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  1. Chris Halpin

Birmingham planners' vision to recreate Canary Wharf

Ambitious plans have been revealed to transform part of Birmingham city centre - in the hope it can become the next Canary Wharf.

The £600 million vision shows shiny office blocks rising around the 1980s built Snow Hill Station, as well as the remodelling of the A38.

It's hoped up to ten thousand new jobs could be created by revamping the area, as well as making it a more attractive place to live.

The city council hopes the money will come mainly from the private sector - but any building work could be a while off yet - as Chris Halpin reports.


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Campaigners march against proposed fire service cuts

Campaigners in Lincoln are to march this weekend in protest to cuts which could be made to fire services in the county.

Campaigners in Lincoln are to march this weekend in protest to cuts which could be made to fire services in the county. Credit: Defend Our Fire Services

The Defend Our Fire Services march will start at St Martin's Square at the top of the High Street on Saturday 31 January from 11.30am.

Our campaign seeks to increase public awareness of how the proposed cuts to our Fire and Rescue services will impact on response times and coverage. The service has already experienced a significant reduction to its funding and consequently a further £1.23 million of cuts will have devastating affects for both fire fighters and the public. The campaign has developed real momentum so far and over 1000 people have already signed our petition. However, we still need many more signatures and we're calling on everyone who values their local fire services to march with us on Saturday.

– Elaine Smith, Defend Our Fire Services spokesperson

The Fire Brigade Union in Lincolnshire have praised the campaign saying it shows the strength of community support for the fire service:

We thank all members of the public who have thrown themselves into this campaign. It shows how strongly the local community feels about cuts to their fire service.

– Dan Taylor

The chief fire officer for Lincolnshire has argued that the proposals will enable the service to save money without reducing the service:

Obviously any reduction to the fire service is regrettable; however, we are confident that the proposals being consulted on allow us to achieve the required savings while having the least impact on the overall level of service provided. Since 2010, we have increased the number of fire engines crewed by whole-time firefighters on a 24 hour basis from two to nine, and on average our on-call firefighters across the county train for an extra hour each week. During this time there has been no reduction in the number of fire engines or fire stations and we have been able to make significant investments in new appliances and equipment, to allow our firefighters to continue to deliver a first class fire and rescue service for Lincolnshire.

– Dave Ramscar, chief fire officer for Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue

Number of West Midlands people in debt on the rise

Calls to the StepChange debt charity from the West Midlands have gone up Credit: PA

The number of people in the West Midlands struggling with debt has increased by 20 per cent over the last year, according to debt charity StepChange.

The charity says the average person had just £4 left to pay off debts each month after covering essential household bills.

Last year the charity's helpline was contacted by 17,705 people in the West Midlands, compared to 13,935 in 2013 - a rise of 27 per cent.

Those contacting the charity's helpline owed £10,881 in unsecured debt such as credit cards, personal loans and overdrafts.

However household budgets have shown slight signs of improvement, with those contacting the charity from the region an average of £10 better off than the previous year.

More and more families in the West Midlands are falling into debt and struggling to make ends meet.

For those living on the edge of their financial means, taking control of the situation can seem a daunting, if not impossible, prospect, but taking positive steps towards tackling debt is crucial to getting back on your feet.

We urge those who are worried about their debt problems to seek free confidential advice as soon as possible.

– Mike O'Connor, chief executive, StepChange Debt Charity

NFU stage dairy debate in Staffordshire

A debate on falling milk prices and the challenges faced by local dairy farmers will be held in Staffordshire today.

The price of milk has fallen to its lowest since 2007 Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The event has been organised by the National Farmers Union which says the number of dairy farmers will continue to decrease unless market conditions improve.

Farmers have seen the price of milk fall to around 20p per litre - its lowest since 2007.


Birmingham house prices begin to catch up with fastest-growing cities

Birmingham house prices are accelerating fast, according to new figures Credit: PA

House prices in Birmingham are beginning to catch up with some of the fastest growing cities like London, Oxford and Cambridge.

House prices in the UK's second city accelerated over the last six months - rising by 5.4 per cent over the last year.

New figures from property analyst Hometrack show the gap between the UK cities with the fastest and slowest house price growth is at its smallest for 16 years.

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