Source: Potteye Blog.
by Mike Barnes.
Cllr Joan Bell recently returned to the Labour Group and made the following quote:
“I was reluctant to leave the Labour Group, but was unable to work with the leader elected at the annual general meeting in June.”
During the time of Mrs Bell’s absence I remained silent about the matter but now feel I must set the record straight.
Firstly, let me say that Joan Bell has become an excellent ward councillor within the Longton South Ward. However, there is a much darker side to Joan which is very difficult to work with. Much of which has led to Joan not speaking to me for some considerable time and revolves around three key issues.
Joan was selected by the Labour Party to stand in the local elections in 2006, and I volunteered to be her election agent. I was also a leading figure in the growing Democracy4Stoke movement.
All of the local leaflets produced by me to promote Joan included the D4S logo and Joan, Bagh Ali and my commitment and support in the campaign to get rid of the Elected Mayor system in Stoke.
I believe this was a significant factor in her election victory.
However, following her appointment to the Elected Mayor’s Board, she appeared to change her stance to the point where she attacked me and said I was an “embarrassment” to the Labour Party, and that she never really supported our campaign.Subsequently, she did indeed help in the campaign to retain the Elected Mayor System during the Referendum against the indications made to her electorate at the time of her election.
I was a founding member of D4S and remained absolutely committed to its principles and objectives despite many, many attempts from all levels of the Labour Party to stop me at almost any cost.
Joan also made it difficult to work with her in the ward when she refused to speak to me following as issue regarding SERCO and its reorganisation of Childrens Social Care.
The initial implementation of the reorganisation, I think even SERCO would agree, was handled very badly, with little support for those affected and very poor communication. Joan Bell was the Chair of the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. I had received many distressing calls from staff in Children’s Social Care, and indeed my wife was also a member of staff, which made it all the more personal to me. I made many attempts to Joan to scrutinise the matter to no avail, and led to me challenging her at a Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee, as to why she was doing nothing over the matter. She didn’t speak to me for months and I was sacked as Chair of the Adult and Older People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee by Mike Tappin (incidentally against the policies and procedures of the Labour Party).
The next time she decided not to speak to me for months was when Dave Conway and myself started to have major concerns about Homelessness in the City. Joan Bell was the EMB member responsible for this issue, and both Dave and myself raised the matter at every internal meeting we could for three months. Once again to no avail. We eventually referred the matter to the relevant Scrutiny Committee.
She sent me an email which finished with the line “On a personal basis I have so often made allowances for your behaviour I feel I have come to the end of the road. I no longer wish to either work with you or speak to you.”
I am passionate about many issues, but to have this kind of pressure to keep quiet, otherwise I would not be spoken to was extremely difficult to work with. However, many others have suffered the same fate over the years.
You either agree with Joan or you get the silent treatment.
I don’t pretend to be easy to work with, but I have always tried to treat others with respect, and have never refused to speak to somebody because I disagreed with their views, from any political party, let alone my closest allies and ward colleagues.