Stoke-on-Trent’s S.O.C.C Angry at Labour Leaflet Claims

Leading members of Stoke-on-Trent’s celebrated “ËœSave Our Children’s Centres’ [S.O.C.C] campaign have voiced their anger over claims made by the Labour Party in a local election campaign leaflet.

SOCC member Alan Lear is so incensed by the leaflet that was pushed through his door by the Labour Party he has called for the group to re-energise it’s self and to fight the proposed 30% budget cuts which will equate to a reduction in funding of £2.25million.

Mr Lear has revealed that the Children Centre’s, which were the flagship of the last Labour Government, are currently reviewing the services that they provide in a bid to cope with the impact of a funding reduction.

He has contacted Pits n Pots and has submitted a statement in which he reveals that he emailed every City Councillor to ascertain their intentions should a vote be taken on the closure of the seven children’s centres across the city.

Only 26 of the 60 councillors replied and 19 of the 26 Labour Group councillors did not respond.

The proposal to close the children centres was removed from the Budget after an incredibly professional presentation to full council by SOCC leader Millissa Beydilli which received cross chamber support.

The saving of the Children’s Centres has appeared on several political groups’ campaign literature in the run up to the local council elections, but SOCC are angry with the omission of the £2.25million cut in funding from any leaflets. Alan Lear says that this is misleading voters.

Mr Lear is concerned that the cut in funding will lead to a reduction of the courses and services on offer to parents and children.

He is also worried that crèche facilities will be under threat which will mean that parents are not able to access vital courses and help groups’.

His full statement is as follows:

I have contacted Pits n Pots with regard to the claims being made by prospective labour councillors in their election campaign material regarding their part in saving our children’s centres and to put the facts before the voters of Stoke-on-Trent. It surprises me because it was Debra Gratton ““ Labour who actually proposed the cuts, and then at a subsequent meeting at Tunstall Children’s Centre she told the audience that she would vote “NO”

On the 23rd November 2010, on behalf of the Save Our Children’s Centre campaign I sent an email to every councillor asking them how they would vote if the council did intend to close 7 of our children’s centres. I only received 26 replies, the majority of whom said that they would vote NO to any centre closure. You must also remember that this was before the Council became aware of the huge impact that the threat of closures would have across this city, which resulted in thousands of people petitioning against any closures..

Could I say through your website a huge thank you to the following Councillors who said NO to the cuts right at the start of our campaign.

Councillors Mick Salih, Mike Barnes, Janine Bridges, Pauline Joynson, Peter Kent-Baguley and Ellie Walker of the Community Voice party. Councillors Tom Reynolds, Tony Fradley, Debra Gratton, Javid Najmi and Ruth Rosenau of the Labour party. Councillors Mick Bell, Rita Dale, John Davis and Terence Follows of the City Independents. Councillors Zulfiqar Ali and Jean Bowers of the Liberal Democrats party. Councillors Steven Batkin and Michael Coleman of the British National Party. Councillors Roy Naylor and Alan Rigby who are Non aligned and Councillor Megan Ryan of the Conservative and Independent Alliance.

I did not receive replies from 19 Labour councillors, 3 BNP councillors, 4 City Independents councillors, 5 Conservative and Independent Alliance councillors, 2 Lib Dem councillors and 1 Libertarian councillor.
In my opinion these 34 people failed in their duty as a councillor. They did not meet their obligations to be accountable to the electorate of their ward and the electorate of this city. They failed to deal with constituent’s enquiries and representations from interested parties and therefore did not represent ward interests. In addition they did not address the community concerns and failed to meet their obligation to improve the quality of life in Stoke-on-Trent as a whole. Now ask yourself -Do they deserve your vote?

We know that the Save Our Children’s Centres campaign, its petition and subsequent presentation by Millissa Beydilli to the full council and the debate that followed and various presentations by some of the above councillors in all probability stopped the closures. Our members know and expected some minor cuts to be made through savings etc. Other Local Authorities in the West Midlands have announced an average cut of 6% to budgets. However, our Labour led Council has just imposed a 30% cut to our Children’s Centre budgets which equates to £2.25 millions. As this is a significant change, the law requires the council to once again enter into wasteful formal consultations regarding that decision. This is because the council has a legal duty under the Childcare Act 2006 to ensure that “it continues to meet the duty to secure sufficient children’s centres services which are effective, efficient and meet local needs and improve the life chances for children and families. As it stands at the moment, without these cuts, our council is failing to meet its targets. Here are some facts to consider regarding our area.

Stoke-on-Trent is the 16th most deprived Local Authority out of a total of 354. Over 26% of children live in totally workless households and 29% of children live in poverty. Infant mortality rates are higher than the national average. Children leaving school who are not in education, employment or training is higher than other local Authorities. Children entering school with significant communication delay is high compared to the rest of the country. These facts show that the Council is failing to meet its own priorities set out in its Children and Young People’s Plan. What would their performance be like after making these cuts?

Our council seems determined to fly in the face of research and published reviews. They seem incapable of accepting the findings of independent reviews and reports such as Early Intervention: The next Steps by Graham Allen, M.P..The Foundation Years ““ Preventing poor children becoming poor adults by Frank Field, M.P. and the Marmot Review, Fair Society, Healthy Lives by Michael Marmot.

Norton and Ball Green Children’s Centres have recently achieved the Parent Charter award for their ability to listen and respond to the views of local parents and then offer services and facilities that benefit the community. The charter aims to highlight good practice for working with parents. It also encourages organisations to look at the needs of parents when reviewing or developing services. Sharon Menghini, Director of children and young people’s services is reported to have said: “This award is excellent recognition for both Norton and Ball Green children’s centres, and I’d like to thank staff for their hard work. It’s really important for us to hear what the local community thinks of our services and very reassuring to hear from the families and volunteers that the staff are getting it right for them.” I would just like to remind the Director that this is being achieved by the people at the sharp end. If they are not there what chance do the parents and children have?

Children’s Centres are needed or they would not be there. The invaluable services that they provide are needed or they would not be offered. It is not just children’s services but those that are provided to ethnic minorities, those with mental health problems, those who are unemployed, those with health issues, those with educational aspirations and the list goes on. At SOCC it has often been said that Children’s Centre is a misnomer and that they should actually be called Family Centre. The dedicated staff who go about their roles with such professionalism and dedication are needed. I believe, without exception, that to them every child does matter. I don’t think it can be said of this Labour controlled Council who seem to purposely set out to damage the life chances of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable members of our society, and then waste thousands of pounds on unnecessary consultation. As for the SOCC campaign, it’s alive and kicking. We do ask the families and the people of Stoke-on-Trent to support us once again to fight these punitive and unfair cuts.

Alan Lear

The Labour Group rejects the accusation that their leaflets are misleading and disingenuous.

Council and Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez said that the leaflets claim the Labour led coalition had saved all children’s centres from closure and that was a fact.

He also said that there is to be a consultation period for all interested parties and stakeholders and that he is very willingly to sit around a table and hold discussions so that the most important services are retained for the most vulnerable users of the centres.

Pervez also confirmed that the £2.25million was not set in stone and he also said that the council was open to suggestions that may arise from discussions with S.O.C.C.

This view was also supported by Cllr Debra Gratton the cabinet member with responsibility for children and young people’s services.

[AUDIO INTERVIEWS BELOW]

Council works with operators to save Stoke-on-Trent bus routes

A total of 17 closure-threatened bus routes have been saved, with the possibility of more to follow, Stoke-on-Trent City Council announced yesterday.

The authority has been in detailed negotiations with bus operators to secure the continuation of the services across the city.

It will mean that a number of early morning, evening and Saturday and Sunday routes ““ that the council had been providing a subsidy for to ensure the services ran ““ will continue.

In February, the council announced it would not be able to continue providing the subsidy after government spending restrictions meant it needed to save £36 million for the new financial year. But since then, the authority has been working closely with bus operators D&G, First, Scraggs and Wardles to ensure disruption to passengers has been kept to a minimum.

“The subsidies were used to help make routes which usually don’t attract lots of passengers viable. However, we appreciate that those services are important to the residents that use them, and we have heard from many people who would be affected by their closure.

“We are working hard to find alternative solutions where the subsidised bus services are due to come to an end. This first phase of negotiations, with the bus companies that run each service, has shown that we can continue to ensure many bus routes are retained, which is excellent news.

“We’ll now go back to the bus companies to see if any are willing to take on the other routes, or are willing to amend existing routes to address the gaps created by the loss of the current bus services. We should know the outcome of this further negotiation in two or three weeks’ time.”

The negotiations mean that a total of 12 routes will continue in total or major part; five will continue in part; and four more are subject to further discussions with bus operators. A further 18 routes will be discussed in more negotiations with the bus operators.

Listed below are the bus route numbers, the destinations, days in operation and whether the routes have been parialy saved or totally saved.

No Route Days Cont
1 Hanley – Dawlish Drive – Longton SUN Part
4 Hanley – Eaton Park M-F Total
4 Hanley – Eaton Park SAT Total
21 Bradeley – Hanley – Trentham SUN Total
21 Bradeley – Hanley – Trentham M-TH Total
24 Hanley – Penkhull – Newcastle SUN + BH Total
24 Hanley – Penkhull – Newcastle SAT Total
26 Longton – Stoke- Newcastle SUN Total
28 Longton – Rowan Village M-F Total
47 Longton – Langland Drive M-S Part
49 Meir – Goms Mill M-S Part
50 Hanley – Rough Close M-S Part
61 Hanley – Norton M-S Total
62/62A Hanley – Milton – Norton – Tunstall M-S Total
76 Middleport – Tunstall – Chell Heath M-S Part
80/81 Hanley – Eaton Park / Abbey Hulton M-S Total
500/ plumlineHanley – Trentham Lakes M-S Total

Stoke-on-Trent Passengers Board the Bus to Fight Against Subsidy Cuts

The public of Stoke-on-Trent came out in force yesterday [Thursday] to speak out against the City Council’s decision to cut bus subsidies in a bid to save £313,000 as a part of their crusade to impose cuts totalling £35million over the coming year.

The public gallery as well as one of the committee rooms were packed to the rafters in a public show of solidarity in sending a message to the council that the bus subsidy cut would leave some people stranded at home and unable to access town centres, leisure facilities and supermarkets.

The council’s decision to cut the bus subsidies was voted through as a part of a whole host of austerity measures at last month’s Budget Meeting in a bid to rationalise services in the city as a result of the 8% cut in government funding to the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

Between three bus operators, First, Wardles and D&G, a total of 44 services will be affected.

Community representatives delivered and presented petitions, asking for certain routes to be saved, to the meeting of the City Council from areas such as Chell, Packmoor, Brindley Ford and Penkhull.

The petitioners pleaded with the elected councillors present to save what they consider to be a vital lifeline and the economic benefit to traders their travel bring.
Inside the chamber Community Voice councillors attacked the Labour benches for encouraging the public to campaign against the subsidy cuts while proposing them and then voting them through.

Cllr Mick Salih [Community Voice] said that Labour had attempted to deceive the public over the cuts to bus routes. He said it was vital the all councillors told the truth out on the streets and that the only councillors that had a clear conscious over the subsidy cuts were his group and the other councillors who voted against the budget.

Coalition councillors told the meeting that council officers were working with the bus companies and alongside ward councillors and communities, resolutions had been found to most of the contentious bus services.

One member of the public shouted out his dissent from the public gallery and said that he was disgusted by the councils treatment of members of the public that had turned out to view the proceedings. We recorded an audio interview with him and he wished to be known as “ËœBus Driver’

Listen below.

We also recorded audio’s with Cllr Mick Salih [Community Voice], Cllr Brian Ward [CIG] who is also the cabinet member with responsibility and with the Council Leader Mohammed Pervez [Labour].

Cllr Pervez also gave his thought on the past year and what he thought that the council had achieved.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Elections ““ Will You Stand Up For The City?

The forthcoming local elections are, in my opinion, the most important in the City of Stoke-on-Trent in modern history.

The past twelve months have not been an easy ride for our elected representatives.

They have had to wield the axe over many much needed, loved and valued facilities and public services. £35 million has been stripped from the local economy this year.

Next year our newly elected councillors who will have been mandated, will get to swing the sword to the tune of a further £20million and one wonders just what will be left after that cull.

I saw the impact and burden of responsibility that the present council chamber had to endure in February’s Budget Meeting. The axe did not swing easy and inhibited believe me.

The past political year got me to thinking about who the hell would want to stand for public office for the next 4 years?

What will be the impact on political parties and groups if community minded activists, party members and independent free spirits think to themselves ““ sod this for a game of soldiers!

You only have to read the various political comment articles and the comments on here and the Sentinel, to see that anyone stepping up to the plate is opening themselves up for the harshest of criticism and public battering. And all because of the need to balance the books after a world wide group of maverick bankers decided to play polka with the civilised worlds finances.

Speaking to various sources I can disclose that as we stand today the long range political forecast for May is as follows ““ in no particular order:

Community Voice

The most dynamic opposition group in the council chamber expect to field around 10 candidates in May and they expect to stand them in specifically targeted wards. They have absolutely no chance or desire to contest all 44 wards. They have also turned down approaches from several ex-Labour candidates who wished to stand in particular wards.

Labour

The Labour Party will contest all 38 wards. It has been a struggle to amass the required number of candidates and some wards are still to have candidate selections. My sources are confident that the Labour line up will be the best for years and that expectation is high. They tell me that there is no complacency. To me the Labour Party will have a large majority and I predict that they may take as many as 30 of the wards. They will benefit from the referendum on the AV system and the funding of a large party structure. They will also be the major benefactors of the widely expected public backlash against the Conservative and Liberal Democrat national coalition cuts.

Conservatives

Stoke-on-Trent can not in anyone’s imagination be described as a Tory hotbed. As it stands at the moment the Conservatives are predicting that they will field around 22 candidates and I predict that there will be one unexpected omission from the ballot papers. The party is hoping that their numbers will grow as we near the time but is not expected to fall below the 22.

City Independents

The CIG expect to be able to field around 15 candidates. Their numbers have been affected by some withdrawals and some interested parties have stated that the needs for future cuts have persuaded them to change their minds about standing. The Independent element in the chamber has always been vital for holding the mainstream parties to account, a role which this year fell to Community Voice with the CIG’s participation in the 4 way coalition agreement.

The Liberal Democrats

The national political whipping boys are confident of fielding around 30 candidates in May. Many of that number however will be paper candidates. The local Lib Dem’s are targeting specific wards and hope to get around 10 serious candidates elected. Party activists are very fearful of the wrath of the public and concede that they may be obliterated at the ballot box when folk get the opportunity to exact revenge for the number of u-turns on policy since last years general election. If the recent Barnsley by-election is anything to go by they are right to be fearful.

The British National Party

The far right party has been in steady decline over the past two years. Locally the much publicised falling out with former Group leader Alby Walker massively affected their performance in both the general and local elections last year. This year the issue is very much one of finance, or to be precise, the lack of it. A series of highly publicised legal battles has seen the party’s funds diminish to a state of near insolvency. Leader Nick Griffin’s one man crusade to rid the party of every dissenter has seen a number of former party favourites kicked out the door. The one time party PR machine has ground to a halt. All this has had a massive affect on Stoke BNP and despite Mike Coleman’s gallant efforts the party are only fielding around 15 candidates and realistically only expect to get 3 or 4 elected. His own seat is under threat from Labour’s rising star Ruth Rosenau.

Independents4You

New kids on the block, made up of mainly old faces. The most notable, for very different reasons, are former Councillors Roger Ibbs and Lee Wanger. They hope to field around 10 candidates at this election.

A massive Labour landslide, whilst predicted, is a retrograde step for our City’s democratic landscape.

Just think back to when Labour had all 60 seats in the Chamber, some of the worse political decisions took place during that period.

The true message is however; if you care about this city and think that you have the moral fibre, then stand up and be counted.

Whether you are aligned to a party or are an independent spirit, your city needs you now especially in these times of austerity, more than ever before.

There are a large number of negative forces at play out there, hiding in the city’s political hedgerow, they are of of all persuasions far left, left, middle, right and god forbid, far right.

They seek to undermine the very fabric of our society. Every decision that is made, for good, bad and indifferent is pulled apart for the sake of negativity and the reluctance to accept that difficult decisions have to be made and cuts proposed.

If the government cut the funding to this city, no matter who is in power, cuts will need to be made.

Only if we have strong, intelligent, visionary and progressive councillors do we as a city wide community have a chance of forcing paid officers that the saving of a ‘Tunstall Pool’ is viable and necessary. And then having the courage to suggest an alternative financial saving instead.

That is where the negatives have got it completely wrong – they are quick to say that you can not cut this or that but never do they table an alternative.

Where would the City be if good people are put off by all the negative vitriol and the public crucifixion when politicians have to do the unthinkable?

Give me good honest public spirited people of any political persuasion to those who snipe, undermine and spin for the sake of it anytime.

I hope that there is new blood in the chamber who are willing to take the baton and head for the finishing line without looking back or deviating from the charted course.

All the rest should join the likes of the Chell Heath racist and his cronies who masquerade as the great and the good but seek only to sabotage our city and the good folk who live happily side by side in our unique and tolerant communities.

Tony Walley ““ On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox 26/02/11

Thursday’s Budget Meeting at Stoke-on-Trent City Council lasted a mammoth six hours and during that time the elected members emitted a plethora of emotions.

The debate was solemn, heated, and sometimes even angry as the councillors wrestled with their conscious’s in full knowledge of the fact that they were about to take a decision which would inflict cuts of £35.6million upon the good folk of Stoke-on-Trent.

The outcome was never in doubt; the majority would always win the battle.

The four way coalition had conducted the most open consultation exercise in modern times. Cabinet and council officers engaged with members of the public at every opportunity. A bus tour, radio appearances, online consultations and web chats.

But the stark reality was with the unprecedented level of cuts handed down to the city by government, there were always going to be losers.

Two elderly care provisions, Shelton Pool, two libraries, Parkhall GC are all to close.

These will be followed by even more if trusts or social enterprises cannot be found including the City Farm and the very popular Tunstall Pool.

There was opposition to the budget in the chamber on Thursday. Community Voice councillors and a few others spoke passionately against the cuts. They even tried to get the decision postponed on the grounds of Equality Impact but the legal officer crushed them by confirming that their argument was without foundation.

Opposition councillors were attacked by the Council Leader for playing to the public gallery and for opposing the budget but not providing alternatives to the proposed cuts to services and facilities.

But it was exactly the same last year when the Labour Party was the main opposition in the council chamber. They too tried to grab the headlines with some last minute amendment.

Normally I enjoy the political banter, the squabbles, a dig here and a dig there, but on Thursday there was an air of desperation across the council chamber.

Our City Councillors were struggling under the weight of the burden of the decision they were about to make.

A Labour councillor who was quite visibly emotional said that she never came into politics to administer cuts on the scale that the city was facing. Another councillor said that he was there to represent communities and not destroy them.

An opposition councillor said that she could never support a budget which closed elderly care provisions as in her opinion they had paid into the city for years and deserved to be look after in the latter years of their life.

I think that the most telling contribution to the debate came from a councillor who said that when you are sworn in as a councillor it is like taking marriage vows, especially “Ëœfor richer or poorer’ and he urged his fellow councillors to remember the responsibility that comes with the office of councillor.

So with a sad and heavy heart the budget was voted through.

There then followed an interesting debate about councillors allowances. The same group who opposed the budget opposed a motion to freeze councillor’s remuneration.

The opposition suggested that councillors who earn over £21,000 per year have their allowances frozen in line with the government’s stance on public sector workers.

Coalition councillors argued quite rightly that it was totally wrong to allow an increase for councillors whilst imposing the level of cuts it has on the residents of the City.

I think that common sense prevailed in the end.

Councillors showed that they were responsible and sensitive to the public outrage over the cuts that would be totally exasperated by a raise in their allowances.

For me a councillor should be paid to a level where a broader cross section of the public would be encourage to enter into local politics.

But now is definitely not the time to increase councillors allowances.

There needs to be a culture change in the City Council ahead of the May local elections. This would certainly help to get new blood into the chamber.

Meetings should be moved to evenings so that people who work full or part time can also undertake public office should they wish to.

Let’s not forget that the next crop of City Councillors will need to wield the axe on the City to the tune of another £20million of cuts in 2012-2013.

The office of councillor is not going to be an easy ride over the next few years. There will be fewer in number and all we can hope for as a city, is that the new breed are as emotional and as sensitive as was displayed in the chamber on Thursday, whether they be in opposition or hold the balance of power.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Approve £35million Cuts Budget

Stoke-on-Trent City Council set their budget today [Thursday] following a long and sometimes heated debate.

The motion in moving the budget, which includes cuts of some £35million and the closures of several key facilities, was eventually won by 40 votes in favour to 13 votes against.

In voting to accept the budget proposals, councillors have agreed to the closure of Shelton Pool, Burslem & Fenton Libraries, Park Hall Golf Course, 2 elderley care provisions and other valued services and public amenities.

Unless viable business proposals are submitted by community groups or social enterprises the city could also lose Ford Green Hall, the City Farm, Etruria Industrial Museum and the much publicised Tunstall Pool.

It was not all doom and gloom however as the council have confirmed that it is to retain all the City’s Children Centres, Stoke Speaks Out, Shopmobility and all Local Centres.

In moving the motion to commend the Budget, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez said that it was imperative that the council set a legal and balanced budget. He also confirmed that there is to be no Council Tax rise in the next municipal year.

Cllr Pervez told the chamber that it had been a long and hard road to get to the point where the cabinet were able to recommend this budget. He reminded the chamber that the council could not allow petty arguments to derail the process of agreeing this budget.

He said that the cabinet and the officers of the council had been composed, collected and considered as well as open and transparent during the consultation and the budget setting process.

Cllr Pervez reminded the chamber that Stoke-on-Trent City Council had been the 8th hardest hit authority in the country and that those councillors who had accused the cabinet of scaremongering should be glad that they had prepared for the worse case scenario.

The Community Voice group moved an amendment calling for a postponement in setting the budget as they believed that there had been insufficient Equality Impact Assessments carried out on all the budget proposals.

Community Voice spokesman Cllr Mike Barnes, said that the council needed to minimise risk and should heed the legal challenges relating to Equality Impact across other authorities across the country.

Cllr Barnes urged the cabinet to accept the need to dot every I and cross every “Ëœt’.

He condemned the documentation produced to support the budget proposals for failing to mention Equality.

Fellow Community Voice Councillor Mick Salih criticised the cabinet and council officers for not handing round the printed amendment to the substantive motion before the meeting.

He also stated that he was unable to support the budget because there were a number of proposals in it that were still under negotiation. He said that it would be wrong to pass an holistic budget when a large amount of the fine detail was not known.

Deputy Council Leader Ross Irving [Conservative] said that legal clarification was necessary and suggested that the legal officer should address the chamber and give his opinion on whether there was an issue with regards to Equality Impact.

Paul Hackney gave a long and detailed assessment of the situation and concluded that in his opinion the Council had carried out the necessary assessments with regard to Equality and that they has shown due regard during the budget consultations, overview and scrutiny processes and in the final proposals.

Community Voice’s amendment was defeated heavily.

There was a long, passionate, heated and sometimes angry debate in the chamber on the substantive motion of adopting the budget proposals.

The debate was divided between primarily those councillors in the four-way coalition parties of Labour, Conservative and Independent Allliance, Liberal Democrat and City Independent Group [apart from Cllr Dave Conway who refused to support the budget] and those councillors in opposition.

The coalition councillors condemned the opposition councillors, especially the Community Voice group, for playing to the public gallery and for not providing an alternative to the budget proposals.

The opposition councillors especially Community Voice criticised the coalition for not listening to the residents of the city.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley accused the cabinet of lacking political judgement and of having no clear criteria in setting this budget.

Cabinet Councillors rebuked the accusations by saying that the criteria was always to protect the most vulnerable and needy in the city.

This meeting was one of the longest in recent times. Passions and emotions were running high. Coalition councillors constantly referred to the need to accept the financial situation imposed on the city by the National Coalition Government.
Coalition Councillors also spoke about taking political responsibility and demonstrating clear leadership in formulating this budget.

Opposition Councillors spoke of the hardship that the citizens and residents of the city will have to endure as a result of these levels of cuts.

No matter what the political persuasion it was evident that the burden of public duty was wearing hard on all the councillors within the chamber.

The opposition councillors gave it heir best shot and the coalition councillors stood firm in the face of adversity and backed their cabinet colleagues.

We have a series of Audio Interviews to bring you.

First one is with Cllr Mike Barnes from the Community Voice group who explains why they were seeking a postponement of a budget decision. This was recorded before the meeting.

Then we hear from Matt Wright from the Socialist Party who explains why his North Staffs Against Cuts group were urging councillors to reject the budget proposals.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party was ejected from the council chamber during the meeting for causing a disturbance.

Next up we hear from Liz from Trent Vale who was also asked to leave the chamber for trying [very peacefully] to address the councillors in the chamber to get support for Shelton Pool and from a member of the action group fighting to save Shelton Pool.

And finally we hear from the four leaders of the coalition groups on the City Council, Cllr Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Cllr Ross Irving [Conservative & IA], Cllr Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem] and Cllr Brian Ward [City Independents] who give their reaction to winning the vote on the budget.

Job Cuts At University Hospital North Staffordshire

The Guardian and the TUC are reporting this morning that 50,000 jobs are to be cut in the NHS over the next few years although the NHS is supposed to be protected from public sector cuts.

According to information gained from FOI requests University Hospital North Staffordshire is looking to reduce staff by over 1300 or almost 23% in the next 5 years.

The positions under threat over the next 5 years are:

  • 2010/11
    • reductions not clear. Figures are subject to review.
  • 2011/12:
    • Medical & Dental – 43.28;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 190.06;
    • Other Clinical – 38.74;
    • Other – 100.48.
  • 2012/13:
    • Medical & Dental – 49.96;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 219.42;
    • Other Clinical – 44.4;
    • Other – 115.99.
  • 2013/14:
    • Medical & Dental – 32.6;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 143.17;
    • Other Clinical – 29.46;
    • Other – 75.69.
  • 2014/15:
    • Medical & Dental – 30.83;
    • Nursing & Midwifery – 135.4;
    • Other Clinical – 27.6;
    • Other – 71.58.

Should the NHS & UNHS be protected from the cuts? What affect with this have on people in Stoke-on-Trent who have a lower life expectancy that the rest of the UK

Figures are for Whole Time Equivalents.

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have had their funding cut by £22.5million by this national coalition government.

Next year our city council are likely to face further cuts of around £20million.

The ConDem coalition always rolls out the old nugget of “Ëœwe’re dealing with the mess left by the last Labour government’, every time they are challenged on the severity of their austerity measures.

I wish Stoke-on-Trent City Council had £1 for every time that old nugget is used by coalition members in interviews with the media. You never know we might have even been able to save the City Farm.

Of course there has been no explanation forthcoming as to why the traditional Labour led authorities have had to bare the brunt of these cuts.

Here in Stoke-on-Trent some 800 City Council employees have applied for the Voluntary Redundancy programme currently in operation.

The programme is offering an enhanced redundancy package of 1.5 weeks salary for every year worked as the finance chiefs encourage as many carcasses as possible, out of the front door of the Civic.

Now it is unlikely that all 800 applications will be accepted, indeed my information is that some 600 will be nearer the number that will be able to take the money and get the hell out of Dodge.

A Sentinel article claimed this week that the City Council had spent some £17.7million on making 599 people redundant since 2007. This is an average pay out of around £29500 per person.

This figure is likely to include payouts made under Compromise Agreements. Some of which would have been paid to expensive senior officers who would have been “Ëœencouraged’ to leave the employment of the City Council. They would have had to sign confidentiality clauses under the terms of their Compromise Agreements.

But if, as the Sentinel article claims, an employee who earns £15000 per year with 10 years service will receive an enhanced package of just £4350. That does indeed give you an indication of some of the ludicrous amounts that have been paid out to rid the City of some big earners who have simply failed in their duties and as a result of their failure have walked away with a small fortune.

I am no stranger to compromise agreements; I have come across them in my professional career. They are used as a tool when an employer and an employee come to the end of a relationship where there needs to be a parting of the ways but there is no case for terminating the employment or a desire just to walk away from the employment.

Under these circumstances the pay out is a generous one and the employee, after taking legal advice, is happy with the settlement and signs a confidentiality agreement preventing him/her from disclosing the details of the said agreement.

I believe that a confidentiality clause is necessary in the private sector but I have my reservations whether it can ever be so in the public sector.

Furthermore I was astounded to discover this week that all City Council employees that are granted Voluntary Redundancy are being forced to sign confidentiality clauses or they will not be eligible for the VR scheme.

I ask, why the need for a veil of secrecy for these employees of the council to sign away their right of free speech without having the benefits of the kind of pay outs that some failed senior executive officers of the council have been awarded under compromise agreements in the recent past?

It begs the question of the kind of service we can expect from a City Council with 600 employees less over the coming financial year. It also worries the heck out of me what our city council infrastructure will look like in the financial year 2012/2013.

If government, as expected, reduce the City council’s funding by another £20million for the next financial year we could see a similar amount, or even possibly more, council employees shown the door and a further massive hit to front line services. More popular attractions will be forced to close down and life will be a miserable one for the people of this fine City.

This national coalition government have stuck the proverbial two fingers up to the local coalition. The Leader of the Conservatives in Stoke Ross Irving and his Lib Dem counterpart Kieran Clarke must be feeling a little more unloved by their national party hierarchy. They must also be bracing themselves for oblivion at the ballot box in May.

Ross and Kieran, along with Labour leader Pervez made a trip to London to plead Stoke-on-Trent’s case. Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles couldn’t be bothered to even meet up with them and his underling showed what an impression they had made by refusing their request for a £4.5million loan to help towards the cost of making 600 council employees redundant.

Yes folks, the ConDem Government have shown their love for the good people of Stoke-on-Trent by granting the City Council the grand sum of a £1.5million loan to help with the costs incurred by the forced reduction of the Council workforce and the instruction that the difference can be made up out of the reserves held for PFI initiatives [this money must be put back at some time] for the City.

Our local politicians are fearing a backlash in May. Sources are telling me that Tories are preparing for the loss of a number of their group. The Lid Dems are fearing oblivion and the City Independents are in total melt down at the fear that they are being tarred by the Coalitions brush. The CIG leader is refusing to play ball over the budget not for fear of doing the right thing however hard it may be, but for the fear of how that looks politically to the electorate.

There is even talk of a new group to challenge those who purport to be standing on and Independent basis. This group will include prominent ex councillors and are expected to feature a couple of current Labour Councillors in their ranks as well as a former councillor who is big in stature if not big in reality.

Community Voices preparations are going well according to sources. But whether they can muster the necessary number to be considered major opponents remains to be seen.

So finally the Governance Transition Board can be rightly proud that they made a difference to what the Government of the day considered to be a “Ëœpolitically fragmented council’ ““ with the realisation that there will be candidates from Labour, the Tories, the Lib Dems, City Independents, BNP, Community Voice, New Independent Group, English First, Non ““ Aligned and Libertarian ““ they did a job well done!

Welcome to the “ËœPolitically Fragmented’ Stoke-on-Trent circa 2011!

Local Councillors and MP’s Take Stoke-on-Trent’s Budget Cut Plight to Westminster

Councillor Mohammed Pervez, Leader of Stoke-On-Trent City Council will today accompany the regions three MP’s (Tristram Hunt, Joan Walley and Rob Flello) to Westminster to meet Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Andrew Stunell.

The meeting is a result of the MPs and the council lobbying Westminster to make a special case for Stoke-on-Trent to reduce the extent of the government imposed cuts through this years Financial Settlement.

“These cuts will be painfully hard for all council’s but for Stoke-on-Trent with our dependency on public sector jobs, the high level’s of people on long term benefits and the deprivation factors in the city, our resilience to these cuts is extremely low as indicated by an independent report last year.

“We know cuts need to be made, and we have already made significant progress to identify savings but we need Andrew Stunell to listen to us and present our case to Eric Pickles. Stoke-on-Trent should be an exception, a special case due to the combination of factors that contribute to the impact of these cuts being greater and unfair compared to most other council’s.

“These cuts are supposed to be fair but to me they do not seem fair for Stoke-on-Trent. I want to make sure central government is aware that these cuts will directly affect the most vulnerable in our city. We cannot continue to deliver all the services we currently deliver due to these unfair government cuts. There will be wide scale closure and reduction in service and facilities used by the young and old on our city.”

The meeting will take place today (Wednesday 12 January 2011) at 1:15pm at Portcullis House, Westminster, London. Councillor’s Kieran Clarke, Cabinet member for Finance, Performance and Governance and Ross Irving, Cabinet member for Community Safety, Partnerships & LSP for Stoke-on-Trent City Council will also attend the meeting.

Barnes Mistake Has Follows Thinking ‘Standards’ [UPDATED]

Two Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors were today embroiled in a war of words when one accused the other of not turning up to a council consultation meeting.

Community Voice Councillor Mike Barnes published a story on the official Community Voice website accusing Councillor Terry Follows, the cabinet member for Environment, Waste Management and Neighbourhood Services, of not showing up to a public meeting to discuss the imminent Council Cuts.

Cllr Barnes also accused Labour Councillor and cabinet member for Transformation Cllr Sarah Hill of a no show at the event at Hanley Market. The executive councillors were due to be in attendance between 3pm and 5.30pm.

Cllr Terry Follows reacted angrily to the accusation and in a statement issued today he threatened to report Cllr Barnes to the Standards Board if he did not receive a full and frank apology.

Councillor Barnes

I am amazed at you complaining that I was not present at the consultation event in Hanley Market, without full knowledge of the facts, and also placing disparaging remarks on your website. Had you have bothered to check with the press office or contact me personally you would have found that I was there present in the market from 2..00 – 5.00 as promised.

Due to this I would expect a full apology and a retraction on all websites published, at this stage I am considering whether this is an issue for the standards board.

Cllr Barnes has since amended the original story and removed all references to Cllr Follows.

The story still criticises Cllr Hill for her non attendance at the event which is designed to engage members of the public and to gauge their reaction about the upcoming council cuts which will be implemented as a result of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Cabinet Member Cllr Sarah Hill, yesterday failed to turn up and talk to the public about their proposed cuts to public services.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council Website clearly stated that she would be at Hanley Market between 3pm and 5.30pm 19 November 2010, yet those that turned up to meet them found her not in attendance.
Why tell people you are going to be there and not turn up ““ are they too embarrassed following the revelations of the £600,000 spend spree proposed for floor 1 for them and their cronies?
However, it does not surprise me as many of the Cabinet don’t bother to turn up to half the meetings they are suposed (sic) too like Overview and Scrutiny.

Sources have informed Pits n Pots that Cllr Hill’s attendance was published on the Council website by mistake. The Press & Communications Department were fully aware that she was not available due to work commitments well in advance of the meeting.

We have been contacted by several sources to inform us that Cllr Barnes has now emailed a brief apology to Cllr Terry Follows for his mistake.

“This is typical of the gutter political tactics that we have come to expect from Cllr Barnes”.

“I fear it is just a matter of time before he goes way over the top in his bid for fame and ends up in front of the Standards Committee on some indefensible action that could spell the end of a political career that has been on the slide for a considerable length of time!”.

“I for one would not lose any sleep if his immature brand of politics is lost to the chamber at the next elections and the Mike Barnes PR machine is derailed for good”.

This episode is sure to fuel the arguments of some councillors across the chamber that Cllr Barnes is playing petty political games and is concentrating on personalities rather than formulating constructive political debate.