David Conway was not the only one with a big smile on his face Friday morning as Labour awoke to the short sharp judgement of the residents of Springfields and Trent Vale. Whilst it might not stop the move, the backlash against the move to the CBD was apparent, which raised the spirits of many council officers on Friday morning. Parking in Stoke may not be perfect, but the thought of a daily game of ‘musical parking spaces’ followed by a forced tutorial on how you should cycle to work rather than moan about paying £25 a year to spend 20 minutes looking for a parking spot before abandoning hope and parking in Tesco, is a step too far for some.
So the by-election has finally been called for the vacancy for Office of Councillor for the Springfields and Trent Vale ward, it’s only taken since 27 April. So now the ballot boxes are being broken out and just in the nick of time… frustrated residents in Springfields & Trent Vale are already starting to petition the council over local issues, having begun to feel the effects of no local representation for the last few months.
Despite having more councillors than they know what to do with, Labour have not fallen over themselves to ensure residents have felt looked after, which is perhaps why there are rumblings that this by-election may see upwards of 8 candidates all vying to fix the numerous potholes and clear the litter on the yellow brick road from Trent Vale to Stoke. Hardly a ringing endorsement of previous incumbents…
Why should anyone vote for us as councillors and why should you read my 500 words?
Criticism and negative press constantly points out how the council gets everything wrong.
When I stood for council eight years ago I wanted to get elected because I thought exactly the same as many others, and that you would be hard pushed to do any worse. I believed the constant voting in of the same old Labour people, time and time again had made them complacent.
There seemed to be no vision for the city and no urgency in replacing the lost jobs and businesses.
There seemed to be no interest in banging on the governments door for funding to bring inward investment to our city, even though we had three Labour MPs.
I was elected twice in 2003 & 2007 and hope to be re-elected again in 2011 even though the Governance Commission and Boundary Commission have, in my opinion, tried their best to eliminate all but Mainstream parties by going against their own guidelines and dividing established communities and ignoring natural boundaries. We can only hope that it doesn’t decrease people’s choice in this election.
When I was newly elected, I was constantly frustrated at the time it took to get anything done.
This was something I was not used to in my past life when running my own businesses.
I learned how to use the council system to my best advantage, to achieve the best possible.
I have been able to get lots of benefits for my local area of Blurton with new jobs, new shops, new housing, Parking bays and numerous other things to improve the Blurton area.
I have highlighted problem issues and fought for what I believed to be right,
not only for my area, but our city. I have highlighted them on Pits n Pots and have been quoted in the Sentinel now fewer than 368 times in the last two and a half years alone.
I have persevered,
even when I felt that I was getting nowhere on certain issues, but, I never give up and always see things through to make sure I get the best deal available, like setting up the working group that reduced consultants, which has saved us a fortune.
I have been involved in several meetings in London and Birmingham banging the drum for Stoke, which I believe has been neglected in the past. There needs to be more done.
Regeneration will be the key to putting our city back on the map
although I have voiced my views several times where I think that Regeneration has been too slow.
The council needs to push the Government even harder to make sure Stoke-on-Trent gets Enterprise Zone status to improve our situation.
Although this year’s budget settlement has been severe and difficult to manage,
we were able to save Children’s centres, Respite care for disabled children along with many front line services that other councils have reduced. Also put a freeze on council tax.
Incoming councillors will be faced with the stark reality of finding next years £20million savings. This will need some skill and a lot of hard work and I hope I am there to help get the best deal available.
Don’t forget I am a resident and taxpayer and what affects you affects me.
Leader of the City Independents
Blurton Ward Councillor
Outspoken Conservative Shaun Bennett may well be de-selected as a Conservative Candidate for the Stoke-on-Trent all out local council elections at a hastily arranged meeting this coming Wednesday [23rd March]
It appears that some of his comments opposing the Conservatives coalition agreement locally with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and The City Independent Group, have angered members of the Conservative group on the City Council.
Sources have revealed that Shaun has also upset members including Cllr Hazel Lyth and Cllr John Daniels over comments he has made on Pits n Pots.
The Special Executive Committee of the City of Stoke-on-Trent Conservative Association will meet at the civic centre to discuss the following motion:
“The Conservative Group ask the Executive to reconsider the adoption of Shaun Bennett as a Conservative Party candidate in the local elections 2011, as we have concerns he will not abide by the Group’s rules on Collective Responsibility, based on comments made recently on the internet about both the Group and individual members.”
A letter obtained by Pits n Pots suggests that Shaun Bennett is un-repentant for his comments and hits right back at those who would deny him his opinion.
Dear Members of the Executive,
It seems that members of the Conservative Group have now achieved their long held plans and initiated a special meeting of the executive to discuss my de-selection as a Conservative candidate at this election. Since the decision has effectively already been made, I have little desire to humiliate myself by coming before you personally to oppose this spurious case. Instead, I am writing this letter to you all as a defence against the charges that I now find levelled against me.
It appears that the group’s decision to call this meeting and recommend my de-selection rests upon just a single charge: that I have spoken out against Conservative involvement in the Labour led coalition and specifically that I have said that I would not have supported the budget imposing Labour’s programme of cuts upon this city.
Let me be quite clear from the start and say that I do not oppose the principle that cuts must be made. I am not an oppositionist for the sake of opposition. I am prepared to support tough choices, and I supported every tough choice that Conservatives made when we were leading the coalition just over 12 months ago.
What I do NOT support however, and will not support is LABOUR’S programme of cuts which has been designed specifically to hit the most vulnerable in our city the hardest; deliberately and calculatedly as a means of putting a noose around the neck of the Conservative government at Westminster and ensuring the election of a Labour majority on the city council in May. That the ‘so called’ Conservative group has chosen to go along with Labour’s cuts really does speak volumes about how our council group has now lost its way and abandoned the people and the principles upon which they were elected.
The charge raised against me is that I have broken collective responsibility; that I have opposed the decision of the group to support Labour’s political budget of cuts. And the answer to that charge is very simple: as I am not a councillor at present I am not BOUND by the collective decisions of the Conservative group. I am not an officer of the party, I am not a councillor, at the moment until nominations close I am not even an official candidate. I can in fact speak as I like about whatever I like without penalty.
I am not bound by any rule of the party to support decisions made before my election and membership of the group comes into effect. By the time that occurs of course, Labour will have a huge overall majority on the city council and Conservatives will no longer be involved in any formal coalition. Indeed, following the elections in May, I suspect the then OPPOSITION Conservative councillors will be taking much the same view on many of these issues as I have taken today. At that time, coalition decisions will magically become ‘Labour decisions’; the coalition’s budget will transmogrify before our very eyes into ‘Labour’s budget’ as we try desperately to wash our group’s hands of the consequences of those ‘collective decisions’.
The group, by taking this extraordinary action against me today, are seeking to rewrite the rules of the party. Under their scheme, all Conservative members will be bound to support whatever they say whether it is in line with party policy or not. And as we all know from our experiences in the past-ordinary members will have no say whatsoever over what those decisions consist of.
I hope that as an executive you will vote to reject the group’s recommendation for de-selection. However, whatever the outcome, I do not apologise for what I have said. This case will determine whether we remain a true Conservative Party in this city, or whether we surrender to anti-conservative forces and abandon all those who want to support genuine Conservatism.
If the choice is to support the strategic errors of the local Conservative group or to line up alongside the Conservative government of David Cameron, I’m afraid my loyalty to the Conservative Party commits me to go to the defence of the government against labour’s frontline cuts agenda. I’m sorry that that is no longer compatible with the views of the Conservative Group in Stoke-on-Trent in the year 2011.
Shaun Bennett BA(Hons), MA
Former Deputy Chairman (Stoke South)
Former Deputy Chairman (Stoke Central)
Former Deputy Chairman (Stoke)
Former Treaurer (Stoke)
Shaun Bennett was unavailable for comment today.
The forthcoming local elections are, in my opinion, the most important in the City of Stoke-on-Trent in modern history.
The past twelve months have not been an easy ride for our elected representatives.
They have had to wield the axe over many much needed, loved and valued facilities and public services. £35 million has been stripped from the local economy this year.
Next year our newly elected councillors who will have been mandated, will get to swing the sword to the tune of a further £20million and one wonders just what will be left after that cull.
I saw the impact and burden of responsibility that the present council chamber had to endure in February’s Budget Meeting. The axe did not swing easy and inhibited believe me.
The past political year got me to thinking about who the hell would want to stand for public office for the next 4 years?
What will be the impact on political parties and groups if community minded activists, party members and independent free spirits think to themselves ““ sod this for a game of soldiers!
You only have to read the various political comment articles and the comments on here and the Sentinel, to see that anyone stepping up to the plate is opening themselves up for the harshest of criticism and public battering. And all because of the need to balance the books after a world wide group of maverick bankers decided to play polka with the civilised worlds finances.
Speaking to various sources I can disclose that as we stand today the long range political forecast for May is as follows ““ in no particular order:
The most dynamic opposition group in the council chamber expect to field around 10 candidates in May and they expect to stand them in specifically targeted wards. They have absolutely no chance or desire to contest all 44 wards. They have also turned down approaches from several ex-Labour candidates who wished to stand in particular wards.
The Labour Party will contest all 38 wards. It has been a struggle to amass the required number of candidates and some wards are still to have candidate selections. My sources are confident that the Labour line up will be the best for years and that expectation is high. They tell me that there is no complacency. To me the Labour Party will have a large majority and I predict that they may take as many as 30 of the wards. They will benefit from the referendum on the AV system and the funding of a large party structure. They will also be the major benefactors of the widely expected public backlash against the Conservative and Liberal Democrat national coalition cuts.
Stoke-on-Trent can not in anyone’s imagination be described as a Tory hotbed. As it stands at the moment the Conservatives are predicting that they will field around 22 candidates and I predict that there will be one unexpected omission from the ballot papers. The party is hoping that their numbers will grow as we near the time but is not expected to fall below the 22.
The CIG expect to be able to field around 15 candidates. Their numbers have been affected by some withdrawals and some interested parties have stated that the needs for future cuts have persuaded them to change their minds about standing. The Independent element in the chamber has always been vital for holding the mainstream parties to account, a role which this year fell to Community Voice with the CIG’s participation in the 4 way coalition agreement.
The Liberal Democrats
The national political whipping boys are confident of fielding around 30 candidates in May. Many of that number however will be paper candidates. The local Lib Dem’s are targeting specific wards and hope to get around 10 serious candidates elected. Party activists are very fearful of the wrath of the public and concede that they may be obliterated at the ballot box when folk get the opportunity to exact revenge for the number of u-turns on policy since last years general election. If the recent Barnsley by-election is anything to go by they are right to be fearful.
The British National Party
The far right party has been in steady decline over the past two years. Locally the much publicised falling out with former Group leader Alby Walker massively affected their performance in both the general and local elections last year. This year the issue is very much one of finance, or to be precise, the lack of it. A series of highly publicised legal battles has seen the party’s funds diminish to a state of near insolvency. Leader Nick Griffin’s one man crusade to rid the party of every dissenter has seen a number of former party favourites kicked out the door. The one time party PR machine has ground to a halt. All this has had a massive affect on Stoke BNP and despite Mike Coleman’s gallant efforts the party are only fielding around 15 candidates and realistically only expect to get 3 or 4 elected. His own seat is under threat from Labour’s rising star Ruth Rosenau.
New kids on the block, made up of mainly old faces. The most notable, for very different reasons, are former Councillors Roger Ibbs and Lee Wanger. They hope to field around 10 candidates at this election.
A massive Labour landslide, whilst predicted, is a retrograde step for our City’s democratic landscape.
Just think back to when Labour had all 60 seats in the Chamber, some of the worse political decisions took place during that period.
The true message is however; if you care about this city and think that you have the moral fibre, then stand up and be counted.
Whether you are aligned to a party or are an independent spirit, your city needs you now especially in these times of austerity, more than ever before.
There are a large number of negative forces at play out there, hiding in the city’s political hedgerow, they are of of all persuasions far left, left, middle, right and god forbid, far right.
They seek to undermine the very fabric of our society. Every decision that is made, for good, bad and indifferent is pulled apart for the sake of negativity and the reluctance to accept that difficult decisions have to be made and cuts proposed.
If the government cut the funding to this city, no matter who is in power, cuts will need to be made.
Only if we have strong, intelligent, visionary and progressive councillors do we as a city wide community have a chance of forcing paid officers that the saving of a ‘Tunstall Pool’ is viable and necessary. And then having the courage to suggest an alternative financial saving instead.
That is where the negatives have got it completely wrong – they are quick to say that you can not cut this or that but never do they table an alternative.
Where would the City be if good people are put off by all the negative vitriol and the public crucifixion when politicians have to do the unthinkable?
Give me good honest public spirited people of any political persuasion to those who snipe, undermine and spin for the sake of it anytime.
I hope that there is new blood in the chamber who are willing to take the baton and head for the finishing line without looking back or deviating from the charted course.
All the rest should join the likes of the Chell Heath racist and his cronies who masquerade as the great and the good but seek only to sabotage our city and the good folk who live happily side by side in our unique and tolerant communities.
There is no doubt that Cllr Ellie Walkers resignation from the BNP and her joining Community Voice has become a major talking point in the City of Stoke-on-Trent.
I must say since breaking the news of her application to join the Community Voice group and her subsequent acceptance, I have watched the debate unfold with interest.
Opinion is split, some say you can not turn from hard right to hard left, some say it is a case of her coming to her senses.
My own thoughts on the subject have ebbed to and fro.
It’s no secret that I am anti- BNP, always have been, always will be. To me any party or politician that discriminates by race, religion, colour, gender or sexuality is not going to be good for the future of our diverse multi-cultural city, or on a wider note, our nation.
That said, I would campaign for the BNP’s right to exist, and society’s right to vote for them. That is democracy and I would not accept cheap imitations. It’s all or nothing.
I was a proud member of the Labour Party, became a little disillusioned, left and joined the Liberal Democrats for a short time.
You see I had changed my opinion of the Labour Party. I no longer felt that they represented my views. I did not like the actions that they were taking or the decisions that they were making, so I walked the walk.
I ask you what is worse someone who follows their heart or someone who just follows party orders and says nowt? I want politicians with the courage of their convictions.
Ellie Walker has turned away from the BNP. She has denounced their policies and branded them racist. She will look the BNP councillors in the eye across the chamber and say ‘I no longer support your ideology’.
Simply put, she has changed her mind.
I ask you, where would our families, our society, our city, our country be if we lived in a world where you were not allowed to have a change of heart.
More importantly, what would the world be like if no one were allowed to say, ‘I was wrong’.
What Ellie Walker did was commendable. She came out and admitted that she was wrong and that she now believed that the policies of the BNP did not sit comfortable with her. She was unable to continue with them due to her inner turmoil.
What if she did once believe the BNP were the party for the future? What if she did once think that immigration was out of control? Would she have been the first to think that? Do we really believe that members and supporters of other mainstream political parties have not thought that at one time or another?
Let me make it clear, I have come across more racist comments from councillors outside of the BNP than I have from Ellie Walker.
My dad lived in Abbey Hulton all his life and was a life long Labour voter. He had some mobility issues in the last couple of years of his life. Ellie Walker went out to him on a Sunday lunch time to assess his needs and then fought hard to get the alterations to his house that were needed. Sadly he died before they were implemented. But Ellie was on the case and did not let up.
Some say that she ought to stand down as she was elected on a BNP ticket. I have some sympathy with that view. But, we are less than a year away from the all out elections and the electorate of Abbey Green will get to pass Judgement on Cllr Ellie Walker then. A by-election now would be nonsensical and a criminal waste of public money in a time of the ConDem cuts.
The BNP are facing oblivion in this City.
Alby Walkers attack on them when he resigned his position left the far right party mortally wounded.
Ellie Walkers recent comments could well result in the drawing their last breath, time will tell.
I have stated in this article that I defend the BNP’s right to exist, to seek power and to share the political platform.
By the same token I defend Ellie Walkers right to walk away from the BNP and to say that she was misguided in joining them. I defend her right to express the opinion that they are racist, based on her time on the inside.
Most of all, I celebrate her words:
“I commit sincerely, wholeheartedly and genuinely to actively support those that promote equality, diversity and tolerance and oppose discrimination, hate and the racist BNP.
“I totally renounce all forms of racism and discrimination and actively commit to promote equality and diversity at every opportunity.
“Stoke-on-Trent and its communities are a fantastic diverse and tolerant place to live and represent which is reflected in my own family with my son’s wife being Sri-Lankan and my mixed race grand children being both intelligent, happy and take a full and active part in the community.
“If Stoke-on-Trent is to move forward it must continue to be so. I wish to focus all my efforts on helping and representing everyone in my community.”
Isn’t this what we all want from our elected representatives?
I don’t hear many truly racist or extreme voices in our great city apart from a certain mouthpiece for a crackpot ‘Community’ group.
The BNP vote was made up largely of frustrated mainstream party voters who were making a point.
I can see those voters aligning themselves with Labour, Conservative & Liberal Alliance, City Independents, Community Voice or the Liberal Democrats at next year’s council elections.
If a few more were to follow Ellie’s example, we would be well on the way to making a difference to our great City.
I am proud of the cultural diversity in Stoke-on-Trent. Sure there needs a bit more work to promote integration between the various communities, but Ellie Walkers story makes all that a little easier.
I love this City, most of our councillors do too, but we need a City united to face up to the difficult times ahead.
All the communities together can make a difference.
Stoke-on-Trent is often described as ‘politically fragmented’.
In fact certain academic political commentators practically drool at the prospect that the city’s political structure is ‘broken’.
I have lost count at the many times that I have read, or been told by the great and the good that our city councillors lack quality and political acumen.
We currently have 9 political groups registered and represented in the council chamber. We are constantly told that this is a bad, bad thing.
Well we recently had a visit from the ‘Gossip Goblin’ to the Pits n Pots HQ. The good goblin told us that our city is about to get another political group, but not one like any other.
It would appear that this new group will be made up of councillors and former party activists that will put the communities that they represent as their number one priority.
Indeed it would seem that they see themselves as the voice of the communities.
They will have policies that are agreed by the majority but spurn the idea of a party whip as they would spurn a rabid dog.
Their policies, the Gossip Goblin told us, will have a strong socialist element to them. They are 100% committed to the delivery of top quality public services.
The new group feel that they have no alternative but to come together and scrutinise the Council Leader, his cabinet and the officer core. They feel that Stoke-on-Trent has been left with a political vacuum caused by the main parties entering into a coalition with the City Independents, thus robbing the electorate of a party that has got their backs.
The Gossip Goblin warned us that there will be collateral damage caused to the council chamber with the formation of this new political group. There are rumours that a number of councillors sitting in all groups who are despondent with the coalition policies, are waiting to join forces with this new band of merry men and women.
The launch of this new ‘people first – party’s second’ group is only a short time away and as more details emerge, or in the event of a further visit from the Gossip Goblin, we will be first to bring you the latest developments…..
Mohammed Pervez, leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, explains how four political groups are working together to deliver ‘a well-run and responsible local authority’ – Writes The Public Servant’s Dean Carroll.
Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez said:
Say the word “politics” to most people in the country these days, and the word that immediately springs to mind in reply is “coalition”. That is true for the national picture and for Stoke-on-Trent as well. Where our city differs from the alliance between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Downing Street, is that there is now a coalition of four political groups forming a majority within the city council.
The Labour group, Conservative and Independent Alliance, Liberal Democrats and City Independent Group all hold positions on my new cabinet. This coalition was formed to ensure continuity and stability at the council, as well as effective leadership. Last year was our first twelve months after reintroducing the Leader and Cabinet system of governance after having an Elected Mayor. We needed to make sure that what foundations had been laid weren’t washed away. This has meant forming a historic partnership between the four groups.
The Labour group was given a mandate by the electorate, but not an overall majority within the council chamber. We realise the most effective way to address everything from regeneration to education within the city is to work together with other political groups. That is not to say that the road ahead will not be difficult, but any squabbles we may have between us now need to be set aside.
We need to show we are not shying away from the responsibility of running the city and are willing to provide strong leadership to the city council in difficult times. The coalition is a way of ensuring that all the main political groups in this city work together for the good of Stoke-on-Trent. As the largest group, but lacking an overall majority, it would have been irresponsible to try and exclude them.
This coalition brings together and experience and talent from a wealth of backgrounds that we can use for the good of Stoke-on-Trent. I will be working closely with my deputy, Councillor Ross Irving, who has had the benefit of leading the council in the last 12 months, and well as Councillors Brian Ward and Kieron Clarke who have both held cabinet positions. This ensures good continuity, and also shows that we have a good dialogue between all parties to make decisions quickly and efficiently. I will also be working closely with our Chief Executive, John van de Laarschot, as will the rest of the coalition leaders, to ensure we have an effective council.
It’s true Stoke-on-Trent has suffered on many fronts over the years. We need to put that right. The national government talks about “new politics”. In Stoke-on-Trent our “new politics” will consist of strong leadership and partnership working, to be able to make decisions for the good of the city, and to show the electorate that we are listening to, and acting on, what they want from a well-run and responsible local authority.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to be governed by a four way ruling coalition in what has been described as an historical moment.
Labour, the Conservative & Independent Alliance, The Liberal Democrats and the City Independents will form the ruling administration following tomorrows [Thursday] Annual Council Meeting.
Mohammed Pervez [Lab] is to be the new Council Leader and Ross Irving [CIA] will become the Deputy Leader.
The Cabinet will be made up of 5 councillors from Labour. Although it has not been confirmed, PnP expect them to be Cllr Pervez, Cllr Tom Reynolds, Cllr Debra Gratton, Cllr Sarah Hill & Cllr Merv Smith.
There will be 2 Cabinet positions for the Conservative & Independent Alliance, Cllr Ross Irving and Cllr Hazel Lyth.
The City Independent Group will also have 2 Cabinet places, expected to be Cllr Brian Ward and Cllr Terry Follows.
Kieran Clarke will be the lone Liberal Democrat voice on the Cabinet.
Pits n Pots were at the official press conference and were able to record Audio Interviews with all the Group Leaders and get their thoughts on this historic coalition.
Everyone seems to believe that a deal has already been done to form a coalition of the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Independent Groups to run Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
Although Labour are thrilled to have increased their numbers on the council they actually gained more than they thought and it has given them a big headache.
The last thing in the world they want is to be in sole control of the council because they know that savage cuts are bound to be imposed. Firstly the council have to find many millions just to stay on course for the present budget because the easy options were made for this years budget. They know the real pain is to come next year and the year after. Secondly because of the disastrous financial position of the country any new government is bound to put the squeeze on local government and make even more savings inevitable.
For these reasons Labour need other parties involved in the running of the council so that it is not them alone who are blamed for the cuts. I therefore believe that offering a coalition is not an olive branch but an act of attempted self preservation because of the all out elections next year.
The real question is will it happen?
If Labour, because of their numbers, only offer a few members of cabinet to the others it will not be acceptable.
Will the Conservatives accept only 1 or 2 members having been in “Ëœcontrol’ for the last 12 months.
Will the Lib Dems still accept only 1 member and in charge of the finances when they will then be blamed for cuts to come.
Will the Independents be happy to accept less than their present 3 members (4 originally with Ian Mitchell).
Will Labour find places for Paul, Mark, Tom, Merv, Adrian, Debra, Joy, etc.
If one of the “Ëœpolitical’ groups decides not to take part in the coalition then will the others play ““ I don’t think so. I cannot see a Labour/Con or a Labour/Lib Dem or Labour/independent coalition without the others.
Will Labour locally offer enough places in cabinet to bring the 3 other groups on board ““ I think not.
In a game of cards you can only play the hand you’ve got.
I believe that the idea of a “Ëœrainbow coalition’ will not happen.
As I started ““ HAVE LABOUR GOT THE GUTS TO GO IT ALONE ?