Politician reveals how he was brought under the party’s influence

People join political parties for a variety of reasons, usually because of political views or sometimes because family and friends are members.

However former councillor Ross Irving joined Stoke-on-Trent’s Conservative Party because the beer was better.

He had also been a member in Newcastle to help out in the 1966 General Election, before moving to Stoke. He then decided to stand for council. Continue reading

Joan Walley MP on 25 years as an MP

Joan Walley will celebrate 25 years in June as the Member of Parliament for the Stoke-on-Trent North constituency.

She has witnessed the fall of Margaret Thatcher, the rise of New Labour and the coming together of the Coalition Government.

I spoke to the Labour MP about her life’s work

On June 11, 1987, Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party were winning a third successive term in Government.

The same day Labour candidate Joan Walley was elected to serve the Stokeon-Trent North constituency and replace John Forrester who had served for 21 years himself. Continue reading

Gaff Prone NULBC Councillor Describes Church as a “ËœCult’

A gaff prone Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Councillor has once again put his foot it ““ this time on Facebook.

Ashley Howells, Conservative councillor for Loggerheads & Whitmore, previously described Stoke-on-Trent residents as idle and overweight on social networking site Twitter.

His latest gaff came courtesy of comments made by him on Facebook.

Councillor Howells used the world’s biggest social networking site to describe religion, in particular the Church of England, as a cult.

Councillor Howells commented on a link posted by a Facebook user to a story in the Telegraph newspaper that reports that CofE congregations have halved in the last 40 years.

He said that the demise of the Church of England would remove one more myth based cult.

”quite”¦..however it would remove one more myth based cult”

Cllr Howells comments drew this angry response form another Facebook user.

”Sorry to hijack your message, which I happen to agree with, but I fear that Ashley Howells however has given another reason by which his bigoted one sided views have been revealed.

You would think that a councillor wouldn’t cause offence to a good portion of his electorate and his comments on Twitter have caused him to make public apologies before.”

His previous comments about Stoke-on-Trent forced him to close down his Twitter account.

Will his latest gaff force him off the social networking site Facebook?

”Upon meeting many villagers, we found that the various priorities outlined by me matched their concerns and demands to a very great extent ““ for example, residents want to preserve the rural characteristic of the area whilst enhancing local services such as children/youth facilities and senior citizen activities; local folk see a police presence and rapid response rate as key in preventing crime and reducing the fear of crime; residents of all our villages are concerned about Wind Farm, Quarrying and Methane Gas Drilling threats; highway safety and speeding are worries for many ……

I know that Loggerheads Parish Council, responding to its parishioners via the Parish Plan, wants to plan for an improved village centre and I will continue to work with them and the Borough team to drive the initiative on.
I’ve met many from the various community and parish groups which do such important work for the communities of the rural area and I look forward to working with them to enhance our shared quality of life”.

It would appear that the important role played by churches in community life, especially in rural areas like Loggerheads & Whitmore, is being dismissed by Conservative Councillor Ashley Howells, despite what his blog comments say.

It is obvious that his blog article on the NULBC website misleads the electorate and his true beliefs are hidden behind the words written.

Cllr Howells Facebook comments fail to respect those members of society who a practise their faith and enjoy playing a part in church life.

Councillor Howells comments will offend some members of Loggerheads & Whitmore communities and may well affect his chances at the next election as well as seriously diminishing his chances of being invited to open any church fete in his council ward.

Terry Follows Denver as Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent

Popular Independent Councillor Terry Follows will be sworn in as the next Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent on 26th May.

Terry the newly elected Councillor for Hanford & Trentham will take the office vacated by the hugely successful Cllr Denver Tolley who retires from both the office of Lord Mayor and as a city councillor.

Denver’s year in office coincided with the celebrations to
mark the Centenary of the Federation of the 6 Towns.

Cllr Follows’s consort is to be his friend Jackie Pearson.

Terry is a true Stoke lad. Born in Fenton the son of a miner and a pottery worker, he was first elected to serve in Fenton. He has been a city councillor for a total of 15 years.

Terry was originally a Conservative Councillor and when he first stood for election in the ward of Trentham he actually defeated the sitting Independent councillor.

Following a disagreement over the future of Trentham High School, Terry left the Conservatives and joined the City Independent Group. He was Deputy Leader of the CIG until the recent election.

Speaking to Terry today, he said that he was extremely proud and honoured to be considered for the office of the First Citizen of the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

He is expected to be elected unopposed at the Annual Council Meeting on 26th May which can be viewed online at the city council website from 11am.

Labour councillor for the new ward of Etruria & Hanley Majid Khan will be elected as Deputy Lord Mayor and will take office in May 2012.

Terry Follows will take his easy going nature into the
role as Lord Mayor which will ensure his success in the ceremonial role. He will also adopt an easy going approach to his role as the Chairman of the City Council.

The Lord Mayor is the First Citizen of Stoke-on-Trent, and with this comes a high profile role in promoting and maintaining the interests of the city and its people.

The Lord Mayor attends a variety of engagements throughout his year in office, such as Civic Receptions, Parades and general visits.

Current Lord Mayor Cllr Denver Tolley has excelled at all aspects of the role and Terry Follows will be as equally successful for sure.

500 words from Ross Ward

Firstly may I add my thanks to Pits n Pots for affording me this opportunity to talk about why I would like the chance to represent my ward of Meir Hay.

I would like to start out by pointing out that I am not a politician. I am a member of the Conservative party, but I am not a politician. I work full time, come from a traditional working class background, I live with my partner I am a proud father of three children. The point I am making is that I have a centre right leaning in my politics but I am not standing for the sake of politics, I am standing because I care about my community and the future it offers for my family and the people we share this City with.

I am not here to bat blame and accusations back and forward ad infinitum as this resolves nothing. We all know the arguments, we all know where we stand and it is unlikely that my 500 words will alter this.

I stood for the first time in the 2010 local elections so I am a relative newcomer. I won’t pretend to know the inner machinations of the Civic Centre or Local Government but I do understand the economics of running a business and maximising the limited resources available through difficult times.

I believe that a large part of the problems we face are derived from our former success. The “ËœPotteries’ were world leaders in much of what we produced and the local politics were on the whole unchallenged; this lead to complacency in local industry and in those who represented us. The world is an ever changing place but we rested on our laurels and let the competition pass us by.

More than ever this City now needs proactive, forward thinkers to help us regain our competitive edge. We need to be ahead of the game and have competent, enthusiastic, driven councillors who can find, bid and win investment back into Stoke on Trent whilst spending our very limited resources wisely. It’s time to balance the books.

At ward level I will continue the fight against EMR’s dreadful treatment of their Parkhall and Meir Hay neighbours and the council’s apparent support for a development that is blighting people’s lives. The development is welcome but not at all costs. Residents should be allowed to sit in their homes and gardens without ceaseless noise, dust, vibration, 24 hour high level floodlights and intrusive cameras looking over them. I will work to broker a compromise that will be agreeable to all.

I will work with my local community groups and associations to ensure their voice is heard in the council chamber. I will support the residents of Meir Hay and Adderley Green who feel they are constantly overlooked in their attempts to get some local investment (play areas, highway repair, council house maintenance) into their community. I will support their vigilance in preventing the Springfield site from inappropriate development. I don’t believe in NIMBYism but I do believe in common sense.

I am a great believer in accountability and responsibility for your actions but at the Civic Centre I see little evidence of either. I hate to see waste and bad management but I read about it across the City everyday. With your vote I will work hard to represent you and will tirelessly work for a fair deal for our ward and our City.

Prime Minister David Cameron in Stoke-on-Trent

Prime Minister David Cameron was in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday [Thursday] to celebrate Portmerion Potteries fantastic performance and to help boost the Conservative Party local election campaign.

Mr Cameron also gave assurances that Stoke-on-Trent would have the benefit of being in an enterprise zone, which could bring thousands of jobs to the city.

The Prime Minister also rejected the suggestion that Stoke-on-Trent had been treated unfairly despite having government funding cut by 8.1%.

He gave hope to the S.O.C.C campaign by insisting that the local authority did not have to cut the funding to Sure Start centres in order to make savings and that other areas had been successful in protecting this vital service.

“It’s not about who’s dominant politically, but one of the reasons I wanted to come is because I think Stoke-on-Trent has faced particular challenges.

“Obviously economic challenges with the demise of some of the pottery industry and great political challenges with the fact that the BNP has done well here.

“I think that makes it very important that mainstream politicians come here for themselves.

“How can we help economically, how can we help politically and how can we help regenerate Stoke-on-Trent?

“It’s an area I care about a great deal.

“I cut my political teeth in Stafford and it’s good to see a business here at Portmeirion that’s doing very well, that has brought some of the great pottery brands together and that is expanding, investing, exporting and actually currently bringing production back onshore, making more things in Stoke-on-Trent.

“So to those people who say Britain doesn’t make anything any more ““ actually we do and we do better than that. Manufacturing is up and exports are up. We need to rebalance the economy and we need businesses that make things.”

“We made sure that nobody had to reduce their budget by more than 8.8 per cent, so Stoke-on-Trent came in below that level. Obviously there are difficult decisions that have to be made.

“But when you look at the funding that comes in per head in Stoke-on-Trent it still comes in at £555, more than twice the amount in some other areas, so the money is coming in. And there is also additional backing coming from the Government for things like social care, which has benefits for Council Tax rates.”

Mr Cameron added: “I have visited councils up and down the country and the Conservative-led councils have been able to cut back on these back office costs and not cut front line services.

“And they are doing that in different ways. Things like sharing the chief executive with the neighbouring council and removing layers of senior management.

“These are the sorts of changes that can be made without cutting things like Sure Start services and many councils are doing this successfully.”

“I accept it’s difficult and hard work, but we are all in this situation because of the deficit left by Labour.”

Mindful of the fact that Pits n Pots have reported and interview four shadow ministerial visits to Stoke-on-Trent, every effort was made to get an interview with the Prime Minister.

Mr Cameron’s press team tried to make time for us to do a quick audio interview with him but due to the pressure of his schedule, this was not possible.

Although we appreciate that No10’s press team know of and respect this site and made every effort to facilitate our request, it was disappointing that we did not get the opportunity to put a couple of questions about the upcoming elections to the Prime Minister given the Conservative’s endorsement of new media.

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi was due in the city yesterday but was cancelled because of the ministerial visit.

Arrangements had been made for us to interview her about the local elections.

500 Words Shazad Hussain

Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to be able to put forward vision for Dresden and Florence and the City of Stoke-on-Trent on PitsnPots.

I am extremely, proud to have been chosen by the Labour Party, to be a candidate in the ward in which I live and have grown up in.

I have worked hard alongside my predecessor, Cllr Bagh Ali, to improve Dresden and Florence.

Tough decisions have had to be made by the council in Stoke-on-Trent due to the horrific cuts imposed on us by the Conservative and Liberal Government.

But Labour have worked tirelessly to make sure that any cuts in Stoke-on-Trent protected services that we believe people need. In particular, Labour listened to residents concerns over Children s Centres it is down to your Labour Councillors that none have closed.

As a Labour Councillor, working as a positive team, I want to see the regeneration of our City continue, bringing in business, visitors and jobs.

Despite these tough times, if I get elected, I will be committed to putting people first, and my three top priorities are:

* More good quality, well paid jobs by attracting new employers by building on our strengths, sorting out our weaknesses and promoting the City.

* A great start in life for our young people, by continuing to provide excellent education and defending Children s Centres

* Creating a Council you can be proud of, that is responsive to your needs, listens and delivers excellent services across the City.

If you want a strong local voice to stand up for Dresden and Florence then vote for me. I promise I will repay you by working hard for the area in which i live.

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.

Cuts, Cuts & Prescription Charges! ““ It Doesn’t Get Any Better Does It?

As the City is still reeling from the loss of many key services and community facilities we have to now face up to yet another low blow, dished out from central government that will affect the vulnerable and most needy right across the country.

I refer of course to prescription charges which will rise by 20p from today in what will be seen by some as another stealth tax introduced by the coalition government that will hit those on low income.

It will now cost £7.40 per prescription but this applies to only those who will in England and do not qualify through means or through a medical condition that exempts charges.

The rest of the UK has decided to scrap prescription charges to each and every member of society. The latest being Scotland who follow in the footsteps of Wales and Northern Ireland by making them free from the start of next month.

The Department of Health defended its policy of charging in England.

It said the fees raised more than £450m a year –
equivalent to the salary costs of 18,000 nurses or 3,500 hospital consultants.

Under the new charges, an annual pre-payment certificate will remain at £104 but the cost of a three-month certificate will rise to £29.10.

Professor Ian Gilmore, study author and former Royal College of Physicians president, has suggested that ministers should consider scrapping charges altogether.

He described the current system as “Ëœoutdated and arbitrary’ and has suggested that patients with long term conditions lasting a minimum of six months should be exempt from charges for three years. After this period patients could then be re-assessed by their GP’s and depending on their health, the exemption period could be renewed.

Prescription charges were introduced in 1952 for the whole of the UK. The Welsh Assembly voted to abolish the charges in 2007. Northern Ireland followed in 2010. The SNP gave the electorate of Scotland a pre-election boost with today’s announcement that the charges will end north of the border.

Scotland’s announcement has placed the Liberal Democrats with something of a dilemma. They have announced that if they were to win a majority north of the border in May, they would keep the promise of free prescriptions. This announcement will anger Lib Dems in England and attract more criticism to the already beleaguered party. As a part of the coalition government in Westminster they are a part of the decision to raise prescription charges in England from today.

The latest announcement will anger groups opposed to the government cuts.

Some sections of society believe that they are being discriminated against.

Prescription charges abolished across the UK bar England and University tuition fees also abolished in Scotland since 2000 despite being doubled in England as a part of the coalition government comprehensive spending review.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Elections ““ Will You Stand Up For The City?

The forthcoming local elections are, in my opinion, the most important in the City of Stoke-on-Trent in modern history.

The past twelve months have not been an easy ride for our elected representatives.

They have had to wield the axe over many much needed, loved and valued facilities and public services. £35 million has been stripped from the local economy this year.

Next year our newly elected councillors who will have been mandated, will get to swing the sword to the tune of a further £20million and one wonders just what will be left after that cull.

I saw the impact and burden of responsibility that the present council chamber had to endure in February’s Budget Meeting. The axe did not swing easy and inhibited believe me.

The past political year got me to thinking about who the hell would want to stand for public office for the next 4 years?

What will be the impact on political parties and groups if community minded activists, party members and independent free spirits think to themselves ““ sod this for a game of soldiers!

You only have to read the various political comment articles and the comments on here and the Sentinel, to see that anyone stepping up to the plate is opening themselves up for the harshest of criticism and public battering. And all because of the need to balance the books after a world wide group of maverick bankers decided to play polka with the civilised worlds finances.

Speaking to various sources I can disclose that as we stand today the long range political forecast for May is as follows ““ in no particular order:

Community Voice

The most dynamic opposition group in the council chamber expect to field around 10 candidates in May and they expect to stand them in specifically targeted wards. They have absolutely no chance or desire to contest all 44 wards. They have also turned down approaches from several ex-Labour candidates who wished to stand in particular wards.

Labour

The Labour Party will contest all 38 wards. It has been a struggle to amass the required number of candidates and some wards are still to have candidate selections. My sources are confident that the Labour line up will be the best for years and that expectation is high. They tell me that there is no complacency. To me the Labour Party will have a large majority and I predict that they may take as many as 30 of the wards. They will benefit from the referendum on the AV system and the funding of a large party structure. They will also be the major benefactors of the widely expected public backlash against the Conservative and Liberal Democrat national coalition cuts.

Conservatives

Stoke-on-Trent can not in anyone’s imagination be described as a Tory hotbed. As it stands at the moment the Conservatives are predicting that they will field around 22 candidates and I predict that there will be one unexpected omission from the ballot papers. The party is hoping that their numbers will grow as we near the time but is not expected to fall below the 22.

City Independents

The CIG expect to be able to field around 15 candidates. Their numbers have been affected by some withdrawals and some interested parties have stated that the needs for future cuts have persuaded them to change their minds about standing. The Independent element in the chamber has always been vital for holding the mainstream parties to account, a role which this year fell to Community Voice with the CIG’s participation in the 4 way coalition agreement.

The Liberal Democrats

The national political whipping boys are confident of fielding around 30 candidates in May. Many of that number however will be paper candidates. The local Lib Dem’s are targeting specific wards and hope to get around 10 serious candidates elected. Party activists are very fearful of the wrath of the public and concede that they may be obliterated at the ballot box when folk get the opportunity to exact revenge for the number of u-turns on policy since last years general election. If the recent Barnsley by-election is anything to go by they are right to be fearful.

The British National Party

The far right party has been in steady decline over the past two years. Locally the much publicised falling out with former Group leader Alby Walker massively affected their performance in both the general and local elections last year. This year the issue is very much one of finance, or to be precise, the lack of it. A series of highly publicised legal battles has seen the party’s funds diminish to a state of near insolvency. Leader Nick Griffin’s one man crusade to rid the party of every dissenter has seen a number of former party favourites kicked out the door. The one time party PR machine has ground to a halt. All this has had a massive affect on Stoke BNP and despite Mike Coleman’s gallant efforts the party are only fielding around 15 candidates and realistically only expect to get 3 or 4 elected. His own seat is under threat from Labour’s rising star Ruth Rosenau.

Independents4You

New kids on the block, made up of mainly old faces. The most notable, for very different reasons, are former Councillors Roger Ibbs and Lee Wanger. They hope to field around 10 candidates at this election.

A massive Labour landslide, whilst predicted, is a retrograde step for our City’s democratic landscape.

Just think back to when Labour had all 60 seats in the Chamber, some of the worse political decisions took place during that period.

The true message is however; if you care about this city and think that you have the moral fibre, then stand up and be counted.

Whether you are aligned to a party or are an independent spirit, your city needs you now especially in these times of austerity, more than ever before.

There are a large number of negative forces at play out there, hiding in the city’s political hedgerow, they are of of all persuasions far left, left, middle, right and god forbid, far right.

They seek to undermine the very fabric of our society. Every decision that is made, for good, bad and indifferent is pulled apart for the sake of negativity and the reluctance to accept that difficult decisions have to be made and cuts proposed.

If the government cut the funding to this city, no matter who is in power, cuts will need to be made.

Only if we have strong, intelligent, visionary and progressive councillors do we as a city wide community have a chance of forcing paid officers that the saving of a ‘Tunstall Pool’ is viable and necessary. And then having the courage to suggest an alternative financial saving instead.

That is where the negatives have got it completely wrong – they are quick to say that you can not cut this or that but never do they table an alternative.

Where would the City be if good people are put off by all the negative vitriol and the public crucifixion when politicians have to do the unthinkable?

Give me good honest public spirited people of any political persuasion to those who snipe, undermine and spin for the sake of it anytime.

I hope that there is new blood in the chamber who are willing to take the baton and head for the finishing line without looking back or deviating from the charted course.

All the rest should join the likes of the Chell Heath racist and his cronies who masquerade as the great and the good but seek only to sabotage our city and the good folk who live happily side by side in our unique and tolerant communities.