Thursday, June 10, 2010


A MULTI-million pound scheme to improve secondary schools in Coventry could be under threat.

The Building Schools for the Future (BSF) scheme was introduced by the previous Labour government and aimed to improve secondary schools across the country.

In Coventry 20 secondary schools were up for getting a slice of £330million that was awarded to the city.

But Tory MP Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said the BSF scheme is under review, which has caused concern to Coventry MP Geoffrey Robinson.

The Labour representative for Coventry North West, has highlighted two schools that desperately need funding in his constituency and raised this at a House of Commons education question time on Monday.

He said: “I asked: Will the minister confirm as soon as possible that two schools in my constituency – President Kennedy and Woodlands, where the buildings go right back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, and one of whose buildings is being held up on all four sides by scaffolding, will figure in the programme, and when can he confirm that to them?

“He replied the BSF project had been allocated on the basis of deprivation, not of the state or
dilapidation of the building and he will consider the two schools I mentioned and write back to me.

“So I guess I will have to wait to see what his response is.

“I don’t mind it (BSF) being reviewed but there needs to be structure and this is what concerns me.”

In a Hansard report of Monday’s question time, MP Michael Gove said he wanted to get “better value for money” as a lot had already been spent on consultations that haven’t resulted in schools being re-built yet.

He said: “My department is currently reviewing the BSF programme to ensure we can build schools more effectively and more cost-efficiently in the future.

“I intend to ensure we prioritise capital spending to ensure in areas of real need, the taxpayer and teachers are given better value for money.

“Under the last government a significant amount of the cash was devoted to BSF and was spent on consultancy and other costs, which did not contribute directly to raising standards or to employing a single builder or plasterer, or anyone else whom he would no doubt wish to continue to see employed.

“I therefore hope we do everything possible to ensure that we obtain better value for money from this programme.”

Woodlands School, in Broad Lane – which has one of its school blocks supported by scaffolding – was due to be one of the first schools in Coventry benefiting from BSF funding.

But headteacher Neil Charlton is worried the money could be lost.

“We have had scaffolding on one of the blocks for four years now, but I’d like to add that the school is structurally safe,” he said.

“Having said that, because we are an old building it needs improving – it’s an eyesore because it is more than 50 years’ old and doesn’t have double glazing.

“In the past four years I have personally put in hundreds of hours in meetings and proposals with this.

“Because the school is a listed building we’ve had to convince English Heritage that we should be able to modify it.

“And we should be getting £20.5million in BSF funding to re-build one block and re-design the other two.

“My school needs doing and it needs doing now, otherwise the fabric and quality of education to children will be detrimental.

“I can understand the BSF scheme may need to be reviewed, but I think schools like this one, which has gone so far down the road – we’ve even got planning permission – should be given the go-ahead.

“We’re down to two bidders at the moment, who would carry out the work, that is likely to start next February.”

No one from President Kennedy School was available for comment.

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PEDAL power will be needed to push a 10-metre high Lady Godiva float from Coventry to London for the opening of the London 2012 Olympics.

Coventry’s Imagineer Productions has created a giant version of the city’s first lady through a project called the ‘Godiva Awakes Cycle Team’.

A team of 50 cyclists will be needed to transport Lady Godiva from Coventry to Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Luton, Waltham Abbey, Hapfield and finally London in July 2012.

The £500,000 project has been funded by the Arts Council England and is being commissioned through Artists Taking the Lead scheme – part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The journey will begin in Coventry’s University Square where a giant chamber will be built, which Lady Godiva awakes from. It will be marked by a performance involving 2,000 dancers, actors, aerialists, musicians, pyrotechnicians and carnivalists.

The chamber will then remain permanently.

And to kick-off the project a recruitment drive for cyclists took place on Saturday at the Transport Museum.

In all, 100 people are needed to alternate during the 100-mile journey to the capital city that will alternate between locations.

On Saturday people were invited to cycle for three minutes and have their name entered into a draw for places on the cycle team.

Claire Maddocks, director of Imagineer Productions, said: “Godiva Awakes is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people off all backgrounds from Coventry and the region to be part of London 2012.

“We want everyone – from people who have never cycled before to real cycling enthusiasts – to sign up to be part of the team that will power Godiva to London in 2012.”

About 100 people joined in at the launch event on Saturday and postcards will soon be available for cyclists to enter their name into the draw.

Entrants should be aged 14 or over –families can enter with parents taking responsibility of children under 14 – with the results being announced in autumn 2010.

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MORE than 115,000 counterfeit or smuggled cigarettes have been seized over the past year, in a crackdown on illegal tobacco across the city.

Trading standards officers have been carrying out regular raids on shops and car boot sales in Coventry, as part of a concerted effort to stamp out sources of illegal tobacco.

In the past month, raids have uncovered around 37,000 illegal cigarettes, as well as 400 packs of hand-rolling tobacco, and 150 sachets of fruit tobacco – which is often smoked in Shisha pipes.

Officers have also unearthed stashes of illegal tobacco hidden underneath floorboards, behind mirrors, and even in adjacent premises where a person passes the tobacco through a small hole in the wall.

Hamish Simmonds, manager of the city council’s Trading Standards office, said: “Despite fraudsters attempting to become more creative in their attempts to conceal their activities, we are achieving significant rates of detection.

“Those tempted to make a quick buck are warned the penalties for supplying such items are severe, and can include up to 10 years’ imprisonment.”

Trading Standards said that tell-tale signs tobacco is counterfeit include: an unusual taste, a cheaper price, poor quality printing on the packets, and the absence of health warnings.

They also said that many products found often contain dangerously high levels of poisonous ingredients – such as six times the amount of lead, and three times the amount of arsenic found in ordinary cigarettes.

Councillor Joseph Clifford, chairman of Coventry’s Smokefree Alliance, said: “It’s important to remember that it’s not just illicit tobacco which can endanger your health – there is no such thing as a safe cigarette.

“If you want help to quit, you can locate your nearest Stop Smoking Service by calling 0800 051 1310.”

Anyone with information about where counterfeit cigarettes or tobacco may be being sold, should contact Trading Standards via Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06.


FOOTBALL louts are being warned to be on their best behaviour as Coventry Police is appealing to landlords, supermarkets and community shop bosses to back the World Cup bid.

Officers have written to licensees to remind them of their responsibility as England strive for glory in South Africa, so they play their part in ensuring a trouble-free tournament.

Chief Inspector Ryan Howat, heading the police handling of the World Cup in Coventry, said: “Our licensing team will be working closely with licensed and off-licensed premises during the World Cup.

“We hope the tournament will prove to be a good opportunity for our communities to come
together and get behind the England team in a positive way.

“The nature of football is that it is an emotional game, and as such we are prepared for the possibility of fans becoming tense and agitated.

“Across the West Midlands, there have been sporadic outbreaks of trouble where major England games have been shown before, but as a region our fans are increasingly heeding the message.

“We want people to enjoy the games in a safe environment with, hopefully, England going all the way.

“If they can’t and allow themselves to become involved in disorder either through drink or a misplaced sense of patriotism, then they can expect to be prosecuted.”

Councillor Jack Harrison, chairman of Coventry City Council’s licensing and regulatory committee, added: “The key issue for us is that premises showing the World Cup do so in a safe
and responsible way while not ruining the enjoyment of their customers and the wider public.

“Bars showing the big games have been asked to ensure they have enough identifiable door staff and that their CCTV is working.”

The force is working with the Coventry Community Safety Partnership and will be distributing posters and beer mats to licensed premises across the city bearing the message ‘Not in My City’.

They encourage people to report aggressive and violent behaviour during the World Cup.


A TIME capsule giving a snapshot of Wood End in 2010 will be buried on site of a £360million redevelopment scheme.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the head of the Homes and Communities Agency Sir Bob Kerslake was due to visit Coventry to see first hand how the project has been coming along.

And the chief executive of England’s housing and regeneration agency was also due to help with the finishing touches to a time capsule that will be buried on site.

The capsule will demonstrate to future generations what life was like before the redevelopment took place and includes photographs of the site as it looks now, pictures of some of the oldest and youngest members of the community, press coverage on the project so far, coins, details of the current government and the price of living, such as a pint of beer, petrol, milk and bread.

Sir Bob also visited the location of the new Castle Wood School, due to open its doors in September 2010.

In total, the redevelopment of the area will see more than 3,000 new homes built over 15 years. Work will also take place to improve environment, including the construction of new roads, shops, green spaces and play areas.

The project is being led by Whitefriars Housing Group, in partnership with Coventry City Council, Coventry New Deal for Communities and developer partners.

Martin Smith, chairman of the Regeneration Action Team, said: “Residents have been closely involved in the plans since the beginning. We have taken part in everything from selecting the developers and architects to choosing the designs for the homes and neighbourhoods.

“The start of work on June 9 will be a day of real celebration for us, and the fact that Sir Bob Kerslake is visiting us, showing us that the Homes and Communities Agency is both interested and committed to our regeneration and redevelopment scheme, is just the icing on the cake.”

Thursday, June 03, 2010


COVENTRY spenders are being warned the clock is ticking to spend old £20 notes.

The Bank of England is reminding residents from June 30 the £20 note carrying a picture of composer Edward Elgar is to be finally withdrawn from circulation.

It will be replaced by £20 note that was introduced in 2007 that bears the picture of economist Adam Smith.

The number of Elgar notes in circulation has already decreased significantly since the withdrawal date was announced in March, but people are being reminded to have a final check at home for the old notes, which can be paid into a personal bank account or used as a cash payment over the coming month.

After June 30 the Elgar note will no longer have ‘legal tender’ status. It is less likely to be accepted in payment, or in change, in retail outlets after this date.

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Wednesday, June 02, 2010


A COVENTRY flying club has paid tribute to a father and son who died in a plane crash in Spain.

Former RAF man Bruce Hook, 63, and his son Ian, 26, died on Saturday shortly after taking off from San Luis aerodrome in Menorca.

It is thought the plane had just taken off when it nosedived, crashed and exploded, killing the pair instantly.

Mr Hook Snr, who lived in Worcester, was flying his own plane – a Beech Baron 55 in RAF colours – when the accident happened.

He was a member of the Armstong Whitworth Aircraft (AWA) Flying Group, in Coventry Road, Baginton, who said he was an “excellent pilot”.

John Stockley, AWA’s chief flying instructor said: “Bruce was a real gentleman who helped students through their flying courses.

“Everybody was shocked by the loss and it’s a real tragedy.”

Mr Hook and his son had entered a Beech Baron twin engine plane in the Air Race Menorca 2010 and were practicing when their plane nose dived and exploded.

Mr Stockley said the planes had to complete between 15 to 20 laps of a triangular aerial course.

The winner would have been the first plane to cross the finish line, but the competition was cancelled following the deaths.

Mr Hook, a father-of-two, had owned the Willpower Garage in Lapworth, Warwickshire, for 32 years.

Ian Hook, of Kenilworth, who was unmarried but had a girlfriend, was described as “the apple of his father’s eye” by a friend of Mr Hook Snr.

Stephen Esslemont, 44, who rents the garage forecourt in Lapworth, said: “He (Mr Hook senior) was well known in the community and everyone liked him. What’s happened is a shock to us all.

“He was a very quiet young man – kind and well-liked, like his father. A lovely young man. He adored his father and they had a good father and son relationship.”

A friend of Ian’s said: “I, along with many of Ian’s friends, are absolutely gutted and shocked at the news of the plane crash that has robbed us of Ian and Bruce. They loved their flying together.

“Ian was such a lovely guy, loyal to his friends, warm and caring to all who knew him, he will be missed by us mates and their families, to whom our thoughts are with at this tragic and very sad time.

“Bruce was a sound bloke too.

“They will both live long in our memories, memories that can never be taken away. The Aero Club has lost two great characters and members.”

Post-mortem examinations are being carried out on both men.

A Spanish government spokesman said: “A judge in Mahon (capital of the Balearic island) is overseeing the judicial investigation.

“He will be given the results of the autopsies and is likely to look at all the information about the accident and speak to witnesses.

“The investigation could take two or three months.”