Inside the Civic

Those who thought all out elections would bring some stability to our Council must be feeling embarrassed this week as Council Leader Mohammed Pervez took a scalpel to his cabinet, cutting out the disobedient Gratton and challenger Hill, and carving up the other portfolios in what is quite clearly more than the ‘tweaking’ he described it as.

The introduction of Platt and Dutton is seen as a nod to the left wingers in the group, who re-emerged in 2011 to rival the modernisers who were in danger of taking over Labour.

While the bubbling of an uprising from one faction may have been quelled by the removal of Hill, who as a former senior council officer was much respected for her hard work and who was unfairly lambasted by the Tax Payers Alliance when they named her Pin Head of the month recently. But that said can Pervez’s new cabinet keep everyone on side?

Meanwhile, those on the Labour backbenches have begun the jostling for position with some unexpected challenges for some of the Labour chairmanships.

Debra Gratton, despite having lost her cabinet seat, and perhaps in a move to try and keep in favour, missed taking a scrutiny chair from former Lord Mayor Bagh Ali by the narrowest of margins, whilst Andy Lilley faced a challenge from Alison Wedgwood for the chair of Business Services and Chief Executives Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Current Deputy Lord Mayor Majid Khan appears to have escaped the sack, despite having recently been found to have broken the Code of Conduct by the Standards Committee. The decision to make such an inexperienced councillor Lord Mayor has been frowned on by some, especially as there was some competition to win the nomination following the unexpected electoral loss of former Deputy Lord Mayor Mohammed Matloob last year.

On the other side of the chamber, the spectre of Brian Ward continues to hang over the City Independents. A return to the City Council from the Silver Fox before the next all out elections in 2015 could cause trouble in the group who already often vote however they please, despite Dave Conway’s efforts to keep them together.

Prime example is Trentham councillor Peter Hayward voting for a rise in Council Tax at the Police Authority, which will jar with the residents of Trentham no doubt (if he tells them). Of course, a byelection would be needed to get the Silver Fox back in the Chamber…

There will also be some discomfort on the Opposition benches with the creation of a new councillor-chaired Standards Committee later this year, as this will remove publicity-loving Tory and thorn in Labours side, Abi Brown from the chair of Licensing & General Purposes as her group lose entitlement to a chairmanship.

Abi is admired by some senior Labour figures (although not publicly) for the way she has created a successful ‘City Party’ brand for the Conservatives, something they have consistently failed to achieve themselves, the loss of the no nonsense Brown as chair, more than likely to a member of the Independents, risks turning Licensing back into the talking shop of old with a reputation for day-long meetings and limp decisions.

Finally, there is speculation about who will be on the ballot paper to take over from Sarah Hill in Springfields and Trent Vale, with Lib Dem Paul Billington being a hot favourite. Former group leaders Ross Irving and Brian Ward have both been mooted as possible candidates for their respective parties.

With 3 years to wait until the next opportunity to get elected, there is likely to be a number of candidates, though with BNP organiser Michael Coleman wondering whether prison stripes will suit him, they are unlikely to put a candidate forward. Don’t be surprised to see candidates from far other right groups hoping to grab a toe hold in Stoke-on-Trent while the BNP is disarray locally and nationally.

Community Voice will almost certainly put a candidate forward, but who? Salih, Barnes Joynson PKB or even former BNP Councillor Ellie Walker who moved to Community Voice from the right wing party in August 2010 whilst renouncing the BNP’s aims and stating she was totally opposed to them.

However with lots of possible candidates, a low turnout and lots of bad local headlines for Labour, this will not be a shoo-in for Pervez.

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