Road Safety Strategy as child accident ‘hot spots’ – reported that the lessons ‘made a 100% improvement in road safety awareness’.

Fay added: “We hope that the lessons the children learn in primary school about walking to school safely will stay with them when they reach secondary school and begin to walk to school unassisted and negotiate unfamiliar routes, and continue to remain with them to pass on to future generations. We all need to keep sending out the DriveSafe message of ‘Be Aware, Be Prepared, Be Responsible and Be Safe’.”

Fast broadband, at least two toilets and off-road parking are among the features that have become essentials for many property buyers.

A new survey has revealed the top 20 things people look for in a new home, with central heating, double glazing and a garden unsurprisingly leading the way.

But more modern factors – such as a strong internet connection, clear mobile phone signal and enough living space for a large flat-screen television – are also priorities for buyers.

Kevin Shaw, national sales director at property specialist Leaders, says: “New technology and modern design standards have changed the way people think about the place they live and what they expect when buying a new home.

“Many people are looking for a property that boasts fast broadband and a good mobile phone signal, meaning sellers who can offer these should realise these factors have become a major selling point.

“It is also interesting to note that a strong performance when it comes to energy efficiency is another must for buyers. This shows the importance of investing in eco-friendly solutions such as solar panels, cavity wall insulation and a high-specification boiler.”

Other issues that were named by respondents to the survey as among the 20 most important things in a new home included ample electric sockets, friendly neighbours, a driveway or dedicated parking space, secure doors and windows, a dining room and a bath.

Despite the modern feel of many of the answers, buyers still insisted that a landline telephone is also essential in any new property.

Kevin adds: “Efficiency, security and connectivity have overtaken aesthetic issues such as period features. How a home performs in these areas is likely to sway modern buyers so sellers are advised to prioritise such matters.”

The West Midlands Genomic Medicine Centre (WMGMC) has appointed Insignia Medical Systems to provide an ambitious region-wide image sharing solution to support delivery of the pioneering 100,000 Genomes Project.

WMGMC, led by University Hospitals Birmingham (UHB) NHS Foundation Trust, is one of 13 GMCs established to deliver the NHS England initiative – uniquely bringing 17 acute NHS Trusts across the West Midlands together in collaboration.

The 100,000 Genomes Project, the largest of its kind in the world, aims to improve understanding, diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases and cancer by combining the genomic data of participants with their medical records, also producing a ground-breaking resource for future research.

Working with all 17 partner Trusts, UK-based Insignia will provide their industry-leading InSight Sharing Service to deliver real-time regional clinical viewing of images.

The Regional Image Sharing Project is being led by a core team from UHB, working closely with Insignia and the regional IT, picture archiving systems, information governance and clinical teams. The first Trusts are going live in the summer of 2017 and the complete project across all 17 Trusts, is expected to be completed by March 2018.

Hilary Fanning, Director of Research Development and Innovation at UHB, said: “The primary purpose of this image sharing and transfer infrastructure is to support the work of the WMGMC delivery partners.

“However, the region-wide infrastructure it will create has the potential to extend beyond the life of the 100,000 Genomes Project, improving patient care and clinical outcomes, for example, by facilitating wider multidisciplinary clinical decision making and diagnosis in oncology, rare diseases, and other clinical specialities.

“We are delighted to be working with Insignia to bring these added benefits to patients across the West Midlands.”

Richard Dormer, Managing Director of Insignia Medical Systems, added: “We are exceptionally proud to have been awarded the contract to provide this ground-breaking sharing service to such a large number of West Midlands Trusts.

“Sharing is an area we excel in and we are looking forward to deploying this solution, which will help provide a much-enhanced service to patients in the West Midlands.”

The Trusts involved are University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Robert Jones and Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, Wye Valley NHS Trust, South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust, Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

Sandwell has a new Mayoral team for the year ahead – with Councillor Ahmadul Haque MBE as Mayor and Councillor Susan Eaves as Deputy Mayor.

Councillor Haque, who has served the Tipton Green ward since 1996, has chosen his wife Surma to be Mayoress, while Rowley ward’s Councillor Eaves has her husband John as her consort.

They were inaugurated at a special ceremony at tonight’s annual meeting of the council, where a vote of thanks was also passed to retiring Mayor Councillor Julie Webb and Deputy Mayor Councillor Susan Downing.

Councillor Haque announced his two charities for the year will be:

  • Midlands Air Ambulance Charity; and
  • Your Trust Charity, run by Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, specifically raising money for cancer services and research.
The Mayor is the first citizen of Sandwell. While the role is non-political, the Mayor presides over meetings of the council. The Mayoralty attends events across Sandwell and also represents the borough at functions outside Sandwell involving local residents or organisations.

Councillor Haque said: “This is the proudest moment for me to be honoured with the position of the Mayor of Sandwell and I pledge to serve the residents of Sandwell with all sincerity."

Amanda Winwood, Your Trust Charity membership academy manager, said: "We are thrilled to be one of the Mayor of Sandwell’s chosen charities this year and we look forward to working with him and enhancing the experience of all people using our services including staff, patients and their families."

Adam Williams, fundraising manager for Midlands Air Ambulance Charity in the West Midlands adds: "Midlands Air Ambulance Charity receives no government or National Lottery funding, so the support from the Mayor of Sandwell will help to raise vital funds."

John Taylor Hospice is holding an open day on Friday 9 June for Registered General Nurses interested in joining the team.

The open day is a chance for nurses to learn more about current job vacancies at John Taylor, take a tour of the hospice and speak to existing clinical staff. There will also be an opportunity to interview on the day.

“We have exciting opportunities available for nurses,” explains Modern Matron Gale Clarke. “If you’d like to come to our open event to find out more there’s no need to make an appointment – just pop in and see us between 10:30am and 8:30pm on 9 June. We’re a friendly, welcoming and supportive team and we’ll be happy to answer any questions that you have.”

Today more than 600 people and their families will receive the care they need from John Taylor Hospice. That may be 24-hour care at the hospice in Erdington, support at their home, in the day hospice, counselling and well-being and a range of specialist services including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, pharmacy and complementary therapies.

“We’ve cared for generations of families when they’ve needed us most, providing high quality and compassionate care,” added Gale. “Our patients are at the heart of everything we do. If this sounds like a team you’d like to be a part of then please drop by to speak to us.”

An exhibition of photography and film charting the construction of British Airways i360, the world's tallest moving observation tower, is now open in the beach building.

Images by British Airways i360 official photographers Kevin Meredith and Gary Eastwood, who documented the build process, are being displayed alongside additional shots by Paul Raftery and a short film by Latest TV.

The exhibition, called 'British Airways i360: How it was Built' takes up a permanent home in the Austen room in the British Airways i360 beach building and is free for members of the public to enjoy during spring, summer and autumn months*.

During winter months or inclement weather, when pod flights board from inside the beach building, access to the exhibition is for British Airways i360 customers only.

British Airways i360 chairman David Marks of Marks Barfield Architects, which conceived and designed the attraction, said: “British Airways i360 is an engineering tour de force and a wonderful symbol of British design innovation. 'How it was Built' provides visitors with an insight into one of the aspects that makes this landmark project a world first.

“I would like to pay tribute to all the architects, engineers, designers and contractors who made it a reality as well as to the photographers and filmmakers who recorded the whole process from beginning to end.”

West Pier Trust chairman Glynn Jones said: “The West Pier Trust is truly delighted to have been closely associated with Marks Barfield Architects in the planning and construction of British Airways i360.

“This iconic structure enhances the site of the former Grade I listed West Pier and re-states the importance of first class design and its ability to lift the spirits”.

The exhibition was assembled by Real Studios. Director Alistair McCaw said: “Real Studios are pleased have been responsible for the design of the exhibition 'British Airways i360: How it was Built'.

“From text-writing to production, we have worked closely with Marks Barfield Architects in the delivery of this stunning pictorial record.”

Fresh calls for improved economic growth were issued to all political parties by Greater Birmingham business leaders today after inflation rose to 2.7 per cent in April – the highest figure since September 2013.

Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) said that with interest rates being held at a record low, everything points to a contraction in real wages and a general slowdown in the UK’s economic output.

Rising air fares (up 18.6 per cent from the month before) were partly due to a later Easter  and were blamed as a major contributor to the increase in the Consumer Prices Index (CPI).

The price of clothes jumped to the highest level for six years, with a rise of 1.1 per cent between March and April. Electricity and food prices also went up, but there were falls in the cost of gas, petrol and diesel

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of the GBCC said: “Continuing a trend that started last summer, inflation continued its sharp rise, with April’s figure the largest we have seen in almost four years.

“The lower value of the pound continues to make it more costly for UK firms to import goods, which in turn, will impact levels of consumer spending; a key driver behind economic growth in this country.

“With the Bank of England holding interest rates at a record low level and wage growth stagnant, it all points to a contraction in real wages and a potential slowdown in the UK’s economic output.

“However, we must not lose sight of the fact that the sharp rise was predicated on higher air fares (which came about as a result of the Easter holiday being pushed back to April) and tobacco and alcohol duty also going up more than it did 12 months ago – a unique set of factors unlikely to be repeated anytime soon.

“In light of the latest figures and ahead of the General Election, we are calling on all of the political parties to provide detailed answers on how they plan to boost economic growth to offset business concerns around price pressures.

“Today’s results also reflect some the underlying themes which emerged from our last Quarterly Business Report– with local manufacturers particularly squeezed by the increase in factory gate costs, but also exhibiting high levels of optimism when it comes to turnover projections for the next 12 months. We will be starting the surveying for the next report on Monday and it will be interesting to see whether these trends continue into the second half of the year.”

The launch of the world’s first Pet Food Pledge and a national awareness campaign urgespet owners to critically assess what’s in their dog’s diet. Just as parents carefully avoid ‘nasties’ in their children’s food, dog owners are being encouraged to do the same for their beloved four-legged friends. 

The campaign is backed by research highlighting that 85% of UK dog owners are unsure of the ingredients in today’s dog food, with less than a fifth surveyed (19%), actually stopping to read the ingredients in their pet’s food*.  

Forthglade, a Devon-based natural dog food company established in 1971, is behind the ‘Dump the Junk’ initiative, along with support from famous farmer, and renowned dog owner, Adam Henson.

Dump the Junk aims to educate dog owners about the nasties that can be a hidden part of pet’s diets and the potential effects these can have on pet health and behaviour. The campaign will see pet owners pledge to improve their own dog’s nutrition and help spread the word across the UK to ‘dump the junk’. By arming dog owners with the knowledge, they’ll be able to spot a nutritionally balanced dog food from a poor quality counterpart.

Adam Henson explains:     “We all want what’s best for our dogs, but we lead such busy lives, we often don’t have the time to stop and decipher confusing dog food labels. We put too much trust in what we see on packs and tins; clever packaging and vague phrasing make it all too easy to assume you’re getting something you’re not. 

“Dump the Junk is an important campaign set to lift the lid on the real contents of poor quality dog food and help pet owners make informed decisions about what they feed their canine companions. Good nutrition is at the heart of what makes a happy, healthy dog, which is why I am asking UK pet owners to make their pledge today for the benefit of dogs nationwide.”

The campaign has published a Dog Food Nasties Watch-List (attached), which identifies exactly what pet owners should be watching out for and why – as well as, advice on what consumers should look out for when searching for a nourishing dog food. Potential health horrors include vague non-specific protein sources listed as ‘meat’, ‘meat by-products’, or ‘meat and animal derivatives’. ‘Corn or Wheat gluten’ are also listed as ingredients to avoid.

Pet foods containing artificial flavourings or sugars are also being named and shamed, as these can lead to problems ranging from a lack-lustre coat, bad breath and upset tummies through to hyperactivity or even lethargy. 

Gerard Lovell, Joint Managing Director of Forthglade explains more: “In the 46 years that Forthglade has been creating natural dog food, the serious negative impacts of low quality and unsuitable food ingredients come up time and time again; common issues include digestive problems, hyperactivity and other behavioural issues.

“There are some great natural dog foods out there but sadly there are also many meals on offer that are best avoided.  Unfortunately, the law only requires pet food manufacturers to list contents by category, which is why you often see the words ‘meat’ or ‘animal’, but no indication of species. This allows a manufacturer to alter the recipe between batches depending on what meat is cheap at the time.” 

Lovell continues: “There are also a host of ingredients to watch out for. ‘Corn and Wheat gluten’ are cheap waste products from the human food industry commonly added to pet food to make the protein content higher, but are actually an inferior source to animal protein and difficult for the dog to digest – not to mention common causes of allergies.” 

The last of the main parties to launch their manifesto, the Conservatives celebrated the release of their party platform with launch event on Thursday 18th May, at Halifax, a traditional Labour seat, which has over years become a swing seat, meaning it could go either way. As with her campaign events, Theresa May was the centre of attention, and there were lots of references to her catch phrase ‘strong and stable leadership/government.’  The key policies within the manifesto, as with the two other main parties were: the economy, Brexit, healthcare and housing.

The economy is an area where the Conservatives have often been eager to point out the good work they have done. Indeed, in their manifesto they promise to provide sound public finances, low taxes, better regulation and free trade deals with markets around the world to ensure a better and healthier economy.  They also promise to protect the national living wage of £7.50 an hour that they introduced in 2015/16, and to ensure that with Brexit approaching, workers’ rights and protections are not forfeited, through the introduction of new workers’ rights as part of the Great Repeal Bill. The Conservatives also promise fairer corporate governance with new rules for takeovers, executive pay and possible worker representation on boards. In regards to income tax, the Conservatives promise to raise the minimum personal allowance to £12,500 whilst raising the maximum level to £50,000.

On Brexit, the manifesto sticks very closely to what has  been said by Theresa May throughout the campaign. The Conservatives if elected to government will bring the UK out of the EU, the single market, the customs union and end freedom of movement-apart from the case of the border with the Republic of Ireland- this is what has been called a ‘hard Brexit.’ With the Great Repeal Bill, the Conservatives promise to convert all EU law that they wish to maintain into UK law, making it laws created in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast that are purely British, fulfilling their pledge to ‘take back control’. Finally, in acknowledgement of the recent Supreme Court decision, the final agreement for Brexit will be subject to a vote by Parliament. Contrasting with the Liberal Democrats desire to hold another referendum on the deal.

Health care policy has attracted much criticism on the Conservatives in their seven years in government. Therefore, it is not surprising that they have in their manifesto, pledged £8 billion in investment for the NHS, with £1 billion going into mental health research and funding. The manifesto promises to reform antiquated laws such as the Mental Health Act, and improve Health and Safety regulations to take this into account. The ‘triple lock’ on pensions will be replaced in 2020 with a ‘double lock’, keeping the link with earnings and prices but scrapping the minimum of 2.5% a year increase. The state pension age will rise with increases in life expectancy. The reforms on healthcare also promise to focus on the least well of pensioners, meaning that those with assets of £100,000 will need to pay for their own winter fuel payments and contribute to the government contribution.

With housing becoming an increasingly demanding issue for many within the UK, the Conservative manifesto gives a brief inkling of what they would do to remedy this situation if elected. The manifesto promises a full implementation of the Homelessness Reduction Act, pledging to halve rough sleeping over the course of the next parliament, and to remove it completely by 2027. This would take place through the implementation of a Housing First approach, giving priority to rough sleepers for new houses. The Conservatives would also modernise the home buying process, they would improve upon their ‘Help to Buy’ scheme, and increase protection for renters, make landlords provide longer tenancies and finally ensure that all properties meet required standards.

By Vivek Rajkhowa

One man’s determination to revive the reputation of a Birmingham sporting icon and Olympic gold medallist has paid off with the news that the forgotten hero is to be honoured by a prestigious Blue Plaque.

In 1976, Birmingham-born John Curry made figure skating history at the Winter Olympics taking home two gold medals for team GB and becoming a sporting hero, winning BBC Sports Personality of the Year. But in the years that followed, Curry slowly slipped out of the public consciousness, and his untimely death in 1994 left a generation completely unaware of his achievements.

Actor and writer Tony Timberlake embarked on personal journey to change this, first through his one man show, Looking For John, which premiered at Birmingham Repertory Theatre last November and secondly by nominating John Curry, with the support of The REP theatre to be honoured with a Blue Plaque in his home city.

The Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Cllr Carl Rice and John Curry’s brother, Andrew, unveiled the Blue Plaque, awarded by Birmingham Civic Society, in honour of John’s achievements on Monday, May 15th.  John grew up in Acocks Green and the plaque will feature on the house where he was born at 946 Warwick Road, now Arden Lodge Residential Home.

Tony Timberlake said: “Getting recognition for John Curry has been a labour of love.  Watching him win Olympic gold forty years ago had a huge impact on me as a youngster and it’s never left me.  My play Looking for John made me think about John’s legacy – how he changed the world of figure skating and how he never denied who he was in his personal life.  I felt he deserved to be remembered and celebrated again in the city where he was born and then died. I’m thrilled that John Curry will be celebrated once more and remembered forever in this way.”

John Curry OBE (1949 – 1994) was a world champion ice skater and gold medal winner at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games. He was born in Acocks Green and first learnt to skate at Solihull Ice Rink. Gavin Orton, Chairman of Birmingham Civic Society said: “Towards the end of last year the Society received a nomination from Tony Timberlake and the Birmingham Rep for a Blue Plaque to John Curry.  The REP were about to premiere a play, Looking for John, directed by Tessa Walker, an Associate Director at The REP, and written and performed by the actor, Tony Timberlake. This nomination was supported by the Lord Mayor and we are delighted to be honouring John’s achievements today.”

The Birmingham Civic Society has been responsible for erecting Blue Plaques in the city since 1953 and there are currently over 80 around the city.  The society receives several nominations every year and there’s currently a waiting list of over 20 years. To be honoured with a Blue Plaque, a person must have been born, lived or worked in the city and have achieved greatness, by, for example, making a significant contribution to their community or by excelling in their career.

British Airways returns to Birmingham Airport after a ten-year break this weekend with each way flights throughout the summer from just £29.

The first British Airways flight for a decade will take off from Birmingham at 7.20pm today to the Italian city of Florence.

The other summer-only services that will operate every weekend are to the popular Spanish sunspots of Malaga, Ibiza and Palma.

British Airways last flew from Birmingham in 2007 when the regional airline business was sold to Flybe.

Customers will travel direct from their doorstep on modern Embraer 190 jet aircraft, with spacious cabins and two abreast seating so everyone can have an aisle or window seat.

The Liberal Democrats launched their manifesto for the upcoming general election on Wednesday 17th May. In this article, their four key policies and the details of these four policies will be highlighted.  After extensive research and reading, the four key policies of this manifesto are: the economy, Brexit, health and social scare and housing.

The economy has been a big talking point for all political parties during the election campaign. In their manifesto, the Liberal Democrats have taken their campaign speak and made into properly articulated policies. They promise to eliminate the day to day deficit and only borrow to invest more into the country. They promise to bring in an additional £100 billion of infrastructure investment to help develop the economy through using a new British Housing and Infrastructure Bank using public money to attract private finance. In order to finance this increased investment, they pledge to introduce a 1p increase in income tax, as well as ending the 1% cap on pay rises in the public, give public sector workers more disposable income. They promise to introduce a national Spending Review and National Wellbeing strategy and review board to assess how they are doing in terms of keeping the books balanced and the economy growing. Also, pledged within the manifesto are promises to reduce tax loopholes currently being exploited by big business, and to increase corporate tax and to introduce a General Anti Avoidance Rule, to penalise businesses who do not pay their fair share of tax.  The Liberal Democrats will also expand the activities of the British Business Bank to ensure that they are providing investment in small and start-up businesses. Further to this they promise to develop skilled workers through advanced apprenticeships and national colleges, and to stamp out zero hour contracts.

On Brexit, the Liberal Democrats wish to remain in the single market and the customs union, as well as allow freedom of movement to remain in place, a contrast to the Conservatives and the Labour who wish for freedom of movement to end. The Liberal Democrats like Labour wish to protect the rights of both UK citizens living in the EU and EU citizens living in the UK, so that neither can be used as bargaining chips during negotiations. Finally, on Brexit, as they have constantly said during the campaign process, the Liberal Democrats are committed to giving the British people the final say on any deal with the EU. This would take the shape of a referendum that would decide if Britain accepts the deal, doesn’t accept the deal, or remains in the EU completely. This last policy is sure to be controversial with some.

Health and Social care is the area where the Liberal Democrats truly show their desire for change. They promise that the 1p increase in income tax would be used to increase funding for the NHS. This investment would also be used to improve priority areas of service such as mental health and A and E. They would also reduce waiting times and limit the cost of social care for the elderly. The Liberal Democrats would also reinstate student bursaries to encourage more young people to enter the NHS. Finally, the Liberal Democrats would create a Cross Party Health Convention to review the progress the NHS is making and whether or not it is keeping within budget and is delivering the services that it is meant in to a proper and effective way. There would also be an independent budget agency set up to ensure money is being used properly.

Housing has become a very pressing issue for the electorate, and as such the Liberal Democrat pledges in their manifesto, should perhaps address these concerns. Promising to build 300,000 new houses by the end of the new Parliament in 2022, the Liberal Democrats have set out an ambitious plan. They also wish to build ten new garden cities in the UK, to provide proper environmentally friendly housing. In order to fund these schemes, the Liberal Democrats would use the Housing and Development Bank to provide long term capital investment. To improve the chances of renters and buyers in the property market, the Liberal Democrats would end what they call restrictive Right to Buy Schemes, replacing them with Rent to Own and Rent to Buy schemes. They would also ban letting fees and introduce three-year tenancy agreements and capping up front deposits.

By Vivek Rajkhowa

The Black Country’s bid to become a Global Geopark is strengthening thanks to positive recommendations by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation).

At the beginning of last year, the four Black Country local authorities (City of Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell and Walsall) - with the backing of the UNESCO National Commission and the UK’s seven other geoparks - submitted an application to become part of the UNESCO Global Geopark family.

Following a visit by UNESCO delegates in summer 2016 and a presentation to international delegates at a Global Geoparks conference, UNESCO has recognised the Black Country has globally important, world class geological and related cultural heritage, and all the attributes to become a Global Geopark.

The UNESCO Global Geoparks Committee (UGGC), which spearheads the global network, has made positive recommendations to further strengthen the Black Country’s application and is allowing additional time to implement these recommendations before it reports back to the panel.

The recommendations made by UNESCO are aimed at strengthening partnership working across the Black Country and its links with the rest of the world. 

Within the next two years, the team has been asked to provide further assurances about the sustainability of a Black Country Global Geopark and to increase awareness and visibility of the sites that form part of it.  The team has also been encouraged to work more effectively as a single territory to manage the whole Black Country area for future generations.

UNESCO and the other UK based Global Geoparks will work with the team in the Black Country to ensure it addresses these recommendations and it is operating smoothly within the Global Geoparks structure.

Keren Jones, City of Wolverhampton Council Director for City Economy, said: “It is fantastic to see the Black Country’s heritage recognised in this way.

“City of Wolverhampton Council will now look at the recommendations made by UNESCO and work with our partnering local authorities to strengthen our application to become part of the UNESCO Global Geopark family.

“If UNESCO grant this special status it will put the Black Country on the international map and there will be plenty of scope to attract more tourists to our region and boost the local visitor economy.”

There are many world-class features in the Black Country and the Geopark would link different heritage sites and features across the area to tell the story of the landscape.  In the case of the Black Country, the significant part it played in the industrial revolution is at the heart of the bid and the proposed Global Geopark.

Liam Chase, a 9-year-old old boy from Hinckley, Leicestershire, who is fighting his second brain tumour, had his dreams come true after meeting his favourite WWE Superstars at the Birmingham Gentley Arena on Wednesday evening.

Liam knew that his parents had tickets for WWE Live, but he was thrilled when he was then surprised with the chance to meet his wrestling idols Randy Orton and AJ Styles backstage, ahead of the show.

Liam is treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, where CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading cancer support charity for children and young people has an independent team of professionals who help whole families manage the devastating impact of illness on their lives with emotional and practical support.

After hearing that Liam was a huge WWE fan, CLIC Sargent contacted WWE bosses who organised the meet for the young wrestling fan, and arranged free tickets to WWE Live for Liam and his family.

Liam was originally diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma brain tumour in May 2015 and underwent surgery to remove the growth.  But sadly in February 2017 it was found that Liam’s tumour had returned, and he underwent major brain surgery.  Following the operation Liam spent three weeks in hospital, and he has been left with a number of side effects, including left side weakness and mobility issues.  But despite his ordeal he remains in good spirits, and is now having physiotherapy to help him learn to walk again.

Faye Beardsmore, Liam’s mum said: “The look on Liam’s face when we surprised him and told him he was going to meet AJ Styles and Randy Orton, as well as watching the show, was a picture.

“Liam has been through so much, but he’s a fighter too.  And even though he’s out of hospital now, we have a long road ahead of us as he learns to walk again, but he’s staying positive.

“CLIC Sargent has been a great support to Liam and our family throughout all of this, and we’re really happy that the charity and WWE were able to organise this special surprise for our little superstar.”

Last year CLIC Sargent supported over 7,100 young patients across the UK.   CLIC Sargent’s independent cancer care teams that are based at hospitals in the East and West Midlands supported more than 1,100 children and young people like Liam last year, and awarded over £161,700 in financial grants to help families cope with the extra costs a cancer diagnosis brings.  For example, travel for specialist treatment which can be many miles from home.  According to CLIC Sargent’s research on average parents face extra living expenses of £600 a month when their child is on active cancer treatment.   

A spokesperson for CLIC Sargent said: “Our support workers and nurses fight tirelessly for children and young people with cancer like Liam, who go through so much during treatment.  We are so happy that AJ Styles and Randy Orton were able to grant wishes for our children during their UK tour, and thankful for WWE’s ongoing commitment to helping the dreams of children like Liam around the world come true.”