Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Politics ““ It’s a Dirty Job But Someone Has To Do It ““ Don’t They? Part 2

Ahead of last Thursday’s Full Council meeting I got the chance to interview Cllr Roy Naylor, until recently a full and active member of the City Independent Group, now non-aligned.

I have always been impressed by Roy, he’s a man of principle and not a harder working councillor can be found.

Roy dedicates his life to his Blurton ward and is committed to helping the residents of the area.

He has embraced new media and the people of Blurton are regularly updated on his activities through his impressive blog site, FaceBook and his informative Twitter feed.

The ward of Blurton used to be represented solely by members of the City Independent Group until the surprise election of Labour’s Margaret Barber this summer.

There is no doubt following my discussions with people who live in the area of Blurton that Roy is the man on the beat, which is understandable given his former Group Leader’s Cabinet responsibilities.

The duo complemented each other until their recent parting of the ways.

Cllr Roy Naylor was unceremoniously booted out of the City Independent Group for being in arrears with his council tax and the rent on his council home.

Roy doesn’t deny the claim, far from it, he openly admits to having financial problems. I myself have been aware of rumours surrounding Cllr Naylor’s financial predicament for some 12 months now.

Those rumours have been circulating around the corridors of the Civic Centre for even longer according to some sources.

So it really does beg the question, why expel him from the group now, after all this time? Other members of his group knew that Roy had difficulties, including Group Leader Cllr Brian Ward.

The answer may lie in the fact that just before his undignified expulsion; Roy informed his Group leader that it was intention to fight the election in the newly formed Blurton West & Newstead Ward, an area that he is both known and enormously well respected.

This has allegedly angered Cllr Ward who wants to fight the ward himself and sources have informed me that as Group Leader, he believes that the “Ëœpecking order’ allows him first choice.

Now, if as the CIG claim, that the reason that Roy was shown the door was down to his financial differences, why did his group not do their best to help their mate and valued group member out?

Cllr Randy Conteh has recently vacated the Police Authority Committee, a position that pays handsomely, why was Cllr Naylor not considered for this position? Surely the financial reward would have help his position greatly and would enable him to clear his arrears faster.

Cllr Naylor liaises with the police particularly well and has a great understanding of how the Police operate within our city.

So, who did replace Cllr Conteh on the Police Authority? Non other than CIG Group Leader, Cabinet Member and fellow ward Councillor Brian Ward. How much does all that earn Cllr Ward?

Over £33,000 per year. Not bad all things considered.

How much does Cllr Naylor now earn for holding the fort in the Blurton ward and working tirelessly for the residents of his ward?

Just over £11,000 per year.

I feel a little uncomfortable talking about another man’s finances, but do you know what? Not as uncomfortable as Cllr Ward should feel for disclosing a fellow councillors personal circumstances to the media.

A council source has informed me that the matter may be referred to the Standards Committee and that it doesn’t have to be Cllr Naylor that makes the initial report.

As the same source said to me on the phone this week, “Ëœwith friends and colleagues like that, who needs enemies’?

It has also been suggested to me that Cllr Naylor may well be priced out of fighting the next election due to the cost of mounting a campaign.

I have been assured by a number of sources that Roy will not be short of offers to help, or indeed of offers of membership to other groups.

Now that would be an interesting ““ top of the bill clash ““ between Roy and his former group leader Brian Ward.

Especially if the full weight of a mainstream party is behind the former CIG member. But that is just me speculating, although, I may just nip to the bookies to put a couple of quid on.

What isn’t speculation however is the rise and substantial fall of the City Independent Group.

Once the second biggest group in the chamber with some 16 councillors and now reduced to just 8 and 1 of those constantly rumoured to be on the move.

There are those in the city that champion Independent politicians/groups, but the present crop isn’t that independent when you consider that they are part of a 4 way ruling coalition.

There is no doubt that the CIG are in political melt down and with the election campaign season about to start more divisions could come to light.

As for Cllr Roy Naylor, I’m sure he will keep on doing what he does best and that is to passionately represent the area of Blurton and to continue to champion causes like the Save Our Children’s Centre campaign as the kind of true Independent we can all remember.

Where’s Ann James’s number…..

Pre-Council Meeting Demo ““ A Peaceful Protest

A peaceful protest outside the Civic Centre in Stoke yesterday was a far cry from the scenes witnessed in London.

A group of about 60 turned out in support of the Save Our Children’s Centres group who were protesting at the councils proposals to close 7 of the 16 centres which could potentially realise a saving of £750,000 to the Local Authority.

Over 200 hundred staff have already been told whether their posts have been “Ëœsaved’, “Ëœpooled’ or indeed “Ëœdeleted’ should the council choose to proceed with the proposals.

Council chiefs still insist that no final decisions have been made and that a city wide consultation is still on-going. The final outcome will not be known until the council learn the true extent in the cuts in funding handed down from central government following their recent Comprehensive Spending Review.

Roy Naylor, the former City Independent Councillor now Non-Aligned, is fighting the Group’s cause within the civic and was in attendance to lend his support at the protest yesterday [Thursday]. He gave us an Audio Interview which can be heard below this article.

Millissa Beydilli from Blurton is the Leader of the Save Our Children Centres Campaign explained why it is vital that these centres are saved from closure and how they have been a lifeline for so many families across the city’s communities. Listen to the Audio Interview below.
Council Leader Cllr Mohammed Pervez met with the campaigners along with several cabinet members and received a 6,500 strong petition against the closure proposals.

There was also a small group of students protesting outside the Civic. They were expressing their opposition to the rise in tuition fees and against cuts in services generally.

The North Staffs Pensioners Convention were also in attendance protesting against any cuts which will impact upon the elderly.

Stoke-on-Trent Councillor Roy Naylor Considers Legal Action Over Group Expulsion

Stoke-on-Trent City Councillor Roy Naylor is considering taking legal advice over his former Group Leader’s disclosure to the press that he has council tax and rent arrears.

Mr Naylor is now listed on the Council website as a “Ëœnon-aligned’ councillor.

Cllr Naylor broke the news of his expulsion from the City Independent Group over the weekend, but today he said that he was disgusted at how his former group leader Brian Ward and his colleagues had handled the issue.

He declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding his expulsion but confirmed that he was taking legal advice about his group’s disclosure of his personal circumstances.

He was also angry about finding out that he had been kicked out of the CIG from member services instead of from his former group leader.

He also hit out at Cllr Brian Wards comments in the Sentinel that he had refused to attend the City Independent Group meeting last Wednesday to discuss a
range of issues relating to his situation.

” i am incredibly upset at the accusation that I refused to attend our group meeting.

“I had already emailed the group leader well in advance of the meeting to advise him that I was unable to attend do to circumstances beyond my control.

“To suggest I refused is just untrue.

“I have no problem acknowledging that I have some financial issues but I don’t want to comment further because me and my wife are taking legal advice about how my issues were disclosed through the press.

“I would like to make it clear that I have every intention of standing for election in the Blurton West and Newstead ward. I am confident that the hard work that I have put into helping the residents and groups in the area in the absence of any support from a fellow councilor who is a cabinet member will stand me in good stead come election time.’

”I would not have made any comment about the matter had Cllr Naylor not have contacted the local newspaper.”

“The facts are that our group are more than aware of Roy’s circumstances and wanted to discuss the ward arrangement and who stands where.

The also wanted to hear from Roy why he had not showed up to chair the Overview & Scrutiny management committee the past two meetings, a role for which he gets paid.

” I feel that our group were left with no option but to expel him. He did not walk away like he said on Twitter”

On Thursday 25th November 2010, @Blurtoncllr said:

I have today informed the Leader of the City Independent Group, that at the May Election in 2011 I will be standing for the New Ward, which consists of most parts of the Blurton Farm Estate and Newstead.

From there I also advised him I was not intending to stand this time as a City Independent Candidate, but as a stand alone Independent. His response to this was that he would stand Head to Head with me, as an opponent.

I have worked very hard in the last 3 years for the area, and feel that I have received very little support, so that has been the reason behind my decision (sic) to stand alone, as I believe I can if re-elected do just as much if not more for the area, and not being in a Group would leave me free to be in the Ward even more than I am now. As from May 2011 there will only be one Councillor for that area instead of the present three, I feel it would be better for residents to have someone that isn’t tied up in meetings at the Civic Centre most of the week.

Until May I will continue to work hard for all the present area’s that make up the Blurton & Newstead Ward.
The changes to the Ward is due to the decision (sic) to decrease the number of Councillors from 60 to 44 and the change of Ward Boundaries to make smaller wards.

Cllr Naylor’s expulsion has also been attacked from other members in the chamber.

” Well the Independent Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council have shown their true colours yesterday.
How many people out there are struggling to get a job, pay bills, or are struggling to pay mortgages or rent?

How sad it is then that when one of their own, Cllr Roy Naylor, suffers what many ordinary residents are having to cope with, they decide to turn their back on him.

I have alot of respect for Roy Naylor, if nothing else he has worked hard for the Independent Group over many, many years. But in his hour of need, he really found out who his friends are.

Roy has fell behind wit his council tax, and rent, not a crime, nor I suspect entirly unusual at this time for many in Stoke-on-Trent. The law does say a councillor can’t deal with financial matters when in arrears (a position I would question), so the Independents, led by Brian Ward, his fellow ward councillor in Blurton, have thrown him out of their “Party”.

If this is how they treat their own, what hope for the rest of us.

With friends like that who needs enemies.

Good Luck Roy. Hope things turn around for you and your family.

Cllr Roy Naylor may not be the only councillor taking a ride aboard the political roundabout, watch this space.

Work starts on £7m community hub

Residents are set to celebrate the start of work on a multi-million pound scheme to create new homes, shops and community facilities on a Stoke-on-Trent estate.

An afternoon of fun activities will take place on Wednesday (24 March) to mark work to create a £7.1m facility that will transform Ingestre Square, Blurton’s main district centre. The Stoke-on-Trent City Council-backed project will create:

* 41 mixed tenure affordable homes ““ 22 two-bedroom apartments for social rent, four three-bedroom houses for social rent, two four-bedroom houses for social rent, seven three-bedroom houses for shared ownership, and six four-bedroom houses for shared ownership.

* A community hub which will deliver social and learning activities for local people and offer corporate space for hire.

* Six new retail units.

* Car parking, landscaping, secure yards and appropriate signage.

The scheme has been funded by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Aspire Housing and the Homes and Communities Agency. Building work is expected to be completed in early 2012.

Residents and children from local schools will mark the start of the work with an afternoon of activities between 3pm ““ 5pm including hot food, face painting, balloon modelling and caricature drawing.

Young people from Blurton along with children from Blurton High, Blurton Primary, Newstead Primary and Sutherland Primary schools have created artwork to decorate hoardings around the site while work takes place. The children have worked with a community artist on the project.

Councillor John Daniels, cabinet member for housing, environment and neighbourhood services, said:

“This is a red letter day for Blurton, and we want to give the whole community the chance to celebrate. Ingestre Square has unfortunately fallen into a dilapidated state and its redevelopment has been a priority identified in detailed masterplanning work for the area.

“The provision of shared ownership housing will help local families remain in the area and get a foot on the home ownership ladder.

“The initiative will improve the appearance of the area and will reinforce Ingestre Square as a vibrant and vital centre for neighbourhood activity.

“I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in this scheme ““ residents associations, ward councillors and officers ““ in helping to make this dream a reality.”

The new community hub will be run by a management committee responsible for governance, finance, legal and administrative issues regarding the facility, and will give local people the chance to develop their skills and promote the venue to businesses.

Will Nixon, director of regeneration at Aspire Housing, said:

“Aspire is delighted to be leading the redevelopment of Ingestre Square on behalf of the city council.

“Our overall aim is to create prosperous communities and this redevelopment will provide both a renewed central area for Blurton, as well as essential affordable housing.”

Blurton’s ward councillors have welcomed the start of work.

Cllr Brian Ward said:

“This scheme will provide a much-needed focal point for residents in Blurton. It is a massive investment for the area and it is vitally important that we keep community facilities.

“The Blurton area is a large estate and the new shops and community hub will act as a focal point which will pull residents together. It will give residents a place to meet up and get involved in local events and issues.”

Cllr Roy Naylor said:

“This is the start of a new era for Blurton. These facilities have been hard fought for and it is an excellent achievement for the local community who have been heavily involved in developing the plans since day one.”