500 Words From Adrian Knapper

I have 500 words but only need one to describe my role as a City Councillor in Stoke-on-Trent for the last 11 years: dedication.

Marriage may have taken me to live outside of the area, but being born and bred within the Potteries I am dedicated to doing my best to make Stoke-on-Trent a better place. This in mind I plan to expand my business to create more jobs in the City.

Since becoming a City Councillor I have helped establish the Staffordshire Credit Union, and, during my time as Portfolio Holder for Public Health, have introduced Street Games, Lifestyle Programmes and expanded the Energise Plus Leisure Scheme. I have also worked with Labour’s Ed Balls during his period of Secretary of State for Education to win extra funding for our Secondary Schools (National Challenge Monies). This has helped enhance the educational achievements of many young people within Stoke-on-Trent.

I am passionate about improving the prospects of the people in Stoke-on-Trent. During my time as previous Portfolio Holder for Regeneration many of the building blocks for projects like the refurbishment of Potteries Way, the new 6th Form College, UniQ, the building of the new Bus Station and other projects that will bring more jobs to the city were established as part of the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership Business Plan.

More employment is key to the future success of Stoke-on-Trent. I am proud I have put part of my councillor’s allowance into the North Staffs Risk Capital Fund that has helped secure and create more than 700+ Jobs.

But being a councillor has its share of downsides too. I would have preferred a new Community School in the Bucknall area and I fought hard against the closure of the City Farm. Unfortunately, cuts were forced onto the people of Stoke-on-Trent by this Conservative/Liberal Democrat Government. We were obliged to set a legal budget, but I did my best to ensure vital services were saved.

I am always a strong voice on local issues. I am committed to the people of Stoke-on-Trent and this is why I wish to serve them again on the City Council.

The revised ward boundaries have moved me side wards to the new Abbey Hulton and Townsend Ward and I look forward to representing an area in which I grew up ““ I attended Townsend Primary School and Carmountside High School.

I have a good record of doing my best to responding to people’s problems and representing their interests. If re-elected, I will continue my monthly ward councillor surgeries and carry out regular neighbourhood street level contact with local residents.

I can only give one election promise and that is to continue to do my best giving my time and energy to the people of our Stoke-on-Trent.

City Farm: A Tale of Council Failure

If Stoke-on-Trent City Farm in Bucknall had been an animal, the RSPCA would have turned up long ago, taken it into care, and prosecuted its owner for cruelty and neglect.

Don’t get me wrong, the staff at the farm have been excellent, both in looking after the animals and welcoming visitors to the facility. Thousands upon thousands of children, parents and grandparents have enjoyed this popular visitor attraction over many, many years.

In the summer of 2010 a national newspaper, The Guardian, placed it in their top 10 places to visit with children, describing it as a “gem”. Here what it had to say:

Poor old Stoke does not get into many top tens but in their city farm they have a real treasure. Tucked into the south-east corner of Bucknall Park, the farm is home to llamas, kune kune pigs, chipmunks and a glorious sweep of domestic fauna. There’s also a sensory garden to thrill and tantalise all five senses. For afters, Bucknall Park has a children’s playground and, in the summer, a cafe too.

The Council Leader, Pervez, would have us believe that its closure is down to the governments severe cuts in finance. Anybody that has observed or been involved in recent years with the City Farm will know that its demise is at best a case of indifferent carelessness, or at worst a deliberate, lengthy painful cull ““ starved until it could survive no more.

Regeneration has been a top priority within Stoke-on-Trent with varying degrees of success and failure. However, this obsession with regeneration must not blind us nor lead us to neglect the treasures we already possess.

Take a good look around our neighborhoods, our towns and our City. Long gone is that smokey, choking caldron of industry. In its place greenery, open spaces and our majestic plethora of Victorian Parks. Shouldn’t this be at the very core of our regeneration efforts, instead of being seen as an expensive and not needed luxury?

Far too much of the momentum for regeneration in Stoke-on-Trent is based on “demolish the past ““ build the new”. Surely good sustainable regeneration is about taking what best from the past and putting it to a sustainable, modern, relevant purpose.

In early 2008 City Farm was threatened with Closure ““ the Save Dimensions campaign was gaining strength.

A Friends of the Farm group was set up ““ a new one every year since ““ and the ward councillors paid for a consultants report to establish a sunstainable way forward for the City Farm.

In 2008 £10k from the ward budget of Cllr Adrian Knapper, Rita Dale and John Davis employed consultants from the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens to come up with recommendations aimed at keeping the facility open, enhancing it and making it a viable sustainable enterprise.

Yet this expensive and valuable report went nowhere.

Two draft reports meant for Mark Meredith’s EMB, with current Cabinet member Debra Gratton’s name on them, were blocked and never saw the light of day. The ward councillors appear to have forgotten about the report.

In essence, City Farm should have and could have been put on the road to self sustainability, and keep well out of the way of this year’s unfortunate cuts.

Instead it has now closed.

Our strategic management of this park and farm appears to have been non-existent ““ the only thing they have tried to do from an officer perspective is either close it or move it.

City Farm is not closing because of the Coalition Government cuts. It is not closing because the council has got to make savings. It is not closing because of lack of visitors or poor staffing.

It is closing because Council management have wanted it shut for years, and the three ward councillors FAILED to follow up on their initial investment of £10,000 on a consultants report. Public they spent and then wasted.

Pervez and many of his Cabinet were in senior positions in 2008 and since that should have and could have preserved the City Farm ““ so stop blaming the Coalition Government.

For me the blame clearly lies with the three ward councillors ““ Knapper, Dale, J. Davis ““ Pervez (Deputy Elected Mayor in 2008) and Debra Gratton.

Stoke-on-Trent’s City Farm Needs You!

Everyone’s life will be affected by the Conservative/Liberal Democrats Government cuts in public finance.

Recently Stoke-on-Trent City Council has announced its consultation process with regards its budget plans.

“Within the City Council budget plans, I have concerns about the City Farm at Bucknall and it’s clear that the future of this much loved family attraction is only secure if it moves to become a social enterprise or co-operative trust.”

The problem is that the current Friends of the City Farm do not hold the capacity or ability to raise the necessary funds to take over its running.

“In my heart, I want to retain and keep the City Farm open and over the last five or six years I have continued to fight to protect it. It now face’s an uncertain future.”

“In order to try and keep the City Farm Open, I appeal to people or organisations to come forward to volunteer to help. We need people power, which hold the necessary dedication and skills to establish a trust to take over and run it.”

If anyone is interested in supporting the City Farm to remain open by volunteering their skills to establish a trust, I kindly request for them to contact me via email at adrian.knapper@stoke.gov.uk”.

Sign Up And Adopt Animal Down At The City Farm In Stoke-on-Trent

Berryhill & Hanley East Ward City Councillor Adrian Knapper has adopted Chicco and Pirate the llamas at the City Farm, Bucknall.

Under a new scheme that as been introduced, visitors to this much loved popular attraction can now sign up to adopt an animal that will help feed and care them.

Over the last 3 months, the City Farm had over 28,000+ visitors, yet nothing has been charged to gain admission.

“In times of the Government making cuts in public expenditure. It’s important that members of the public realise the cost of running this family facilities like the City Farm.”

“I am trying my best, to help this facility to make sure that it remains an enjoyable experience for all, but visitors to this site need to consider giving a little to help support the running cost of the City Farm.”

Members of the public can adopt one of the friendly animals from as little as £5 per year for a Rabbit or up to £30 for the llamas. Adopters receive a certificate; a newsletter twice a year and a special privilege pass that allows the adopter to have personal hands on session with their animal with the assistance of one of the animal keepers. This would make an ideal Christmas or Birthday present.

“If you love the animals down at the City Farm, please help by joining the adopt the animal scheme.”

Alternatively members of the public can also help support the City Farm by joining the active Friends Group who is working to promote and enhance this facility, just pop down and ask the staff for details.

Stoke-on-Trent Ward Councillors Present Cheque To City Farm Support Group

On Friday August 6, the three Ward Councillors for Berryhill & Hanley East, Councillors Rita Dale, Adrian Knapper and John Davis presented a cheque for £5,000 to the “ËœFriends of the City Farm’ support group.

This was a donation from the Ward Budget towards fund raising to help improve the facilities at the farm. The support group formed in February this year with the objective to promote the city farm and raise funds to renovate the facilities.

“All ward members got together with the support group and agreed this was an appropriate way to spend the ward budget. We feel it is a valuable resource for local people it is loved by children and older people alike. It is a real asset to our ward.”

Any member of the public can join the Friends of the City Farm support group by contacting Jeff Johnson the Chairman of the group on 01782 212976.

Statement on the budget from Councillor Adrian Knapper

George Osborne says his top priority is cutting the deficit.

But in order to get the deficit down, you need to keep economic growth up and you need to keep unemployment down.

You don’t get borrowing down by pulling the plug on support for business, throwing people out of work and stifling economic growth.

The Chancellor delivered a budget that will throw people out of work, hold back economic growth and damage the public services we all rely on ““ and increased VAT from 17.5% to 20%, so that higher prices will be paid in the shops by everyone, from pensioners to the unemployed

The Tories’ cuts are unfair to families and older people: cuts to the disability living allowance, cuts to help for the jobless, cuts to tax credits, cutting back free school meals, and cuts to Child Benefit, which they have frozen for the next three years.

What the country needed was a Budget to support economic growth, protect jobs and cut the deficit fairly. Instead the Tories gave us a reckless Budget that pulls the rug out from under the recovery. And they couldn’t have done it without the support of the Lib Dems, who have let down everyone who voted for them in the election just a few weeks ago.

A New Look To Stoke-on-Trent Labour Group.

Following a meeting of the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council it has emerged that Cllr Mohammed Pervez [Burslem South] will continue as Group Leader.

Pervez saw off a challenge by Cllr Adrian Knapper [Berryhill & Hanley East] at last night’s AGM. Cllr Tom Reynolds [Longton North] is the new Deputy Leader. Cllr Sarah Hill [Fenton] is the new Group Whip.

Last nights meeting was the first since the election.

The Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent gained 12 Council seats to boost their ranks from 14 to 26 Councillors. They are now the biggest Group on the Council by a considerable margin.

The City Independent Group have 11 Councillors, The Conservative & Independent Alliance have 7, the British National Party have 5, the Liberal Democrats have 4. There are currently 3 non-aligned councillors, but one of them, Cllr Mike Barnes is expected to join the Non-Aligned Group who have 2 councillors following the defeat of Alan Joynson. There is one Libertarian Councillor. Stoke-on-Trent City Council Stoke-on-Trent  Central Constituency Labour Party will hold an AGM in the next few weeks to elect new officers following some high profile resignations.

The Regional Officers had declared the pre-election AGM null and void. Sources indicate that there will be no shortage of willing volunteers now that the Labour Group have swelled the number of their councillors in the Central Constituency from 2 to 8.

Newly elected Labour Member of Parliament Tristram Hunt has also stated publicly that he wants to unite the constituency and to bring ex members back to the fold.

The Names In The Frame – But Beware Of Who Comes Up On The Rails!

Now that the dust is settling on the news that Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Mark Fisher is to step down on health grounds, names are emerging thick and fast for the vacancy

As previously reported on this site City Labour Party Chair Sarah Hill and Election Organiser Jane Heggie were the first names to be linked.

I can reveal that other names that have been linked with the vacancy include Labour Councillors Tom Reynolds and Adrian Knapper.

Another name to be linked is that of Alison Wedgwood, a Labour Party Member and wife of Tom Wedgwood.

Gary Elsby is desperate to be a candidate after 30 years dedicated loyal service to the Labour Party. His timely removal from the parliamentary list has thrown his candidature into serious doubt. He is committed to standing as an MP in the area he has served for many years. It is rumoured that he has the support of a large section of the membership in the constituency. The sad fact is he may have to step outside of his beloved party to achieve this. I think he is totally prepared to do this.

Alison Wedgwood is rather an unknown quantity. She was in Stoke-on-Trent South for a time and is now a member of Stoke-on-Trent Central. My information would lead me to believe that she is not that active a member and does not attend many meetings.

Adrian Knapper is based in Nantwich which will not be a problem for him as far as being a Labour PPC but there are members who question whether he should be allowed to stand as a City Councillor. I don’t think it makes a difference where he lives as long as he’s able to cope with the workload. Some people in Stoke Central are against him because of his time in the EMB and his support for the policies of the previous Elected Mayor. I think people underestimate Adrian, he is ambitious and committed and his suggestion that the long service of Mark Fisher be recognised by the City is both honourable and credible.

Tom Reynolds is a guy I have had a lot of contact with. He is a councillor for the ward in which I live and we have worked together on issues like anti-social behaviour and schools/BSF. Tom is always accessible. He is compassionate and caring and has strong but progressive Labour values. He is extremely well liked in our ward and I think he would make a very capable and hard working MP. He is a guy who has a strong social conscious and would work tirelessly for his constituency. Whether Labour members in Stoke Central hold the same view is an entirely different matter. He would no doubt, through his association with Rob Flello MP, be viewed as one of ‘those West Midlands’ crowd.

Wouldn’t it be positive if all those who have expressed an interest in standing shared their vision for Stoke-on-Trent Central with us through this site. We would welcome their involvement even if they chose to contribute without allowing people to comment on their submissions.

There are also names from outside of the City being linked to this Labour safe seat

The selection criteria is expected to be announced on Friday and it is rumoured that there will be an eventual shortlist of 80% women and 20% men which could mean that by the time the Special Selection Panel, the NEC and the Regional Office have finished with the cull of names, the rank and file membership could be left with the choice of just 4 females and 1 male candidates.

The Labour Party have to act quickly and decisively on this issue. They have to show some sympathy for the views and opinions of the rank and file members in Stoke Central. Why not try and claw some form of respectability back and allow their ‘preferred’ candidates to go up against those that are wanted by core members and work on the old adage of best man/woman wins.

I admit that I would find the prospect of a hustings where Sarah Hill, Jane Heggie, Tom Reynolds and Adrian Knapper went up against the likes of Gary Elsby on a stage answering the same questions in the same pressurised environment.

I have a lot of time for both Tom Reynolds and Gary Elsby and would love to see them go head to head in a hustings. Both love the Labour Party, but both have perhaps a different starting point. Both their own men, Tom the new kid on the block and Gary who has waited for his chance since the early 80’s when he joined the party around the same time as I did.

How intriguing would it be to see Sarah Hill and Jane Heggie vying for the same votes when they both have a similar outlook on the Labour Party, where it is today and which direction it needs to travel in next.

The danger for Labour though is that they are so focused on themselves and their own ambitions that they are in mortal danger of allowing a runner to come up through the pack on the rails.

Whilst Labour are busy jockeying for position, the Conservatives are mounting a confident campaign. Norsheen Bhatti is no also ran. She has the backing of an assured campaigning team and the reports I am getting is that she is getting a very positive reaction.

Another Independent candidate is about to enter the fray in the guise of the Deputy Leader of the City Council, Brian Ward. He is a thoroughly nice guy and a confident speaker who’s key skill is the ability to interact with the electorate. I think he has a real chance of polling very well. Constituents in Blurton speak very highly of him and that appeal could transfer over to Abbey Hulton, Bucknall and Bentilee which are similar areas of social housing.

Of course the far right vote is heading for a split. Alby Walker who is enormously popular in Abbey Green and has a City wide profile will surely take votes off the BNP PPC Simon Darby. Darby disappointed some of the electorate with his no show at the YMCA organised Youth Hustings last week. He also missed a massive opportunity to engage with the young and first time voters. Just how many entrances are there to the Victoria Hall? If only he had contacted the organisers he could have escaped the few protesters that had gathered to greet him.

The Lib Dems will just plod and have no real chance in my opinion. They will mount a very low key campaign that will lack the flash, bang, wallop, needed to make a real impact.

Paul Breeze who failed to retain the Mayoral system when he campaigned against Mike Barnes and Democracy4Stoke is also standing as an Independent.

Matthew Wright is the Candidate for The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

There will also be a candidate from the National Front who will serve only to fragment the far right vote even further.

Interesting times I’m sure you will agree…..

Request for Honour of freeman of City to be given to Mark Fisher MP.

Berryhill & Hanley East Ward has made a request to the Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent Council that consideration is given to making the Honour of Freeman of the City to Mark Fisher MP.

It’s highly recognised that Mark Fisher has given 27 years of his life to the service of the people of this City, working hard to improve the quality of life for all citizens of the Potteries.

Councillor Knapper Says

“It’s only right that the City of Stoke-on-Trent honour Mark Fisher for his long service as Member of Parliament, by giving him this honour, he fully deserve recognition for the work he has done for the people of Stoke Central.”

The request has been passed to the Executive of the Council for consideration.

Knapper’s Outrage At Birches Head Proposals.

Berryhill and Hanley East City Councillor Adrian Knapper is shocked and outraged to read within Friday nights Sentinel that the Conservative/Independent Liberal Democrat Alliance that now runs Stoke-on-Trent City Council wants to expand Birches Head School by an extra 300 pupils when residents within the Bucknall area want a new School at the Mitchell site.

The Local Authority aim to invest £3.1 million extra into Birches Head High School that their own officers from the City Council have admitted was built prematurely under the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme in an outlined area rather than in the centre of the community that it serves.

These additional spaces will be created at the wrong location with out any consultation with members of the public and represent a major change to the BSF by the Local Authority who have always stated that their was not enough pupil numbers to accommodate extra class room space within this multi-million pound investment by the Government into Schools.

Councillor Adrian Knapper say’s:

“Its total wrong of the Education Authority to move forward with this plan without going out to consultation with local people who want a High School at Bucknall.”

“Now that it clear that this area of the City has the demand for more Educational Space at Secondary School level in the future, the City Council must do the right thing and build Schools in the best location to serve communities.”

With recent news that Primary School are full to capacity and extra temporary class room space is needed to accommodate growing numbers of pupils, Councillor Adrian Knapper has written to the Chief Executive of Stoke-on-Trent City Council requesting an urgent meeting of Ward Councillors for the area, asking that these plans are put on hold until the New Head of Department for Children & Young People takes office.

It would be far better to review the BSF proposals taking into consideration the increasing numbers of pupils to ensure that the potential to build an extra school at a location within the local community at Bucknall and give consideration to a new School at Longton that has been given approval by the Schools Minister on his recent visit to the City. The £3.1 million would be better invested to refurbish Mitchell High rather than build a School at a location that is out of reach for Children to reasonably walk to School.

A change in policy is required to ensure that Education Facilities meet the requirements of the people of Stoke-on-Trent.