1369 respond to Stoke-on-Trent school terms consultation

Stoke-on-Trent school terms are set to remain the same after a 14 week consultation with parents, teaching and support staff, pupils, school governors, trade unions and other groups which got 1,369 responses.

The council’s cabinet will decide next week on the pattern for Stoke-on-Trent school terms for the next academic year 2013-14 and beyond, the recommendation put to the cabinet will be to stay with the traditional three-term system, with breaks for Easter and Christmas, and a six-week summer holiday. Continue reading

Attention to detail

I don’t often write blog posts on here, I generally keep my opinions away from the site other than in the odd comment here or there.

Today I am going to make an exception to my rule and ask why do Stoke-on-Trent City Council seem to have such a lack of attention to detail?

Earlier I published a piece on the consultation for bus re-routing in Hanley. The re-routing needs to be carried out to allow the new bus station to operate.

I have an issue with the way the documents are presented, when you click on the links to view the proposed inbound or outbound bus routes, the maps are presented to you sideways. Why? It takes literally seconds to rotate the files before they are uploaded.

I’m lucky that I am a reasonably technically competent person so for me to rotate the files so I can read them is not a big problem, but a lot of people have little or no technical skills when it comes to computers or the Internet and could struggle trying to do this. More importantly why should I or anyone have to rotate files so we can read them? I don’t think that it is an unreasonable expectation for documents to be orientated the right way on the council website.

Who actually checks the content once it has been published? Every time I publish content on here or on other sites I run, I immediately go and look at it on the site, just to check it and make sure that everything looks and works as it should.

I’m pretty sure that the City Council don’t plan to make things difficult for us to read, I think it is just a lack of attention to detail.

Now while I am talking attention to detail, have a look at the Proposed Traffic Management Measures map that is part of the consultation.

 

Attention to detail isn’t an issue here, everything is detailed, even things that won’t change, all on one map. This cacophony of colour covers every detail of the changes that are proposed to the roads in the city centre, but you can’t see the road names because they have been obliterated by the addition of various coloured arrows and markings.

Bizarrely whoever created the map saw fit to add large black arrows on all one way streets that remain unchanged. Surely the standard implication on a map such as this is, everything is the same unless we tell you otherwise? So why add all this extra confusing detail that isn’t needed, maybe a note on the map stating that, all one way streets will remain the same unless otherwise noted, but I see no need to make this important map even more difficult to read.

Why not make a simple interactive map on-line that shows what the changes are rather than just producing a flat PDF? Someone with half an hour or so to spare could make something like the one below.


View Hanley Proposed Traffic Management in a larger map

The hardest part of creating this map was trying to work out what the actual roads were on the council map! This isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I’m sure it could be done a lot more elegantly but it proves a point and shows all the proposed changes.

The regeneration of Hanley as the ‘city centre’ for Stoke-on-Trent and the badly named City Sentral development is allegedly going to put us in the top 5 shopping cities in the UK I heard a few weeks ago. Well if this is the case then we need to be in the top 5 with everything else as well to support it, administration included.

200 years ago Stoke-on-Trent was at the forefront of the industrial revolution & manufacturing, world leaders in ceramics and known across the globe, now we can’t even get a PDF the right way around. Can you imagine Josiah Wedgwood allowing something to go out of his factory with the decoration on sideways?

Whinging about a couple of PDF’s that are not rotated may seem a bit petty, but I think the lack of attention to detail and the, that’ll do attitude, puts us in a bad light. When you see little things like those PDFs or the City Farm Tender document (remember that gem?), it makes you wonder why are we over looked for investment, why don’t we succeed with the bids we put in, is it the lack of attention to detail in the bid documents and presentations?

I want Stoke-on-Trent to improve, I want it to succeed, I want the council to be better. 

We deserve better.

Consultation for Bus Re-routing in Hanley begins

Public consultation on changes to the bus routing in Hanley appears to have begun.

Although there has been no official public announcement about this from Stoke-on-Trent City Council yet, the web page on the council website appears to have been updated on Monday.

It was proposed at the December Cabinet meeting, that public consultation should take place in January & February 2012, with the detailed design phase taking place between February & April in order for the final proposals to be presented to the April Cabinet meeting.

The consultation covers in-bound and out-bound bus routes for the new John Street bus station as well as substantial changes to the traffic flow on roads in the city centre.

According to the agenda pack for the December Cabinet meeting the public consultation will involve a leaflet drop to every address in and adjacent to the city centre as well as a public exhibition of the proposals.

You can view the councils consultation page and the Cabinet meeting agenda item using the links below.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader to hold live budget web chat

A live online forum will give residents the chance to pose their questions on this year’s budget proposals to Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s leader, Councillor Mohammed Pervez.

Residents with suggestions, thoughts or concerns about the proposals are being encouraged to join the discussion which takes place online on Monday December 19, 2011 between 5:30pm and 7pm. Ҭ

Councillor Pervez, said

This is an opportunity for the city’s residents to let me know what issues are concerning them and to find out what people think of our proposals. I would encourage people to get involved with the discussion as the decisions we are making have an impact on everyone in the city. “¨”¨We want to involve as many people as possible in these decisions and by taking our consultation process into the 21st Century through the internet we can target a different group of people as well as our face to face consultations around the city.

The web chat follows the as yet unconfirmed extention to the public consultation period for the 2012 budget.

People can also submit their budget questions before the live webchat by emailing webteam@stoke.gov.uk. While not all questions will be answered live a response will be sent. If further information is required to provide a response, then an answer will be emailed on a later date. Questions should be about the budget proposals although other questions may be answered if time permits.

Councillor Pervez added

The council has been working hard to put together the budget for next year, in the face of fierce Government-imposed cuts of around £8m.

On top of this, we must deal with unavoidable cost pressures such an inflation, contractual staff increments, procurement and the payback for our capital projects totalling around £11m.

In our Mandate for Change, launched earlier this year, we said we would create a ‘great working city’. Our aim for this budget is to help to do just that, by saving to invest.

I am very much looking forward to hearing your views on the budget and the future of Stoke-on-Trent.

This webchat is an exciting opportunity for us as a city council to hear directly from the people who use our services and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to our budget consultation. Your participation is very important to us.

To become part of the discussion residents can access the forum on Monday by using the link below visiting and following the simple instructions.

 Pits n Pots ran the first Ask The leader web chat a little over 12 months ago.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Extend Budget Consultation

Pits n Pots can exclusively reveal this morning that Stoke-on-Trent City Council have extended the public consultation on the proposed cuts for the 2012 budget.

The consultation was due to end on 23 December but yesterday we published details of a further 4 consultation events announced by the City Council which are to be held in January.

So far the City Council have not confirmed the extension to the consultation or indeed what date it will actually close but in a comment made on Pits n Pots last night, Cllr Sarah Hill Cabinet Member for Finance said

Sorry you feel that way guys. We have the space to extend the consultation and so we have done so. That’s all there is to it.

Unfortunately Sarah neglected to provide the new date for consultation to end in her comment. We will update this as soon as we get a confirmed date from the City Council.

Are We Really Being Consulted On The 2012 Budget?

Stoke-on-Trent City Council are currently running a ‘Consultation’ on the 2012 Budget with a number of events around the city. When you here the word ‘consultation’ you like to believe that you are going to be able to influence some of the proposals in the budget book.

Ian Norris has already been pushed down the FoI route with his request for information on the budget, with the response due the day before the consultation closes, giving him little time to do anything useful with the information, if it does get presented on time.

It seems that the decision to close the Wedgwood Memorial College has already been taken and just needs to be rubber-stamped by the Cabinet at their meeting on 15 December which is a day before the last public consultation event and over a week before the consultation closes on 23 December.

More worryingly it seems that some decisions on the budget are being made at meetings that don’t exist, 2-CE04 HR Initiatives, on page 22 of the budget book for instance, was, according the Business Impact Decision, Discussed and agreed at Cabinet on 6 October. Discussed at Labour Group.

Now if you check on the meeting calendar you will be hard pressed to find the cabinet meeting on 6 October nor any minutes to support the agreement.

Pits n Pots asked the City Council about this meeting and a spokesperson said

The meeting referred in the budget book was a closed ‘CAPS’ (Cabinet Agenda Planning) meeting not a cabinet meeting this was a mistake. 

So can we trust the information that is presented in the Budget Book, if this is a mistake, how many other ‘mistakes’ are there?

Budget Consultation Events

If you want to go and speak to members of the Cabinet about the proposed 2012 budget you can do so at the following locations.

Potteries Shopping Centre – Thursday 1 December 6-8pm
Norton Childrens Centre – Monday 5 December 2-4pm
Blurton Community Centre – Tuesday 6 December 2-4pm
Dimensions, Burslem – Friday 9 December 6-8pm
Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre – Tuesday 13 December 2-4pm
Wallace Sports Centre, Abbey Hulton – Wednesday 14 December 6-8pm
Meir Community Education Centre – Friday 16 December 2-4pm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Answering Questions About Their Mandate For Change Budget

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have announced that the Cabinet will be taking to various venues across the city over the next two weeks to answer questions from the public on its ‘Mandate for Change’ budget proposals for 2012 to 2013.

The public consultation will be launched on Thursday 1 December during late night shopping outside the Potteries Shopping Centre between 6pm and 8pm. Members of the Cabinet will also be attending events across the city to answer questions on their budget proposals. The events will take place in the North, South and central parts of the city and will include daytime as well as evening events.

Public consultation on the proposed budget closes on 23 December.

Councillor Mohammed Pervez, Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council said

Over the next few weeks, we will be seeking feedback on the budget proposals from the public, elected members, staff, partners, MP’s and businesses in the city. We will be listening to their concerns and answering questions. We will also welcome any further suggestions on how the council can save money.

We are committed to our Mandate for Change to make our city a great place to live and bring business. Last year we were faced with making £36m worth of cuts, and now we are faced with another huge task. However, this year our budget is not all about cuts; we are also saving to invest in our city to create the right conditions to stimulate the local economy.

It is absolutely vital that the private sector kick starts the economic regeneration of our city. Businesses, small and large, need to stimulate growth through expansion and job creation. The recent government cuts to local authorities mean that public sector will not have the means to do this. We therefore need to give business confidence to invest in Stoke-on-Trent through our ability to manage large projects such as the £250m Building Schools for the Future scheme. The additional £5m savings will give us the resource we need to further build confidence and attract businesses willing to invest in our city.

I have no doubt that year two of cuts is going to be very painful and tough with some extremely difficult decisions to be made on some equally worthy competing priorities.

A full list of the consultation events can be found using the links below.

Pits n Pots reader & regular commentor, Ian Norris E-mailed the council leader to ask some questions about total spending on, PFI schemes, landfill tax, waste disposal, energy, vehicles & capital investment for this year & last year as well as the council prediction for next year in the budget so he could respond to the consultation.

Mr Norris from Tunstall did not recieve a response from the Council Leader or Officer, he was sent a standard E-mail from the Freedom of Information office explaining that he had sent in a Freedom of Information request and he should expect a response by 22 December, just one day before the consultation closes.

Mr Norris said

I am greatly concerned that the Council Leader was unable to answer a simple question about his budget. This information should be readily available as part of the budget consultation. I am appalled that he has submitted the question as a Freedom of Information request in my name.

I have since recived a phone call from the council who want to speak to me about the request, I have responded to say I want a written reply to my question and not just a phone call.

So although the Council Leader welcomes and further suggestions on how the couuncil can save money, it seems that you can only do this if you don’t ask too many questions about the budget.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Budget for 2012 -2013 Announced

The budget proposals unveiled yesterday by Stoke-on-Trent City Council will inject £5m into areas including boosting private sector job creation and kick-starting the local economy.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Mohammed Pervez has outlined the bold proposals in the face of stern government-imposed spending cuts. As part of the authority’s Mandate for Change the top priority is to create a great working city, to make Stoke-on-Trent the place to bring business. The council’s cabinet is implementing a raft of measures that will provide a ‘red carpet’ treatment to new businesses, improving key infrastructure links and boosting what the city has to offer. The measures come as the authority has announced it needs to find savings totalling £24m for the year 2012-13.

Councillor Pervez said

 

We are committed to our Mandate for Change to make our city a great place to live and bring business. But the government’s stance is forcing the way we have to make budget cuts. The government-imposed spending restrictions for the last two years have been the fiercest ever endured by this authority. Last year we were faced with making £36m worth of cuts, and this year we are faced with another huge task just to balance the books.

 

The way the government is imposing spending restrictions means we are no longer going to be able to sustain or create the same level of public sector jobs. Therefore it is crucial that the private sector can stimulate growth and has the ability to do this.

Our ambitious capital programme, such as the £250m Building Schools for the Future scheme, is giving the private sector confidence that we can deliver, and confidence for them to invest in Stoke-on-Trent.

Government-imposed cuts will next year reduce the council’s budget by £8m. On top of this, unavoidable costs such as inflation, legally-required staff increments, procurement and the payback for capital projects will total around £11m. This means the council needs to find £19m just to stand still.

But the council’s cabinet is proposing to invest an extra £5m in areas that will drive the city forward, redesigning the council for growth.

Key investment proposals in the budget will

  • Enable the construction of new access links to further open up Etruria Valley for expansion.
  • Provide small grants to give a facelift to independent retailers’ shop fronts in the city centre.
  • Complete the design of the city centre ring road.
  • Improve the appearance of the area in front of Stoke Station.
  • Help reduce traffic congestion by investing in the current signal network and additional bus priority systems.
  • Launch new business support packages to help new and growing local businesses.
  • Increase the number of foster carers in the city.
  • Provide training for children and young people with special educational needs to travel independently across the city.
  • Launch a range of city-wide events and festivals to increase the number of visitors into the city.
  • Bring forward proposals to secure the development of a comprehensive Cultural Quarter and city centre hotel.
  • Hold a housing self-build competition to encourage diverse and high quality residential developments.
  • Focus on getting tough on fraudulent activity, especially benefit and tenancy fraud.

During 2011/12, the city centre bus station will be completed, and site preparation and clearance for the £350m City Sentral leisure and retail development will take place. The council will improve day opportunities for adults with complex learning difficulties through a million pound redevelopment of Newstead Day Centre. The authority will also look to dispose of a number of buildings to support its investment programme.

 

Councillor Pervez said

 

In some parts of our city there is a culture of dependence, and we have to lift our residents out of this. If we can stimulate the economy and help the private sector to create jobs, they will have the means to have money in their pocket and not rely on the state. This will mean the council will then be able to focus on helping the most vulnerable.

 

I believe in being open and transparent, and the budget proposals are just that. Some of them are difficult and are extremely tough decisions to propose. We could simply cut and cut every year, or we could sit on our hands and do nothing. But both would be reckless and shirking our responsibilities. We are a responsible council, and take our responsibility to manage services and taxpayers’ money seriously. We need to save to invest and that is what these budget proposals are designed to do.

 

These are tough decisions to take, but we want to ensure that in making them we fully consider the views of local residents. That is why we are now embarking on a wide-ranging consultation process, and I urge as many people as possible to tell us their opinions. The proposals that we have put forward are just that – proposals. We need local people to contribute their views to help shape the decisions we make.

 

Details of the budget proposals can be found online at the link below. 

 

The council’s budget consultation will run until 23 December. Details of a consultation roadshow, where cabinet members and officers will be able to meet residents and explain the budget proposals, will be revealed later this week. Residents can give their feedback on the proposals by emailing budget2012@stoke.gov.uk.

 

Shadow Justice Minister Rob Flello MP Welcomes Launch of Consultation on Labour’s Justice Policy

Rob Flello, Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent South is to be at the heart of a public consultation and working group launched by Labour to review its Justice Policy programme.

A working group of experts from across the criminal justice field will help Labour formulate a policy programme with the aim of striking the right balance between punishment and reform. The group will hold public consultation events and seminars across the country, taking evidence from those working on the front line in prisons, youth offending institutions, courts and community projects as well as hearing from victims of crime.

Some of those advising the Labour Justice team in an independent capacity include Dame Helen Reeves, founding Chief Executive of Victim Support, Barry Mizen, founder of the Jimmy Mizen Foundation and Lord Norman Warner, former Chair of the Youth Justice Board.

”Labour’s record on bringing down crime is unparalleled, but it is being put at risk by the Tory-led Government’s cuts to police numbers, victim support, the probation services and the prison estate.

“I am pleased to announce some of the country’s leading independent experts in this area will be lending their expertise to this process as we develop policies that work to cut crime, protect the public and ensure that justice is served.

“It is vital that the public are involved in this process, and that their priorities are reflected in Labour’s policies. That is why we have launched a dedicated website (http://www.justicereview.org.uk/) where people can post their ideas and suggestions and contribute to this review which will help shape Labour’s Justice policy for the next election.”