All posts by Macfivenews

Motoring and travel journalist, opinionated gob on a stick

Festive appeal in memory of Charlie


A woman whose husband was able to enjoy one last Christmas at home with his family thanks to St Giles Hospice is calling on people to support its festive raffle.

Gill Henley’s husband Charlie (aged 54) was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in October 2019 but was able to stay with his loved ones throughout the Christmas period with the help of his St Giles Hospice Community Nurse. 

Gill said: “Thanks to our wonderful St Giles nurse, Shelly, we were able to spend our last Christmas together at home. Without her care and support I really don’t know how we would have coped. 

“Even at Christmas St Giles were there for us day and night. It gave us such peace of mind and we were able to relax and enjoy ourselves knowing that we had their support to call on if we needed it. 

“Shelly did everything she could to make Charlie as comfortable as possible and he was able to stand up with his frame and put Santa on top of the Christmas tree – a memory I’ll always cherish.

“We celebrated Christmas Day at home surrounded by our close family, and Charlie felt well enough that we could bring Christmas forward to celebrate with the rest of his family a few days before too – he was really able to enjoy it and to take part.”

Charlie was admitted to St Giles Hospice in January 2020 for pain management and after six days he felt well enough to go home to Swadlincote. However, he was readmitted a few weeks later when his condition took a turn for the worse and five days later he died in Gill’s arms at the Whittington hospice.

Always remembered: Gill with a picture of her beloved husband Charlie

Gill, who previously lived in Branston and whose mother Audrey also died at St Giles in 1993, added: “People think that hospices are just places that you go to at the end of life, but St Giles really helped Charlie to be at home for as long as he could, and made him as comfortable as he could possibly be.

“They supported the whole family – our community nurse was our angel and the team at the hospice were fantastic. I hope people will support the hospice raffle if they can because St Giles Hospice has to be there for other local families like ours when they need it.”

It costs more than £10 million to provide the care St Giles offers every year and the hospice needs to raise more than £850,000 each month to keep services going, at a time when there has been a big increase in the number of people needing hospice care.

Tickets for the hospice Christmas raffle are now on sale at £1 each and goodies up for grabs include a first prize of £8,000 or a brand new Kia Picanto car from Burton Kia, £2,000 or a luxury holiday and other cash prizes.

St Giles Hospice Lottery Manager Alison Jerram said: “We’re asking our local community to really get behind our Christmas Raffle this year – the money it raises is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Every £1 ticket sold helps us to continue supporting people in the local community who are living with a terminal illness, and we’ve never needed the support of our community more than we need it now.

“We’ve had to cancel many of our events in 2020 which has really affected our income, so every raffle ticket sold will help to ensure we can continue to care for local people when they need us in these uncertain times.

“The raffle is a great way for our supporters to have some fun – with the satisfaction of knowing that they are also helping to fund St Giles – and may win a fabulous cash prize or have a new car or holiday to look forward to in the New Year.  There are also extra prizes up for grabs for people who buy their tickets early!”

Tickets are now on sale and anyone wanting to join the draw can find out more or buy raffle tickets online at or by calling the Raffle Team on 01543 434020. The raffle draw will be made on 20 January 2021.

For further information or for any media enquiries please contact or Gary Young on 07855 926123.

Sutton Coldfield’s newest store opens

New Bert & Gert’s store showcases independent traders under one roof

The Mayor of Sutton Coldfield has officially opened The Gracechurch Centre’s newest store, Bert & Gert’s.

Councillor Jane Mosson unveiled the latest addition to the Royal Town earlier this month, which will showcase a collection of small independent businesses all under one roof. 

Located next to Patisserie Valerie and TSB bank in The Gracechurch Centre, customers can expect goods from a host of local producers, including Mary’s Cupcakes, Urban City Woodshop, Page2Page Book Club, Swanky J’s, Pretty Little Flowers, Oscars Pet Food, Piggin Yummy, Mandy Crafts, Unicorn Cards, M&M Lamps and SHP Pottery.

Founded by Birmingham-based brothers Mark and Jason Wilkes, Bert & Gert’s are well known for their arts and crafts markets and events across the country, and weekly market on Sutton Coldfield Parade.

The family business was named in honour of their late grandparents, Bert being their paternal grandfather and Gert being their maternal grandmother.

On speaking of the new opening, Mark and Jason said: “Our aim is to support, encourage and promote small local businesses, and we believe local businesses will have greater strength in working together.

“The products we sell include items we have designed, made or sourced ourselves. Whether handmade with love or chosen with great care, shopping with Bert & Gert’s will always be a different and unique experience.

“As well as our store, we also hold regular markets in Sutton Coldfield and are proud to be a long-standing part of the fantastic retail offering in the town centre. The people of Sutton Coldfield are passionate about quality products handmade with love and supporting local independents, and we look forward to welcoming them to the store soon,” they added.

Mike Bushell, Sutton Coldfield Town Centre BID manager, added: “We’re delighted to welcome Bert & Gert’s to the Gracechurch Centre with the opening of their new bricks and mortar store.

“Their regular markets on the Parade are a hugely popular fixture on the town centre’s calendar, attracting thousands of visitors from the surrounding areas throughout the year. 

“The shop’s concept is a brilliant way of providing a permanent platform for a wide variety of independent businesses and further showcase the fantastic range of local traders Bert & Gert’s work with.”

Angela Henderson, Centre Manager at The Gracechurch Centre, said: “Bert and Gert’s has been a real local success story in recent times and we look forward to seeing them continue to flourish at the Gracechurch Centre. Their artisan craft ethos will nicely complement our existing line-up of national and independent retailers, offering something new for the people of Sutton Coldfield.” 

Bert & Gert’s store is open from 10am until 4.30pm Monday to Friday, and 9.30am until 5pm on Saturdays.

The next Bert & Gert’s market will take place on Sutton Coldfield Parade on Saturday 24 October and every Saturday thereafter.

For more information visit or

Sutton recycling hours revised

A Household Recycling Centre

Centres set to switch to winter opening hours from 1 November

Sutton Coldfield residents are being reminded that opening hours at the city’s recycling centres are about to change for the winter.

From November 1, until the end of March 2021, the city’s five Household Recycling Centres (HRCs), operated by Veolia, will be open as follows:

New opening times

LocationMonday to FridaySaturday and Sunday
Holford Drive, Perry Barr8am to 6pm8am to 4pm
James Road, Tyseley8an to 6pm8am to 4pm
Lifford Lane, Kings Norton8am to 6pm8am to 4pm
Norris Way, Sutton Coldfield8am to 6pm8am to 4pm
Tameside Drive, Castle Bromwich8am to 6pm8am to 4pm

All five Household Recycling Centres will be closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Residents will still need to book a slot, but the overall number of available slots at the HRCs will not be decreased, despite the reduction in opening hours during the winter period. This means more slots will be available per hour to accommodate as many visits as possible whilst adhering to Government guidelines.

Visitors are reminded to stick to their time slot to ensure social distancing measures can be adhered to on-site to keep both the public and Veolia teams safe. Arriving late or early for a visit may result in being denied access to the site.

Mark Powell, General Manager for Veolia in Birmingham said: “All visits to Birmingham’s Household Recycling Centres must be booked online ahead of the visit . Access to the HRC sites will be denied if a booking hasn’t been made. Remember, separate your waste and recycling before visiting the recycling centres as it will make the visit more efficient when depositing the waste at the HRC. This will also help us all to recycle as much of Birmingham’s waste as possible together.

“If you are thinking of visiting an HRC with a van or large trailer (larger than 6’x4’), you must pre-book by calling the van booking office on 0203 567 3915 Monday to Friday 8am – 4pm.”

Tips on how to make your Household Recycling Centre visit as easy as possible:

  • Book slot at a Birmingham HRC online 
  • Sort your waste into different types before you set off – your visit will be quicker, and more will be recycled.
  • If you’re not sure where to put something, ask a member of staff who will be happy to advise you.
  • Please don’t use your mobile phone on site. This is to avoid distractions because there are moving vehicles on site.
  • Wear sensible footwear when visiting.
  • Children and animals must stay in your vehicle at all times, for their safety.

Please adhere to social distancing measures on-site to keep everyone safe.

Cllr John O’Shea, Cabinet Member for Street Scene and Parks, said: “Our network of Household Recycling Centres offer a convenient way to dispose of waste in a responsible manner. I’m pleased that our partners at Veolia can offer the same number of booking slots as during the longer summer operating hours, whilst still ensuring that the sites comply with coronavirus rules to keep visitors and staff safe.”

For further information on how to use Birmingham’s Household Recycling Centres and to book a slot at a recycling centre, visit

Public transport under pressure

Parking pattern shows Sutton commuters deserting public transport

Commuters in Sutton Coldfield are deserting public transport new research from online parking platform indicates.

Analysis of its latest booking data, which advertises available parking spaces at train stations across the town and in city centre locations near to offices and work places, reveals a clear drop for the former in favour of the latter.

Indeed, a comparison of a variety of station car parks compared to city centre car parks, show that bookings at train stations via the online parking platform are down 46 per cent while in city centres they are up 19 per cent. 

Both these figures are for bookings in September compared to pre-lockdown in February.

Harrison Woods, managing director at, said: “Historically, train stations are one of our most popular locations but our research indicates a shift away from these as bookings for empty parking spaces has declined significantly.

“However, this is in stark contrast to empty parking spaces in town and city centre locations, which show a considerable rise in demand, most likely as more people now drive to their workplace.”

For example, bookings via at normally busy stations such as Ebbsfleet International Station are down 59 per cent, bookings at Ashford International Station are down 45 per cent, bookings at York Station are down 36 per cent and bookings at Aylesbury Station down 66 per cent.

However, bookings for city centre car parks have boomed. For example, in Brighton city centre it has risen by a massive 98 per cent, in Edinburgh it is up 43 per cent and in London up 28 per cent.

The new research also appears to confirm the results of a survey carried out by at the beginning of lockdown when half of those surveyed said they were less likely to use public transport.

The survey of 3,000 people also discovered that four-in-ten people were more likely to drive.

In fact, other independent research has highlighted that road congestion is now higher in certain areas than it was last year while there has also been millions fewer train journeys.

Harrison added: “Where we work, and how we commute to work, has fundamentally changed. While lots of people are still working from home, many of those venturing to the office are avoiding the train and trying to get as close as possible to the workplace using their own vehicle.”

To learn more about, or to pre-book an empty parking space in a city centre location, visit

Moth danger alert to Sutton gardeners

Devastation to box hedging has now reached the West Midlands

It first arrived in the UK in 2007 but, just 13 years later, the damage caused to box hedging is spreading across the country at an alarming rate. But help is at hand from a tiny creature living naturally in garden soil.

The caterpillar of Cydalima perspectalis, better known as the Box Tree Moth, is munching its way through miles of box tree hedging if many parts of the country.  Although the moth population is much higher in London and the South East, sightings are being recorded further and further north each year.

And this year gardeners in the West Midlands have been reporting damage to their hedging.

Damaged hedgerows and plants

BASF and natural pest control retailer have joined forces to highlight the danger the tiny caterpillar and resultant moth present to the UK’s ornamental hedging.  The partners have developed a tracking map to alert gardeners that the pest is on their doorstep – and to spread the word that there is an environmentally-friendly way to combat the box tree caterpillar, in the form of nematodes.

Although a native of Japan, China, Taiwan, Korea, India and far-east Russia, the moth has settled happily in Britain and is expanding its range rapidly.   The moths lay their eggs on the underside of box (Buxus) leaves and when the caterpillars emerge, they will rapidly defoliate large areas of hedging and topiary features.

Eggs are laid between April and October and then the insect over-winters as a caterpillar. September and October are the best months to treat plants as they will be protected from hungry caterpillars through the winter.  

The microscopic, naturally occurring White Knight is the nematode that is present throughout Britain in garden soil.   BASF breed them in their trillions in their state-of-the-art facility at Littlehampton in East Sussex for their Nemasys range of pest control products.

Nemasys Fruit and Veg, which contains the White Knight nematode, is sprayed directly onto the leaves of the box with a hand pump sprayer when young caterpillars are present on the foliage, as nematodes must make direct contact with the pest in order to control it.  For the nematodes to work, they must be applied late in the evening (away from UV light, as it kills the nematodes) and under high humidity conditions, for example after a rainy day.  Weekly applications for at least 5 weeks from now until early October – longer if it remains warm and frost free – will safeguard the box through to spring.

Jon Manners, managing director of said: “Last year customers were contacting us about problems with the moth mainly in London and the South East.  This year, we are getting queries as far afield as Leeds and Newcastle.  It is very worrying and points to a rapid spread.”

Nemasys Fruit and Veg and other nematode based pest control products are available only online as they are living creatures and must be used whilst they are fresh. They can be purchased from

Have you spotted the Box Tree Moth in your garden?  If your box shrubs are showing signs of damage as described here, please contact us to report it.  Email

Olly Murs centre stage

X factor star at Warwick Castle

ward-winning X-Factor finalist Olly Murs will be returning to Warwick Castle as one of the venues for his open-air summer 2021 tour.
Guests can enjoy the singer’s cheeky performance style and catchy vocals against the stunning backdrop of the Castle on Tuesday 20 July 2021, and Olly says: “I’m so excited to come and perform at this beautiful location again”. The singer last performed at the Castle in 2011, and this time fans can expect to hear some of his biggest hits including ‘Dear Darlin’, ‘Heart Skips A Beat’, ‘You Don’t Know Love’, and ‘Wrapped Up’ during his set.
Liam Bartlett, Operations Director at Warwick Castle said: “We are thrilled to be able to welcome Olly Murs back to Warwick Castle next summer. This announcement adds another exciting date to the 2021 calendar following our previousl
y announced Michael Bublé concert, demonstrating what a fantastic live events venue Warwick Castle is.
We have lots of other exciting plans ahead to ensure that after a very challenging year, 2021 is a bumper year for great entertainment.” The Castle will also be hosting Michael Buble as part of his rescheduled ‘An Evening with Michael Bublé’ tour on Friday 23 July, making for a month to remember at the Castle following Olly Murs’ performance on Tuesday 20 July.
Well-known as a fantastic live shows and concert venue, Warwick Castle has previously played host to artists such as Jessie J, The Beach Boys and Simply Red.  Since becoming runner-up on The X Factor in 2009, Murs has achieved four number one albums, five platinum LPs, collaborated with Demi Lovato, Snoop Dogg and Flo Rida and scored four UK number one singles.
He’s become one of the most successful alumni from the reality TV competition and has returned to host the series as well as become a coach on rival series The Voice.
Tickets for Olly Murs’ concert at Warwick Castle go on sale on Friday 9 October via For more information on the Castle’s events during 2020 and 2021, head to

BMW’s iconic badge returns

BMW’s iconic badge returns

  • The famed ‘ti’ badge returns to the BMW range. 
  • Designed to deliver exhilarating driving enjoyment. 
  • M Sport specification as standard. 
  • 265hp petrol engine with BMW TwinPower turbo technology. 
  • Torsen limited-slip differential and bespoke M Sport suspension. 
  • Exclusive accents contribute to striking appearance and sporty interior. 
  • November 2020 launch, priced from £32,995 OTR.

The interior of the BMW 128ti features high-class materials, with red accents throughout creating a bold contrast to the black headlining. A large ‘Race Red’ surface adorns the front centre sections of the standard Sensatec/cloth sport seats. A red ‘ti’ is stitched into the centre armrest which – like the door armrests, the door panels, the instrument panel and floor mat edging – also features red contrast stitching. The steering wheel rim and airbag cover of the standard M Sport steering wheel also feature red stitching. Standard equipment also includes the M door sill strips on the front door openings, and M seat belts. Boston backlit trim strips are standard whilst the Berlin trim is available as an alternative.

Perforated Dakota leather and M Sport seats available as options
The M Sport seats are optionally available in perforated Dakota leather – in Black or in Magma Red with grey accents. If the latter is chosen, the contrast stitching and ‘ti’ badge are in grey and the floor mats have stitching in the BMW M colours.

The infotainment features of BMW Operating System 7.0 are accessed via a display screen of up to 10.25 inches with the optional BMW Live Cockpit Professional. Gesture control is also available and a 9.2‑inch BMW Head-Up Display can be specified as options. The load compartment has a capacity of 380 litres, rising to 1,200 litres with the rear seat folded. Electric tailgate operation is also optionally available. Folding Mirrors, Heated Seats and cabin Ambient Lighting are also included as standard.

Bespoke, lowered M Sport suspension
The new BMW 128ti is available exclusively with specially tuned, bespoke M Sport suspension. It has the firmer anti-roll bars and anti-roll bar mounts from the range‑topping BMW M135i xDrive, plus stiffer modified springs and shock absorbers – it’s also10mm lower. This, combined with a model-specific steering setup that has been designed to further minimise torque steer, results is even sharper driving dynamics. A weight saving of around 80kg over the all-wheel-drive BMW M135i xDrive contributes to the sporting performance of the BMW 128ti.

Torsen limited-slip differential for improved traction
The BMW 128ti is equipped with the same Torsen limited-slip differential as the BMW M135i xDrive. As well as increasing traction, agility and stability, the limited-slip differential also gives the car excellent cornering ability.

If the inside wheel loses grip while powering through a bend and the driver accelerates at the same time, the limited-slip differential directs more torque to the wheel with greater grip, thereby preventing wheel slip and enhancing traction and agility.

BMW Performance Control and ARB technology
The mechanical limited-slip differential is assisted by several electronic control systems. One system that has been specially modified for the BMW 128ti is BMW Performance Control, whose ‘sharper’ yaw moment distribution boosts rear axle agility. ARB (near-actuator wheel slip limitation) technology is also utilised, as it is on all models in the BMW 1 Series range. This newly developed traction control system, that made its combustion-engine debut on the 1 Series, features a slip controller positioned directly in the engine control unit rather than in the control unit for the DSC (Dynamic Stability Control) system, enabling ARB to work ten times faster. As a result, not only is operation smoother and more sensitive, the system can also make maximum use of the potential traction offered by different road surfaces. The ARB technology works with DSC to significantly reduce the power understeer that can affect front-wheel-drive cars.

Standard M Sport brakes and sport tyres
As in the BMW M135i xDrive, the BMW 128ti is fitted with M Sport brakes, which provide increased fade resistance and exceptional feel. The front callipers bear the M logo and are painted red (a first for a BMW 1 Series model). The front brakes consist of aluminium four‑piston monoblock fixed callipers and 360mm x 30mm inner-vented discs, while floating callipers with inner-vented brake discs measuring 300mm x 20mm are at the rear.

The 18-inch Y-spoke 553 M bi-colour light-alloy wheels exclusively fitted on the BMW 128ti can be specified with sport tyres (Michelin Pilot Sport 4) in 225/40 R18 format as a no-cost option.

The 19-inch double-spoke 552 M light-alloy wheel with 235/35 R19 tyres is also optionally available.

265hp, 2.0-litre engine with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology
The engine in the BMW 128ti is a direct offshoot of the BMW Group’s most powerful four-cylinder unit. The 2.0-litre engine was modified with BMW TwinPower Turbo technology and produces 265hp from 4,750-6,500rpm. Peak torque of 400Nm is available from 1,750-4,500rpm. The BMW 128ti can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.1 seconds and reach a limited top speed of 155mph. Despite this strong performance, the 128ti returns combined fuel consumption of 44.1 – 46.3mpg* and emits only 148-139g/km of CO2*. This enables it to meet the Euro 6d exhaust standard. The standard Active Sound Design (ASD) ensures the driver can enjoy a distinctive engine sound in the cabin without any increase in external noise.

Lightweight M Performance Parts enhance aerodynamics and exterior stylingCustomers can personalise the new BMW 128ti with accessories from the exclusive M Performance Parts range, which has been developed with the expertise of BMW M GmbH .

Various lightweight parts in new carbon-fibre look and High-gloss Black components further enhance the sporting appearance of the BMW 128ti. The M Performance front splitter, the rear diffuser and the roof-edge spoiler with air through-flow and the aero flics in High-gloss Black optimise aerodynamics. These M Performance Parts have been developed specifically for the BMW 1 Series and adapted in the wind tunnel to work together perfectly. The hand-made, high-quality carbon-fibre components that also include M Performance exterior mirror caps are sealed with clear coat and given a high-gloss polished finish. 18-inch forged wheel Y-Spoke 711 M in Ferric Grey and the 19-inch M Performance bi‑colour light-alloy wheel Double-spoke 555 M with polished finish are optionally available.

The M Performance steering wheel, complete with Alcantara covering, large thumb rests, red marking in the 12 o’clock position and silver-grey hand cross-stitching adds to the race car feel of the BMW 128ti interior. For even more sportiness, there is the M Performance Steering wheel cover in carbon fibre/Alcantara or carbon fibre/leather with M Performance lettering, plus M Performance Shift paddles in carbon fibre to operate the eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission.

Slump in railway journeys

Rail travellers and commuters in Sutton Coldfield say they have noticed a huge drop off in train journeys during the pandemic.

Rail passenger journeys in Great Britain fell to the lowest levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century, official statistics from the Office of Rail and Road have revealed.

Commuters have noticed the change at stations across the town.

Office worker Dave Johnson, from Four Oaks, who works near Cenentary Square said: “It’s really eerie on the train at times after being packed in like sardines on the rush hour commute. Parking is also a breeze, particularly at Blake Street. It’s a shame this has happened under such tragic circumstances.

Nationally, 35 million journeys are estimated to have been made in the first quarter of 2020-21 (April to June 2020). This is a decrease of more than 400 million compared to the same quarter last year, highlighting the severe effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on passenger numbers.

More journeys were recorded in London and the South East compared to the rest of the country. Govia Thameslink Railway recorded 7.5 million passenger journeys this quarter, the most of any operator.

Recent estimates published by the Department for Transport show that current national rail use was predicted to be 32% of what would be expected on an equivalent day.

Graham Richards, Director of Railway Planning and Performance at the Office of Rail and Road, said:

“This unprecedented fall in passenger numbers, the largest on record to levels last seen in the mid-nineteenth century, has clearly had an impact on both rail usage and also ticketing revenue.

“These figures include the period of lockdown and reassuringly we’re now seeing passenger numbers slowly increase. ORR has worked closely with the industry, and continues to do so, to ensure the necessary health and safety advice and guidance is in place.

“Rail is one of the safest ways to travel and our inspectors continue to monitor the reality on the ground to ensure people have the confidence that they can travel safely.”

Total passenger revenue in Great Britain was £184 million in 2020-21 Q1. This equates to 6.9% of the £2.7 billion in 2019-20 Q1.

Anytime/Peak tickets accounted for 24.1% of all passenger revenue this quarter – the lowest share for such tickets in any quarter since the time series began in 2010-11.

Police scheme saved my life says victim

A woman who says she would have ended up dead or in prison has praised a West Midlands scheme, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, for saving her life.
Jacqui (not her real name) from Birmingham was, for years, the victim of violent and controlling behaviour at the hands of her partner. Things escalated to the point that he controlled her mentally, financially, socially and even sexually.
But it was after he stopped giving her enough money to feed her children that she began shoplifting.
Until one day she was caught.
However, ironically, she says it was getting caught that saved her life. Police offered her a route to safety by referring her to a scheme funded by the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner called New Chance.
The PCC has now announced that the scheme will be funded until at least April 2021.
The initiative offers hundreds of female offenders in the region the help they need to rebuild their lives and step away from criminality. It recognises that offending often stems from trauma, such as domestic violence, poverty, mental health or addiction.
So far 700 women in our area have been helped by the programme. Jacqui is now in a much better place and is hoping to return to work.
The PCC set up the £270,000 a year New Chance initiative in order to break the cycle of offending amongst women. The aim is to take women away from the Criminal Justice System who have been identified by the police as someone who might benefit from extra support. This help includes practical and emotional help based on a woman’s individual needs. It’s estimated the investment in the New Chance programme has saved several million pounds in costs associated with offending.
The project launched in 2016 to operate across Birmingham and the Black Country. Based on the success of the programme, New Chance has now been rolled out right across the West Midlands area. It is run by a number of organisations including Anawim, Black Country Women’s Aid, Fry Accord Housing and Changing Lives.
A recent evaluation by the University of Birmingham shows that women with mental health issues, enrolled on the New Chance scheme, were up to 37% less likely to reoffend. Whilst reoffending rates amongst women with substance misuse issues dropped by more than half.
The initiative has been so successful that it’s been shortlisted for an award by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
“It is so pleasing to hear a success story like Jacqui’s”, said Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson.  
“I’ve been funding the New Chance scheme for four years because we know it’s making a difference to the lives of hundreds of women, breaks the cycle of crime and saves the taxpayer money.
“Many female offenders are actually victims themselves and have been subject to untold abuse. New Chance works because it tackles those underlying problems.  
“This initiative is helping to reduce crime, our prisons are less full, hundreds of women’s lives have been saved and fewer victims have been created.
“I am delighted the New Chance programme has been nominated for a Howard League Penal Reform award.”
Meanwhile Jacqui, said: “In early adulthood I was a successful, confident young woman with everything to live for.
“I then started a relationship with a man who became very controlling and violent – mentally, physically, sexually and financially.
“With no money and no way of feeding my children, I regret to say I took to stealing food from shops.
“Before long I got caught. But that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I explained to the shop manager and the police officers what was happening at home and before long I was receiving the right kind of help from police and the New Chance programme.
“Without the help of the New Chance programme I would have either ended up in prison or dead.”
Sarah Gallagher is the Service Manager at Anawim, one of the organisations that runs New Chance,  she said: “New Chance has enabled us to work with West Midlands Police to provide early intervention for women who have received a conditional caution.
“It is important to provide the support at the right time before they become entrenched within the criminal justice system.
“The outcomes have been fantastic, from supporting women financially, dealing with childhood trauma, domestic violence and sexual violence to supporting women into employment.”

M8: Electric pace and luxury

BMW is simply dynamite

BMW M8 Competition

By Bill McCarthy

IT may come as some surprise to hear BMW say that its twin new models, the M8 Competition coupe and convertible are its first foray into the luxury performance car market.

Having driven the extremely rapid M850i recently, that left me scratching my head. But when you are talking about power units that deliver supercar performance, small increments make a difference.

Both  models feature a brutally powerful 4.4-litre V8 engine with twin turbos and the now familiar BMW M Steptronic eight-speed transmission, delivering a stonking 635hp and 750Nm of torque. 

This in turn delivers neck-wrenching performance with the car hitting 62mph in just 3.2 and 3.3 seconds respectively. 

For those who care about the incremental performance, the well over half a second to 3.9 seconds difference between that and the M850i may seem to make the latter almost pedestrian by comparison. 

The Competition model also offers a track driving mode, where rear wheel drive can be selected and up to 189 mph can be hit where permitted.

Power is delivered by two turbochargers, cross-bank exhaust manifolds, direct injection with increased pressure, plus cooling and oil supply systems designed for maximum track performance.

All this power need to be transferred to the wheels in an efficient and safe manner and the four wheel with the model specific adaptive suspension and chassis improvements means the big beast is rarely troubled when you turn on the power.

This became apparent with a full day’s drive up and down the twisting roads and passes of the mountains of southern Spain near Malaga. Difficult roads to test the performance and handling of any vehicle were dismissed by this luxury thoroughbred in the most beautiful Andalusian setting.

Choose full auto or switch to the paddles and the car is a delight, clinging limpet like on horseshoe bends with the big slabs of rubber on the 20-inch wheels and blasting away on the rare stretches of straight road. The convertible was driven first and on a sunny day the roof was straight down.

The car does look good, predatory, almost feline in profile in both coupe and convertible guise and features a hexagonal theme with upgraded black kidney grille carbon-fibre and large apron underneath. 

To the rear there is a carbon-fibre spoiler, four exhaust pipes and diffuser for the cabrio. The coupe features a double bubble carbon fibre roof while the convertible offers a fabric top which folds away in 15 seconds at speeds of up to 31mph. When not required it can be folded to half its size and stowed in the boot.

The interior is the last word in luxury, functionality and comfort with powered front seats, featuring with warm air collars in the headrests in the convertible for when it gets chilly. Trim is of the highest quality with Merino leather, anthracite headliner, top quality soft touch finish and a riot of carbon fibre, leather, thick carpets, and the familiar M  branding throughout on seats, sills and doors.

These include red accents on the M leather steering wheel’s M buttons and the start/stop button on the centre console. The newly designed transmission selector lever with Drivelogic switch is leather-surfaced with an embedded M logo and stitching.

The latest  iDrive infotainment system dominates with the so-called Live Cockpit Professional 12.3-inch display which controls, navigation, infotainment and and a raft of connectivity services and apps with at last Android Auto being included from next year in addition to Apple CarPlay.

In addition the BMW Connected Package Professional adds remote services and real time traffic information. There’s also M8-specific dials which can be selected by the driver on the digital display and the couple of drive selector red buttons on the steering wheel.

Driving it is a real experience, floor the throttle and the exhaust acoustics change depending which mode is selected via the M Sound Control button on the centre console. By selecting SPORT PLUS the engine sounds more like a racing car as the roar of the V8 kicks in.

Two variants of this M setup can be stored permanently with the driver’s preferred settings for the engine sound, gearshift characteristics and driving stability control on either of those two red M buttons on the steering wheel. 

On the road the huge amount of torque means power delivery is instantaneous, even allowing for overtaking with comfort on twisting  roads. The 4WD Sport mode  diverts a larger slice of engine power to the rear wheels. Deactivating the Dynamic Stability Control system (DSC) transfers power exclusively to the rear wheels for a more engaging drive.

The handling is peerless with the slip differential, adaptive suspension and active chassis keeping the car firmly planted while the beautifully weighted steering is direct and responsive, especially when you need to instantly avoid a herd of sheep crossing a mountain road.

But it’s not just about the madcap performance. Slowing down through mountain villages, the car settles into a docile mode, but on the other side, feathering the throttle unleashes all the power again.

Is it also a superb motorway cruiser and happy to sit at 70 mph, but here allowed, again a blip of the throttle means that huge torque delivers brilliant overtaking speed.

For safety, the M compound brakes are standard while larger  carbon-ceramic brakes are an option as the car provides a full  complement of safety kit. In addition it features cameras which can record and store the previous 20 seconds on the car’s activity on the hard drive, plus full complement of airbags, stability and traction control and assisted braking.

Rollover protection system is standard on the convertible which also includes a wind deflector, which can be set up in the rear-seat area to prevent unwanted air turbulence when driving with the roof down.

For the record claimed economy is around the 25mpg mark, obviously dependent on how you drive and emissions over the 250 g/km mark ain’t going to save you anything on benefit in kind taxation. But at £123,000-plus for the coupe and £133,000, yes, £133k for the cabrio, it probably does’t matter.

As usual with BMW, even for a car this expensive, options can bump up the price substantially, but that should be no surprise to BMW drivers.

And if the performance is too much there’s always the ‘pedestrian’ M850i.

But this is a true supercar and a delight to drive. BMW have thrown down the gauntlet to its challengers yet again.

BMW M8 Competition Convertible, Brands Hatch Grey