Stoke City and I

My first memories of Stoke City encompass the bizarre and the disgusting. I will get the second point out of the way first. The earliest recollection of the Victoria Ground was collecting cigarette butts for a relative who had a Rizla machine to roll fags. I would be child labour and about 5. The butts were the means of obtaining the tobacco supply. It did not do this particular relative harm as they lived to a great age. The curious memory is of sheep grazing on the Victoria Ground in the 60s to keep the grass closely cropped. There might be a picture somewhere in the Sentinel archive. I am sure that I am not making this up. I went to school at St Peters next to the ground and the club were kind enough to let the school hold their sports day there. I was in a relay team that won the sprint. My first and only ever sporting achievement on any Stoke City pitch

But back to football

My first Stoke match was in March 1962 when I was just short of my 7th birthday. We played Swansea Town and it ended as a 0-0 draw. It’s strange how memory plays tricks as I thought that there were goals. We lived in Lytton St and in the promotion season of 1962-3 the roar of the 40,000 plus crowd could be clearly heard where we lived the other side of Stoke. An early opportunity to make a bit of money was offering to look after supporter’s cars. It was done innocently and not in the modern day way of ” looking after cars” as practised around Anfield or Eastlands.

I missed the centenary game against Real Madrid in 63 although my father went and bought back the programme. Years later a woman living in Hartshill showed me a Real Madrid medal she was given by some of the players who she met wandering around Shelton.

However I did go to the Matthews testimonial match in April 65 and, unlike Tony Blair, saw “Wor” Jackie Milburn play in the veterans game before the International XI v Matthews XI main feature. Milburn patted his expanded midriff when he was unable to reach a ball much to the amusement of the crowd.

When the “galloping major” Puskas died a few years ago the sports writer for the Guardian named him as the 5 greatest footballers in the last 50 years along with Pele, Best, Cruyff and Maradona. I saw 3 of the five at the Victoria Ground.

In the 60s I went to the Victoria Ground regularly and my 1969 diary mentions seeing games against Spurs, Burnley and Manchester City. Again its strange how memory plays tricks and the clearest memory I have of a game was a 1-1 draw against Spurs when half the Stoke team was laid low with illness. The Spurs team was riding high in the League and the draw was considered miraculous.

By this time we were living in Abbey Hulton and the games were a highlight of the weekend. We took the bus from Leek Rd into Stoke although money was tight and only allowed for a programme and travel. On one occasion I tries to smuggle one of my brothers under my coat to try to get in for nothing. My nerve failed and we paid up enduring the long walk back to the Abbey.

I saw some iconic games in the 70s as well including the 73 match against Leeds and a 75 2-0 win against Liverpool. The 70s was of course Stokes heyday and the exciting football of the time gave Stoke something of a swashbuckling image.

The first of only a few away matches was an early 70s cup replay against Huddersfield at Old Trafford. Dennis Smith scored and I mentioned the game when he spoke at a dinner that I went to at Baddeley Green Working Men’s club. He said that he had pain killing injections to get him through the match. I recall the atmosphere of the match and above all the excellent fish and chips in a shop somewhere close to Warwick rd.

My youngest brother and I went to Goodison in January 1977 to see Stoke well beaten by an Everton side that included Duncan McKenzie who gave perhaps the greatest performance I have ever seen by a player against Stoke. My brother was fully decked out in the red and white stripes. We were the only Stoke fans on the bus back from Stanley Park. It was a sea of blue and an uncomfortable journey.

I saw some great Stoke players such as Hudson and Mickey Thomas who always gave a 100%. For some curious reason I liked a player called Kelly who they got from Wigan who could pass brilliantly, although from his bulk he probably liked the sauce.

I also played with one or two Stoke players. Alan A’court used to run the sports centre at Staffs University. As a teenager of the Abbey I used to have a kick around with Garth Crooks- we always knew that he had great ability- and I turned out for a CND team for a five a side competition at Bucknall Park in the early 80s. Griffiths who Stoke got from a non-league team from Devon turned out for one of the other teams

I also saw some terrible games. I was there at Wigan in February 1991 when an abject performance by the team saw Alan Ball sacked and another wretched performance in the cup against non-league Telford. I made the mistake of mocking a friend at University who was a Leicester City supporter who that year- 1978- were knocked out by Walsall. He returned the mockery in spades when Stoke were knocked out by non-league Blyth Spartans. Nemesis always follows hubris.

I also went to most of the games in the season we went down from the old First division in the ” holocaust season”. The Boxing Day victory against United was a rare victory. As a Stoke Councillor in 1985 I played in a friendly organised against Liverpool Council before a match against Everton. I scored a goal that was disallowed a header although I climbed over the militant member Tony Mulherne in order to get at the ball. He lay on the ground and cried “foul”- O irony. “Deggsy” Hatton also turned out in brand new Everton kit and broke down after a few minutes. Everton went on to win the real match later that day. I think they won the league that season

On the subject of the Vale. I used to go to the occasional match in the 70s when Stoke were playing away and I was in Stoke with University mates from York. It was quite common for people to alternate between the Vale and Stoke. We used to go up to Burslem for a pint beforehand at the time Burslem had a few really good pubs like the “Foaming Quart” which has since closed. It helped that one of my brothers Tim was an apprentice at the Vale in the late 70s. I also worked in the Education Department with Albert Leake, a true gent, who played in the 54 Semi Final team. From 07-9 I worked on an oral history project called Port Vale Tales. It involved interviewing the older supporters and players who had played with the team in the 50s to the 80s. It was really enjoyable talking to the old players such as Graham Barnett, Hancock and Harry Poole. (I used to the newspaper deliverer for Poole when he ran a newsagent on the Abbey in the 60s). He told what it was like to play against the Roker Roar.

I don’t make many matches working at weekends works and I only made a couple of games since they returned to the Premiership. A disappointing game draw against Fulham and the draw against Wigan last season.

Before I went to the Fulham game in December 2008 I called in to the “Staff of Life” and had a pint to toast the memory of John McCready. He was a Fenton Councillor and we used to go to the “Staff of Life” in the doomed 84-5 season. I hope he is smiling down from wherever he is.

Stoke-on-Trent Needs Committed Councillors, Not Activists with a Grudge

I know that this blog article is going to make me mightily unpopular in some quarters of the Stoke-on-Trent political arena, but here goes.

Following on from my last post about the far right England First Party, which was fantastically well received, I climb up on my soapbox for round two.

You see i have a real worry about the upcoming local council elections, in fact I would go as far as to say it is boarding on a mortal fear, that our city will end up with a load of councillors that are in it for all the wrong reasons.

My fears were further realised following a disturbing telephone conversation with an ex-member of the Labour Party here in Stoke-on-Trent.

It appears there is a group of disenfranchised ex-Labour party members that are to throw their hats in the ring and are to seek election to the City Council with their number one priority to smear the Labour Party and its candidates as opposed to actually wanting to represent their communities.

I admit that I was absolutely flabbergasted by this revelation.

These people are to focus their campaign on what the Labour Party have done to them in the past, how the Labour party has broken their own rules [in their opinion anyway] and they are to publicly smear some of the Labour candidates.

I’m sure that you don’t need me to mention their names in this article, but you will know who I mean when I describe them as the usual suspects.

It would appear that the labour Party’s crime is to select 44 candidates to fight every available seat across the City.

They stand accused of not producing a manifesto on which to fight the election and they are definitely guilty of fielding candidates that are not legitimate and have been selected by the Regional Office so the dissenters claim.

One poor candidate that has got it coming to her is Alison Wedgwood, her crime? She doesn’t live in the City according to this group. “We are going to nail her” was the phrase used. She won’t be the only one.

This group are marketing themselves as “Ëœoriginal Labour’ ““ you know, a throwback to those halcyon days when the Labour Party that the ultimate power in our city. A time when all 60 candidates were Labour and the only arguments, and there was a few, were between themselves.

But those days were blighted by some of the most monumental cock ups in our city’s history. The Cultural Quarter, World Gate, the Britannia Stadium deal to name just a few ““ hardly the city’s finest period of history, do we really want to go back there?

In fact it is rumoured that Barry Stockley, the Council Leader at the time of those Keystone Kops like incidents will stand in the election alongside the usual suspects against an official Labour candidate thus ending his long association with the party.

None of current crop of Labour councillors were in office at the time of the darkest days in our council’s history.

Please don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying vote Labour in this post.

As I have said in the past we will have a real choice of candidates in these elections ranging from mainstream parties, community councillors from the City Independent Group and Community Voice, and true Independents who seek to serve their communities and wards and to help make the areas in which they live a better place.

But we have a duty to vote for councillors who will make a real difference to the city.

By and large we will have a single councillor to represent the majority of wards across the city and we will be stuck with them for four whole years. If we vote in the wrong calibre of person we will be able to repent at leisure.

I therefore ask a genuine question.

Do we really want to vote in a group of individuals or are standing against a party, it’s rules and regulations [or the lack of them] and it’s candidates?

Do we genuinely care if this crew were thrown on the scrap heap for having a different ideology to that of the modern day Labour party?

Why should we the general public get embroiled in a war between factions when the likelihood is that it will be us that get caught in the crossfire whilst the two opposing sides will be battling it out?

Are we really bothered who is right and who is wrong in this dispute?

Activists fall out with their parties every day, just like in the case of Shaun Bennett. But the fundamental difference here is that Shaun has walked away and is standing for the City Independents. He hasn’t spat his dummy and is standing on an anti-Conservative agenda.

It has been said that the Community Voice group is made up largely of ex-Labourites and that’s true. But Community Voice have their own identity. They have their own set of political principles. They will seek election on a set of their own pledges. To their enormous credit they rejected a number of advances from this “Ëœoriginal Labour’ group because they did not want to go down the anti-Labour route why? – Because they have their own vision.

And what of the suggestion that the City labour Party have no agenda?

My understanding is that the Labour collective will have a very definite set of priorities, policies and pledges that will be communicated to the electorate during the election campaigns.

So in summary I find myself pleading with all communities to use their votes wisely.

The majority of us will be represented by a single councillor, we will be stuck with him or her for four long years, so let’s get the right ones in eh?

Whether you are far left, left, middle, right or god help us far right, let’s get people into the chamber who want to put communities ahead of their own personal vendetta’s.

We want people who will support, represent and help the elderly, the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society and we want councillors who are progressive and can improve the areas in which we live.

If I lived in a ward where there is an “Ëœoriginal Labour’ candidate standing I would be “Ëœnailing’ them to be open and transparent for their reasons on why they are seeking election. I would be “Ëœnailing’ them on what they intend to do to stand up for their ward. I would be nailing them to say what their priorities are.

And if one of them gave an answer which contained what the Labour Party did to them, or which rule it did not follow, or how the candidate selection was wrong, or why a certain candidate should not be standing ““ I would shut the door in their faces. Their leaflets would be flushed down the toilet so that it can meet the other sewage that lurks in the city’s drains.

No doubt my politics will be “Ëœnailed’ as a result of this article. I simply do not care. Anyone who reads my articles [10’s of thousands] and the people who know me personally [hundreds] know that I have socialist principles but when it comes to the local election, my family and I always vote for those who we think will best represent our community and who will do the most for the people who live in it.

Apart from the BNP and heaven forbid the England First Party that applies to pretty much any candidate.

Meet The North Staffordshire Buyer

Businesses across North Staffordshire will have a golden opportunity to directly promote themselves in early October at a special “Meet the Buyer” event in Stoke-on-Trent.

The event, on Thursday October 7, is being organised by the city council’s Building Schools for the Future (BSF) team, along with Build Up North Staffordshire, which helps promote business opportunities for local companies.

The aim of the day is to encourage local suppliers to come along and talk one-to-one with the main BSF’s main contractors; Balfour Beatty, Thomas Vale/Wates (TVW consortium) and the RM Group.

The £250m BSF programme in Stoke-on-Trent will see every secondary and special school rebuilt or refurbished, including five brand new academies.

Detailed planning is well under way at the two sample schools with contractors Balfour Beatty due to start work on a brand new school in the Trent Vale area of the city before Christmas. The other design and build contractors, Thomas Vale/Wates consortium will start work on refurbishment at Haywood Engineering College in spring next year.

“We think there are around 200 businesses that might be able to offer their services to the contractors involved in the BSF programme, and this will be an ideal opportunity for them to meet face to face with the decision makers. I’d encourage anyone who thinks they’ve got something to offer to come along. The three contractors will be able to detail materials, trades, skills and individual specialist requirements they are going to be buying over the next few years.”
“As we begin to move into the construction phase of this programme, there will also be a range of job opportunities for students leaving school or college to explore with the contractors as the project develops.”

Businesses wanting to come along to the event on October 7th, which is being held at the Britannia Stadium, Stanley Matthews Way, ST4 4EG, can contact sam.wood@stoke.gov.uk or call 01782 232398 to confirm their attendance.

The day will begin at 9.00am and business will finish at 4pm.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Hold Spotlight Review On Britannia Stadium Parking

Stoke-on-Trent City Council has instigated a Spotlight Review on match day parking and traffic around the vicinity of the Britannia Stadium.

The success enjoyed by Stoke City and their elevation to the Premiership in has exasperated the problem for residents living near by and areas that are used by fans for parking.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is calling for anyone effected by these issues to give feedback so that the Spotlight Review can investigate the matter fully.

Here is a copy of the email that Pits n Pots have received and how all our readers can help:


“Sir,

I am hoping that readers, residents and Stoke City fans will be able to assist with addressing an increasing problem, relating to parking issues experienced by local residents, during Stoke City’s home games at the Britannia Stadium.

The City Council is currently facilitating an in-depth evidence gathering investigation, called a “Spotlight Review” to address the issues around the residential streets, near to the stadium in Stoke, Heron Cross, Fenton and Blurton.

This Review’s membership includes Councillors, city council officers, the police, local Resident Association Chairs and representatives from Stoke City Football Club.

We are urging fans, when travelling by car or vans to Stoke City home matches, to be more considerate to the local residents, when parking their vehicles.

Inconsiderate and irresponsible parking includes: – blocking driveways, parking in resident-only parking spaces, parking on pavements, parking in front of garages, parking on double-yellow lines and blocking resident’s cars in.

We would ask, that local residents contact the council, if and when they experience, or are affected by these problems, with specific locations, streets or post-codes and any solutions they may have (contact details below).

We will be monitoring the parking situations at Stoke’s first home game, against Tottenham Hotspur and the city council’s parking enforcement team and the police; will take any and all necessary action, to deter drivers and potentially fine offenders.

We also realise that these problems are caused by a small minority of fans and commend and thank those that do park appropriately and responsibly.

We are also looking for feedback from fans

* What’s your postcode?

* How do you travel to Britannia Stadium?

* Where do you park your vehicle and why?

* Would you consider changing to another form of travel to Britannia Stadium? And if so what?

* What is the one thing that would make it easier for you to get to/from Britannia Stadium?

* How do you think we can reduce parking issues in the vicinity of Britannia Stadium on match days?

*Have you got any suggestions for potential solutions?

If you are a resident / fan affected by any of the issues please forward details to:

Email: scrutiny@stoke.gov.uk

Address: Britannia Stadium Review
c/o Member Services,
Chief Executive’s Directorate,
Civic Centre,
Glebe Street
Stoke on Trent
ST4 1RN

Thank you,

Cllr Randy Conteh
“Chair of the Britannia Stadium Parking, Spotlight Review.”

Pits n Pots urges all residents who may have witnessed the problems caused to this area of the City to engage with this Spotlight Review.

Having taken part in one of these types of review in the past, we can testify to the comprehensive nature and thorough investigations that will be carried out by the Councillors and Scrutiny Officers concerned.

Britannia Stadium Investigation Cost £27000

It has just been revealed that the District Auditor’s investigation into the Britannia Stadium Shares sale has cost the City Council £27,000.

The Leader of the Council, Mohamed Pervez, is rumoured to have quoted that councillors should have been happy with the internal investigation. Did he read it? He didn’t even go to the meeting, perhaps because it was in the day time.

Typical, flippant comment from a politician who doesn’t know or bother to even find out the facts, and, quite frankly, has a significant responsibility for this outrageous cost.
If we go back to the beginning, I went through the proper channels to get the answers I, and many other people were interested in.

Two simple questions:

  • Who signed off the deal for the sale of the shares in the Britannia Stadium?
  • Why weren’t councillors told at the full council held to discuss the matter, that payment was in instalments?

Six months later ““neither the Council Manager, Mr Steve Robinson nor the Elected Mayor, Mark Meredith had responded. Nobody can say I didn’t give them ample opportunity to answer, so I formally wrote to the DA for help in the matter.

He decided that an internal audit, agreed by the council, would be the best way to deal with the matter. I disagreed ““ but that was the course of action taken.

At the same time one Mohamed Pervez, Deputy Elected Mayor, now the Council Leader, took over the formal responsibilities of the council, because of Mark Meredith’s arrest. It was at this time that Mr Pervez, in his new powerful role could have released the information at no cost to the council.

We waited a month, then another and another. 12 months later the internal audit report came out ““ with still no answers to the questions. It wasn’t worth the paper it was written on and I even ripped it up at a full council meeting. Some of the key people involved had apparently refused to co-operate.

It was at this time that the District Auditor, recorded at the Audit Committee to discuss the issue, expressed his disappointment at the report as it had failed to deliver key information. The DA then decided that, in hindsight, that he should have realised that the council’s internal audit would be inadequate.

He, the DA, then instigated his own investigation, which is strongly rumoured to have been hampered by non-cooperation and legal challenges and threats.

If officers and councillors had done their jobs right and been honest in the first place, it would not have cost one penny ““ not one.

Only at the last full council did one of my questions contain misinformation ““ Cllr Follows, on the matter of the Geese Cull wrote that the City Council has a “robust wildlife management plan” ““ but then had to admit that it does not exist!

Honesty, openness and transparency cost nothing ““ secrecy and lies cost us dear, as we have learned time and time again in Stoke-on-Trent.

So if you want to know why two simple questions cost us £27,000 Cllr Pervez, take a good long look in the mirror.

I wish that the government would consider making it a criminal offence for senior officers in local government to mislead or lie to elected representatives and the public. All too often those that were at fault have gone on to greener pastures by the time their damaging actions have come to light.

Don’t be a dummy ““ know the dangers of smoking in cars

Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service will be showing you how to avoid being a dummy next month – and cut down on your smoking into the bargain.

Two special “test dummies” will be helping with a demonstration at Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium on Saturday 7 August to highlight the dangers of smoking in cars. Both were part of a study done in the West Midlands to find out the damage done to people travelling in cars by fellow passengers or the driver.

As part of the demonstration, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue will be filling a car with “safe smoke” to show how it can circulate quickly in an enclosed space, and how it can affect those travelling in the car. It has been estimated that smoking just one cigarette in a car, even with the window open, creates a harmful concentration of tobacco smoke. The largely invisible smoke, clings to the car’s upholstery, children’s car seats and passengers, putting people at risk of serious illnesses.

A recent study carried out in the West Midlands shows that people who inhale cigarette smoke while they are in a car, can inhale as much as three times the amount that would be considered safe to inhale over the course of a day. Even with the car’s windows or air conditioning on, it didn’t reduce it by a significant amount. The toddler sized dolls used in the study and the results from the research will be on display on the day, to highlight the effects of second hand smoke, in particular, the harmful effects on children.

Councillor Terry Follows, cabinet member for environment, waste management and neighbourhood services, said: “People may think that just because they have the windows open or the air conditioning on, then it’s ok to smoke or be with someone who is smoking, but in reality, it could have a serious effect on your long term health.

Claire McIver from NHS Stoke on Trent said: “Passive smoking in children and young people is a significant problem locally with over 50% of young people in Stoke on Trent exposed to other people’s tobacco smoke in the car, and around 1/3 in the home. It can lead to bronchitis, asthma, inner ear infections and even worsened behavioural problems and child development.

In addition children who are regularly exposed to smoking in their homes and cars are three times more likely to take up smoking themselves. The best thing you can do to protect others from the dangers of passive smoking is to make your home and car completely smoke free.”

As part of the demonstration, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue will also be flooding a car with “safe smoke” to show how it can circulate quickly in an enclosed space, and how it can affect those travelling in a car.

Firefighter Jim Taaffe from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, added: “It is important that people are aware of the dangers of smoking whilst in the car, as not only can the smoke itself cause health problems but it is also a distraction to the driver.

“It is also important to bear in mind that other people smoking in your car could distract you just as easily and distractions whilst driving can lead to serious accidents.”

NHS Stoke on Trent is very keen to support initiatives like this. The Stoke on Trent Stop Smoking Service offers support to any smoker who wants to quit in a wide range of settings across the city. Stop smoking medicines (such as patches and gum) are available for the cost of a prescription (or free to those who don’t pay for prescriptions). For more information about free services available to you locally call 0800 085 0928.

Britannia Stadium Open Day

On Saturday 7th August Stoke City supporters are being offered the brilliant chance to take a look behind the scenes at the Britannia Stadium.

Fans will get the opportunity to watch a training session featuring the first team squad, collect the autographs of their football heroes and go on a stadium tour.

The event will include numerous other activities making it a fantastic day out for the family and building excitement ahead of the kick-off to the new season.

Stoke City are hoping for a large turnout to this event as they aim to raise a significant amount of money for their chosen two charities for the 2010-11 season.

Prior to the first team’s training session, the Club will present the proceeds of their fundraising throughout the 2009-10 season to three local charities: The Donna Louise Children’s Hospice, Caudwell Children and PASS (Partners Assuring a Safer Staffordshire).

On the day Tony Pulis will be putting the first team squad through their paces ahead of their first premier league match before the players line up for an autograph signing session.

Before or after these two attractions in the morning, Stoke City fans will be able to book places on tours which take place every five minutes and take fans on a behind the scenes tour of the stadium culminating in a photograph being taken in the dugout.

These tours will run between 9.10am and 9.45am and then again between 12.00pm and 1.00pm. To book places on the tours in advance please visit: scfcdirect.com

Democracy Contempt In stoke-on-Trent

The District Auditor’s Report on the sale of the Britannia Stadium reveals, under independent scrutiny, why Elected Mayor’s are an attack on openess, transparency and our hard fought British democracy.

Even more shocking is the contempt with which officers, paid to serve in the public interest by the public purse, show to elected members and the public.

Make no mistake in thinking that this is a one off report. Secrecy, deceit and hidden agendas are par for the course in Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The new CEO has an enormous task in an organisation in which top heavy management is rotten to its absolute core, and colludes with equally rotten senior politicians, to cover their own arses, and pick up their salaries in shame. Many of them not even prepared to commit more tyhan a part time role but still picking up £20000-30000.

The governance commission tried to lay the chaos at the door of politics and the councillors. Yet the real source of the problems lie at a more fundamental level.

A culture driven by mistrust and now a cabinet determined to squash any debate or scrutiny, aided by an officer core scrambling to save its own skin.

Fortunately they will fail as a growing team presses them at every opportunity – the likes of PitsnPots, D4S and dedicated councillors. I urge anyone and everyone to use FOI and questions to the council meetings and help to free and restore democracy, scrutiny and honesty.

Douglas Macmillan Midnight Walk 2010

On Friday night 1400 women descended on the Britannia Stadium to take part in the Douglas Macmillan Midnight Walk.

The 10 mile women-only walk takes the ladies on a tour of the southern part of the city. The circular route passes through; Longton, Fenton, Joiners Square and Heron Cross.

The Britannia Stadium was awash with yellow Dougie Mac t-shirts, bunny ears, tutus and even some full-blown fancy dress as the ladies assembled for a warm-up to prepare them for the 10 miles ahead.

The hundreds of women taking part completed the route cheerily and chattily with the support of volunteer marshalls and each other before returning triumphant (and tired) to the Britannia Stadium.

Participant Charlotte Deaville said: “It is brilliant to see women uniting for such a great cause.”

All money raised from this event helps the Douglas Macmillan Hospice to continue the invaluable care they provide for those facing cancer and other life-limiting diseases. Since 2007 the event has raised a fantastic £350k and this year the hospice is hoping to raise an additional £100k from the event.

Senior Fundraising Development Manager, Zoe Hollingsworth said: “”ËœIt is a truly inspiring spectacle, these “ËœAngels’ make it possible for us to continue to care for patients with terminal illness such as Cancer.”

Congratulations to everyone involved, and remember, there is still time to sponsor any lady you know who completed the walk.

DA’s Report into the Britannia Stadium Sale Descends into Farce!

The Audit Committee for Wednesday 19 May, already delayed from Monday 17 May, has now been cancelled because the report from the District Auditor on the Sale of Stoke-on-Trent’s City Council’s shares in the Britannia Stadium to Stoke City Football Club, still could not be made ready in time.

The report has now been put back to the 20 June 2010. Sorry to be suspicious or cynical but by the 20 June ““ Mick Salih, myself and PKB could have been removed from the Audit Committee by the new “coalition”.

It was October 2008 ““ yes 2008! ““ when I first submitted my complaints to the District Auditor.

This raises the question of the effectiveness and competence of the DA’s office in Stoke-on-Trent, and I know a number of us are considering an official complaint.

Little did I know then, that such simple questions as “who decided on instalments” and “why weren’t the councillors told of the instalments plan” would take so long to answer that we have had 2 new chief executives in the intervening period.

Farce almost seems like an inadequate description: little wonder that many councillors or the public have no faith in the accuracy of information from the council, or the ability of our democratic system to hold decision makers to account.

Once again we have little more to do that speculate over the latest foot dragging.

I rather suspect that some mentioned in the DA’s report are very unhappy with its conclusions and are frantically pressurising him to alter its wording.

One silver lining that has come out of this cloud of a delay, is the return to high office of those that were at the helm and the centre of this scandal when all this occurred.

A primary element of Democracy’s survival is trust.

In particular, trust in those appointed to manage and facilitate its fair and proper function. Trust that information is accurate. Trust nothing is hidden away to deceive those elected by the public. Trust that accountability is held at its heart.

At the moment this is absent from the corridors and senior offices of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.