Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Asked To Delegate CCTV Decisions To Officers

Decisions about CCTV in Stoke-on-Trent could be made by officers rather than councillors, if the cabinet accept the proposal being put forward to them on Thursday.

The recommendation, if approved, will see that all public space CCTV decisions will be made by Hardial Bhogal, Director of City Renewal along with a yet to be created CCTV Strategy Group and not the councillors.

The recommendations of the report are:

2. Recommendation(s)

  • 2.1 That Members approve and adopt the Community CCTV Strategy, and that officers review that Strategy in 2015.
  • 2.2 That Members agree a CCTV Strategy Group is established to oversee and implement the Strategy.
  • 2.3 That delegated authority be award to the Director of City Renewal in consultation with the CCTV Strategy Group to determine the future provision of public space CCTV in Stoke-on-Trent.
  • 2.4 That Members agree that regular monitoring reports are submitted to the relevant Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

If the cabinet approve this recommendation then decisions about CCTV in the city could be made behind closed doors without the same level of public scrutiny they would receive if they were made by councillors at open meetings.

Should councillors allow the delegation of decisions of things like CCTV to an unelected officer and group?

Photo credit Andy Roberts on Flickr

Stoke-on-Trent City Council CCTV Car Spotted Flouting Parking Rules

Stoke-on-Trent City Council CCTV car has again been spotted parking illegally while carrying out enforcement operations.

The car which has previously been reported on the My Tunstall website for being spotted parked on double yellow lines in Hanley was seen parked in a clearly marked loading bay on Huntbach Street near to the Potteries Shopping centre on Saturday.

A specific bay, bounded by white markings and signed to permit loading and unloading by goods vehicles. Parking is not permitted within these bays.

The vehicle as far as we are aware has no special status to allow it to contravene parking regulations, although it is unlikely that it will ever be reported for parking illegally as parking enforcement is carried out by the City Council who are unlikely to report themselves for breaking parking regulations & law.

Work to start on East West Centre redevelopment as landmark bus station gets green light

Work on a state-of-the-art new bus station in the city centre will start next week as planning consent is granted.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s planning committee today approved plans for the new landmark bus station in the heart of the city centre as part of the first phase of the £350 million redevelopment of the East West Centre.

The decision means work to transform the site of the current John Street surface car park in to a stunning new gateway for the city centre will start on Wednesday 23 March, ahead of schedule. In preparation, work has begun to revamp the John Street multi-storey car park to make room for motorists when the surface car park closes in the next few weeks.

“This is fantastic news for the city. We gave commitment to starting on the bus station by 28 March. We have managed this. This is a sign of our absolute commitment to making sure we deliver. The new bus station will become a lasting legacy for the city and will provide users with a quality, warm and safe facility.”
“This really is a significant day for the city as we prepare to start work on the first phase of the city’s major regional shopping development. This comes at a time when the Mitchell Memorial Theatre is nearing completion, work on the initial phases of the Central Business District is progressing and we are preparing to start the first phase of public realm works.”

The reserved matters planning application details the specifics of the design for the bus station, which include a dramatic sweeping roof and glazed concourse, as well as plenty of public spaces, comfortable enclosed waiting areas, public conveniences, CCTV, cafes and shops. The plans have been designed by the internationally renowned architect Grimshaw, who were appointed following a major design competition and consultation with local residents and businesses last year.

Work will start on the project next week with the installation of hoardings around the site ready for remedial works to begin. The John Street surface car park will remain open until the 2.4m high hoarding is completed around the site so that motorists can benefit from existing car parking spaces for as long as possible.

The revamp of John Street multi-storey car park will improve the lighting and general condition of the site to make a safer, cleaner and more appealing facility. The 590 spaces on the multi-storey car park are currently underused with only around 29 per cent of the bays being used at one time. The improvements will mean that the multi-storey car park will be able to absorb the extra demand from motorists when the 296 space John Street surface car park closes in a few weeks.

The bus station is the first stage of Realis Estate’s new regional shopping centre in Stoke-on-Trent. The East West Centre redevelopment project will transform the prominent city centre site of the existing East West Centre to create a new, 650,000 sq ft high quality regional shopping centre that will include a department store, a wide range of new shops, cafés, restaurants, vibrant public spaces, a multi-screen cinema, a hotel and improved parking.

“We are delighted by the Council’s decision and look forward to the start of enabling works on site next week. The new bus station is a vital part of the redevelopment of the East West Centre and gives the city yet another good reason to look to the future with optimism. The development will become a stunning new gateway to the city centre that will create a memorable first impression for visitors.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

32 Year Old Man Arrested In Longport

Staffordshire Police arrested a 32 year old male in Longport this afternoon.

The male was wanted in relation to a serious incident in Merseyside.

Officers were made aware of a vehicle travelling on the M6 South at around 1.15 pm which it suspected to be carrying a suspect. The vehicle was spotted within minutes by a neighbourhood officer on patrol who relayed the information to the area control room at Hanley.

Officers armed with tasers supported by dog support were put in place to intercept the vehicle as it travelled along the A500 towards Burslem. At 1.30 pm officers stopped the vehicle, which was a taxi from the Merseyside area, near the BP petrol station on Porthill Road.

Inspector Paul Barker from the area control room said, ‘The suspect was seen in possession of a bladed weapon and was threatening the taxi driver. Officers used their taser weapon to subdue the suspect and disarm him. He was arrested taken to the Northern Area Custody Facility at Etruria. Paramedics attended to assist the driver who was not injured.’

He continued, ‘The suspect did not sustain any significant injury as a result of the of the officers actions. Our objective throughout this operation was the safety of the public, the driver and our officers, we were able to quickly deal with the situation and arrest the suspect.”

CCTV Operators from Stoke-on-Trent City Council also helped monitor the vehicles progress along the A500. The forces helicopter Air One was also able to help the control room team coordinate our response.’

Staffordshire Police are working closely with colleagues in Merseyside in relation to this investigation.

Another example of officer incompetence!

Hot on the heels on the failure to implement a rise in car parking charges, which would have netted our local Authority a substantial sum of money, we have another fine example of officer incompetence.

Today’s fine Iain Robinson article in the Sentinel highlights another member decision that has not been implemented.

Result? Another failure to boost the council coffers!

I refer of course to the proposed installation of bus lane camera’s that should have been covering many of the city’s bus only lanes.

The camera’s needed to have the Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology, costing £140,000, following a successful trial period, using standard CCTV.

Now, this was originally agreed back in 2003 and this failure has cost the city in the region of £300,000.

It has to be a total priority for the incoming chief exec John Van de Laarschot to ensure that all decisions that are passed by elected members are implemented in the correct time frames.

This latest cock up is another slap in the face to us, the council tax paying public of the city.

We are constantly told that our council must save in the region of £45 million of the next three years and that there can be no guarantee that front line services will not be affected.

And yet here we have yet another blatant example of the sort of incompetence that angers the public to the core.

I would place a hefty bet that the officer that is responsible is no longer working for this authority. But assurances must be given via our city’s leading politician that cock ups like this are a thing of the past.

Ross Irving must take a political stance over issues like this article by Robbo raises. It is not acceptable for Ross to keep jumping to the defence of officers who fail in their duties just because it isn’t the done thing to criticise in public.

Well let me remind you Ross, It is the PUBLIC that bare the brunt of such incompetence and it is our pockets that are stretched to cover the shortfalls that short comings of certain officers create.

 

 

Interview with Brian Jones

By Mike Rawlins & Tony Walley

After the party political broadcast by the BNP on Wednesday we were put in touch with Brian Jones of Woodfarm Residents Association.  Tony and I went along to interview him about the deployable cameras installed in the area and his work with the Meir (North) Newsmag.  In the audio interview below you can hear the real story of how the deployable cameras came to be installed in Meir and who found the funding for them.

[audio:http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/audio/0509/brian-jones.mp3]
Brian Jones with one of the deployable cameras

Brian Jones with one of the deployable cameras

After the interview Brian took us for a walk around the estate to show us the cameras and the work that had been facilitated by the Residents Association.  The walk around the estate took twice as long as we had expected because every person we passed on the street had something to say to Brian, or Brian had some information about a football or cricket match that had been arranged.

If it wasn’t details of the sporting events organised by the residents association it was details of coach trips that are being planned to the military tattoo in Birmingham, a trip close to Brians heart as both he and his wife have a strong services background, Brian was in the army and served all around the world while his wife served in the RAF.

Brian went on to tell us that in the past 12 months no fewer than 38 school leavers had joined the services as a way of escaping the current economic climate.  He told us that in general the kids do want to work when they leave school but there are no jobs for them so they go and join up.

As we walked though the play area, Brian told us that the kids have a litter pick every Saturday morning to help keep their bit of the estate clean.

Meir (North) Newsmag.

Brian writes, prints and collates the monthly Newsmag for Meir.  Each month he produces between 3000 & 3500 copies which are then distributed around the estate by volunteers.  The tag line is ‘By The Residents For the Residents’ which sums Brian up, he is ‘just a resident’ who has decided to do something to make the area where he lives a better place.  Being able to write a 12 page magazine each month is no mean feat, to print it and deliver it is something else.

Brian estimates that it costs around £85 each month to produce.  He says he begs and borrows whatever he can to make sure that the magazine is published.

Council ‘spying’ to be restricted – Is Big Brother watching?

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter.

Big Brother Watching?

Big Brother Watching?

Councils in England and Wales face new restrictions on the use of surveillance powers for minor offences such as dog fouling and littering.

The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) allows public authorities to intercept phone and e-mail data and use CCTV to spy on suspected criminals.

But Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has launched a review after fears it was being used for “trivial” offences.

The Tories and Lib Dems say Ripa has become a “snooper’s charter”.

But the government has resisted opposition calls for the use of the powers to be authorised by magistrates, arguing that the decision to use them should be left with councils and police.

Ms Smith said she could give elected councillors a role in overseeing council officials’ use of the powers.

The government is also considering raising the rank of local authority employee allowed to authorise surveillance to senior executives.

At the moment relatively minor council officials can give the go-ahead to surveillance operations.

Local Government Association (LGA) advice to councils is that it is inappropriate t0 use the powers for less serious matters such as littering and dog fouling, except in extreme circumstances.

It says such offences should be tackled through methods such as wardens, fixed-penalty notices and standard CCTV – as opposed to covert camera surveillance.

Ripa was introduced in 2000 to define for the first time when existing covert techniques, such as secret filming, could be used by everyone from the police to local councils and benefit fraud teams.

Ripa legislation allows a council to carry out surveillance if it suspects criminal activity.

On its website, the Home Office says: “The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act legislates for using methods of surveillance and information gathering to help the prevention of crime, including terrorism.”

It goes on to say the act allows the interception of communications, carrying out of surveillance and the use of covert human intelligence sources.

In one case, benefit investigators covertly filmed Paul Appleby, a disability allowance cheat from Nottinghamshire, who had claimed £22,000 in payments.

He was in fact a member of an athletics club – and secret filming of him competing in events was crucial to the case against him.

But one example cited by the Home Office as wrong is an investigation into parents using a false address to get their child into a preferred school.

Ministers said that an official should have simply knocked on the door of the home in question rather than mounting round-the-clock surveillance.

Now watch this video:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nD7a5aRZcMA

Sources: BBC/ITN

CCTV CITY BUS SHELTER TRIAL

Stoke on Trent is to take part in a Government funded pilot project to cut down on anti social behaviour and vandalism near public waiting areas.

Closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) could soon be put into bus shelters across the city, as trials take place to try and stamp out on anti social behaviour. A camera has already been fitted into the bus shelter on Chell Heath Road, near the junction with Springbank Road, in Burslem.

The bus operators, police and Stoke on Trent City Council have all found that the fear of crime associated with vandalism and anti social behaviour discourages people from using public transport. The bus shelter at the centre of the pilot scheme, has been identified as suffering from persistent vandalism problems.

Councillor Adrian Knapper, is the Portfolio holder for Regeneration and Economic Development, and he said, “The fear of crime associated with persistent attacks on shelters, seen at stops such as the one in Burslem discourages residents from using the services. It is hoped that by putting CCTV up, it will help reduce the problem”.

If the scheme is successful, the project could be rolled out across the city, with cameras being secured in other bus sheters, affected by crime and anti social behaviour.

Well, I’m all for this, but whether it will be a success or not, is another matter, but well done to the Council for at least trying.

I drive regularly through the Meir, and there are a number of bus shelters along Sandon Road, that are constantly smashed. Now, there is CCTV on the roundabout, but this has not deterred them, from smashing the bus shelter up, close to the library. I feel sorry for the elderly, waiting for the bus, as the ground is constantly covered in glass, and some are a bit unsteady on their feet, they could easily trip. How thoughful of the mindless idiots that cause this damage! Would they care, of course not, they would probably find it amusing.

We used to have bus shelters on the Meir Hay estate, but because they were constantly smashed, we just have a little post, with the number of the bus on it. Great in the summer, but awful in the winter, when it’s hammering down with rain.

I really do not understand the mentality of these yobs, that get some kind of buzz out of damaging property. They smash the bus shelter up, the next day its repaired, the next day its smashed up, and it goes on and on! At what cost to the Council, to constantly have to repair these shelters?

I say get the CCTV in , and when they are caught, give them the bill for the repair of the shelters, plus an extremely large fine. Is your area suffering from criminal damage? What do you think should be done to cut down on this problem? Give us your thoughts.