Back on form and still battling for residents

Randolph ContehConteh wants bigger involvement in local politics

Achieving your goals as a political minority is never an easy task, but as Randolph Conteh proves hard work can go a long way. Luke Powell spoke to the City Independent councillor about how he makes his voice heard

As a City Independent councillor for the last ten years, 52-year-old Randolph ( Randy ) Conteh’s has made a number of significant changes to the Penkhull ward he represents.

His biggest achievements, by his own reckoning, have been the transformation of the local Penkhull parks, where through various public consultation meetings – set up by Councillor Conteh – there has been a huge improvement to the area. Continue reading

Chief Exec Must Draw on His Experience to Generate Income for Stoke-on-Trent City Council

I thought long and hard before writing this article as I have always been a massive supporter of John van de Laarschot.

The recent settlement between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the former Director Of Housing Environment & Neighbourhood Services Jeanette McGarry has dented JVDL’s halo significantly.

It’s OK to say that the council has insurance that indemnifies them against claims of this nature, but you have to ask yourselves whether this should have been a claim at all?

Pits n Pots broke the story back in April 2010, the very next day, we received a press statement that on the first read we kind of knew it would come back and bite someone on the bum at a later stage and we guessed that somewhere along the line, it would cost the City Council a large sum of money.
This bit:

Without admission of liability, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and its insurers have paid Jeanette an undisclosed sum in settlement of her employment and libel claims. The Council wishes Jeanette well in her future career.

admits liability, if there is no liability on the Council’s part then why the hell pay it?

We pay our chief executive in the region of £195,000. I can remember the council officers and elected representatives defending this huge sum of money by saying that if we are to attract the best, we have to pay for the best.

At a time when a significant number of CEO’s across the country are taking a voluntary pay cut, highly paid public sector executives need to show that they are in touch with the reality of life in the cities in which they work.

Staffordshire Moorlands CEO has just taken a 7.5% cut in his salary; his basic salary is in the region of £45,000 less than his counterpart in Stoke-on-Trent. I think this action shows that those at the top are aware of the difficulties facing the citizens out there on the mean streets. Services and amenities are being lost, people are feeling the strain. This gesture, albeit token in nature, tells Joe Public that in a small part, he is feeling the pain too.

I have supported John on bringing Vanguard into the City Council to implement their “ËœLean Systems Thinking’ model which will reduce the layers of bureaucracy and increase efficiency. This simply had to be done, had it not been, the recent cuts would have been far harsher.

I don’t think that the 700 job losses are the last either. With £20million worth of cuts still to come in the next financial year, even more council employees will be for the push. I have said before on this site that I can see the council workforce 20% lighter than before JVDL started here in Stoke-on-Trent.

That said; JVDL needs to start delivering more than just cut, cut, cut for this city. We could well do with no more loose tongue mentality [or should that be loose keyboard syndrome?] that don’t result in another astronomical pay out to a disgruntled officer of the council.

I think I am more upset that the media release about the recent pay out didn’t contain anything that acknowledged any regret for the release of a statement that cost our council dear. Moreover, Mr van de Laarschot has not come out with any statement either apologising or expressing regret to our elected members. He had the perfect opportunity at the annual council meeting.

Our council leader or the leader of the opposition did not broach the subject either, now maybe that was because the Annual Council tends to be a ceremonial event as opposed to a full blown political debating opportunity. Time will tell as the next full council meeting is scheduled for early July and Dave Conway may choose to land a few telling jabs and a right hook during the exchanges.

The reason that I am calling for John van de Laarschot to draw on his considerable experience to help the City generate income is , as the ex head of Coca Cola Europe, he will have the ideas and commercial experience to help the council maximise their revenue potential.

An example is the number of commercial council properties that are lying empty across the city. Can these be used by people who want to start up businesses but may have a problem finding the funding or getting the banks to lend? Leases can contain rent free periods and certain other inducements, but if we have someone who has commercial experience and can think out of the box, instead of chargeable rent maybe there could be a share of profit with the council instead.

That way empty units can be filled. Revenue could be earned. Business start ups can get the help and support they need and more importantly cash could be rung through the council till.

Real entrepreneurial skill is required to facilitate the kind of regeneration that is needed in a city like Stoke-on-Trent. Fill those empty units, help the 6 towns to regenerate and to become more vibrant, encourage money to stay within the local town centre economy.

The city council needs to encourage social enterprises and to transfer assets to worthwhile, credible ventures.

I believe that in a City that is lacking in skilled job opportunities, those at the top of the City Council including the CEO, the council leader and his cabinet have to meet the challenge to get people back into work head on.

Other cities have proven officer type, career public servants at the top of their authorities. We chose to employ someone with a different skill set, with more to offer and a real commercial brain to head up our authority.

That person needs to step up to the plate and deliver now.

Pervez and his cabinet think that they have a mandate to carry on cutting ““ they don’t!

They have a mandate to bring wealth creation, prosperity and opportunities to our city over the next few years.

Yes there may be a few difficult decisions to make along the way, but the city and more importantly the electorate, will judge them on their achievements.

I believe that cuts are not an achievement – bringing a brighter future, full of hope to our citizens, is.

2011 Election Coverage

It is just over a month until the polls open for one of the most important local elections in Stoke-on-Trent for many years, with changes to the ward boundaries, a reduction in councillors and moving to whole elections.

This year we are going to build on our coverage of the 2010 local & general elections and provide even better coverage of the candidates, campaigns and the election.

We are putting the finishing touches to our 2011 Election Section and will be publishing it very soon.

Candidates
This year each and every candidate will have their own page here on Pits n Pots where we will link to news stories about each candidate both on PnP and other local media, link to copies of any election leaflets that they produce.

Tony Walley will be going out on the road and speaking to any candidates who take up our open offer which is:

Pits n Pots will allow you to publish 500 words about your campaign and give you the option of a 5 minute audio interview both of which will be published unedited in return you will be asked a number of questions which have been suggested by Pits n Pots readers, each candidate will be asked the same questions.

If you decline the offer of an interview with Pits n Pots that is fine but a candidate page will still be created with any publicly available information.

Questions
What questions do you think we should be asking the candidates in this election? Use the comments below to come up with suggestions, we will sort them and then put the best up for vote to be included in our candidate interviews. Keep the questions generic as they need to be asked of each & every candidate.

We will include 1 or possibly 2, depending on interest, ward questions, so if there is a particular issue in your ward then feel free to add this in the comments below but make sure you say it is a ward question and provide the name of the ward it should be asked in.

Crowd Sourcing
We will be asking you, our readers, to help us with our election coverage when it comes to Election Leaflets.

This year we are working with the Election Leaflets website. What we would like you to do is, scan or photograph any election leaflets you get delivered and add them to the Election Leaflets site, all you need to do is upload your images and fill in a simple form, you don’t need to create any accounts just follow the instructions.

If you do upload any leaflets, please tag them with:

  • Candidates Name
  • Ward
  • Party
  • pitsnpots
  • Any other tags you think are suitable

If you could then drop an E-mail to le2011 at pitsnpots.co.uk with a link to your uploads, we will add the link to the candidates page. Please check the spelling of the candidates name as this is the most important tag that will be used by Election Leaflets to group the information see Shazad Hussain as an example.

Don’t worry about the site not having wards only general election constituencies on it, the Election Leaflets site will still accept local election leaflets.

If you don’t want to upload the leaflets yourself then you can E-mail the files to le2011 at pitsnpots.co.uk and we will do it for you. If you don’t have the ability to scan or photograph the leaflets then you can send them by post to or drop them off at:

PnP Election Leaflets
6 Towns Radio
Shop 26 Queen Street
Burslem
Stoke-on-Trent
ST6 3EG

and we will sort them out for you.

Lets make this the best Local Election coverage we can and let’s get as much information about our candidates as we can so we can hold them accountable for their promises & pledges for the next four years.

Stoke-n-Trent’s Newest Political Party “ËœCommunity Voice’ Launch

Stoke-on-Trent has a new political party ““ Community Voice.

Oh no! Not another one, some may say. Well this is an amalgamation of 2 existing groups, the Non-Aligned and The Potteries Alliance. So the net result is one group less in the council chamber.

Community Voice officially launched yesterday [Tuesday]. There were a number of people present including media, members of the public and former Labour Party members maybe looking for a new home.

The city’s latest political party will be represented in the chamber by 5 sitting councillors, Mick Salih, Peter Kent-Baguley, Mike Barnes, Pauline Joynson and Janine Bridges. They will instantly become the fourth largest group on the Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Community Voice’s main priority will be to scrutinise every decision made by the council’s ruling coalition led by the Labour Group and assisted by the Conservative & Independent Alliance, the Liberal Democrats and The City Independent Group, who between them have 47 of the 60 seats.

At next years “Ëœall out’ council elections, Community Voice is hoping to contest many of the 44 post Boundary Committee Review wards. They will target existing community activists who are currently serving their communities as volunteers.

The new kids in town have already commissioned a party website and adopted a new logo. They have published a draft policy document and set out their core aims and values.

The new party are claiming that they have a large number of people outside the council chamber who have expressed a desire to join.

There is no doubt that all five of this merry band of councillors are committed to making a difference. They set out their priorities at the launch and each spoke passionately about serving the communities that elected them before their duties in the council chamber. That said, they re-iterated commitment to the Overview & Scrutiny process.

The new group will also campaign to rid the city of the Leadership and Cabinet system of governance in favour of the “ËœEnhanced Committee’ model

Listen to the Audio Interview with Cllr Mick Salih below.

Watch the videos of the Community Voice members addressing the attendees at the official launch.

500 Words From Ian Mitchell City Independent Group Candidate Hartshill and Penkhull


*****************************************
**Archive Story From 2010 Election**
*****************************************

We are asking each and every candidate in the Stoke-on-Trent local election if they would like to write 500 words about themselves their reasons for standing and their campaign. Here is the response from Councillor Ian Mitchell City Independent for Hartshill & Penhull.

Helped with the development and implementation of the “Tesco Path” at Hartshill.

Supported Penkhull Residents Association in the placement of the Village Welcome Stone.

Supported Hartshill Residents Association in the introduction of Notice Board in Hartshill Road.

Instigated the setting up and development of Basford and Cliffe Vale Residents Association and their first Saturday “Fun Day”.

Supported the Police and the Outreach Youth Workers in the reduction of Anti-Social Behaviour across the ward.

Added pressure to have CCTV installed in Penkhull and Hartshill.
Worked on the development of Richmond Street and Lodge Road Parks, forcing through an Urgent Decision by the Council Leader to

progress the “Playbuilder” Bid for extra funding for both parks.
Started the “Bulb Planting Scheme” across all parts of the ward.
Supported Penkhull Church Hall and Minton Community Centre in their ongoing upgrading work.

Assisted Allotments Groups throughout the ward with financial support and technical support as needed.

Chaired “Allotments Task and Finish Group”.

Member of “Vacant Plots of Land” Task and Finish Group.

106 Monies T & F.

Conservation Areas T & F.

Worked on Parking problems across the ward, mainly caused by both hospitals and some caused by schools and Children’s Centre.
Environmental improvements planting etc. in Basford and Cliffe Vale area.
New path in Basford Community Play Area (The Grum).

Improved planting in BCPA.

Developed the gating orders for Palmers Green and The rear of Ford Street.
Supported residents directly affected by ASB and serious vandalism criminal damage.
Working with Highways Dept. Officers on traffic flow problems across the ward.
Involved with PACT and PACC meetings, partners and police.

Use RA and PACT, PACC and public events as a means of gathering information and issues logs.

Assisted with the development of the first Penkhull Jazz and Blues Festival, through ward funding and knowledge based assistance.
Steering the work of the AIT and its officers in their best use within the ward.
Worked with all Allotments Groups within the Ward on Fencing and Security Isssues and funding for various activities including the new fencing for The Limes Allotments Association Site. Production of Newsletters etc.
Governor at The Willows Primary School.

Governor at St Peter’s High School.

Helped with the initial financing of the T @ 2 Club at Minton Community Centre.
Still trying to work on a solution to The Penkhull Village Farm Problems and the area around it including Donald Bates House.

Applying pressure for improvements to the Old Post Office, Newcastle Lane, now insisting on enforcement.

Evening patrols alongside Police to ascertain levels of ASB or lack of in the whole of Penkhull and Hartshill.

Brought in Outreach Youth Workers to work with youth group congregating around the Laundrette in Penkhull.

Encouraged Laundrette proprietor to fix metal gates across the bottom of the steps to the entrance to the shop unit and also bring up to quality requirements the façade of the building as it is in a Conservation Area.
Promoted and supported the Penkhull Garden Village Conservation Area along with the residents who wished to be involved.

Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s services, working on improvements to ALL schools and youth opportunities throughout the city.

Candidates for council leader revealed

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter,

Five councillors have put their names forward for the position of Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader.
The deadline for entries closed at 5pm today. It can now be revealed there have been nominations from:
Councillor Mike Barnes, Labour group leader
Councillor Ross Irving, Conservative and Independent Alliance leader
Councillor Peter Kent-Baguley, Potteries Alliance leader
Councillor Alby Walker, BNP leader
Councillor Brian Ward, City Independent Group leader
The council will elect its new leader on June 5. The leader will then appoint a cabinet of up to eight members before taking office on Monday June 8.