Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.
Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.
Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.
The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.
There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.
The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.
The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.
The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.
Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.
Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.
The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.
The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.
There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.
The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.
Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.
In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.
Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.
The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.
The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.
Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.
Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.
The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.
Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.
These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.
The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.
After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.
Listen to the audio below.