Midland news digest.
Bootleg drink and tobacco worth pounds 29,000 has been seized in a swoop by Customs and Excise on a taxi firm in Dudley.
Officers investigating alcohol and tobacco smuggling raided the offices and searched a nearby lock-up garage where they found a large quantity of contraband.
Mr Bill O'Leary, spokesman for Customs and Excise in Central England, said 24,000 cigarettes, 80 kilograms of tobacco and 200 bottles of vodka had been seized.
"One of the drivers at the firm was questioned, but not arrested or charged. Our inquiries are continuing," he said.
Computer fails to deliver
A council which blamed computer problems for soaring tax arrears has recouped nearly pounds 400,000.
East Staffordshire Borough Council saw its business rate collection figures plummet from 97 per cent in the 1996/7 financial year to 83 per cent the following year before improving slightly to 85 per cent in 1998/9.
The authority blamed a new computer system for problems with collection of the tax on business properties.
A report prepared for the council's executive committee said a crackdown last month meant pounds 394,000 was collected.
Good neighbour to rescue
A quick-thinking Black Country man rescued a neighbour from a fire at his home.
Mr Nick Bate, of Locarno Road, Tipton, dashed into the smoke-filled kitchen to switch off the gas and snuff out the blaze with a wet tea-towel after his 60-year-old neighbour fell asleep.
A fire service spokesman said the 29-year-old had learnt how to tackle a chip pan fire only the night before when he saw a television information advertisement.
Council's weighty problem
Wolverhampton is to improve its dismal record on low birth weights.
The borough had the highest rate in England of babies classed as low birth weight, with 1,324 - 10.3 per cent - being under 5lb 8oz between 1995 and 1998.
Ms Margaret Holt, divisional manager of women's and children's services for the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals Trust, said health staff were working to reduce teenage pregnancies and young smokers and efforts were being made to reduce the number of women smoking during pregnancy.
Girls hurt in attack
Two girls were taken to hospital yesterday after being attacked in Staffordshire.
The 15 and 14-year-old, both from the Chasetown area, were taken to Manor Hospital in Walsall after they were attacked by two other teenagers in Pool Road, Chasewater.
They suffered facial injuries including cuts and bruises.
A police spokesman said the pair were out walking near Chasewater when they were set upon.
CS spray used on thugs
Police used CS spray to control thugs who attacked officers and fire crews as they dealt with a car blaze.
The violence broke out in Ingestre Square, Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, at midnight on Wednesday after one person threatened the emergency services and was arrested.
The police spokesman said CS spray was used to control the situation.
Five men and a woman were arrested for assaulting officers and public order and obstruction offences.
A woman who started work with Staffordshire Police 44 years ago is to retire next week.
Mrs Pat Wynne, who works in the inquiry office at Stone, near Stafford, joined the force at Lichfield in 1955 and became a uniformed officer at Willenhall, near Walsall, four years later.
The 65-year-old mother-of-two has worked at Stone for the last 15 years.