Colors: Blue Color

Cyclists are gearing up for a day of nostalgia to mark the 75th anniversary of Britain’s first ever road race which had its birthplace in Wolverhampton.

And they will be remembering the city’s world-famous cycle racer and builder Percy Stallard, who organised and championed the historic 59-mile race.

Despite opposition at the time, from the National Cyclists’ Union, Percy Stallard organised the road race for 40 cyclists who rode from Llangollen to Wolverhampton on June 7 1942.

To celebrate the landmark event, which changed the face of British cycling, people are invited to the City Archives, in the restored Molineux Hotel, on Saturday June 3.

Scores of restored Stallard bikes, a Sunbeam and other Wolverhampton-made cycles will be on show alongside displays, photographs and memories about the ground-breaking race and the city’s cycling hero Percy Stallard.

The Friends of the Archives will provide refreshments and Wolverhampton City Radio is broadcasting its regular Saturday Sport Report live from the event from 10am-12 noon.

Percy, who died aged 92 in 2001, ran his cycle shop in Broad Street and made much sought-after bespoke cycles. He became a member of the Wolverhampton Wheelers Cycling club and was a keen competitor in cycle races, competing for Great Britain in international races during the 1930s, including three consecutive world championships in 1933, 1934 and 1935. He was also a successful cycling coach and team captain.

He came up against opposition for his planned road race because up until 1942 cycling in Britain was all track racing but Percy wanted a mass road race much like those held on the continent.

He was quoted years later as saying “I just explained to the police what I was doing and told them that things like that were normal on the Continent and they said they were happy and that they'd try to help.”

He got sponsorship from the Express & Star and offered any profits to the newspaper's Forces Comfort Fund, and recruited 40 riders to take part. The rest was history.

Councillor John Reynolds, cabinet member for City Economy, said: “Wolverhampton has many famous sons and Percy Stallard was certainly one of them. He was instrumental in changing the face of British cycling with this road race and so it is only right we mark its 75th anniversary.”

Bike enthusiast and collector Luke Williams, who is helping to organise the event, added: “Percy’s own bikes are legendary and examples of them, along with other Wolverhampton makes, will be on show. It will be wonderful to see lots of cycling enthusiasts at the archives to celebrate the city’s cycling heritage and the anniversary of this historic event.”

This year's Wolverhampton Walking Festival is set to be the biggest and best yet, offering 36 activities over eight days.

The seventh annual festival, organised by the City of Wolverhampton Council's Healthy Lifestyles Service, takes place from Saturday 13 May until Sunday 21 May, and promises to take people off the beaten track by exploring different parts of Wolverhampton and the surrounding area.

With walks for people of all ages and abilities, there’s sure to be something for everyone. Highlights include guided walks around local beauty spots including West Park, East Park, Pendeford Mill, Northycote Farm, Bantock Park and the Smestow Valley and the annual 12-mile long Walking for Health Challenge Trail. All the walks are free, though some must be pre-booked.

The eight-day programme is as follows:

Saturday 13 May:

  • Bushbury Health Walk, moderate 90-minute walk over Bushbury Hill and around Northycote Farm, 10am, meet at St Mary's Church Hall.
  • Bantock Park Tree Trail, easy two-hour walk and history talk, 1pm, meet at the car park.
  • Perfect Paths of Perton, difficult five-mile walk, 2pm, meet at Perton Civic Centre car park.
Sunday 14 May:
  • Figure of Eight Walk, difficult 10-mile walk to Penn and Bradmore using hidden pathways and green ways, 10am, meet at Broad Street Canal Basin.
  • West Park History Walk, easy two-hour walk around Wolverhampton's premier park, 2pm, meet at Southgate Lodge.
Monday 15 May:
  • First World War Memorial Walk, 90-minute moderate walk and talk around the City's memorials, 10am, meet at the Civic Centre.
  • Pattingham Circular, difficult seven-mile walk around the village, 10am, meet at Pattingham Village Hall.
  • West Park Timed Health Walk, complete at your own pace or have a go at a timed mile, 10.15am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • Wednesfield Park and King George V Playing Fields Health Walk, moderate 60-minute walk around the park, 2pm, meet at Wednesfield Library.
Tuesday 16 May:
  • Worfield to Ackleton, difficult eight-mile walk through stunning countryside, 10am, meet at Worfield Village Hall.
  • Bantock Park Health Walk, easy one-mile walk around the park, 10.30am, meet at the café.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • West Park Toddle Waddle health walk, easy one-mile walk for parents and carers with babies and toddlers in buggies, slings or toddling - older siblings also welcome, 11.30am, meet at the Albert Road entrance.
  • Ramble on the Reserve, moderate three-hour ranger-led ramble around Smestow Valley Nature Reserve, 12.30pm, meet at the car park.
Wednesday 17 May:
  • Pendeford Natural History and Wildlife Walk, moderate two-hour ranger-led walk around Pendeford Mill Nature Reserve, 10am, meet at the car park.
  • East Park Timed Health Walk - complete at your own pace or have a go at a timed mile, 10.30am, meet at the changing rooms.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • Deaf Walk, West Park, easy, deaf-friendly health walk with BSL walk leaders, noon, meet at the café.
  • Heritage Health Walk, moderate 90-minute exploration of Jeffcock Road cemetery, 2pm, meet at Bantock Park café.
  • Fordhouses Health Walk, moderate 90-minute health walk including a short refreshment break at Northycote Farm café, 2pm, meet at the Moreton Arms pub.
  • Castlecroft Rail and Canal Routes, difficult five-mile ramble along the Staffordshire Railway Walk and canal tow path, 6.45pm, meet at the Firs Inn.
Thursday 18 May:
  • Birds of the Valley, moderate two-hour ranger-led walk around Smestow Valley Nature Reserve, 9am, meet at the former railway station.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
  • Northycote Farm Health Walk, moderate 60-minute walk around the nature reserve, 10.30am, meet at the café.
  • Culture Walk, moderate 90-minute walk and talk around Wolverhampton Art Gallery and the City Archives, 11am and 2pm, meet at Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
  • Aldersley Health Walk, moderate 90-minute walk up the 21 Locks route to Broad Street basin and back, 6pm, meet at WV Active Aldersley.
Friday 19 May:
  • Highgate Hike, difficult five-mile walk around Highgate Common and beyond, 10am, meet at Birch Coppice car park.
  • Pendeford Health Walk, moderate three-mile walk around the green spaces of Pendeford, 10.30am, meet at Oasis Community Café.
  • Nordic Walking session at West Park, moderate one-hour taster sessions, 10.30am and noon, meet at Southgate Lodge.
  • West Park Outdoor Gym Class, free 30-minute taster session, 10.45am, meet at the shelter, Devon Road entrance.
Saturday 20 May:
  • Walking for Health Challenge Trail, moderate and difficult four, seven or 12-mile way-marked and marshalled walking trails in aid of the British Heart Foundation, 9.30am, meet at WV Active Aldersley, pre-booking essential (no entries on the day).
  • East Park History Walk, easy two-hour tour of the historic park, 1pm, meet at the Pavilion.
  • Perfect Paths of Perton, difficult five-mile walk, 2pm, meet at Perton Civic Centre car park.
Sunday 21 May:
  • Over Orton, difficult eight-mile circular walk along the canal and former railway line, 10am, meet at the former Wombourne Railway Station car park.
  • West Park Health Walk, easy walk around the park, 10.30am, meet at the café.
Councillor Paul Sweet, the City of Wolverhampton Council's Cabinet Member for Public Health and Wellbeing, said: "The Wolverhampton Walking Festival offers a fantastic range of easy, moderate and more challenging walks to suit people of all ages and abilities – there really is something for everyone, and I’d urge residents to pull on their walking boots and take part.

“Walking can improve your health and happiness, so it’s also a great way to get or stay in shape and also discover parts of the City you may not have seen before. Everyone is welcome, and best of all, the walks are totally free.”

The Wolverhampton Walking Festival is organised by the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Healthy Lifestyle Service, with support from WV Active, the British Heart Foundation, Nordic Walking UK, the Ramblers Association, Wolves Community Trust, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Civic and Historical Society.

Nurseries and playgroups across the UK raised £588,376 for Barnardo’s, the UK’s oldest and largest children’s charity, during last summer’s animal-themed Big Toddle. Children dressed up as animals such as tigers and giraffes and took part in a half-mile walk to raise money.

Nurseries and parents are now signing up to take part in this year’s Big Toddle which has the theme of ‘colours’. One of the biggest events in the UK will be at Dudley Zoological Gardens on Tuesday and Wednesday June 13 and 14, with free admission for participants aged up to five years old.

The gates open at 10am with the walk starting at 11am. Admission for participating adults and over-5s will be just £7. Since 1997, the Big Toddle has raised £14.5 million. The event is marking its 20th anniversary this year by teaming up with Teletubbies, which is also celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The antics of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po have featured in more than 400 episodes of the popular TV programme and entertained children in more than 120 countries.

Barnardo’s regional director Hugh Sherriffe said: “A huge thank you to everyone who will be taking part in this year’s Big Toddles. Last year the events raised almost £600,000 which is helping to transform the lives of the most vulnerable children in the UK. I am excited Barnardo’s has teamed up with the Teletubbies, some of the most popular characters in TV history, for this year’s events.”

More than 4,000 children have secured a place in their parents’ preferred primary school in Sandwell.
A total of 4,733 parents applied for reception places with 87% securing their first choice and over 94% being offered one of their top three preferences.
Chris Ward, Director of Education, Skills and Employment in Sandwell, said: "We are consistently proving we are able to keep up with demand for primary school places and it's good news we are offering such a high percentage of parents their preferred choice."
Parents can go to the Sandwell website for further help and guidance:

Business leaders in Greater Birmingham have said a General Election on June 8 would result in a much-needed “clear mandate” for Brexit and other global tensions.

Paul Faulkner (pictured), chief executive of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, said: “We understand the importance of having a Government with a strong, clear mandate as we enter the most important negotiation of our generation - Brexit.

“This election, provided it receives the go-ahead from Parliament, should provide that backing to the winner and make clear the will of the British public. But we urge the Government to do their utmost to provide stability and consistency in the run-up to the day, and for our new Government afterwards. There is no denying the growing uncertainties on the horizon not just on Brexit but on other global political tensions.

“The run-up to the General Election cannot divert Government's attention from delivering strong domestic policy, clear negotiating tactics on Brexit and maintaining and growing the UK's position on the international stage.

“In this region we already have an important election coming up: the West Midlands Mayor on May 4. During this time strong local leadership and ensuring our region's voice is heard will remain vitally important.

“I would urge businesses and voters to continue to engage with this election as the race to the general election heats up.”

Blenheim Palace is expecting a record number of twins this year! With over 3,000 lambs due arrive towards the end of April, visitors can see them gambolling about in the 'Capability' Brown Parkland on a special Lamb Buggy Tour beginning 22 April.

The 1550 ewes were scanned by two members of the Rural Team in February meaning that Estate Manager Roy Cox and Head Shepherd, Charles Gerring know they are expecting 253 singles, 1,129 sets of twins and 144 sets of triplets. The spring arrivals are thought to be arriving from 20 April.

The scans show an increase in twins expected by the Blenheim Palace ewes and a reduction in triplets, which is good news for shepherds and mums-to-be. Ewes who give birth to triplets usually have one of their three offspring taken away and given to another ewe so that they can cope with feeding.

Head Shepherd Charles Gerring says: “The estimated yield of lambs from our flock this spring is really pleasing. The increase in twins is fantastic, and always what we hope to achieve. With the reduction of triplets we won't have as much worry with fostered lambs being rejected and ewes struggling to look after more than they can cope with.”

Visitors can learn about Blenheim Palace's rich agri-history and discover more about the Estate farm on the Lamb Buggy Tours which will be running through the Park to the lambing fields set in the historic surrounds of the Grand Avenue.

The grassland within this World Heritage Site is an idyllic area for our extensive flock to graze throughout the year. We lamb outdoors in order to give lambs the best spring grass and nutrients they need.

Blenheim Palace lambs later than many farms because their sheep are reared entirely on grass largely staying within the Park walls, keeping them as naturally healthy and organic as possible.

Shocking new research has revealed that thousands of people in the West Midlands have suffered a deterioration in their mental health because of housing problems in their lifetime, and many are seeking help from GPs in the area.

The report from Shelter and ComRes shows 28% of people in the West Midlands have experienced issues including long-term stress, anxiety and depression due to a housing problem over their lifetime. In some of the worst cases, people have suicidal thoughts.

The charity is urging anyone overwhelmed by housing problems to get advice from Shelter Birmingham Hub, after 1 in 12 (8%) people in the region said they had visited their GP due to housing problems.

An in-depth investigation by the charity with 20 GPs, including professionals from Birmingham, revealed:

  • GPs say some of their patients diagnosed with anxiety and depression is directly due to housing problems
  • Bad housing is tipping people with existing mental health issues ‘over the edge’
  • Poor housing conditions are having the biggest effect on mental health but unaffordable and unstable rented housing are also having a negative impact
  • GPs feel they need more help in supporting patients experiencing these problems
Showing how linked housing and mental health are, nationally the research shows that a vast majority (69%) of people who have experienced housing problems in the last five years such as poor conditions, struggling to pay the rent or being threatened with eviction, have reported a negative impact on their mental health.

Shelter Birmingham manager, Vicky Hines, said: "Every day at Shelter Birmingham we hear from people who are at their wit’s end because they just can’t cope with their unstable, unliveable or unaffordable housing.

“From families worrying about falling behind on the rent to people struggling with the misery of raising children in tiny, mouldy flats and houses – people can feel completely overwhelmed.

"But getting advice and support early can ease the pressure and stop things spiralling out of control. Shelter’s free expert advice is only a click or conversation away – visit or contact Shelter Birmingham on 0344 515 1800.”

Dr Vijayakar Abrol, who works as a GP in Birmingham and took part in the Shelter study, said: “When housing is sub-standard with inadequate heating, or without proper facilities for bathing, cooking and sleeping, this can have an impact on mental health – especially when it comes to aggravating more fragile people who have existing conditions.

“Personally, I have seen an increase in the number of patients with mental health problems in my practice and growing problems around housing are making the situation worse.”

Anyone struggling with bad housing and homelessness in the West Midlands can contact Shelter Birmingham on 0344 515 1800 or drop into their advice centre at Shelter Birmingham, 4th Floor, Gateway House, 50-53 High Street, Birmingham, B4 7SY.

University of Wolverhampton students recorded some valuable work experience when they visited a local radio station recently.

First year students studying for a degree in Multimedia Journalism visited local Wolverhampton radio station, 101.8 WCR FM, and were given a tour of the radio production studios as well as gaining some hands-on experience of recording from radio presenters during their visit. Students also researched a local news story and wrote scripts to fit the style of radio news bulletins, using the studio’s facilities to record their bulletins.

Dr Bianca Fox, Course Leader in the Faculty of Arts at the University, said: “For their final assignment students have to write and record their own radio programme and we wanted to work with broadcast industry professionals to help give them some real life work experience. Our aim is to increase partnerships with local broadcasters and professional journalists involved in the delivery of the degree.”

Angely Khan, a student on the course, said: "We have spent time on the course learning the ins and outs of radio news and practising writing and recording.  It was great to actually experience a real-life radio station that is just a short walk away from the campus. Students were able to meet and observe presenters whilst they were on air and toured the studio facilities.  Some are now looking to volunteer with the radio station after such a positive day.”

BBC Journalist and Masterclass trainer, Jules McCarthy, said: "It's a real privilege to work closely with local students who have a real talent for news. We've been able to help develop their multiplatform skills, using the excellent studio training facilities at 101.8 WCR FM. As a Wolverhampton girl myself, it's been extremely rewarding to help develop the next generation of this City's journalists.”

Owning a pet can be expensive with research showing the first year costs thousands on average – from bedding and food, to the damage they wreak on our homes. The poll from Nationwide Home Insurance, which coincides with National Pet Month, reveals Brits pay an average of £3,500 to cover the initial starting costs as well as the ongoing monthly bills.

Nationwide, which is the only high street financial services provider to offer accidental damage caused by pets as standard on their Home Insurance product, conducted the research to gauge the true cost of keeping an animal.

The research shows a huge variation in the costs of keeping different animals. When it comes to cats versus dogs, felines come out on top financially as the poll shows cat owners pay on average just half (£2,455) the amount dog owners do (£4,791) over the course of the first year.

And for anyone thinking about getting a horse, they will need to be prepared for a significant outlay as the Nationwide poll shows that the first year of equine ownership costs an average of £12,654 – perhaps not surprising given the cost of a horse is likely to run into thousands and the significant monthly cost of livery yards.

Fish are the most cost-effective pet to own with annual expenditure of just £769 – including the tank, pumps and associated equipment, while a rabbit - hutch and all - will set someone back an average of £1,802, according to the survey.

While the average amount spent on the animal itself comes to just £147, one in five (20%) pet owners spend more than £250. The poll shows horses (£2,322), dogs (£591), lizards (£324) and guinea pigs (£283) are the most expensive animals to purchase.

And as any pet owner will know, the impact on household finances continues once the animal becomes part of the family. The research shows Brits spend around £3,024 per year - £252 each month - on their ongoing care, including items such as food, vet bills, treats, toys and pet insurance.

When it comes to specific animals there is clearly a huge difference in associated costs. Horses are the biggest drain on the family finances, at £861 per month, while a dog will set owners back £350 each month. Fish are by far the cheapest, at an average of £588 a year (£49 per month).

On Sunday 23 April 2017, Drifters Waterway Holidays and the Canal & River Trust are offering people the chance to try canal boating for free at 19 locations across England and Wales, including Valley Cruises at Coventry Canal Basin.

The taster sessions, which run from 11am till 4pm, will include free short trips on skippered narrowboats, as well as boat tours and holiday discounts.

Tim Parker, chairman of Drifters Waterway Holidays, explains: “Travelling at just 4mph through peaceful countryside, sleepy villages and popular waterside towns and cities, canal boat holidays are often described as ‘the fastest way to slow down’. Close to 400,000 people go canal boating each year, nearly double the number 10 years ago* and over 3,000 people got afloat at our Open Day in 2016. “We hope that this year’s taster sessions will introduce many more people to the joys of a holiday afloat on Britain’s wonderful inland waterways.”

Mike Grimes, head of boating at the Canal & River Trust, added: “For many people, a boating holiday is the start of a lifelong passion for our beautiful network of inland waterways. These free taster sessions are a great way to see if this sort of holiday could be for you, before committing to a full weekend or week’s break.”

Breaking with her previous statements about not calling a general election before 2020, Prime Minister Theresa May, yesterday announced that she wants a general election to be held on 8th June.

In a statement, the Prime Minister stated that when she came to power in July, 2016, the country was in need of a stable and secure hand, to deliver the results of the referendum. She believes that she has delivers that, and now she feels that in order to properly deliver the fully Brexit package, she must secure a mandate for herself and the Conservative Party.

By calling a general election, Theresa May hopes to prevent the squabbling and nit picking that Labour and the Liberal Democrats had promised to deliver, had Parliament sat until 2020. With the Conservatives polling 21 percentage points ahead of Labour in the most recent opinion polls, the Prime Minister is no doubt confident that she can win a sizeable majority and strengthen her hand, when it comes to achieving her key policy proposals.

However, despite calling for a General Election, Theresa May is not guaranteed to get one. By order of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act of 2011, in order to dissolve Parliament and have a general election, the Prime Minister would need to get a two thirds majority of votes in favour of a new election.

There are those who think it would be within Labour and the Liberal Democrats interest to prevent the passage of the vote, as they believe that seizing on the potential chaos of the actual Brexit negotiations, could add to Labour and the Liberal Democrats appeal in 2020.

However, both Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron, leaders of Labour and the Liberal Democrats respectively, have stated that they will support the call for the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a new election for 8th June.

At the time of writing, it has been confirmed that Parliament will be formally dissolved on 3rd May, and that the deadline for parties to recommend their candidates is a week later. Deadlines for registering to vote will be 22nd May.

With this move, Theresa May has guaranteed that things in Britain are to be even more heated for the next few weeks and perhaps for the weeks after the election as well as leading up to it. A potentially smart move, or one that could damn her and her party. Only time will tell.

By Vivek Rajkhowa

A Birmingham teenager has shaved off her hair to help the hospice that cared for her great-grandfather.

Fifteen-year-old Molly Harrison from Erdington has raised over £800 for John Taylor Hospice as a thank you for the care and support provided for her family.

Molly was only four years old when her great-grandfather George Harrison was cared for in the hospice’s In-Patient Unit in 2006.

“The hospice took such good care of him and I wanted to do this for them to show how much it means to me and my family,” explains Molly who is a student at Erdington Academy. “I feel really proud to have raised £808 - I didn’t think I’d make that much! I’d like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored me.”

Her bold fundraising challenge took place in front of an audience at Kingstanding Ex-Servicemen’s Club – somewhere George was a familiar face. Cheered on by family and friends Molly’s dad Mark shaved off her long brunette locks to raise vital funds for their local hospice.

Molly’s mum Sally Harrison said she clearly remembers the day that her daughter decided to do something special to raise money for the hospice. “When she was about nine her school, Firs Primary, held a cake sale in aid of John Taylor Hospice,” recalls mum-of-four Sally.

“A member of hospice staff went to collect the cheque and spoke to the children about fundraising to help their local community. Molly came out of school that day and asked me if the hospice was where we went to visit grandad. When I said yes she told me she wanted to do something to help them.”

The hospice provides specialist palliative and end of life care for people living with a terminal illness and their families and relies heavily upon public donations.

Sally added: “Hospice staff just couldn’t do enough for me and my family. We could visit at any time and were even able to stay overnight and bring grandad his favourite takeaway food!

“It felt like a home from home and we’re so thankful that they supported us to make the most of our precious time together. We’re full of pride for Molly and think it’s amazing that she has done this to help families just like ours.”

Molly will be donating her hair to children’s cancer charity Little Princess Trust who provide real hair wigs, free of charge, to children across the UK and Ireland that have lost their own hair through cancer treatment.

John Taylor’s Head of Fundraising Katie Mitchell said: “Molly is simply an amazing fundraiser! We are full of admiration for her and so grateful to everyone that backed her fundraising efforts. Our supporters go to great lengths to raise money for us and we can’t thank them enough for their kindness and generosity.”


A great motivational and inspirational talk was delivered by Mr. Qasim Ali Shah, a renowned motivational speaker, at Institute of Administrative Sciences (IAS). Mr. Qasim gave his talk on ‘Journey from Ordinary to Extraordinary: Professional Motivation’. He recommended many books for students to read and focused on developing the positive attitude towards all the happenings of life.

Mr. Shah shared the goal setting strategies and action plan by sharing the practical examples from his life. He focused on the importance of sincere efforts towards making one’s contribution in this world by finding one’s potential and act accordingly. Session was attended by a large number of students, alumni, faculty and staff that took keen interest in his talks and were quite engaged. Closing remarks and a note of thanks was shared by Prof. Dr. Nasira Jabeen, Dean – Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (FEMS) and Director – Institute of Administrative Sciences (IAS).

It was followed by presentation of souvenirs and flowers to Mr. Qasim Ali Shah as a token of love and appreciation in acknowledgement of his time and efforts. Mr. Qasim Ali Shah contributed 100 books of his own to the IAS Library and to session participants as a gift.

Changes to the driving test will help save lives and improve road safety, Transport Minister Andrew Jones has said. Learner drivers will need to pass a modern test that will include new manoeuvres and a longer independent driving section to make sure drivers have the skills, knowledge and confidence to drive on their own.

The changes will also include a section where drivers use satellite navigation to find their way.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to make them safer. These changes announced today will help reduce the number of people killed or injured on our roads and equip new drivers with the skills they need to use our roads safely. Ensuring the driving test is relevant in the 21st century – for example, the introduction of sat navs, will go a long way towards doing this.”

The new driving test will come into force on 4 December 2017. The four changes are:

  • an increase of the ‘independent driving’ part of the test from 10 to 20 minutes
  • asking candidates to follow directions on a sat nav as an alternative to following road signs
  • replacing current manoeuvres such as ‘reverse around a corner’ with more real life scenarios, such as  driving into and reversing out of a parking bay
  • asking one of the two vehicle safety questions while the candidate is driving, for example, asking candidates to use the rear heated screen
DVSA Chief Executive, Gareth Llewellyn, said:

“DVSA’s priority is to help you through a lifetime of safe driving.

“Making sure the driving test better assesses a driver’s ability to drive safely and independently is part of our strategy to help you stay safe on Britain’s roads.”

“It’s vital that the driving test keeps up to date with new vehicle technology and the areas where new drivers face the greatest risk once they’ve passed their test.”

Around half of all car drivers now have a sat nav and to reflect the changing behaviours of drivers, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) want new drivers to be trained on how to use them safely. This was supported by 70 per cent of respondents from last year’s consultation.

Using sat navs will encourage more practice of independent driving and teach new drivers the skills they need to manage distractions.

Currently candidates spend a large amount of their test on low risk roads, such as housing estates so they can carry out the current manoeuvres. The new-style manoeuvres will allow DVSA to assess the same skill set as the changes are more representative of what a new driver will experience in their everyday driving.

Reducing the focus on slow speed manoeuvres in quiet low risk roads and increasing independent driving will allow DVSA examiners to better assess the learner’s ability to drive safely on higher-risk roads, where statistically, new drivers have the most crashes.

Britain’s beloved historic buildings are at risk, due to a restoration skills crisis that threatens the future of some of our best-known national treasures, warns the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Despite over a million people tuning in to Channel 4’s latest series Great British Buildings – Restoration of the Year, and a new YouGov survey commissioned by RICS finding that 92% of the British public in the Midlands believe historic buildings are symbolic of Britain’s heritage, young people have little awareness of the specialist professions and trades essential to their preservation, suggesting that as people retire, the current skills base could be all but wiped out.

According to the survey, 9 in 10 people (92%) agreed that buildings such as Lincoln Cathedral and Ragley Hall are symbols of the country’s heritage. This sentiment is strong across all age groups, including millennials, with 89% of 18-24 year-olds appreciating the importance of historic buildings.

The vast majority of the Midland's population (93%) also believe that that these iconic treasures should be preserved for future generations and place the responsibility for maintaining them firmly at the door of the government (43%), followed by industry organisations (16%) and the general public (14%).

However, despite the public’s love for these buildings, the majority don't understand the specialist skills needed to restore and preserve them. For example, 80% are not knowledgeable about what a historic building surveyor does, and 80% do not know what a roof thatcher’s job entails. Awareness of age-old building professions is fading away amongst the younger generation, with only 1 in 10 18-24 year-olds able to describe the job of a stonemason, and only 16% know what a glass blower does.

This lack of awareness comes at a time when the industry as a whole is facing a skills shortage in the built environment, with the latest figures from the RICS Construction Market Survey showing that the skills gap reported by professionals across the construction sector increased from 2% in 2012 to 43% in 2016.

To ensure that these crucial skills are not lost and cherished historic buildings don’t fall into disrepair, a stronger pipeline of talent is needed. It’s important that craft skills are developed in addition to the continual promotion of professional skills, as the two skillsets are intrinsically linked to create any successful construction project. RICS is calling on the government and industry bodies to continue to concentrate their efforts on inspiring young people to pursue a career in the sector and educate them on the importance of mastering and maintaining the skills needed to preserve our historic buildings.

British designer and presenter, Kevin McCloud said: “Historically listed buildings form part of the fabric of our rich cultural heritage and today’s findings from RICS highlight that so many Brits are genuinely passionate about protecting the physical legacy that these buildings represent. I’m very pleased to be hosting Channel 4’s Restoration of the Year programme, which shines a spotlight on the care and craftsmanship behind preserving these national treasures.”

Matthew Howell, RICS Managing Director for UK & Ireland said: “It’s fantastic to see that so many people care about our historic buildings, especially young people. However, without a pipeline of talent developing expertise in these specialist areas, these landmarks could be left in ruin. We need the next generation to understand the role of a historic building surveyor, and the craft of a stonemason or glassblower to preserve this heritage for the future.”

Mr Howell added: “The government and industry bodies must continue to work together and raise awareness of the wide-range of opportunities available in the industry and create more routes into the sector for young people, including investing in quality apprenticeships that lead to roles such as qualified building surveyors who specialise in conservation projects”.

Visiting coffee shops is a ritual that many Brits routinely adhere to, as new research reveals Britain's coffee shop culture is full of beans. According to Mintel research, the UK coffee shop market has enjoyed its biggest period of growth since 2008, when the market was valued at £2.2 billion. Over the last five years, the market rose by 37%, up from £2.4 billion in 2011 to reach an impressive £3.4 billion in 2016. What is more, between 2015 and 2016 sales increased a spectacular 10.4% – the biggest year-on-year boost witnessed in the last five years.

It seems the market is brewing up for further success, as over the next five years coffee shop sales are forecast to jump a further 29%, reaching a heart-stopping £4.3 billion.

Brits' insatiable appetite for coffee is highlighted by the fact that two thirds (65%) of all Brits have visited a coffee shop in the past three months*. Coffee shop usage peaks among consumers aged 16-24 (73%). However, in a space traditionally dominated by specialist coffee retailers, it is notable that as many as 44% of Brits buy their hot drinks from non-specialists.

Overall, just one fifth (19%) of the nation do not drink tea, coffee or other hot drinks out of the home.

Trish Caddy, Foodservice Analyst at Mintel, said:

“Britain's appetite for coffee shops continues. Much of the growth we've seen in recent years is driven by habitual coffee drinkers and the continually increasing number of coffee retailers that are now ubiquitous on British high streets. A raft of non-specialist venues that feature barista-style coffee on their menus with takeaway functions are grabbing a slice of the coffee shop market. In the future, the top end of the market will continue to face intense competition from big pub chains, fast food chains and bakery shops that have now encroached on the coffee shop market, competing in terms of price, convenience and even geographical reach.”

Mintel research reveals an environmentally caring side to Britain's coffee drinkers. Almost nine in 10 (87%) coffee drinkers try to dispose of their packaging waste in recycling bins. Some six in 10 (58%) coffee drinkers would like coffee shops to offer a discount to customers using their own travel mugs. Furthermore, four in 10 (40%) coffee drinkers say they do not mind being charged extra for hot drinks served in 100% recyclable coffee cups, and 30% would prefer to pay for filtered water instead of buying bottled water.