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May the 7th be with you . . . for the X factor

May 3, 2015
QUICK STEP: Come rain or shien, on the trail for the chance to represent my home town. Picture by Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

QUICK STEP: Come rain or shine, on the trail for the chance to represent my home town. Picture by Christopher Furlong, Getty Images

IT’S not something where the train can take the strain.

But to keep me going on the campaign trail, I’m taking a leaf out of an email from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.

Their literature doesn’t need to tell me that election campaigns are “physically strenuous” and “the last thing you want is to be laid up on polling day”.

But bless the good physiotherapists, they sent me – and presumably all UK parliamentary candidates – some useful health tips to make it to May 7.

  • Perfect positioning – reduce the strain on your joints through good posture. This will also help you breathe, keeping you calm and relaxed. Stand tall with your shoulders back, pull in your stomach, keep your feet hip distance apart and make sure your spine, shoulder and hip joints are aligned.
  • Sharing the load – carrying all those leaflets can put a strain on your back. Use a rucksack to evenly distribute weight on both shoulders. Never bend down from the waist to pick up a heavy load up but rather squat down, keeping your back straight.
  • Stretch targets – try a few wall presses. Stand with your feet hip width apart, stretch out your arms and rest your palms on the wall at shoulder height and slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Take two small steps back, engage stomach muscles and slowly bend your arms at the elbows. Keep your back and neck straight, looking at the wall. Lower yourself till you’re two inches from the wall and push back to starting position. Make sure you lead with your chest so your arms do the work and don’t arch your back.
  • Manifesto commitments – invest in your health. All that door knocking has done you a favour. A brisk 30-minute walk every day is one of the best things you can do to keep your health. So try to build it into your day!

The society is right – all that door knocking and hand-shaking has improved my physical fitness as well as leaving me little time to eat.

SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS: Having a laugh along the way

SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS: Having a laugh along the way

I thought the above tips might be useful for the voters too, as you digest mountains of literature and prepare to make your way (hail, rain or shine) to the designated polling booth (those of you that haven’t already postal voted).

The X factor – it’s a winning combination for candidate and voter alike.

May the 7th be with you . . .

To be or not to be . . . writing an inviting script where Shakespeare Airport takes off in the West Midlands for Chinese and American tourism

May 3, 2015

HNA Hainan Airlines 787-8 ArtworkTHERE’S been a lot of debate about a region, based on a region even that’s greater than Birmingham . . .

For me it’s all about working with partners to achieve the greater good.

We’ve already seen under this last Conservative Coalition government huge improvements to junction 10 of the M6.

I’m right behind West Midlands Conservative MEP Dan Dalton – who paid a visit to Walsall during the election campaign.

Dan has travelled far and wide and knows his way around England’s county cricket grounds as a former Warwickshire CCC all-rounder and colleague of England vice-captain Ian Bell.

He wants to see Birmingham International Airport become a big hit with China and the United States.

HOWDY PARTNER: Let's brand Birmingham Airport as  Shakespare to the Americans  . . . with West Midlands MEP Dan Dalton

HOWDY PARTNER: Let’s brand Birmingham Airport as Shakespare to the Americans . . . with West Midlands MEP Dan Dalton

The former Elmdon airport gets the first wave of flights this summer with 4,000 Chinese tourists heading for the West Midlands. A partnership between the airport, Hainan Airlines and Chinese tour operator Caissa Touristic will see the launch of a series of 17 return Beijing-Birmingham charter flights, carrying the tourists into the UK on package tours.

Birmingham Airport has also unveiled its new Chinese branding – ‘Birmingham Airport, Shakespeare’s Airport’.

It will be used in China to promote Birmingham as a gateway into the region.

And as I write this blog, Dan reckons that drawing more American tourists to the region is also on the agenda as the idea to rebrand the Birmingham terminal ‘Shakespeare’s Airport’ in the United States takes hold.

This is an idea that can really take off. The West Midlands is world famous as the birthplace of Shakespeare, and as a region we need to maximise the benefit we can draw from our association with the bard.

If Liverpool can have John Lennon Airport, why not have Shakespeare’s airport in Birmingham.

It’s looks to have more chance of success than England’s cricketers in the Third (and final) Test in the West Indies this bank holiday!

Pioneering and industrious West Midlands, of which Walsall has always played such as intrinsic part, has so much to offer our global village that is the world these days.

And if the Conservatives are returned to serve our nation next week then former deputy prime minister Lord Heseltine is already lining up the region to be next on the list to receive devolved powers from central government.

The move would see the Greater Birmingham area following Manchester and Cambridge down the devolved powers route.

It would mean greater freedom in areas such as business rates, transport and planning.

Lord Heseltine, who has long been a supporter of devolved powers and regional growth, has worked closely with the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP on the issue of devolution, creating the No Stone Unturned document which is a blueprint for the Greater Birmingham project.

This is my promise: I will act to improve your safety

May 3, 2015

Visa-Debit-CardTHE word ‘courier’ linked to the term ‘fraudster’ almost makes this insidious act on today’s electronic highway sound legitimate.

But here’s a serious and important message in the never-ending battle against crime . . . the courier fraudsters are at work in Walsall.

Please warn friends and neighbours alike – particularly the elderly or vulnerable – to be on their guard against bogus telephone callers.

And a 69-year-old man from the Hatherton area of Walsall has become a victim – with an estimated £1,100 taken from his bank accounts.

The scam sees offenders posing as detectives and using scare stories – often claims that the person’s bank account has been hacked – in order to persuade their targets into handing over account security details, including PIN numbers, and bank cards.

Tricksters then despatch a courier to collect the cards and, armed with PIN numbers, victims’ savings are raided.

In this latest case a man has contacted his victim by telephone and stated he was a police officer who had arrested an offender who was in possession of two cloned bank cards which bore the victim’s details.

The victim was advised to contact his bank immediately. Believing he had ended the call, the victim then contacted what he thought was his bank, however has instead provided a number of personal details, including bank card PIN numbers, to an offender who had remained on the line.

About 45 minutes later a male ‘courier’ called at the victim’s address to collect two bank cards which were used to fraudulently withdraw money from various cash machines.

To protect yourself against courier fraud, the police ask you to remember:

  • Your bank or police will never send a courier to your home to collect bank cards or cash
  • Your bank or police will never ask for your PIN number
  • If you receive one of these calls end it immediately.

Always report fraudulent calls to the police by dialling 101, however if possible call from a different telephone – the fraudster may still be on the line.

For those who are particularly vulnerable, call blocking or number recognition devices may help to prevent them receiving such calls.

As Staffordshire’s deputy police and crime commissioner for nearly three years – I am involved helping with innovative solutions in the war against the criminal, always putting the interests of the victim first.

Sadly only 37 per cent of businesses are reporting crime.

From my perspective – if elected as your MP on Thursday I will always act in your best interests to improve your safety.

We must make Walsall a safer place for our children and the business fraternity

Walsall Police have also warned motorists that there is a blanket ban on ‘car cruising’ – in response to local people’s concerns about noise and road safety.

The police have said that some cruisers think they’ve been forgotten about –  but more patrols have been organised using marked and unmarked law enforcement cars.

The police are also continuing to monitor CCTV cameras covering key locations and will act on calls from the public reporting nuisance to target patrols.

In the last 48 hours six people from Walsall, Shifnal and Telford who were travelling in four cars have been reported to the courts for breaching the cruising order when officers intercepted a convoy.

All were stopped driving away from Asda, Black Country New Road, Great Bridge where local people had earlier reported to police cars gathering and speeding around while spectators watched.

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1200 businesses benefit from tax cut in Walsall South to support jobs

April 30, 2015

Sue Arnold has welcomed new figures released today showing that 1200 businesses in Walsall South  have benefited from the Government’s Employment Allowance since its introduction a year ago, making it easier for small businesses to hire staff and create new jobs.

Our economic plan is backing businesses to create jobs, which is why it is so important that we stick to that plan so we can provide more people with the economic security that a regular wage brings. All that would be put at risk if Ed Miliband becomes Prime Minister next week, propped up by the SNP – hardworking people would pay the price with higher taxes and fewer jobs.

The Employment Allowance provides up to £2,000 off the National Insurance bill for every employer and is open to businesses, charities and community amateur sports clubs.

The allowance means a business could now hire someone on £22,400 a year, or three people working full-time on the minimum wage, and not have to pay any employer National Insurance Contributions. This is making it easier for local businesses to grow and create more jobs in Walsall South.

Since it was launched in April 2014, over 1.1 million employers across the country have benefitted from the Employment Allowance.

Sue Arnold commented:

“Our long-term economic plan is backing businesses to create jobs so more hardworking people have the security of a regular pay-packet. Since we introduced the Employment Allowance a year ago, 1200 businesses in Walsall South have had their jobs tax cut, making it easier for them to hire staff and create new jobs.

“That’s why it’s so vital that people vote Conservative next Thursday – so we can carry on supporting our local economy and delivering economic security and peace of mind for people in [CONSTITUENCY].”

George Osborne welcomed the figures, saying:

“It is great news that 1.1 million small businesses are now claiming our Employment Allowance. This confirms that our Employment Allowance has been a huge success – and a real boost to job-creating small businesses. Backing small business is at the heart of our long-term economic plan, a plan that is delivering jobs and growth across the country. Britain has now created over 2 million jobs in the past five years, and our £2,000 cashback on jobs has made it easier for small businesses to take on new staff. Our plan is working, but the job is far from over.

'Think Insurance' based in Walsall South.

‘Think Insurance’ based in Walsall South.

“At this election we face a clear choice. People can either vote for political instability and economic chaos, with a weak Ed Miliband propped up by the Scottish Nationalists, which will mean tax rises and job losses; or people can choose David Cameron and the Conservatives, and stick with a plan that is already delivering jobs, growth and a more secure future”.

“These new figures show that our plan is working, but all that is at risk in just seven days’ time if we have Ed Miliband as Prime Minister, propped up by the SNP. Their plan for more spending, more borrowing and more taxes will put vital investment here in Walsall South at risk, and hardworking people will pay the price.

Harry voted ‘green’ that day, what will young people decide next month?

April 19, 2015

01 11046877_1584132265198444_5914891630156813077_nTHEY may not be in the same league as baby Harry Pritchard.

He after all made a very restrained entry into the political arena – by rejecting the soup at a Tamworth Conservative Association annual dinner held at Drayton Manor (the former home of Tory moderniser and Victorian prime minister Sir Robert Peel) – aged just FOUR months.

But it is good to see newcomers to the election process taking an interest.

01a 11140122_1584132138531790_8030907495288768708_nAnd so it proved as I manned a very busy stand at Walsall College for its Voter Registration event.

There was lots of enthusiasm and interesting conversations and hopefully some new voters as well.

It was great to see Justice Secretary Chris Grayling at the event too.

04 1458645_1584131825198488_156050711775709445_nIt’s unlikely that the new voters of today would be able to compete with Harry’s excuse for actually attending that event back in February 2013.

Mum Sarah admitted: “We weren’t thinking of bringing him to the event but unfortunately the baby sitter let us down right at the very last minute.”

Footnote: Young Harry slept through the soup and main course but roused himself for the speech by then Environment Secretary Owen Paterson. A ‘blue boy’ with a green conscience.

Footnote 2: If you are interested in being helped to get into apprenticeships and traineeships with real work experience, there is an ‘Employers Event’ at Walsall College on Wednesday April 29 at 4pm at WACC Beeches Rd, Leamore, WS3 1AG. Call 01922 663000 extn 3010 for more details

blue for a boy 003 DSC_0076

Wembley wonders score a winning goal with Culture Secretary Sajid

April 19, 2015

00 1891344_1581532102125127_7360176526493738201_oIT’S four weeks ago today since I joined 30,000 fans in a pilgrimage to Wembley to see the Saddlers make a first appearance on the hallowed turf in its 127-year history.

Unlike Villa’s superb FA Cup semi-final triumph this afternoon against Liverpool (which guarantees another trip back next month for the final) – Walsall FC had to settle for second best against runaway League One champions Bristol City.

But our boys’ brave show – and the extraordinary work being achieved behind the scenes at the Bescot Stadium – is not going unnoticed.

00a 1795268_1581531868791817_8471444935398002612_oCulture Secretary Sajid Javid gave the Saddlers a real pat on the back for their performance in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final on March 22, when he officially opened the club’s new community room which was given a £15,000 facelift by more than 30 volunteers from HomeServe.

The work took around four weeks to complete and included replacing and refitting the kitchen and girls’ and boys’ bathrooms, installing new flooring, radiators, ceiling tiles and fixtures and fittings and decorating the room.

The Culture, Media and Sport secretary of state was joined by myself and Walsall North parliamentary candidate Douglas Hansen-Luke for the opening ceremony which also included meeting the Walsall Academy junior team.

Mr Javid said talking to everyone at Bescot had been “incredibly uplifting and inspiring.”

00b 11114241_1581532095458461_3247424061620775467_oHe added: “”One of the perks of my job is being able to meet those like the Walsall Saddlers and private companies like HomeServe, that care about their community, who work tirelessly to achieve one common goal.”

But the real star of the show for me was Swifty the mascot.

The community room is great new facility for the local area, and everyone should be thrilled at what has been achieved.

00c 10985222_1581534105458260_2155785130149030776_n06 swifty-640x480250-944037_478x35902 11053548_1581531872125150_6994718188346251655_o

Fresh appeal for Yasser’s ‘ambush’ killers

April 19, 2015

y abbasTHE brutal killers of a Chinese takeaway delivery driver who was ambushed as he got out of the car with the food order still remain at large.

It’s two years since the 28-year-old was bludgeoned by a ‘heavy bladed weapon’ in the early hours of April 13, 2013.

Now detectives have issued a new appeal to track down the three people who approached the silver Vauxhall Corsa driven by Mr Abbas.

Police reckon the food order taken by phone at Moon Palace in Old Birchills was bogus and that the dad of two was cornered and attacked as he arrived an address in Madison Avenue, Alumwell.

Mr Abbas was taken to hospital with serious head injuries but died later.

So far the investigation has seen 10 people arrested and questioned, but all have been released without charge.

Detective inspector Gary Plant, of West Midlands Police, said: “It has been two years since Yasser received his fateful injuries but the investigation is ongoing and will be reviewed on a regular basis until his attackers are brought to justice.

“People out there know who is responsible for the death of this young man and for the sake of his family – who are still very much grieving for his loss – I am appealing to those persons to come forward and help us.

“I believe answers remain in the local community and anyone with information can come forward in the knowledge that it will be dealt with in strict confidence.”

Alumwell is in the Walsall South constituency and I’d like to join the police appeal for anyone with information to contact detective inspector Plant on 101 or call Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.

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