Stoke-on-Trent Labour Lose Respected Councillor

Following a protracted period of of rumour that refused to go away, it can be confirmed that the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council has lost a respected serving councillor.

Cllr Mohammed Iqbal resigned from the Labour Group over the weekend and is now sitting as a non-aligned member.

Cllr Iqbal is a community leader in Shelton and is a major figure within the Asian Community, he has worked tirelessly to represent the electorate of Hanley East and Shelton.

His resignation comes after Labour Party members in his area opted to select Cllr Majid Khan for the new council ward of Hanley Park & Shelton.

The new ward was formed following the Electoral Review by the Boundary Committee which proposes a mixture of 33 single-member wards, four two-member wards and one three-member ward. The council will hold all out elections this year.

Cllr Iqbal is expected to contest the Hanley Park and Shelton ward as an Independent.

It has been rumoured that Cllr Iqbal would be joining the Community Voice group but it is likely that he will join an new Independent froup formed out of some serving and past councillors.

Rumours are rife around the corridors of the Civic Centre that Cllr Najmi will follow Cllr Iqbal very shortly.

Motion to Stoke-on-Trent City Council re Boundaries Commission Deferral Explanation

This Thursday (9 September 2010) I have put forward a motion, seconded by my council colleague, Cllr Brian Ward, the essence of which is to request that the government intervenes and defers the Boundary Committee’s report, due to be released shortly.

The motion effectively leaves in place the current structure and electoral cycle in the interim period and means that Elections by thirds of 60 councillors will still take place in May 2011.
The motion is laid out below for information:

“That Stoke-on-Trent City Council welcomes the Government’s interest in local governance and will consider with interests its proposals in the forthcoming Bills that affect local democracy, some of them radical and far reaching.

In view of the proposals and the timetable set out for the changes, Stoke-on-Trent City Council expresses its concern regarding the imminent report from the Boundaries Commission regarding Stoke-on-Trent, in that some of the significant changes to local governance are likely to have implications that further require work by the Boundaries Commission.

It would, therefore be in the interest of the communities of Stoke-on-Trent, and continuity in the short term, that the current Boundary Review findings be deferred until such time as the current proposals by the Government are put into legislation, and can be considered by the Boundaries Committee and the impacts they may have on their recommendations, so as to reduce the need for repetition and instability over the short term.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council, therefore, asks the Minister responsible for Local Government to consider intervening regarding the above matter in the interests of the electors of Stoke-on-Trent.”

The whole council agenda and reports can be found HERE.
Firstly, I make no secret of my view that I believe that the draft position of the Boundary Committee, that 44 councillors should govern Stoke-on-Trent City Council to be wrong and detrimental to democracy in Stoke-on-Trent.
However, I wish to make it clear that this is not the motivation for the above motion, and I would discourage and not associate myself with those that see this as an opportunity.

Some may argue “Why bother?”, “There are more important issues” or “People aren’t interested”. There is almost a sense of satisfaction that our freedom and democracy are such that the vast majority that them for granted. However, Democracy for me is at the centre of my political being. It has shaped every decision I have made, and brought me to the place I am now.

I have seen some politicians used the argument “People aren’t interested” in the past and I have to say it infuriates me. At best it’s a lack of understanding and at worst a lazy side step and avoidance of the issues at hand. Democracy is the keystone that underpins all the public decisions made on our behalf and it affects every aspect of our lives from cradle to grave. Imagine the forth coming public services cuts without democracy.
I can put my views on Democracy in a simple sentence: The more people involved in decision making the greater the strength of the democracy.

Now to the motion itself and an explanation.
The ConDem Coalition Government has put forward a draft programme of changes first set out immediately following their formation and outlined in their Government Programme.

The coalition programme affecting local government
challenges the wisdom of major ward boundary or local government restructuring in the short term as their ambitious plans will directly conflict with those of the Transition Board and the Boundary Committee devastating proposals.

Government Programme on Local Government Chapter 4 states:

The Government believes that it is time for a fundamental shift of power from Westminster to people. We will promote decentralisation and democratic engagement, and we will end the era of top-down government by giving new powers to local councils, communities, neighbourhoods and individuals.

“¢ We will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a review of local government finance.

“¢ We will rapidly abolish Regional Spatial Strategies and return decision-making powers on housing and planning to local councils,including giving councils new powers to stop”Ëœgarden grabbing’.

“¢ In the longer term, we will radically reform the planning system to give neighbourhoods far more ability to determine the shape of the places in which their inhabitants live, based on the principles set out in the Conservative Party publication Open Source Planning.

“¢ We will abolish the unelected Infrastructure Planning Commission and replace it with an efficient and democratically accountable system that provides a fast-track process for major infrastructure projects.

“¢ We will publish and present to Parliament a simple and consolidated national planning framework covering all forms of development and setting out national economic,environmental and social priorities.

“¢ We will maintain the Green Belt, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and other environmental protections, and create a new designation ““ similar to SSSIs ““ to protect green areas of particular importance to local communities.

“¢ We will abolish the Government Office for London and consider the case for abolishing the remaining Government Offices.

“¢ We will provide more protection against aggressive bailiffs and unreasonable charging orders, ensure that courts have the power to insist that repossession is always a last resort,and ban orders for sale on unsecured debts of less than £25,000.

“¢ We will explore a range of measures to bring empty homes into use.

“¢ We will promote shared ownership schemes and help social tenants and others to own or part-own their home.

“¢ We will promote “ËœHome on the Farm’ schemes that encourage farmers to convert existing buildings into affordable housing.

“¢ We will create new trusts that will make it simpler for communities to provide homes for local people.

“¢ We will phase out the ring-fencing of grants to local government and review the unfair Housing Revenue Account.

“¢ We will freeze Council Tax in England for at least one year, and seek to freeze it fora further year, in partnership with local authorities.

“¢ We will create directly elected mayors in the 12 largest English cities, subject to confirmatory referendums and full scrutiny by elected councillors.

“¢ We will give councils a general power of competence.

“¢ We will ban the use of powers in the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA)by councils, unless they are signed off by a magistrate and required for stopping serious crime.

“¢ We will allow councils to return to the committee system, should they wish to.

“¢ We will abolish the Standards Board regime.

“¢ We will stop the restructuring of councils in Norfolk, Suffolk and Devon, and stop plans to force the regionalisation of the fire service.

“¢ We will impose tougher rules to stop unfair competition by local authority newspapers.

“¢ We will introduce new powers to help communities save local facilities and services threatened with closure, and give communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services.

“¢ We will implement the Sustainable Communities Act, so that citizens know how taxpayers’ money is spent in their area and have a greater say over how it is spent.

Ң We will cut local government inspection and abolish the Comprehensive Area Assessment.Ӣ We will require continuous improvements to the energy efficiency of new housing.

“¢ We will provide incentives for local authorities to deliver sustainable development, including for new homes and businesses.

“¢ We will review the effectiveness of the raising of the stamp duty threshold for first-time buyers.

“¢ We will give councillors the power to vote on large salary packages for unelected council officials.

This has more recently been formalised and reinforced by the release of the document sent to councils called the “DCLG Draft Structural Reform Plan”.

The full document is here:
CLG_Draft_Structural_Reform_Plan[1].pdfThe significance of this document for Stoke-on-Trent is highlighted in many of the changes proposed and are self evident, but also in the timetable.

Most of the changes will come in the “Local Government Bill” timetabled for October 2010 and the “Localism Bill” timetable for October 2011.

The number of changes will have an enormous impact on the role of elected members, not just is Stoke-on-Trent but right across the country.

These, according to the government’s own timetable shall be in place by October 2011.

This is why I am moving the motion at full council, as I believe it would be in the interests of everyone in Stoke-on-Trent, that any significant changes in governance take into account the new governments changes.

My understanding is that the Secretary of State has the power to do this, as Parliament must consider the Boundary Committee’s Recommendation and approve them before they can be implemented.

Residents Urged To Register In Order To Vote In All-out Elections

Residents are being encouraged to register their electoral details as soon as possible so that they can vote in next year’s all-out city council elections.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has posted out electoral registration forms to households across the city as part of an annual update of the electoral register.

And by returning their forms quickly, residents will be able to make sure they can cast their votes in the first all-out elections in the city for almost a decade.

Next year, changes to ward boundaries will come into effect, meaning that a smaller number of councillors will be elected across new administrative areas. It will mean that all city councillors will be elected at a single election for the first time since 2002 ““ replacing yearly elections by thirds.

A positive response from residents has already seen more than 40,000 people complete their registration by text, telephone ““ where a multi-lingual service is available ““ or the internet within the first week of the forms being sent out ““ up by around 10,000 on last year. This service can only be used by residents confirming their details; if details have changed, for example there is an extra person to add to the role or someone has moved out of the property or got married and changed their name, then the form will need to be returned by post.

Residents are reminded to read through the form and instructions carefully to make sure all of their details are correct.

“Next year will be the first chance for residents to vote in new administrative wards for the city. The details of these changes are still currently being finalised with the Boundary Commission, but it will be the chance for all residents across the city to vote in all-out council elections for the first time in a number of years.

“We ask everyone who has received a form to respond as quickly as possible. Residents can use the phone number, text service or web address on their registration for to confirm their details, or contact us on the general enquiry number ““ 01782 233800.

“It is a legal requirement for residents to respond to the registration process, and one that we are required to follow-up by law, should residents not respond. Following up, through sending out reminder forms, extra administration costs and in recruiting canvassers to knock on individual households’ doors is a substantial drain on council budgets. It costs around £40,000 to chase-up non-responders, costs which taxpayers ultimately bear.

“Residents are also reminded that if their name does not appear on the electoral register, not only will they be unable to vote, but they could also struggle to get credit or other services that require a credit check.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors Seek Deferral Of Boundary Committee Proposals

Two Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors are seeking a deferral to proposed changes to ward boundaries and a reduction in the number of elected representatives due to be implemented later this year.

Community Voice Councillor Mike Barnes and the Leader of the City Independent Group are to table a motion at next weeks meeting of the full council calling for the Minister responsible for Local Government to intervene whilst the impact of the new coalition policies regarding local governance can be realised.

The pair feel that the implications of the new governments policies will require further Boundary Committee involvement. They are also calling for stability and continuity in the interest of the electorate of Stoke-on-Trent.

The full motion reads as follows:

“That Stoke-on-Trent City Council welcomes the Government’s
interest in local governance and will consider with interests its proposals in the forthcoming Bills that affect local democracy, some of them radical and far reaching.

In view of the proposals and the timetable set out for the
changes, Stoke-on-Trent City Council expresses its concern
regarding the imminent report from the Boundaries Commission regarding Stoke-on-Trent, in that some of the significant changes to local governance are likely to have implications that further require work by the Boundaries Commission.

It would, therefore be in the interest of the communities of Stokeon-Trent, and continuity in the short term, that the current Boundary Review findings be deferred until such time as the current proposals by the Government are put into legislation, and can be considered by the Boundaries Commission and the impacts they may have on their recommendations, so as to reduce the need for repetition and instability over the short term.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council, therefore, asks the Minister
responsible for Local Government to consider intervening
regarding the above matter in the interests of the electors of Stoke-on-Trent.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Near-Unanimous Support For Single Member Wards

I was delighted that Full Council at its Special meeting last Thursday overwhelmingly approved, 31-6, the Council’s response to the Boundary Committee’s Draft Recommendations, namely that there should be 44 single member wards.

I made three main points in my speech in support of the Council’s response:

i) I have a long standing commitment to the proposals. In my re-election manifesto three years ago I set out the case for a reduced number of councillors and single member wards with the commitment to work for the change.

ii) I had wondered if the somewhat idiosyncratic Draft recommendations consisting mainly of single member wards but including four 2 member wards and one 3 member ward was the Boundary Committee’s test to see if the Council were still alive and active, following our failure to make an initial submission several months ago!

iii) Such a mixed outcome would be detrimental for several principal reasons:

a) There would be a danger that the public would think that the Council were incapable of producing a straightforward, uniform system of representation. Of course it is the Boundary Committee that makes the final decision but our united view is important evidence for the decision making process.

b) Many residents who favoured the status quo with 3 member wards or the revised 2 member wards would feel aggrieved if they were in the new 1 member wards. It would be building in from the start a sense of unfairness and blatant inequality;

c) Such a mixed system would necessarily mean many residents were denied the direct accountability of thier councillor that a one member per ward affords;

d) Such a mix would create an inequitable system for candidates’ electioneering costs in terms of both time and money and grossly unequal areas and populations for councillors;

e) Contrary to a widespread belief amongst residents that 1 member wards mean an increased workload for councillors, in fact less geographical area and fewer residents reduces the workload for councillors.

However, two other widespread fears are legitimate and we need to be mindful of them and work to eliminate them: a) provision must be made for councillors absent through holidays and illness via a dedicated telephone line and officer at the Civic Centre; b) Residents are justifiably worried that if their 1 councillor fails to fulfil their needs that they would be disadvantaged for some years.

Debate at last Thurday’s Special Council showed widespread potential support for my proposal that we should explore the introduction of the power of recall and seek the support of the three City MPs to lobby government for the necessary legislative change

Electoral review of Stoke-on-Trent

The Boundary Committee for England section of the Electoral Commission has today published its draft recommendations on the future electoral arrangements for the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

They propose 44 (down from 60) councillors covering 38 wards (up from 20). 33 wards will have one councillor, 4 wards 2 councillors and 1 ward 3 councillors.

Curiously, although they talk about electoral fairness the glaringly unfair proposals seem to have passed them by.

I hope consideration of these proposals by councillors proceeds without delay. We cannot leave it until after the 6th May local council elections. The deadline for submitting representations (letters in support or against the proposals) is 11th June 2010. So that Full Council can debate and hopefully this time agree a clear and united way forward not later than the first week of June, discussion of the draft recommendations cannot be delayed. I have today written to both the Council Leader and the Chief Executive asking that the process of formulating our response begins immediately.

My initial concern is that it ought to be obvious that the draft recommendations fail to take account of the Governance Commission’s recommendation for SINGLE Member wards. Full Council almost a year ago approved in principle all of the Governance Commission’s recomendations. Are we now going to be expected to turn that decision upside down?

More important than that, the Boundary Committee appear to be oblivious to the inequality embedded in their draft recommendations. How on earth can it be right that 33 councillors represent some 4,200 voters in wards more than half the geographical size of the present wards while 9 councillors will have twice the number of electors to represent and 3 councillors wil have three times the number to represent. Where is the electoral fairness there? Why should 11 councillors be e xpected to carry out far more ward work than the other 33?

Multi member ward councillors would be further disadvantaged financially, having to cover larger election manifesto and ward newsletter costs, not to mention the greater geographical distributuion of their larger electorates.

I have yet to study the draft recommendations in detail but the multi-member ward with 3 councillors covers Norton, Baddeley Green and Milton. That suggests a bizarre attempt to draw ward boundaries around “natural” communities. I’m surprised they didn’t propose just one City-wide ward!

Their draft recommendations fail to note how disgruntled many residents will feel with some multi-member wards allowed when they would have liked to retain multi-member wards and yet find themselves in a single member ward. I have campagined for single member wards since my last re-election in 2007 but I am well aware that the RAs within my ward support multi-member wards.

These idiosyncratic draft recommendations will give support to those who argued that the whole process was the wrong way round and should have started with the identification of “natural” wards and then counted those to see how near + or – they were to whatever number of councillors was deemed appropriate ie 45 or whatever.

There is a real danger that far and wide critics of the City Council will take the view that yet again Stoke-on-Trent is incapable of a clean, clear move forward! But this time, it is NOT the City Council’s doing. That makes it all the more important that we formulate a clear, united response in suport of the principle of one member one ward that we agreed twelve months ago.

Submission to the Boundary Committee

This is the submission that I have put to the Boundary Committee:

I present to you my views as Deputy Leader of the Conservative and Independent Alliance Group of the City Council.

You will by now be aware of the difficulty the City Council had in coming to a united decision on how to organise the warding arrangements based on a 45 member council at the Council meeting of the 7th. January.

What there was a united view that a 45member council was too small.

Our group believe that if we had the opportunity to have decided on 46 or 47 members the warding arrangements would have been successfully supported by a majority of the council.

The extra 1 or 2 members would have enabled the council to draw up wards of similar size and keep communities in their own natural areas rather than having to look to make up wards to try and get numbers something similar.

An example of this was the Meadow Lane Estate in Trentham which was suggested be transfered to a Blurton Ward.

The council previously agreed to one of the 14 recommendations of the Governance Commission and consulted on that basis of single member arrangements as instructed.

Public consultation was held and in some areas due to the un-natural nature of the wards the community asked for multi member arrangements to be considered.

Although you are not restricted to single member wards we as a council had been told that we could not ‘cherry pick’ any of the recommendations and we were therefore in a dilemma.

Members who had been ‘instructed’ to support single member wards, even though they personally were not in favour of them, were now faced with the dilemma of a hybrid view for some areas when that view had not been placed before their area because we consulted and expected single member arrangements.

It must be recognised that the work of the Administration and Appeals Committee under the chairmanship of Cllr. Alan Joynson in pulling together all of the representations was a superb piece of work. The problem was that this work highlighted the community view being different to the council’s predetermined position. This then placed the councillors in a position where they were expected to vote against the wishes of their community

The council officers had drawn up a series of options based on 45 to 48 members and this small increase gave a much better set of arrangements.

We realise that there is a set date for the end of presentations to you but since these new arrangements will stand for 20 to 30 years we would ask for an extension of a few weeks to enable the council to come to their preferred view which we believe would be 47 or 48 members.

We believe that the warding arrangements drawn up by our officers based on that number would receive substantial support.

We would ask that you consider the proposals drawn up by the council on a slightly larger number of members which we are sure you will agree give much better community connections.

If this delay is not possible then we make the following comments based on 45 members:

1. Single member wards are our preference since it gives a uniform mode of representation across the whole City and is easily understood.

2. Dual and triple member wards with a predominance of single member wards will lead to a lack of understanding of why an adjoining ward has 2 or 3 members and they have only 1.

3. The opposition to one area feeling dominated by another because of the name of the ward would be overcome if we returned to numbering the wards as used to be the case when we had 24 wards. I was elected firstly for ward 6 which later became Burslem Grange and yet I live in Sneyd Green. Numbering removes the conflict.

4. Should you be considering some multi member wards based on 45 members then the position and presentation I know you will be receiving from the Administration and Appeals Committee, represents the best way forward

Cllr Roger Ibbs
Deputy Leader Conservative & Independent Alliance.

Deepest disarray painfully highlighted political paralysis

After nearly four hours of mostly irrelevant discussion, Thursday’s Full Council decided not to submit any recommendations to the Boundary Committee on the proposed new 45 Wards! The 24 Councillors who supported the Labour Group motion reminded the world, if reminder were needed, precisely why the government imposed the Governance Commission on the Council:  

“The City Council regrets the lack of flexibility allowed in drawing up the Ward boundaries being based on only 45 Members and recommends to the Boundary Committee that they take into consideration and do their best to accommodate the representations received during the consultation process.”

For the motion:-  Lord Mayor (Cllr Jean Bowers); Councillors Bagh Ali, Joan Bell, Mick Bell, Clive Brian, Randolph Conteh, Rita Dale, John Davis, Mark Davis, Terry Follows, Joy Garner, Debra Gratton, Mohammed Iqbal, Ann James, Adrian Knapper, Mohammed Matloob, Ian Mitchell, Roy Naylor, Mohammed Pervez, Maragaret Pyatt, Tom Reynolds, Paul Shotton, Denver Tolley and Brian Ward.

Against the motion:-  Councillors Zulfiqar Ali, Mike Barnes, Steve Batkin, John Burgess, Kieran Clarke, John Daniels, Roger Ibbs, Ross Irving, Alan Joynson, Pauline Joynson, Peter Kent-Baguley, Hazel Lyth, Sheila Matthews, Joanne Powell-Becket, Megan Ryan, Anthony Simmonds, Dave Sutton and Lee Wanger.

As can be seen by those in bold, the Cabinet were split 50-50, so no leadership there. The 9th Cabinet member was absent along with 16 other councillors. There was a certain irony that the 24 supporting the pointless motion were so obsessed with the number of councillors being limited to 45 since the 42 present and voting were in such disarray! The rudderless disunity of the Labour Group has turned full circle on this issue. When they were part of the Labour Elected Mayor’s ruling coalition they were in favour of 45 Members!

My fervent plea to Members to approve the recommendations before us but itemise individual reservations found insufficient support. I, like many Members, didn’t agree with all of the recommendations. Those of us who voted against the motion, however, were not prepared to abdicate the responsibility of leadership vested in us by the electorate.

We cannot afford to continue one step further along this pathetic path of indecision while all the time bemoaning the fact that officers make all the decisions!

I hope to make an optimistic statement following next Monday’s Group Leaders’ meeting.

Council Chaos As Chamber Dithers Over Boundary Review

An extraordinary meeting of Stoke-on-Trent City Council today descended into chaos yet again.

This time the Electoral Review of Stoke-on-Trent was the issue and once again there were cross party arguments, accusations of political grandstanding, questioning of the Lord Mayor chairing abilities and of course a BNP walkout.

The substantive motion was put before the council by Councillor A Joynson and in moving the motion he urged every elected member to do their democratic duty and make a clear decision that will prove to the Boundary Committee that this council is clear in it’s vision.

The motion calling for the report of the Administration & Appeals Committee be accepted and that although the City Council accept the idea of single member wards, consideration is required in the areas that as a result of public consultation to having a small number of multi-member wards.

Council Leader Ross Irving seconded the motion and in doing so he praised the work of the officers and the members of the Administration & Appeals Committee and in particular the Chair Alan Joynson who had attended every public consultation.

It was very clear in the opening exchanges of the debate that the motion had not got cross chamber support. The BNP, some members of the City Independent Group and the Labour Group would not vote it through.

The biggest issue was the number of councillors [45] that the Boundary Committee had indicated as their preferred number. Many councillors from all parties commented that this was not enough.

Cllr Mike Barnes attacked the group leaders and said that the way the motion had been changed at the 11th hour made the it look like ‘a dogs breakfast’. He questioned where the leadership was.

Cllr Roger Ibbs had some sympathy for Cllr Barnes’s comments and he added that he thought that the review had been done the wrong way around and that the number of councillors should have been debated first and then the ward boundaries and numbers worked out after. He also had concerns that some of the wards had been identified as needing two or three ward councillors. He questioned whether this would be acceptable to the Governance Commission as single member wards were one of the 14 recommendations and he believed that they could not be cherry picked.

It was revealed later that a group leaders meeting that would have discussed this report was cancelled in December and that the group leaders had only met an hour before the full council meeting. It was also later revealed that the City Independent Group leader had not informed his councillors what had been decided at the group leaders meeting. The same for the leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance.

When it was evident that there would be no agreement on the substantive motion, an amendment was tabled by Cllr Roger Ibbs that called for the acceptance of the Administration and Appeals committee but also that the council express regret at the imposition of the number of councillors to 45 and that they regret the inflexibility in the number of councillors.

Whilst this amendment was being debated, Cllr Pervez was busy around the chamber trying to get an agreement from group leaders that would have seen the debate reach a united agreement. This drew condemnation by the meeting chair, Lord Mayor, Cllr Jean Bowers. She felt that the movement around the chamber as well as the number of discussions between certain groups was disrupting the meeting.

A vote was forced on the amendment. Cllr Ibbs, believing that an agreement between political group leaders was imminent voted against his own amendment.

Tempers were starting to fray by this time. There were some councillors accusing the Lord Mayor of stifling debate. There were councillors calling for a vote on the original substantive motion. The BNP councillors were asking for an immediate vote or they would walk out of the chamber.

Eventually Cllr Alan Joynson withdrew the substantive motion although he later stated that he believed he was withdrawing from the debate.

After some arguing it was agreed that the council would adjourn for 10 minutes to allow the group leaders to come to an agreement.

The meeting re-convened only to find that the group leaders had not reached and agreement after all. A motion was put before the chamber asking the Boundary committee to be given every submission and to take all the submissions and response into consideration and to make a decision on the Electoral Review based on the evidence provided.

Again it was clear that this motion had not got cross chamber support. The council leader and his group, the Conservative & Independent Alliance, some members of the City Independent Group, The Lib Dems, would vote against the motion submitted by the Labour Group Leader.

After a period of debate the Labour Group Motion went to the vote and was passed by 24 votes to 18.

It was newly appointed Chief Executive, John Van de Laarschott’s first full council meeting and he must have wondered what he had let himself in for.

He made a telling contribution to the earlier debate by urging the elected members to act like the community leaders they were and to sent a clear recommendation to the Boundary committee. He reminded the chamber that his declaration that he could turn the authority around in three years was based on having a united council chamber. He reminded the chamber that the council is seen as some stakeholders as broken.

This was an extremely difficult meeting to report upon. It was probably the most fractious meeting that we at Pits’n’Pots have covered.

Members of the public gallery were sitting in disbelief at the spectacle before them.

Group leaders should have reached the basis of an agreement before they went into the chamber and perhaps more importantly they should have sold that agreement to the members of their political group. The only unified group in the chamber today was the Labour Group and they did not have the support of all of the chamber.

We have two audio interviews and it is important that you listen to them to get further understanding of today’s events within the council chamber.

The first interview is with the Chair of the Administration & Appeals Committee Cllr Alan Joynson who was extremely annoyed at the events of the meeting.

The second interview is with the Labour Group Leader Cllr Mohammed Pervez who gives us his reason fro submitting the alternative motion which eventually won the day.

Meadow Lane Estate ““ the residents speak out on ward boundaries

The Meadow Lane estate is in Trentham, just North of Longton Road, at the border with the current Blurton ward, separated from it by the railway line.

On 4th January 2010 a public meeting was held at Trentham High School, organised by ordinary residents in the Meadow Lane area of Trentham, about the council’s views on new ward boundaries.

I was so heartened to see this happen, an issue crops up in the community and I counted about 70 of us who were concerned enough to turn out on a very cold evening to discuss it. Many were from the Meadow Lane estate most affected but I noticed a fair few of us there from other parts of Trentham.

Dan Jordan, chair of the Save Trentham High Action Group, spoke first and said that after saving our high school, local residents remain concerned about the whole community.

Ward councillor Terry Follows attended the meeting and conveyed apologies for absence from the other ward councillors Ross Irving and Roger Ibbs.

The council’s initial proposal had been for the Meadow Lane estate to become part of the new Blurton Farm, Newstead & Trentham Lakes ward, in order to get the right number of electorate in each single member ward. The council would have then recommended that the rest of the current Trentham & Hanford Ward be split into two; Hanford & Trentham Ley and Trentham South. Terry reported that the transition board had been brought in to gerrymander the wards and that he and our other ward councillors all agreed on not wanting the Meadow Lane Estate left out. Following consultation the current council recommendation is to keep the Trentham & Hanford boundaries as they are now but have it as a two member ward rather than a three member ward.

Grace Jordan explained that we should all submit our views direct to the Boundary Committee by January 11th, because they look at all the submissions they receive, including the council’s and ours, deliberate for 14 weeks, then publish their proposal. They may visit. At that stage we can comment again on their proposals. Tim Bowden from the Boundary Committee is aware of our discussions. The Boundary Committee will make the final decision in October.

A resident stressed the importance of individual letters to the Boundary Committee.

Terry suggested that the Meadow Lane area may wish to form a residents’ association and could contact him if they would like to.

A resident complained that he had requested maps from the council but these had not been provided.

Dan, despite “not trying to get too political about it” said that we need to be careful about our future, the transition board including Mike Tappin had wanted to socially engineer us by trying to combine two schools. Dan also said though that under the council’s proposal we would get double the number of councillors we currently have in the ward, given what Ibbs and Irving are like.

An individual in the know who shall not be named said that only 170 people had responded to the council consultation, consultations tend to be run over the holidays for very short time periods. He pointed out that officers run Stoke-on-Trent council and that Roger Ibbs and Ross Irving had been instrumental in devolving council powers to the officers.

The meeting voted on the council proposal for a two member ward retaining the current Trentham & Hanford boundaries. A large majority voted for this, nobody voted against.

The council will consider and vote on their submission to the Boundary Committee, which includes this recommendation, at the meeting at the Civic Centre at 2.30pm on Thursday 7th January. I pointed out that the public may observe this meeting if they are available at that time.

A show of hands indicated that about 60 of us intend writing individual submissions to the Boundary Committee.