Paul Breeze Nomination For Council Leader – The Speech

At the Annual Council Meeting on 26 May, newly elected unaffiliated councillor, Paul Breeze nominated himself for the role of council leader against Councillor Mohammed Pervez.

Paul has sent Pits n Pots the text of his speech for us to publish and comment on.

It took a hell of a lot of courage for me to stand up totally alone in that chamber and deliver this speech. I knew the risk I was taking to my own morale, confidence and credibility, but I am proud that I did it.

I think that the many points I raised (who do we blame for the state of our country and our city; are we one city or a federation of towns; are Labour more interested in their political party or our city; is Mr Pervez the right man to take us forward?) are significant for the future of out city and worthy of serious discussion.

Thank you, Lord Mayor.

Congratulations.

I’m not naïve, stupid or mad. This is no gimmick. I’m absolutely serious in nominating myself for Leader of the City Council for good, rational, practical reasons.
But we all know what’s going to happen at the end of this.

But that’s not going to stop me putting my case.

Labour have a majority in this council, 34 out of 44.

Even if my friend Cllr Dave Conway thinks One Man and God make a majority. Unfortunately, for me, an Atheist, one man and an imaginary friend don’t make a majority. Even with his 6 colleagues and their imaginary friends that would make Cllr Conway and 12 disciples. It won’t do it.

And even if the Conservatives included their imaginary friends “¦

“They’d only score from a call in.”

So Labour have a majority in this chamber.

But they DON’T have a majority OUT THERE. Not across the streets, the neighbourhoods and all the wards we’re privileged to represent.

The MAJORITY did NOT vote Labour. Labour should bear that in mind every single second, with respect and humility.

But already I’m disappointed by the tone set by Labour.

I regard Cllr Pervez as a friend, Mark Meredith, Paul Shotton, Tom Reynolds and many others. I’ve worked closely with them. But that friendship does not preclude severe criticism.
Their disingenuousness in certain areas does not impress.

44 councillors: All equally elected through the same process. Yet you’d think there were only 10 councillors of importance.

Labour have a massive opportunity to rise in graciousness and include ALL sections of council members. They were part of a Coalition last year working well. Now they have chosen to disregard the rest. They have the ten most talented people in the council? NO. They’ve chosen out of 34 not 44.
Also, Labour apportions NO BLAME to themselves for the state of the city or the country. They blame the Tory-LibDem coalition for everything, locally, nationally, past and present. Is that what we can expect now?

Have they forgotten? Up to twelve months ago we had 13 YEARS OF A LABOUR GOVERNMENT with a MASSIVE majority; THREE Labour MPs in Stoke-on-Trent since time immemorial, DECADES of Labour council complacency and wasteful spending. Thirteen years. 3 local Labour MPs, a Labour government in power, a brilliant opportunity: Stoke-on-Trent a special case. They FAILED – with their OWN government.

And now Labour plea “Ëœspecial case’ to the national ConservativeLibDem coalition whilst blaming them for everything in creation. Do they seriously believe that is going to wash with this government? It doesn’t even wash with the majority of people in this city, never mind anywhere else.
So, I’m putting myself forward to balance things up, reflect the real diversity across our city; make a realistic case for progress WITHIN this council, FOR this city and TO this government.

My cabinet would comprise:
* ONE member of the Independent group, of their choice

* ONE Conservative: Jack Brereton, 19 years old, our youngest ever city councillor, to become our youngest ever cabinet member. Ability, courage and maturity beyond his years, with all the support he needed. Imagine the signal that would send to aspiring young people across our city and beyond.
* ALL the other cabinet posts to Labour, of their choice.

* For a deputy, I would accept WHOEVER Labour chose from amongst themselves.

We would be a WIN-WIN situation city council, taking a radically different INCLUSIVE approach to address the REAL NEEDS of OUR CITY.

This Government would absolutely sit up and take notice. No longer: short-sighted, narrow-minded, mean-spirited, backward-looking, basket-case back to same old Labour. We would absolutely get attention from Westminster.

So I ask Labour members: What comes first ““ OUR city, or THEIR party?

If I was Leader, I’d lead with ONE VISION and STICK TO IT

That ONE VISION would be “¦
* FAR-SIGHTED ““ create ONE CITY. Not a federation of towns spread so thin hardly anyone benefits. Concentrate on ONE IDENTIFIABLE CITY CENTRE. That does not mean losing our heritage, but encompassing it.

* BROAD-MINDED ““ listen to all progressive views and ideas, from wherever they come, inside or outside the council, whatever political or non-political source.

* GENEROUS-SPIRITED ““ engaging all elected members and all communities; but totally rejecting any attempt to undermine progress without credible alternative

* FORWARD-LOOKING – pits, mass pottery production, Iron and Steel – Gone. “ËœGood old days’, miners’ strike, save our steel, bad old Margaret Thatcher, pointless; GONE. A NEW ERA: Our heritage won’t die. It’s here forever. But we MOVE FORWARD. Concentrate on the FUTURE

* COURAGEOUS ““ face economic challenge HEAD ON, determined, compassionate, but with UTTER REALISM. Face residents, and TELL THE TRUTH. We can’t be all things to all people. We have SEVERE CHOICES. You want this, you lose that. You want money into this, gets taken out of that. We’re all in this together. And in the spirit of equity, I would suggest all council officers above £80,000 a year ““ a massive salary by anyone’s standards – volunteer to take a 10% pay cut. And our residents would see their own austerity shared by those far better off.

But we know what’s going to happen ““ unless a miracle occurs. But I ask every councillor to consider what I’m saying, and vote as an individual; not blind loyalty to a party or group.

I want OUR CITY to SHINE. SHINE as a true, lean, modern beacon of efficiency, fairness, inclusiveness, innovation, and progress. Get through these dire times with HOPE and EXPECTATION.

Let that shining light lead to attracting POSITIVE ATTENTION from GOVERNMENT, bringing employers, businesses, jobs, students, visitors, creativity, aspiration, and inspiration.
Let that light SHINE SO BRIGHT that not just Staffordshire, the Midlands, and Westminster see it, but the WHOLE of the United Kingdom, Europe and the WORLD.
Say it LOUD AND PROUD – STOKE-ON-TRENT, OUR CITY

We have the POTENTIAL; TRULY TALENTED PEOPLE; the NEXT GENERATION coming up. We have the OPPORTUNITY. With the WILL, we can GET IT RIGHT. 4 years to turn things round; It’s OUR CHANCE.

Let’s enter this NEW ERA with a RADICAL NEW OUTLOOK.

FORGET PARTY POLITICS
LET OUR CITY SHINE.
Let it SHINE BRIGHTER than it has EVER SHONE BEFORE.

Lord Mayor, I’m nominating myself for Leader of this City Council.

Thank you.

Pervez Elected Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council but only after a Breezy Challenge

Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez was elected Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council today [Thursday], but only after a challenge by Unaffiliated Councillor Paul Breeze.

In an unexpected move, Cllr Breeze decided to nominate himself as Council Leader and offered the Labour Group 8 cabinet places.

He also offered the City Independents one place and challenged the council chamber to take the opportunity of making newly elected Conservative councillor 19 year old Jack Brereton the youngest ever cabinet member.

In a passionate address Cllr Breeze reminded the Labour Group that whilst they have a large majority in the council chamber, they were not the choice of the vast majority of the citizens of the City.

He told Labour Leader Mohammed Pervez that it was unacceptable to keep claiming that the state of the city is down to the cuts handed out by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. He reminded the City Council meeting that the country had had 13 years of a Labour Government until May 2010 and the City of Stoke-on-Trent had had many years of Labour domination.

He predicted that, with the size of the Labour majority, his challenge would be futile but he said that someone had to offer an alternative view for the city.

His challenge was heavily defeated with just one vote for Cllr Breeze and two abstentions [Conservatives].

Cllr Pervez refused to respond to Cllr Breeze’s challenge and instead went on to inform the meeting that he was confident that Labour would be able to achieve all of their objectives having received a clear mandate from the public.

He announced his Labour cabinet and said that he was confident that his team would be able to deliver the services and amenities needed despite the savage Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government cuts.

Pervez thanked members of the previous council coalition partners including Brian Ward the former leader of the City Independents and Kieran Clarke the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.

He paid a special tribute to the former Conservative Leader Ross Irving who had served as deputy council leader last year. He said that Ross Irving was a man of integrity who had served the city with distinction over the past 4 decades and was universally respected by all sides of the chamber.

Cllr Pervez warned the chamber that there were hard times ahead with the need to cut around £20million in the next financial year. He reaffirmed his commitment to listen and to engage with the public and to protect the services that were needed most.

Pervez paid tribute to the officers of the council and he informed the meeting that through the work they had carried they had increased efficiency and reduced directorates. A move which he maintains has saved £7.6miilion alone.

He warned the councillors that he would not stand for infighting from his own benches and that he had no time for negative attitudes and councillors from all sides of the chamber who talk the council down.

He said that he wanted to make Stoke-on-Trent the best place to live.

Listen to this exclusive audio interview with Cllr Paul Breeze below who could well prove to be the voice of the Stoke-on-Trent residents over the next four years.

Audio Interview with Stoke-on-Trent Ruling Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez

We bring you an extensive unedited Audio Interview with Mohammed Pervez.

Pervez was re-elected as Stoke-on-Trent Labour Group Leader and will be elected as Council Leader on 26th May.

In the interview Pervez talks openly about the challenges that face his group over the next for years and about the £20million in cuts that face the City Council next year.

He also confirms that Cllr Paul Shotton will be his deputy and tells us how he will manage his group and the difficulties that face him in his leadership with a group as large as 34 members.

Pervez gives assurances that this new Labour group will be open and transparent and he confirms that he will listen, consult and fully engage with the electorate and the media.

David Miliband Gives Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party a Campaign Boost.

Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party had a massive boost to their local election campaign when David Miliband paid a visit to the city to take part in a Q&A session with students at Staffordshire University.

The former Labour Government Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010, paid a glowing tribute to Council leader and Leader of the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council Mohammed Pervez.

Mr Miliband who is MP for South Shields was narrowly defeated for the Labour leadership by brother Ed in September 2010.

He told a lecture theatre full of students, members of the public and Labour Party activists that even though it had worked against him he was in support of the AV system which will also be voted on May 5th.

Mr Miliband also answered questions on the threat from the far right, the NHS, and University education and student fees.

He also answered questions on his time at the foreign office and explained his vision for setting up his Movement for Change organisation.

David Miliband took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Pits n Pots and give his views on the Labour Party’s current performance, the poll ratings, the national coalition and the cuts.

He also praised the work of the coalition parties here in Stoke-on-Trent in dealing with the unprecedented amount of cuts.

We also managed to catch up with Council Leader Mohammed Pervez who gave us his thoughts on his party’s campaign and their chances in the upcoming local elections.

No Local Enterprise Zone For Stoke-on-Trent

Wednesdays Budget saw Chancellor, George Osborne MP announce that the first 11 of 21 Local Enterprise Zones will be set up in

  • Leeds
  • Sheffield
  • Liverpool
  • Greater Manchester
  • West of England
  • Tees Valley
  • North East
  • The Black Country
  • Derbyshire
  • Nottinghamshire
  • London

Although Stoke-on-Trent was not one of the initial 11 Enterprise Zones announced, it is hoped that it will be one of the successful partnerships to make it through the competitive round in summer for one of the final 10 zones yet to be announced. Guidance from CLG states, in general, only one designation will be made per partnership, but Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez said in an interview with Tony Walley that Stoke-on-Trent has already been agreed as the favoured location for an enterprise zone by the Stoke & Staffordshire LEP.

According to the CLG the 11 Enterprise Zones named in the budget focus on city regions and those areas that have missed out in the last ten years.

Although looking at the amount of regeneration carried out in Manchester & Liverpool it would appear that they have both had massive investment in recent years.

The new Local Enterprise Zones will benefit from:

  • 100% business rate discount for five years worth up to £275,000 per business
  • Retention of business rates for 25 years
  • Simplified planning regulations
  • Super-fast broadband, this will be funded from the public purse where necessary
  • Enhanced capital allowances

Pits n Pots asked our three local MPs what they thought of the announcement on Enterprise Zones and Stoke-on-Trent not being listed as one of the first Enterprise Zones.

This budget announced 11 enterprise zones are to be set up and then revealed that 10 had already been chosen. So much for “localism” and transparency about where they should be! There is though to be a competition to determine which others are chosen but it is likely there will be far more applicants than winners. We need a recovery plan for the whole of the UK including areas with most need of new jobs. So I shall be asking our Local Enterprise Partnership what progress they have made and be ready to support any bid.
The bidding process for the Enterprise Zones was completely unclear – so we had no chance to influence the result. The challenge now is for the Stoke-on-Trent MPs to work with the Local Enterprise Partnership to secure a winning bid in this summer’s competitive round. It would be great to gain an Enterprise Zone but this is not the be all and end all for Stoke-on-Trent’s regeneration. I am just as worried by plans for the carbon floor price and its effects on the ceramics industry as the Enterprise Zone proposals.

Unfortunately Rob Flello MP had not responded at the time of publication despite being the only MP who had a political assistant cc’d on the request.

Tony Walley caught up with Council Leader Mohammed Pervez after yesterdays full council meeting to get his views on the Local Enterprise Zones, you can listen to his interview below.

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.

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.”

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 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.

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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