New Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent Terry Crowe

Picture of Lord Mayor Terry Crowe in ceremonial robes At the annual council meeting yesterday, Stoke-on-Trent City Council agreed to make Councillor Terry Crowe Stoke-on-Trent’s first citizen by giving him the office of Lord Mayor.

This is 66 year old Terry’s third spell on the City Council since his election in 1978 when he stayed in office for 22 years until 2000. Terry was re-elected in 2002 and again in 2011. During his terms of office as a councillor Terry has has held the positions of Vice-Chair of Education, Chair of Waste, Human Resources Committee and Children and Young People`s Overview and Scrutiny. He is also an honorary Alderman on Staffordshire County Council. Continue reading

Road closures for Stoke-on-Trent Olympic Torch Relay

To facilitate the safe hosting of the Olympic Torch Relay and Evening Celebration on 30 May a number of roads forming and around the route in to Hanley Park in Shelton are to be closed.

The enforcement are for 3 days beginning on Monday 28 May and will remain in place until after the Olympic Torch Relay event in Stoke-on-Trent has been completed.

On the morning of Thursday 31 May a number of roads in and around Hanley and along the Olympic Torch Route towards Burslem and out of the city will be closed. Continue reading

Your chance to shine? Olympic Torch volunteers wanted

Staffordshire County Council is calling on residents who want to take advantage of a unique opportunity to be a volunteer when the Olympic Torch Relay arrives in Staffordshire in May and June.

Volunteering roles for the Olympic Torch relay around Staffordshire & Stoke-on-Trent include Continue reading

Tickets go on sale for Stoke-on-Trent Olympic Torch celebrations

2012 Olympic Torch Relay 6000 tickets have been released for the Stoke-on-Trent Olympic Torch celebrations at Hanley Park on May 30th and Stoke-on-Trent residents are being urged to get their tickets for this once in a lifetime event.

Tickets have been made available through Ticketmaster’s website allowing people the first chance to get their hands on tickets for the live music and stage show set for Hanley Park.

You can book your tickets on a first come first served basis from 9AM this morning using the Ticketmaster link at the foot of the page. While tickets are free of charge there will be a nominal booking fee to cover postage. Continue reading

Olympic Souvenirs

Dear Sir,

I understand from an article that appeared in a national newspaper this weekend that over 90% of souvenirs for the London Olympics are produced abroad primarily China. When Britain successfully gained the right to host the 2012 Games we were lead to believe that this would be a major boost to the manufacturing sector in the UK. This has now proved illusionary, but what is particularly galling is the way in which British pottery companies like Royal Doulton and Wedgwood have out sourced much of their production of Olympic pottery to the Far East. Despite being decorated with Union Jacks and London’s famous landmarks, fine bone china teapots, cups and saucers, vases and pottery are being produced 6,000 miles away in Thailand and China. At a time when over 8,000 people from the Potteries are out of work I would describe the action of companies like Wedgwood as little more than treachery directed at the community which created the company in the first place.

Bill Cawley

Cost of Stoke-on-Trent City Council recruitment

Yesterday I wrote about how Stoke-on-Trent City Council have advertised 21 jobs with the specialist HR & recruitment company Penna and not one of the candidates found was offered the position they had applied for.

Today I am going to write about the literally eye-watering cost of these failed recruitment drives.

According to figures found in the City Councils transparency reports, Penna were paid £126,009.14 in 2011* and had just 21 jobs placed with them, that is £6000 per vacancy.

The councils spending data is particularly poor so it is not possible to say exactly how the money is broken down by role but of the £126,000

  • £45,761.60 Advertising
  • £7709.20 Interviews
  • £15,237.34 Expenses
  • £20624.54 Miscellaneous expenses
  • £36676.46 Printing, Works, Rechargeable Works, Repairs alterations, Section 106 & equipment and furniture

That is £126,000 of your money that could be used to keep a library open, help keep a swimming pool open or any number of services that are listed for closure in the Budget book.

The issue isn’t with Penna, who are well respected in their sector, but more with the City Council. If Stoke-on-Trent City Council are rejecting everyone of the 82 candidates that have been selected by Penna to go forward to interview then the person profile, job spec and brief must be wrong.

* figures are for only 10 months as the August transparency report is missing and December has not yet been published so the true figure could be around £150,000.

Old Bills Almanack 2012

I have been asked to produce another Old Bill’s Almanck for 2012. Here goes

1 The leadership of the City Council will change as a major crisis overwhelms the Labour Group in the spring.

2 The City Council will be looking for a new Chief Executive in the autumn.

3 Unemployment will increase to 2.80 million by June.

4 There will be a snap general election in October in which the Conservatives have an overall majority of less than 20. The Lib Dems will be reduced to 15 seats. Labour will suffer major losses in Scotland and the West Midlands.

5 Ed Milliband will resign as leader of the Labour party after the election defeat and be replaced by Yvette Cooper.

6 The elections in the US and France will be won by Obama and Sarkovy.

7 There will be serious civil unrest in Russia leading to the declaration of martial law.

8 There will be a new Pope at the end of the year- the first from Latin America.

9 A major rock legend will die in the summer.

10 There will be a major volcanic eruption in Asia leading to climatic turbulence.

11 It will be a fine and long summer with record breaking temperatures in August in the UK.
There will be large forest fires in Southern Europe in the summer.

13 Religious tensions will flare into open conflict in Nigeria

2012- the year of delivery

With the New Year just hours around the corner, Bill Cawley looks towards 2012, the year of delivery.

Its two years since John Van Der Laarschot became Chief Executive of the City Council and it will be 12 months from May since the Council was in Labour majority control. This year will need to see both parties delivering on the objectives that they set themselves. Residents of the city will need to see progress on a number of projects and some way out of the encircling gloom that has gripped the area since 2008. Currently over 8,000 citizens of Stoke are unemployed, local economic activity appears sluggish and the outlook nationally seems uncertain. Something needs to happen but what?

However there needs to be seen to be progress and actual completion in a number of key projects and top of the list must be Hanley Bus Station. My understanding was that the station ought to be finished by next autumn. There is work going on site and one hopes that finishing the bus station is very high on the agenda of the City Council. I wonder whether there is any recognition of the need to ensure that local projects like this do generate local jobs. It will be essential for local projects to deliver tangibly local jobs otherwise The City Council will be neglecting their responsibility.

Secondly linked to the Bus station is the need to attract investment and interest in the Sentral development in Hanley. News has reached the local media that Marks and Spenser amongst others are interested in the development but in my opinion that M & S interest only means displacement from an existing site in the centre of Hanley. Again a benchmark will be an increase in take up from leading brand shops and a timetable for completion of the project.

Another area of concern is a resolution of areas like Middleport and the difficulties faced by the reduction in funding for RENEW. The blight that is Middleport needs to be seriously addressed in the coming year.

The bid for the Green Investment Bank locally has been made although I would personally like to see a strong case made for putting this developments with its promise of excellent jobs and potential for the green economy having a more central role in the local economy. A decision is likely in March.

Another conundrum for 2012 will what to do with the Spode site in Stoke. Just before Christmas a press report indicated that Tesco were not interested in developing the site. What to do with the site will be a question that will require some resolution in the coming year.

The desire for more ” localism” will also dominate political discourse. There has been interest in both Penkhull and Fenton for more self-government and patience with the City Council has become stretched especially over such issues as the future of Fenton Library and other civic amenities in the area.

Which brings me to another topic which will again command debate in 2012 and that is turning former civic assets over to community groups to run independently. Perhaps the first acid test will be the future of Wedgwood Memorial College in Barlaston. There is a strong desire to retain the facility for educational use and a group of interested individuals have put together a business case to take over the facility.

On a more certain note 6 of the City’s new schools school be completed and ready for occupation by the autumn term including the new and interestingly designed Brownhills school although the costs of PFI are still a subject worthy of future investigations.

On a more equivocal note the debate and questions over the Dimensions debacle still remain and must cast doubts on the future of the officers and councillors involved in this matter.

Another policy change, which will have serious implications for the City Council in terms of its social and health care services, will be the rapid changes to the NHS Primary Care with GPs taking more control over commissioning decisions. I have serious doubts whether the Health and Wellbeing Board- a function within the City Council- is fully aware of the centrality of their role in ensuring equity in accessing services is maintained.

1 hope of mine in terms of delivery of a service will be the reopening of the railway line between Leek and Stoke which is projected to happen in the autumn of 2012. I went to a public meeting in Leek and the speed in which this project is happening makes me optimistic that this will be a project that does see fruition in the coming year.

2012 will be the year I feel in which reputations at the Civic Centre especially the senior officers in post will be made or broken.

More Dates Added To Stoke-on-Trent City Council Budget Consultation

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have this morning announced that a further three dates have been added to the Budget 2012 public consultation.

The new dates and venues are:

  • Wednesday, January 3, 5pm to 8pm: Fenton Manor
  • Saturday, January 7, 10am to 2pm, Fountain Square, Hanley (on Hoppa Bus)
  • Wednesday, January 11, 10am to 12pm, Longton Market and Tunstall Market.

All of which are after the public consultation period closes on December 23 2011.

Probably just another mistake in the budget consultation.

Are We Really Being Consulted On The 2012 Budget?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council are currently running a ‘Consultation’ on the 2012 Budget with a number of events around the city. When you here the word ‘consultation’ you like to believe that you are going to be able to influence some of the proposals in the budget book.

Ian Norris has already been pushed down the FoI route with his request for information on the budget, with the response due the day before the consultation closes, giving him little time to do anything useful with the information, if it does get presented on time.

It seems that the decision to close the Wedgwood Memorial College has already been taken and just needs to be rubber-stamped by the Cabinet at their meeting on 15 December which is a day before the last public consultation event and over a week before the consultation closes on 23 December.

More worryingly it seems that some decisions on the budget are being made at meetings that don’t exist, 2-CE04 HR Initiatives, on page 22 of the budget book for instance, was, according the Business Impact Decision, Discussed and agreed at Cabinet on 6 October. Discussed at Labour Group.

Now if you check on the meeting calendar you will be hard pressed to find the cabinet meeting on 6 October nor any minutes to support the agreement.

Pits n Pots asked the City Council about this meeting and a spokesperson said

The meeting referred in the budget book was a closed ‘CAPS’ (Cabinet Agenda Planning) meeting not a cabinet meeting this was a mistake. 

So can we trust the information that is presented in the Budget Book, if this is a mistake, how many other ‘mistakes’ are there?