The Bids Are In For £108m Stoke-on-Trent PFI Housing Project

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will now analyse details from a number of companies who applied for the extra care housing programme, after a European tendering deadline passed last week.

The council placed a notice in the Official Journal of the European Union – the publication that all public sector tenders for major projects must be published to – in November, to start the process to design, build, finance and operate the homes.

The scheme will deliver much needed extra care housing in the city – where older people can live independently and have the option of round the clock personal care, should they require it. The scheme gives residents the chance to prepare for their housing need in the future, and provides privacy and security. The homes also have communal facilities, open to both residents and the wider community, such as hair salons, gyms and cafes, to foster support networks and reduce social isolation.

Bidders were invited to submit details of their experience and ability to deliver such a major contract. As part of the process, the council held a bidder’s conference on 7 December, where around 85 companies met the council’s team to find out more about the programme.

Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, said

We have had a number of responses and are now working through the submissions of pre-qualification questionnaires by bidding parties.

We will now be conducting a process of assessment to select up to six consortia to discuss their proposals to deliver the scheme. Given the tight bidding timescales we are pleased to have achieved this first step on time

The sites allocated for the 390 new homes are

  • Holdcroft Fields, Holdcroft Road, Abbey Hulton.
  • Blurton Farm/Brookwood site, Consett Road, Blurton.
  • Turnhurst Road, opposite Selbourne Drive, Chell.

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Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for housing and neighbourhoods, said

This is another key milestone in delivering such a major, exciting project. Our city has an ageing population and these units are vitally important to help meet demand for supported accommodation for our residents.


Stoke-on-Trent City Council Requesting Bids For £108m Housing Project

Bidders are being given the chance to explain how they would deliver a £108m programme to build 390 new homes for older people.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has placed a notice with the Official Journal of the European Union – the publication that all public sector tenders for major projects must be published to – to start the process to design, build, finance and operate the homes.

The scheme will deliver much needed ‘extra care’ housing in the city – where older people can live independently and have the option of round the clock personal care, should they require it. The scheme gives residents the chance to prepare for their housing need in the future, and provides privacy and security. The homes also have communal facilities, open to both residents and the wider community such as hair salons, gyms and cafes, to foster support networks and reduce social isolation.

The notice will start the process to find a consortium to deliver the programme, and follows an announcement at the end of July from the Homes and Communities Agency that the council’s scheme could continue, after a vigorous assessment of all PFI projects across the country.

Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration, said

This is a major step forward for the programme and the scheme represents a significant investment for the city. It is a major part of our Mandate for Change commitment to promote healthy lives and make Stoke-on-Trent a great place to live.  We will also consider and encourage bids that use local suppliers and the local workforce – we are committed to bringing investment into our city and fostering job opportunities for local people.

The notice invites bidders to submit details of their experience and ability to deliver such a major contract. As part of the process, the council will hold a bidder’s conference on Wednesday 7 December, for companies to meet the council’s team and find out more about the programme. Bidders have until 22 December to submit their details, and evaluation of the bids will take place during January 2012. Building work is expected to start in 2013.

Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for housing and neighbourhoods, said

Our city has an ageing population, and these units are vitally important to help meet demand for supported accommodation for our residents. The publication of the notice is a significant step forward in delivering such a major, and exciting, project.

The sites allocated for the 390 new homes are: Holdcroft Fields, Holdcroft Road, Abbey Hulton. Former Brookwood Home and Blurton Farm Depot, Consett Road, Blurton. Former Westcliffe Hospital, Turnhurst Road, Chell. The programme will build on existing schemes in the city, including the 75-unit Rowan Village in Meir and the 100-unit West End Village scheme in Stoke.

For more information about the bidders conference, interested groups should contact Alex Brookes at Stoke-on-Trent City Council. 

500 Words From Adrian Knapper

I have 500 words but only need one to describe my role as a City Councillor in Stoke-on-Trent for the last 11 years: dedication.

Marriage may have taken me to live outside of the area, but being born and bred within the Potteries I am dedicated to doing my best to make Stoke-on-Trent a better place. This in mind I plan to expand my business to create more jobs in the City.

Since becoming a City Councillor I have helped establish the Staffordshire Credit Union, and, during my time as Portfolio Holder for Public Health, have introduced Street Games, Lifestyle Programmes and expanded the Energise Plus Leisure Scheme. I have also worked with Labour’s Ed Balls during his period of Secretary of State for Education to win extra funding for our Secondary Schools (National Challenge Monies). This has helped enhance the educational achievements of many young people within Stoke-on-Trent.

I am passionate about improving the prospects of the people in Stoke-on-Trent. During my time as previous Portfolio Holder for Regeneration many of the building blocks for projects like the refurbishment of Potteries Way, the new 6th Form College, UniQ, the building of the new Bus Station and other projects that will bring more jobs to the city were established as part of the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership Business Plan.

More employment is key to the future success of Stoke-on-Trent. I am proud I have put part of my councillor’s allowance into the North Staffs Risk Capital Fund that has helped secure and create more than 700+ Jobs.

But being a councillor has its share of downsides too. I would have preferred a new Community School in the Bucknall area and I fought hard against the closure of the City Farm. Unfortunately, cuts were forced onto the people of Stoke-on-Trent by this Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government. We were obliged to set a legal budget, but I did my best to ensure vital services were saved.

I am always a strong voice on local issues. I am committed to the people of Stoke-on-Trent and this is why I wish to serve them again on the City Council.

The revised ward boundaries have moved me side wards to the new Abbey Hulton and Townsend Ward and I look forward to representing an area in which I grew up ““ I attended Townsend Primary School and Carmountside High School.

I have a good record of doing my best to responding to people’s problems and representing their interests. If re-elected, I will continue my monthly ward councillor surgeries and carry out regular neighbourhood street level contact with local residents.

I can only give one election promise and that is to continue to do my best giving my time and energy to the people of our Stoke-on-Trent.

Essential Improvement Works To Take Place

Two highways improvement projects are due to take place in Stoke-on-Trent over the next two weeks.

Work is about to commence on the construction of a new lay-by in Church Lane, Hanford, opposite St. Matthias’s Church on Monday 28 February, and is due to be complete by the end of March.

The lay-by is designed to enable drivers to wait in the vicinity without causing an obstruction but is not a long term parking area. The works will also result in additional road width next to the lay-by, allowing traffic to pass through more easily.

Work is also due to start on Abbots Road, Abbey Hulton, near to the parade of shops.

* The improvements will include:-

* The planting of 4 new semi-mature trees.

* The installation of new kerbs.

* The laying of new block paving and installation of appropriate litter bins and bollards.

Work is due to start on the week of Monday 7 March and are scheduled to be complete by the end of June. To keep any disruption to a minimum work will only take place between 9.30am and 3.30 pm Monday to Friday.

Two Village Green Public Enquiries

On Tuesday 1st February 2011, the Registration of Town and Village Greens Panel of Stoke-on-Trent City Council met, for the first time since July 2007, to consider two village green applications, one at Hulme Road, Park Hall and the other at Anchor Road, Adderley Green.

An application for village green status had been submitted in both cases following council plans to site the Discovery Academy there. Not only did the communities not want a school sited in these locations, they also realized that open green space they had perhaps taken for granted for ongoing community use could be built upon and they wanted to protect it. Margaret Lowe for the Community Schools Action Group applied for Village Green Status for the Park Hall land and Ian Jenkin for the Adderley Green Residents Association applied for Village Green status for the Adderley Green land.

Both applicants attended to observe proceedings at the meeting, although they could not attend the first hour during which panel members were being briefed. Paul Hackney, the legal officer, recommended public enquiries on the basis that the council was the land owner and the decision maker and there were other legal complexities. All panel members supported the recommendation and confirmed with Margaret Lowe and Ian Jenkin that they did too. Ian asked about the financial implications, since an application for Penkhull had been withdrawn for fear of cost liability. However the committee stated that costs would be borne by the council and would be £10,000 for both applications, not each as reported in the Sentinel.

Margaret told the Sentinel afterwards that if a member of the public had objected to village green status the objection would have been thrown out and a decision made there and then, saving costs. But as the council had objected this was their way of being ‘open and transparent’, but also trying to get the public on their side by stating the use of public money.

Ian told the Sentinel that as the council are owners of the land, objectors to the application and have to make a decision on it, there was only really one decision they could have made. However he was pleased about this.

Paul Hackney and the panel chair Joy Garner will appoint an independent inspector. We could hear more about this in May. Following the public enquiry the inspector will make a recommendation to the council that they may be expected to adopt, although they do not have to. If village green status is obtained there would be total removal of any possible development, securing the open space for the community.

The late Robert Freeman

I used to know the father of Robert Freeman the man whose murder was reported in the Sentinel. Two men were found guilty of his death ; a third was found guilty of manslaughter. Freeman was stabbed to death in his flat in Bentilee. All three men responsible received heavy prison sentences. This terrible case is compounded by the killing of Robert Freeman’s sister Julie, she was murdered, by a grim coincidence exactly 4 years to the day before her brother. Both deaths were drug related.

I last saw David Freeman, Robert and Julie’s father nearly 40 years ago. We were both pupils at Carmountside High School on the Abbey Hulton estate in Stoke from 1966-71. We were also members of a group of lads ” The Birchfield Mob” that included David and his brother Robert, to whom his nephew the murdered man bore a strong resemblance, the Reeves brother’s, Eric Robinson, “Danny” Kaye, myself and others whose names whose names now elude me.

We used to be activity that might have led to an ASBO now although in reality in did not stretch further than trespassing, apple scrumping, annoying adults and kicking a football around an oval in Eaveswood Road. Typical laddish things. David and I were in the same class and I tended to hang around with him and the others. David was very good with his hands in metalwork and woodwork. He was industrious a good sportsman and from memory thoughtful and quite considered. He could stick up for himself.

The Freeman family were like many others on the Abbey Hulton estate. Hard working, companionable, family centred. This was the Abbey Hulton that I knew in the years before DC- Drugs came.

I can probably date when hard drugs made its first appearance on the streets of Abbey Hulton. I was working on the Abbey as an Education Welfare Officer in late 1981. The first heroin -related death was of a young man named Harvey who was found dead in a shed. He probably died of hypothermia as temperatures that winter were frequently below zero.

I think heroin appearing on the streets and the massive growth of unemployment during 1980-1 is no coincidence. You destroy a set pattern of how people are expected to lead their lives on a council estate like Abbey Hulton or Chell Heath or Bentilee or anywhere else and something came to occupy that vacuum. We have been playing the price ever since.

The irony is that areas like Abbey Hulton were quite socially conservative areas and my peers at High School were very disdainful of the drug culture in the early 70s. I bought a copy of a Stones album into the 5th year common room once and some made dismissive comments about Mick Jagger’s cannabis habits.

All that began to change scarcely a decade later and drugs have wrecked havoc destroying lives and undermining communities ever since.

I witnessed the desolation that that involvement in drugs can cause on Wednesday 6th September 2000.

I remember the date very well. I was working in Tameside for the mental health organisation Mind and in the late morning a youth called at the office to say that there was something wrong with his friend who lived opposite the offices in Ashton

Another worker and I went over the road and entered a very run down flat. On the stairs there was rubble and in a first floor room we found his friend slumped on a settee.

The TV was on and a can of beer on a small table beside him. The man was dead, very grey and purple in the face. A small syringe was sticking in the back of his right hand.

On the walls of the decaying room were an England Football scarf, a poster of the film “Trainspotting” and pictures of the dead man whose name was Terry McGuire and a small child, his daughter.

McGuire was in his late 30s. Evidently McGuire who had been out of Strangeways Prison a few months. He had died from a toxic batch of heroin that had killed many users in the North West that autumn.

It seems that the dealers mix the heroin with all sorts of rubbish including brick dust.

Currently we have a situation where it is the dealer who chooses price, purity, cutting agents as well as business location and operating hours. And these dealers certainly are not asking minors for ID, nor are they encouraging their customers to moderate or abstain from drug use.

Sooner or later national politician will have to grasp the nettle of decriminalisation and legalising drugs. I’m of the opinion like former Labour minister Bob Ainsworth drug addiction is a public health issue rather than a criminal one. Mr Ainsworth deserves credit for starting that debate. Because unless we realise that we need a new strategy to tackle drugs fundamentally decent families like the Freeman’s will continually be burying their children

Extra Care Housing and Estate Regeneration PFI Announcements Leave ‘Bittersweet’ taste

Work to create almost 400 extra care homes in the city will continue, but a programme to build nearly 600 homes on six housing estates has been hit by a government announcement on Private Finance Initiative schemes.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will continue to work on its programme to build 390 new homes to offer older people independent living coupled with access to care and support in Abbey Hulton, Blurton and Chell.

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Stoke-on-Trent City Council Employee Wins National Award

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Donna Hammersley has been given a national award following her work in motivating staff to improve their level of customer service.

Donna, an Improvement & Development Support Officer in the Chief Executive’s Department, won the national WOW! Award for Best Leader 2010. The city council was also nominated in four other categories, which included the “That’s Really Special” award (the Family Support Team of Treehouse Children’s Centre, Bentilee), the “Most Inspiring Front Liner” (Wajid Hamid, of the Community Support Team), “Best Care Provider 2010″ (Abbots House residential care home at Abbey Hulton) and “Serving the Community: Best Organisation 2010″ (Stoke-on-Trent City Council)

Donna’s category was judged by Stephen Descher (Managing Director of the HR management firm Activity Group), Emily Mann (Business Development Manager at the Institute of Customer Service), Avis Rhodes (Customer Care Manager of the housing provider Family Mosaic) and David Physick (Principal Consultant of leadership experts Glowinkowski International Ltd)

She also beat off competition from staff at LOVEFiLM, Merseyside Police and Scottish Power as one of four finalists selected from a list of over 30 UK companies. As part of her nomination, she had to make a presentation to the panel of judges, which consisted of her own background in customer relations, the city council’s participation in the WOW Awards and how they have encouraged healthy competition within the authority.

“I’m really proud to have been given the award ““ I’m honoured to have been recognised nationally for the work I’ve done and hopefully it shows how good a job we are doing at the council.

“The award was really about providing a focal point for people on how they can improve the work they do and how to do their job. It’s about motivating people and giving them an extra incentive to do their job so they can feel recognised by the people they are dealing with.”

“I want to congratulate and thank Donna for all her hard work and the commitment she has shown in proving to people that the city council is doing its best to provide excellent services to its customers.

“Despite going through some of the most difficult times in the history of this council our staff continue to work hard for the people of this City and we are eager for that to carry on.”

The WOW! Awards is an Employee Recognition Scheme. It works closely with organisations signed up to the project throughout the year as an on-going process, to let the public know when a company or group in their area is doing something well.

The WOW! Awards are the UK’s only national award for customer service based purely on customer nominations.

The success of this programme has now taken us into organisations in the US.

WOW! Award winners are nominated by members of the public on a monthly basis to that organisation, and each year the nominees are shortlisted by the national WOW! Awards team ahead of a special ceremony at the Troxy in London.

Fat is a class issue

There seems to be a backlash against people who are obese as evidenced by articles that have appeared nationally in the Express and Mail on the number of people who are taking stomach-shrinking surgery.

Issued by the NHS Information Centre, new figures show the number of people having stomach shrinking surgery to help them lose weight soared from 480 in 2004 to 4,246 in 2009, costing the state an estimated £29 million.

Matthew Sinclair, research director at the Tax Payers’ Alliance, is quoted in the paper criticising the increase, saying: “So much is being spent on surgery for the obese instead of on treatment for unavoidable diseases.”

Alan Kaminski from Abbey Hulton who had the operation is featured in the Sentinel deploring what he considers to be an attack on the obese and indicating that for a number of other health reasons such as diabetes and his weight that exercise and other methods proved unsuccessful

Three years ago, Alan found himself in an appalling position when health bodies haggled about who should carry out his treatment and he found himself having to spend 200 days in the UHNS whilst the arguments were sorted out.

Now I know Alan Kaminski who lived in Eaveswood Road when I was growing up. I don’t want to embarrass him but Alan is a highly intelligent and extremely capable man. For some years he was a worker at Hanley CAB I would think that he would make an excellent Councillor for the Abbey.

But there is an issue over the increase in obesity. You only have to look around the public places of North Staffordshire to prove this claim.

I am a fan of the Mitchell and Kenyon series of documentaries of film on lives of people in Edwardian England based on film discovered in Blackburn about a decade ago. I was watching a clip of working people parading around Blackpool in 1904. Not one of the people in the film was overweight. Fat in the context of 1904 was a rich man’s disease characterised by the bulky presence of King Edward VII described by Kipling as a “corpulent voluptuary” which probably explains why Kipling never got a knighthood.

But the film evidence is there. Obviously hard manual work, diet and access to food and skills in cooking are all part of the problem. But it always seems to come down to a culture of blame and the fat are usually labelled as lazy, stupid and lacking control which is why I mention Alan Kaminski who clearly is not stupid or lacking in focus.

A couple of years ago I heard Judith Bell, Public Health Director of North Staffs Primary Care Trust on BBC Radio 4 on a programme in a series on the 60th anniversary of the NHS justifying the conditions imposed on patients who drink, smoke or who are overweight before they can access procedures such as surgery. The radio programme gave examples of the sort of protocols that are currently in place for those patients who for example have a body mass index of over 30.

I would imagine that these policies would have been accepted at board level.

They certainly raised comments from members of the panel who were debating the issue there was talk of “management diktat” and a “black and white approach” adopted by North Staffs PCT. Perhaps the sharpest comment came from a spokeswoman from the Patient Association who was scornful of the consequences of such moralistic decisions on people in poverty and that it was”easy for skinny rich people who make these decisions, much harder if you are having a tough life”.

She was supported by a Rotherham GP on the programme who gave an example of a patient whose knee injury restricted her ability to tackle her obesity which she dearly wanted to do. He regarded the approach as unethical. All the critics of the restricting or denying access approach suggested too much of a “stick” approach, they felt that to make changes requires time, energy and money factors as well as support which can be lacking.

To cite my own experiences of health services in Leek I have found it very difficulty to access the exercise on prescription scheme which eventually proved insurmountable or discovering that the weight control clinic at my practice I use has had funding removed by North Staffs PCT. It therefore seems paradoxical to demand changes by individuals and not provide the opportunities for self help or support within primary care.

But my main objections fall into two main categories. As David Edgar the distinguished playwright suggested that by denying treatments it means that you are denying treatment to people who may have been paying taxes and National Insurance contributions for many years. Where would be the fairness in that as well as being against the ethos of the NHS! Similarly, if it a question of punishing or checking unhealthy behaviour then the logic would also mean that you would also restrict access to services, for example, for those who did not practice safe sex or those individuals who engaged in sports or activities which have high risks of injury.

Secondly, the whole issue smacks of a patrician, top down attitude to health and social care. It invokes the 19th century attitude to the poor and of deserving and undeserving cases. In short, it is more to do with morality than health. It reminded me of a quote by an eminent figure from that century the great philosopher and social reformer JS Mill in his essay “On Liberty” who captured this attitude which has never gone away, “Wherever there is an ascendant class a large part of the morality emanates from its class interests and its class feelings of superiority”. No doubt these feelings of moral censoriousness in authority existed before he was writing in the 1850s, but certainly they exist now as evidenced by North Staffs Primary Care Trust in 2008.

As one Dorset GP explained in the last minutes of the programme the approach being applied by North Staffs PCT was entirely the wrong approach, the impact of social deprivation should be directed upwards towards Government’s whose actions are seeing an increase in poverty rather than in downwards in chivvying the patient to make changes that they will find difficult.

Police Rat Trap Secures 16 Arrests In Stoke-on-Trent

Over the past 6 weeks Staffordshire Police have been targeting those involved in the theft of motorbikes with a police “ËœRat Trap’. Detectives from the City’s proactive unit placed a motorbike in areas affected by this sort of crime and lay in wait until someone attempted to steal the very ordinary looking vehicle.

Motorbikes which were previously seized by police, and were facing destruction for being driven without insurance or other serious motoring offences were used. Using this approach the motorcycles were regularly changed to ensure the offenders never know which vehicle was being used as part of the rat trap.

Arrests were made in the Cobridge, Fegg Hayes, Tunstall, Fenton and Abbey Hulton areas of the city arresting people aged between 12 and 35. A number of those arrested and charged in connection with the theft of the rat trap are awaiting sentence.

Detective Inspector Jim Wood who leads the proactive team said ‘This operation has been extremely successful at tackling those involved in this sort of crime. We know that these stolen motorbikes are often involved in causing anti-social behaviour or involved in accidents. This week we have changed the vehicles we are using as part of this operation. My message to any person who may consider being involved in vehicle crime is that you can never be sure that you’re not about to be caught in our “ËœRat Trap’.’