Stoke-on-Trent City Councillors today [Thursday] backed plans to scrap the controversial NSRP, putting hundreds of jobs at risk in the City.
At a meeting of the Full Council, elected members backed plans to form a new Local Enterprise Partnership [LEP] with neighbours Staffordshire County Council.
Councillors also voiced concern about historical problems between the County Council and the City when trying to get Stoke-on-Trent’s fair share of any joint funded venture.
Four proposals had been put before the council including the option to stay in the current NSRP.
The other options were to operate independently and to form a new LEP between North Staffordshire & Cheshire East.
The latter seemed nothing more than a pipe dream as Cheshire East has recently opted to form a LEP with Warrington.
Council Leader Mohammed Pervez [Labour] urged the council to back the plans to work in partnership with Staffordshire.
The government have set a side a fund of just £1billion for which all LEP’s will compete for.
Deputy Council Leader Ross Irving [Conservative & Independent Alliance] said that the Staffordshire option ‘was the only game in town’. He called for the leader of the new LEP to be led by an independent non political chair, preferably for the private sector.
Cllr Mick Salih [Community Voice] reminded the meeting that the City Council were probably the biggest employer in the area and any partnership would have to serve the needs of the whole of the city and it’s workforce. He asked for the future emphasis of the new LEP to focus on bringing manufacturing jobs to the city. He wanted more skilled jobs and apprenticeships. He called for an new open and transparent process in selecting the chair of the new LEP and insisted that it should not be a case of a short list of one. He said he would be supporting the new partnership arrangement with Staffordshire.
The new LEP proposals were also backed in speeches by Cllrs Peter Kent-Baguley, Knapper, Lyth, Reynolds and Brown
Cllr Mike Barnes said that he would support the new LEP with Staffordshire. He said that current situation reminded him of the 1997 Labour Party Election song ‘Things Can Only Get Better’ He said that he had every confidence that the CEO John van de Laarschot to get the best deal for Stoke-on-Trent, but he did not have confidence in the Council Leader Mohammed Pervez who ‘might be too busy’. He teased Pervez that perhaps he would be best served leaving it to other members.
Pervez responded by saying that he was pleased that Cllr Barnes had confidence in the CEO and that he would have been very surprised if he had confidence in him as Council Leader. He urged Cllr Barnes not to worry because all councillors in the chamber knew that they were very different individuals and that he was very grateful for that!
Pervez thanks the Elected Members for their supportive comments on this issue. He said he would ensure that all councillors were kept fully up to date with developments. He said he was committed to Stoke-on-Trent City Council getting the very best possible for all the communities in our city and he understood that Staffordshire County Council doing the same.
The motion to support entering into talks with Stafforshire County Council about forming a new LEP was carried.
Just one councillor, Gavin Webb, voted against the motion because he felt that there was just too much regulation on businesses and that society should push for a free market free from regulation.
Cllr Webb urged for more to be done for small business enterprises who would he believed never benefited from projects like LEP’s.