Election Campaign Launch – CV The Only Alternativ”‹e!

**PRESS RELEASE FROM THE COMMUNITY VOICE GROUP**

Today Community Voice launches its election campaign for the forthcoming local elections in Stoke-on-Trent.

Community Voice has 12 carefully chosen candidates across the City.

”I am so pleased and proud to be a part of Community Voice and our first local election campaign, especially in putting forward 12 quality, active, community candidates.

“We strongly believe we have made a significant contribution in the council over the last 12 months, both in terms of shaping policy and decisions, as well as effectively holding the council, Cabinet and officers, to account.

“Community Voice has clearly demonstrated the we are the only alternative to the council’s coalition, the only voice on the council in a sea of silence.

“Labour, Conservatives, City Independents, and Liberal Democrats are one and the same on Stoke-on-Trent City Council, putting party politics and their cosy coalition before ordinary people and their own residents.

CV has been the only group actively scrutinising and challenging decisions.

We make 5 cast iron and crystal clear promises, yes PROMISES, to our electors:

1. Our Communities Come First, and we promise that we will put them first
2. We promise to protect Adult Older Care

3. We promise to protect Children’s Social Care and Education including Children’s Centres

4. We promise to clean up the council, banish secrecy, route wrong-doing and fraud, and make it more open and transparent

5. We promise to give people more say and more power in their community.

We strongly believe that each councillor, whatever party or political persuasion should put the residents that elect them FIRST.

We look forward to the coming weeks, sharing our vision and passion with all residents of this great City.”

Every single one of Community Voice’s candidates has a track record of working hard in their community from all backgrounds.

”Our 12 candidates all have a solid background in the community. Each one has come to Community Voice, CV has not chased or canvassed anyone to stand.

“We have no “paper” candidates at all, unlike the other major parties such as Labour, Conservatives and the Lib Dems, and we have made the decision early on not to just accept anyone to build up the numbers. I can reveal we have turned down 8 approaches from individuals whom we felt it was not the right time for them to represent CV. This was for various reasons, most notably those that bear personal grudges against other parties or individuals.

“Residents and Communities need a real voice. One that put them FIRST without exception. CV will work with anybody in the interests on our residents from whatever political party, but we will not shy away from our responsibility to challenge bad proposals or decisions, or hold those that put party or self interest above this City and its citizens.”

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.

Waste Management & Blue Bin Purchase Issue Referred To Police

BNP Group Leader and Chair of the Audit Committee Michael Coleman has today confirmed that he will refer the issues raised in the Internal Audit into waste management to the Police.

The Audit committee yesterday agreed to accpet the Internal Audit Report and to note the letter of support from the District Auditor for the Audit findings.

There will also be an action plans to oversee the implementation of the recommendations contained in the report.

”The matter has been fully investigated by the council’s internal audit team, and the district auditor has confirmed that he will not take further action. The recommendations in both audit reports have been endorsed by the council’s Audit Committee, which has also asked for an action plan to be prepared to ensure the recommendations are fully implemented. Any matters referred to the police will be matters for them.”

Cllr Coleman has commended the report and stated that in his opinion the purchase of the blue bins at £1.63million needed further investigation.

Listen to the Audio Interview with Cllr Coleman below.

Cllr Coleman’s decision to report the matter to the police has come as a suprise to members of the Audit Committee

Cllr Mick Salih [Community Voice] has said that Cllr Coleman’s actions are more to do with headline grabbing ahead of the local elections.

He has questioned whether it was appropiate for the Chair of the Audit Committee to refer the matter to the police when the committee accepted the findings of the Internal audit and the implementation of its recommendations.

Cllr Sailh said that he hoped that he would make the complaint to the Police as an individual as opposed to as chair of the Audit Committee as his views were not shared by the other members.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Waste Management ““ Lessons Must Be Learned.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Audit Committee have today [Wednesday] concluded that the Authority must learn the lessons from the issues raised in an Internal Audit into the Waste Management services which led to the purchase of 84000 wheelie bins without the knowledge of any elected representatives.

The committee also moved a motion accepting the Internal Audit’s recommendations in their entirety and they also noted a letter from the District Auditor which supports its findings.

There will also be an Action Plan implemented that will ensure that officers keep elected members informed of the progress in meeting the Internal Audit’s recommendations.

4.1 It is acknowledged that many of the issues raised in this report took place at a time where the organisational structure and arrangements of the Waste Management Service was going through substantial changes; this led to a significant loss of expertise. Furthermore the staff who were in post when decisions were made/actions taken are no longer employed by the council and as a result any potential recommendations involving disciplinary action have not been made. However Recommendation 4 acknowledges that although issues have been identified within Waste Management which cannot be taken up with individuals, they highlight a need for a council-wide response. In light of the findings contained within the above report, the following recommendations are made:-

R1 That a comprehensive cost analysis is undertaken to
establish the full costs of both the enhanced recycling scheme and its predecessor. This analysis should take into account all associated costs (and revenues), for example income from saleable recyclables, achievement of savings, and costs of changing systems such as compensation arrangements. This should be reported to Cabinet and the appropriate Overview and Scrutiny Committee at a date to be agreed.

R2 That ongoing analysis and reporting of performance against government recycling targets is maintained, including an analysis of costs in the areas under scrutiny. This must take into account known variances and the impact this may have on future performance.

R3 That a cross party working group be established to review the council’s current and future waste management policy.

R4 Building upon the implementation of the council’s accountability framework, that a mandatory training programme is instigated to all council employees to strengthen compliance with regulations, including the specific requirements of the constitution.

R5 Building upon earlier requests that reports contain accurate and timely information and are clear and transparent and have been rigorously reviewed by Legal Services, Finance, HR and contain appropriate risk management information.

R6 That appropriate succession planning is implemented immediately to ensure that information is retained and appropriate handovers take place so that there is consistency in service delivery when key staff leave. This is particularly important in the current climate.

R7 That officers are reminded that disciplinary action will be taken in cases of serious breaches of Financial Regulations and Contract Procedure Rules.

Committee councillors voiced their disappointment over the
actions of officers involved in Waste Management, the procurement of the blue bins at an unnecessary cost of £1.63million and that the WRAP report had no member involvement.

They also took the opportunity to voice their anger over the city’s governance arrangements at the time of the fiasco. Councillors, Salih, Brian, John Davies and Coleman all cited the Elected Mayor/Council Manager system as being the catalyst for officers to treat elected members as if they did not exist or were of no importance.

Labour Councillors Hill, Hamer and Dillon insisted that relationship between officers and elected members must improve especially as many officers were losing their jobs and some were being relocated to different jobs and in some cases, different departments. There was a concern that some officers were taking on new duties without the appropriate hand-over period and information.

Cllr Hill said that it was irrelevant what the relationships between officer and members was like in the past but is was essential that communication between the officer core and members improved dramatically in the future as it was essential to the relationships that councillors had with the electorate and how communities engaged with the process of the city council.

Cllr Mick Salih voiced his anger that the Internal Audit did not name any officers involved but did contain the names of any elected members that were involved at the time.

He said that it was in the public interest that the officers involved in the issues highlighted in the Audit report were named even if they had left the city council and were employed in other authorities.

I do think that there have been some failings in the decision making and procurement arrangements.
I share the Internal Audits concerns about the process leading up to the decision to change recycling arrangements in 2008. As a result the City Council is not in a position to clearly demonstrate that value for money was achieved.

He said that he supports the Internal Audit’s recommendation that “Ëœa comprehensive cost analysis is undertaken to establish the full costs of both the Enhanced Recycling scheme and its predecessor’.

The Internal Audit investigation has highlighted several procedural defects including:

“¢ Failure to secure an approved Exemption Certificate for the temporary variation to the City Council’s green waste contract.

“¢ Poor record keeping in support of the blue bin purchase.

“¢ The fact that the bins were purchased before members had approved any requirement for them.

“¢ Purchase of the blue bins was not in the Forward Plan, nor it appears were urgent decision processes followed.

“¢ The lack of clarity over the decision to abandon the first composting procurement; and

“¢ The failure to ascertain why companies who tendered on the first occasion chose not to re-tender.

Clearly this situation is not satisfactory. However I am reassured that the City Council asked Internal Audit to investigate these events; their report has been made public and agreed by the Chief Executive. I do not currently believe that there is a case for a formal audit action on my part, but I will keep developments under review as I have said above and i will take these matters into account in my value for money conclusions for the relevant years.

Pits n Pots carried out a comprehensive investigation into the Waste Management and Enhanced Recycling procedures at Stoke-on-Trent city Council and we conclude that the Internal Audit proved our concerns valid.

We went into this investigation to highlight that under the Elected Mayor/Council Manager system of Governance there was a culture among certain high ranking officers that the individuals that we, the people of Stoke-on-Trent, elect to serve us were treated appallingly and were considered irrelevant in certain instances.

We believe that this reports that the WRAP report was “Ëœburied, and its recommendations never discussed with elected members.

We believe that 84000 blue bins were purchased at a cost of £1.63 million when there was not member approval and were not necessarily required.

We believe that there were never budget savings of £1million as stated by the City council.

We also believe that under the new system of Governance and under the direction of the new Chief Executive Officer there has been a considerable move to great openness and transparency. We feel that this internal audit is evidence of that.

We would like to thank those councillors who met with us and talked to us and gave us the help and assistance to bring this matter out into the open.

Please now take the time to read the Internal Audit Report and the letter from the District Auditor which can be found by clicking the links below.

Community Voice Find Money to Save 7 Children’s Centres

Community Voice have today announced the first alternative proposals to Labour’s Mohammed Pervez’s proposed cuts to City Council Services.

Community Voice’s first priority is to protect front line services that directly affect the most vulnerable in our Communities.

Proposals

* Scrapping the refurbishment of Floor 1 saving £650,000

* Reduce the Ward Budgets by a further £1m saving £1,000,000

* Freezing Cllr allowance increases on those over £21,000 (same as council staff increases) saving approx £20,000

* No Children’s Centre to close taking the savings above

”I believe that the proposals to spend such a huge amount on the Floor 1 refurbishment whilst we are contemplating such huge cuts, is both ludicrous and unsustainable. The redeployment of officers can still go ahead, but they should utilise facilities already in place, without the need for cosmetic dressing up, it would be a small sacrifice to save jobs and services.

Ward Funding has been of great benefit to the communities and wards it has been spent on over the last few years. But in these hard times, when other vital services are under such pressure, it is a luxury that needs to be put in perspective. Our proposal would still mean that councillors and communities would have funding to spend on community projects but this would be reduced in the interests of protecting vulnerable services.”

”We have made a commitment to work together the City Council Executive to try and work through a difficult budget setting period.

Public Sector pay has been frozen for all staff that earn over £21,000, whilst, quite rightly those below that level on low incomes will still get a rise. We believe that it is only right that councillors and their allowances bear their share of the burden. Our proposals mean that any councillors being paid more than £21,000 per year should not receive any increase that was agreed in previous years. This is only fair to present a level playing field with our hard working staff at the council.

We are deeply concerned about the proposals to close Childrens Centre, not just because of their importance, but the inconsistency in the figures produced by the Council on how much is spent on this service, as figures publish so far vary by £3m!

I hope the council will seriously consider our genuine positive ideas in order to work together to protect jobs and services.

This just represents out first suggestions and we anticipate that we can find many more savings to reduce jobs loses.”

”So many people, parents, grandparents and most importantly children, have benefited from our highly recognised Children’s Centres. Teachers in our schools have told me that they can instantly tell when children start school which have had Children Centre support and which have not, as they are far more prepared and far more advanced than those who have not.

This is a key service that must be protected in the interests of future generations. It is hard to believe that the Council would even consider this. So many people are upset by these closure proposals. I am delighted my colleagues and I have found a solution I hope the Labour and coalition will adopt to save the 7 Children’s Centres earmarked for the axe. I hope they do this at the earliest opportunity and address the worry and concerns of parents and staff throughout the City.”

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Meeting 21/10 – Lidice, Loans and Battles!

The Full Council Meeting opened with the sad news that Cllr Randy Conteh has had to step down as Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s representative on the Police Authority due to health reasons.

Randy is facing a very serious operation on his brain in the not too distant future and has been advised to slow his pace of life down. Anyone who knows Randy would confirm that he gives 100% as a councillor and as a member of the Police Authority.

I have spoken to Randy today [Friday] and he has asked me to pass on his thanks to all who have contacted him with messages of support which include fellow members of the Police Authority, high ranking Police Officers, Council Colleagues and members of the public.

Randy wants everyone to join him for the Soul Night that he has organised in aid of The Firefighters charity and the Lodge Road Park play area on October 30th. There are still tickets available for the event which includes a host of top DJ’s and as is typical for Randy he was more concerned about pushing this event than talking about the difficulties he will face in the future.

I’m sure that you will join with Pits n Pots and send your best wishes to a top bloke and fine servant of our city. We look forward to speedy recovery and to seeing Cllr Conteh back on the beat as soon as is possible.

The City Council has voted Cllr Brian Ward as their replacement for Cllr Conteh which came as a surprise to me given the tremendous amount of collaborative work with the Police undertaken by Cllr Roy Naylor.

Councillor Ward will have to juggle his cabinet work with his group leaders and ward work which makes his proposal even stranger.

For once there was some good news to come out of the meeting yesterday.

The City Council voted unanimously to accept a recommendation to explore links with the Czech Republic town of Lidice.

The Council accepted the following recommendations:

1. Members agree to work with the Lidice Gallery to explore the feasibility of an exhibition
and associated programme of work and an EU funding bid to support this.
2. That Members approve a commitment of £10,000 as seed funding towards such a
funding bid to be made from existing resources.

The historic links between Stoke-on-Trent and Lidice were brought into the public arena by Alan & Cheryl Gerrard of the Art Bay Gallery in Fenton.
Alan & Cheryl put a massive amount of effort into bring the story of Sir Barnett Stross to the current Stoke-on-Trent public and in particular the youngsters of our city.
Lidice is a village in the Czech Republic just north-west of Prague. It is built on the site
of a previous village of the same name which was completely destroyed by German
forces in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in the spring of 1942. All
192 men over 16 years of age from the village were murdered on the spot by the
Germans and the rest of the population were sent to Nazi concentration camps where
many women and nearly all the children were killed.
In September 1942, coal miners in Stoke-on-Trent, led by local Councillor Barnett
Stross, founded the organisation Lidice Shall Live to raise funds for the rebuilding of the
village after the war.
Barnett Stross was elected to Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 1937 and served until
1952 (during the later part of this period he was an Alderman). At the 1945 general
election Barnett Stross was elected as Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent’s Hanley division.
He received a Knighthood in the New Years’ Honours list of 1964.
Sir Barnett Stross KBE was honoured by the Czechoslovak government for this work
with the White Lion of Czechoslovakia, and became Chair of the British-Czechoslovakia
Society. He stood down at the 1966 general election, and died just over a year later.

Cllr Mick Salih [Community Voice] moved the motion to accept the recommendations and in doing so he said that it was a pleasure to move what was a positive story for the city. He said that it was vital to explore cultural and economic links with towns across Europe as it put our city on the map. He told the chamber that out of the tragedy of what one group of people could do to another back in 1942 some good could come from it with this linking arrangement.

Cllr Mike Barnes [Community Voice] said that he supported this motion whole-heartedly. He told the chamber that the story of Lidice highlighted that even out of extreme adversity success can be born. He hit out at Cllr Hazel Lyth[CIA] for doing nothing until the deadline for acceptance had nearly passed and only then did she act when he had made phone calls to the officers. He said that Cabinet members had to be more motivated than that.

Cllr Joy Garner [Labour] said that she was happy to support this motion and that it was important to remember the past and to never forget. She informed the chamber that there are 2 street in her ward that were named after Sir Barnett Stross. She said that through the Art side of this link he would never be forgotten.

Cllr Brian Ward [CIG] said that he too was happy to support this kinking arrangement. He said that £10,000 was a small price to pay.

I’m really pleased that Alan & Cheryl were present in the chamber to hear the debate and to see the motion passed with no one voting against. I was disappointed that no councillor mentioned the hard work that they put into this linking arrangement as I know it was not plain sailing.

Message to Councillors: Members of the public who work tirelessly for the city in which they live in and love, deserve your support and praise occasionally and is something that doesn’t cost any money!

Cllr Mervin Smith [Labour] moved the following motion in relation to a loan from the City Council to Galmor Investment SA:

That, subject as hereinafter provided, Stoke-on-Trent City Council provides a Term Loan
Facility of up to £1.2 million to Galmor Investment SA repayable over 10 years for the
refurbishment of the Angel Business Centre, Westport Road, Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent.
That the Director of Regeneration (in consultation with the Director of Central Services) is
authorised to negotiate and agree the final terms of the loan. Such terms to be
substantially in the form of the draft Provisional Offer of Loan Facilities attached.

Cllr Smith said this loan would enable the company to redevelop to former Wade Pottery site in Burslem. Upon completion it is expected that 168 new jobs would be created for the city. He gave assurances to all sides of the chamber that there would be a comprehensive period in which thorough Due Diligence would take place.

This process would cost in the region of £20,000 which would be paid by the company even if the loan arrangement did not commence should the due diligence highlight something untoward.

Cllr Smith reassured elected members that this loan agreement was viable and that Galmor had undertaken work for companies such as HSBC, NHS North Staffs & The Highways Agency.

The details of the loan are as follows:

4.1. A copy of the proposed Provisional Offer of Loan Facilities is attached to this report.
The key terms of which are set out below:-
Purpose of Loan development of a mixed use scheme
Facility Amount £1,000,000
Repayment Term 120 months from practical completion of the building works
Drawdown in instalments of not less than £250,000 against agreed
drawdown profile and on satisfactory completion of agreed
milestones. Final drawdown on practical completion of the
building works.
Security a charge will be required against the development and a
floating charge will be required over Dransfield’s remaining
assets
Interest Fixed at 6% above the base lending rate for the time being
of the Co-operative Bank Plc
Default Interest Rate Lending Rate plus 5%
4.2. Drawdown of the loan would be in instalments of not less than £250,000 against an
agreed drawdown profile and on satisfactory completion of agreed milestones, with the
final drawdown being made on practical completion of the building works.
4.3. If Stoke-on-Trent City Council agree to provide the required loan facility, the loan will be
repayable by Dransfield over 10 years in 120 monthly instalments in accordance with a
repayment profile which reflects Dransfield’s cash flow forecast.
4.4. Interest will be applied to the loan at 6% per annum above base rate (i.e., a commercial
rate). The rate will be fixed at the date the loan agreement is signed. Therefore State
Aid will not be an issue. In addition, a monthly monitoring fee would be charged to this
facility.
4.5. In advance of the emerging City Council policy for providing assistance to private
companies and due to the absence of a dedicated budget this matter is required to be
considered by full Council Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s role in providing this loan
would be as a “Ëœlender of last resort’ as all opportunities for securing borrowing from a
commercial bank and other external funding opportunities have been exhausted.

The report detail and the assurances given by officers were commended by Cllrs Salih & Kent-Baguley [Community Voice] and that they were happy to support the motion.

Cllr Kent ““Baguley said that he celebrated this king of initiative by the City Council as it sent out a different message to that of the banks that we as a city are open for business unlike them.

Cllr Pervez [Labour] said that it was important that this deal go ahead. He said that this showed that the council was demonstrating that it could go forward with complete member involvement. He reminded the chamber that the government were relying on private sector jobs in the wake of the announcement that 500,000 public sector job losses over the coming few years. He said that Stoke-on-Trent City Council could lead the way and that this arrangement showed that it was serious about regenerating the city and the Mother Town of Burslem.

Cllrs Barnes, Ward and Shotton all spoke in favour of the motion.

Cllr Shotton [Labour] suggested that 50% of the cost of the Due Diligence should be paid up front by the company as it would be a devil of a job to get the whole amount if the agreement collapsed as a result. He said that the 168 jobs that this development created would help to support around 700 children of the families employed.

The vote was carried unanimously.

Last but by no means least , as the meeting was drawing to a close a political argument broke out between members of the Community Voice group and Council Leader Mohammed Pervez [Labour] and Deputy Leader Ross Irving [CIA].

Cllr Pervez was questioned by Cllr Barnes abouyt what he was doing to oppose the government cuts imposed on LA’s as a result of the Comprehensive Spending Review on Wednesday.

Cllr Pervez said that he was working very hard and had written to Local Goverment Minister Eric Pickles to make a special case for the City of Stoke-on-Trent. He also said that he would be consulting with unions and he would carry on talking to residents to gauge their concerns about unavoidable cuts. He did confirm that there would be some loss of service and that his job was now more difficult as the government announced cuts of 28.4% over the next 4 years as opposed to the expected 25% cut.

Cllr Salih rounded on the Council Leader and said that he needed to do more than just write letters. He said that
Cllr Pervez ought to join up with other Labour led authorities and to take direct action as they had in France.

Cllr Barnes entered the debate and remonstrated with the Council Leader and said that the cuts were a devastating attack on the poor and most vulnerable in our city.

Cllr Pervez argued that he was already talking with other Labour led authorities and that they were working together to reduce the impact of the cuts and to maximise any opportunity that may arise to gain extra funding. He went on to attack the Community Voice for petty headline grabbing and he said that he would not take advice from former disgruntled Labour members.

Cllr Irving [CIA] defended his party’s position of implementing widespread cuts and said that to do nothing would almost certainly confine the country to bankruptcy. He said that the opposition remarks were a throwback to 1984. He attacked the Community Voice councillors for having nothing positive to contribute and he said that the public would not support the type of action that we have seen in France.

Cllr Pervez said that he would try his best to bring private sector jobs by working with businesses like Galmor which would get people off benefits an into work.
He finished by attacking the negativity of the Community Voice councillors and their endless search for cheap headlines.

“We will show you how it’s done” ““ he said in his closing statement.

Well Pervez let’s hope you are right ““ your city awaits…..

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Waste Management ““ The Saga Continues

When I interviewed Jane Forshaw, the Head of Environmental Services at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on behalf of Pits n Pots, I was impressed by her straight talking and her willingness to be “Ëœopen and transparent’.

My optimism grew further when she confirmed that she would be willing to answer any follow up or supplementary questions.

My optimism was snuffed out however when I supplied a list of questions to the Council’s press and Communication Department to be forwarded on to Jane Forshaw. They replied that the request was too “Ëœresource heavy’ and we were guided down the Freedom of Information route. This came as quite a surprise given Jane’s comments in her interview ““ that questions asked under FOI tend to be one dimensional and as such can be answered in a one dimensional fashion.

So much for openness and transparency!

Today Pits n Pots submitted the following questions under

FOI through “ËœWhat Do They Know’:

Dear Stoke on Trent City Council,

I am being asked by your Press & Communications Department to make
FOI requests to gain answers to the following questions.

1] Why was a ‘collection only’ remit given to WRAP for their report
[dated 4/3/08 ref ROT019] and not ‘collection and disposal’

2] Is the remit given to WRAP the reason that, in Jane’s view, it
was flawed?

3] The report gave various solutions, one of which was option j.
This option recommended a solution close to the process adopted by
Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council who are now achieving a
recycling rate of 50% as opposed to the current rate of 40% in
Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Were all the options put forward to
the EMB, the rest of the elected members, or appropriate overview
and scrutiny committee, for consideration?

4] In the absence of any EMB/Councillor involvement, who took the
decision to adopt the current enhanced system of recycling? Please
supply documentary evidence to support your response.

5] The composting was put out for tender twice, the first time the
tender was pulled, why was this?

6] Can I have the exact date that the ‘Blue’ Bins were ordered?
Please back this up with documentary evidence such as purchase
orders or order forms.

7] Can I have the name of the supplier of the ‘Blue Bins’?

8] Can you supply the date that the EMB gave its approval for the
scheme along with copies of the briefing pack, meeting minutes and
any documents which are pertinent to this action.

9] Did the NSRP commission an Independent report into suitable
composting sites in the City of Stoke-on-Trent?

10] If a report was commissioned please supply a copy of the
report.

11] If a report was commissioned was it taken into consideration
before placing the contract with a company from outside of the
area? Please supply evidence

12] Our current system for collecting food waste means that
potentially only 50% is collected. [once fortnightly in brown bin]

That 50% potential success rate will be further affect by the number of households that do not have the 3 bin system. Will this prevent the city achieving the government target of 45% for 2015 and the 50% target for 2020?

These questions are supplementary questions which have come to light after an interview with Jane Forshaw about the enhanced recycling scheme.

Background information on why these questions are being asked can be found here
http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/news/2010/09/stok…

and here
http://www.pitsnpots.co.uk/news/2010/10/wast…

If the work required to provide answers to these questions will take you over the prescribed limit of £450, please use the context of this request but treat each of the questions, numbered 1 – 12 inclusively, as a separate request.

If one part of this request can be answered before any of the others please respond to that part without further delay, waiting until the whole request has been dealt with is not necessary.

My preferred method of receiving your response is electronically, if all or any part of this request is not able to be responded to by my preferred method, please contact me to arrange alternative delivery methods.

If you need clarification on any of the points in this request or if anything is unclear please do not hesitate to contact me as soon as you require the clarification rather than waiting until the last date that this request is due to be answered by (12 November 2010).

Yours faithfully,

I am pleased to see that Councillors from Stoke-on-Trent’s newest political group have taken the initiative on this issue.

They, like us, want to see a complete, thorough and urgent independent inquiry into the whole system of Waste Management and Enhanced Recycling.

There have already been calls for the District Auditor to launch an investigation into the department and the methods used to inform elected members and the way contracts were awarded.

The issue is as clear as a muddy puddle on a black tarmac pavement.

The following motion will go before the next Full Council
Meeting on the 21st October:

”Stoke-on-Trent City Council expresses its deep concern into allegations regarding our waste management services.
In particular, the allegations that councillors have been misled, reports of consultants altered and circumvention of the City Council Procurement Policy and Tendering Processes.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council, therefore, shall set up an urgent independent investigation into the carrying out of its Waste Management functions over the last 3 years, in particular:

“¢ The work undertaken by officers
“¢ Members’ Information and Reports
“¢ Procurement

The final report shall be submitted to the full Council meeting following completion of the report, subject to any legal/criminal proceedings that might arise being dealt with separately and according to due process.”

It has been suggested we are in collaboration with third parties over this issue.

I had been contacted by sources inside the council and external of it, to tip me off that there is a suspicion that we are being used to further a HR claim against the City Council by an ex employee.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that we are working with no other individuals in the investigation of this issue and most certainly not any ex employee who may, or may not hold a grudge against the City Council.

We have used other FOI requests alongside information given from a range of sources who have a real concern about the way this whole issue has been handled.

Pits n Pots sole motivation for bringing this into the public domain is that we have real concerns that elected members did not receive the information that would enable them to make a balanced judgement on the proposals for handling the City’s waste.

We are confident that NO elected member, EMB or Overview and Scrutiny had sight of the WRAP Report dated 4/3/08 [ROT019] before the decision was made to adopt the current system of Waste Management and Enhanced Recycling.

Some may say that this is all in the past and not on the present CEO’s watch but we feel strongly that our elected members were kept out of the loop by former executive officers of the council.

We appeal to elected members on all sides of the Chamber to back the calls for an independent inquiry, to leave party politics outside the chamber door, and to do the right thing to ensure the public are aware of the full facts surrounding an issue that has probably cost much, much more than the £1million worth of savings that had been claimed.

Community Voice Conference Announced on Environment and Community Safety

Community Voice have organised on of the first open, public* policy meetings in Stoke-on-Trent for many years.

The meeting is being held on Tuesday 19 October 2010, 6.30pm, Windsor Room, Civic Centre, Glebe Street in Stoke.

A presentation on the current state of two issues in Stoke-on-Trent:

a] Crime and Community Safety

b] Environment

This will be followed by an open debate.


“This is a wonderful opportunity for residents to tell us what they really think about these issues and what we should be doing about them”.

“These are the two issues many people tell us concerns them the most, and what most people complain about to councillors”.

“Community Voice wants to fight for policies that we know the people out there really want, they are welcome to come to our Policy Conference and tell us directly. This is a first for Stoke-on-Trent – never before has a political party giving such direct influence on its policies”.

“We said we are about putting communities first, and now we are putting that into action. I hope people will get involved by coming along and having their say, or sending us information about what they want to see Community Voice doing.

Residents can either come along to the meeting or can send views directly to us via:

contact@communityvoice.co.uk

*N.B. CV reserve the right to exclude individuals from the meeting where necessary

Community voice Call For An Independent Inquiry Into Waste Management

Today Community Voice Councillors have submitted a motion to the next full Council Meeting calling for a full, independent investigation in Stoke-on-Trent City Council Waste Management function over the last three years, and that the investigation report should be given to the full council, in public, to consider when it is complete.

Cllr Mike Barnes will move the motion and Cllr Mick Salih is seconding the motion calling for this action, following allegations and evidence put forward through the PitsnPots Community News Website that serious mismanagement has taken place including councillors and the public being given false or misleading information, officer misconduct and procurement and tendering irregularity amongst other issues.

Community Voice feel only a full, transparent and independent investigation will give elected members and the public confidence in any report dealing with the matter, particularly following the protracted and at times farcical investigation of the Britannia Stadium Shares Sale.

Cllr Barnes says his party’s primary concern is to restore and maintain confidence in Stoke-on-Trent City Council, its staff and its services.

”This can only be achieved if this matter is not brushed under the carpet, and that all the facts are laid out and issues dealt with, so that we can make sure, if true, that these actions are not repeated in the future.

We only hope that other councillors support this call for action which should be of great concern to us all.

Finally, thanks must be given for those that have pursued this matter, and those that have published it despite many hurdles I am certain were put in their way”.

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Ellie Walker Joins Community Voice – And Confirms The BNP are Racist

Members of Stoke-on-Trent’s newest political group Community Voice have voted unanimously to accept a membership application submitted by former BNP Councillor Ellie Walker.

As a full member, she will now take her seat alongside the other Community Voice Group members in the council chamber.

Ellie Walker’s membership takes their number to 6 on the council and makes them the 4th largest group on the City Council.

Community Voice now have more members than Cllr Walkers previous group, the BNP.


“Community Voice, every single one of us, despise and are totally opposed to the BNP and everything it stands for. Racism, indeed any discrimination, has no place in a modern tolerant City like Stoke-on-Trent.

“Cllr Ellie Walker, has put all that behind her, and earned admiration and plaudits from all political parties across the City Council, when she not only left the BNP, but exposed the hidden extremism, giving this as her reasons for leaving.

“One of our core constitutional principles that have to be signed up to by all members of Community Voice is:

“Equality and Social Democracy ““ we commit to the principle that all people are equal without any form of discrimination, as well as the rights of all to receive support and services to live freely within their communities, without fear or poverty, minimising ill health and with the opportunity to fulfil their true potential.

“Ellie has signed up to this and it is clear she has put her past behind her, and Community Voice welcomes her valuable contribution to the communities of Stoke-on-Trent and
within the City Council.”

Ellie Walker is delighted to be a part of Community Voice and she also wished to make clear that her involvement with the British National Party was misguided. She also confirmed that in her experience, the BNP held racist and extreme views.

She also hit out at members of the far-right party for being only interested in hatred and for spreading lies.


“I wish to put on record that I was misguided to have ever been a member of the BNP and admit that I was part of an organisation that held racist views and that my association with the BNP reflected badly on me personally.

“However, during my time as a councillor, working closely with the community and all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, I have come to realise that the views of the BNP are wrong. Whilst a member of the BNP, I realise that it was not what I thought it was, with many individuals only interested in hate and lies.

“I totally renounce the views of the BNP and I am totally opposed to the BNP’s aims.

“I commit sincerely, wholeheartedly and genuinely to actively support those that promote equality, diversity and tolerance and oppose discrimination, hate and the racist BNP.

“I totally renounce all forms of racism and discrimination and actively commit to promote equality and diversity at every opportunity.

“Stoke-on-Trent and its communities are a fantastic diverse and tolerant place to live and represent which is reflected in my own family with my son’s wife being Sri-Lankan and my mixed race grand children being both intelligent, happy and take a full and active part in the community.

“If Stoke-on-Trent is to move forward it must continue to be so. I wish to focus all my efforts on helping and representing everyone in my community.”

Mrs Walkers statement will add to the recent unrest within the BNP.

They lost councillors locally and their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates performed appallingly in the recent elections.

The BNP nationally appear to be turmoil and it has been reported that the far-right party face financial ruin over the Unilver/Marmite incident.

Community Voice is keen to answer recent criticism relating to Ellie Walkers membership as first reported on this website.

Mike Barnes, Community Voice Coordinator and an active member of NorSCARF, reinstated his opposition to the BNP.

He believes that those wishing to renounce racism should be able to turn away from the BNP and be applauded for doing so.


“Many of us in Community Voice have been active over many years promoting tolerance and opposing the BNP and all it stands for. As activists our main objective was always to change the minds of those that supported or promoted the views of the BNP or racism.

Ellie has totally renounced her former views. This is a real victory for everyone in Stoke-on-Trent and Ellie has shown courage and humility in the statement she has made, and that deserves great credit and respect. I hope all those that have campaigned against racism and promoted tolerance extend that tolerance to Ellie Walker and anyone else who may leave the BNP or any other far right organisation.

Community Voice, having campaigned in the past to change the views of people in the BNP and its supporters, think that it would have been foolhardy to turn people away who renounce their former views.

Let he without sin cast the first stone.

Community Voice and its members will continue to actively and strongly opposed to the BNP and its vile views and lies, and I believe Ellie Walker’s contribution going into the future will be of huge benefit for all those that support tolerance and diversity.

Her commitment to the community she represents, in my opinion, will continue to be at the best of her ability and I have no hesitation in welcoming her to Community Voice and supporting her in everything she does.”