What the hell I’m playing at with that cup of tea that smells like a flower bed.

As some of you are well aware, I have been talking about running for the city council for a number of years now.

I was on the verge of running last year, but I did not think then that I had much to offer, that I needed to learn a few things about how the city ran. Not just in my area.

I looked at ways I could run as part of a party, looked at what it entailed, had the paperwork to join both the Labour and Libdems right in front of me one very confused night last May. I even picked up a pen, I was a second off starting to fill one of them in, Labours’ if you must know.

The only thing that stopped me was waiting to see what a new leadership would bring, I’m of the thinking that it brought more of the same. I think that they are the best party for this country, They will always have a problem with some, but I think they look after most people who want to get on and work and those who can’t work very well.

To me, that’s the only thing I ask of any government. The Libdem application went out of the office window in about a million bits when it become clear what their leadership were up to, they have sold out the very heart of that party, they don’t deserve any support at all.

I know grass root Libdems who are unhappy and who can blame them. They have lost any chance of any real local power for a very long time, and that’s a shame, they are good caring people.

The problem I would have being a member of any party or group is that very thing. Being a member will mean you know what the party wants you to do, not the people who, if you are on a council, think you should do.

The people put you there, put their hopes in you, and to me, that’s all important. I just could not keep a party whip, I’m a rebel, a lose cannon in the nicest possible way.

Now I’ll go off subject here a little bit. I understand that in the city we have a few Labour members who are unhappy with the way Labour have treated them. All I can say is Labour have changed, for whatever reason, they changed. They have changed the way they work, and they had the right to that. If you don’t like it, you say “Thanks for the ride people, it was good while it lasted”, and you walk away, without any malice.

If you want to run in the next election, you put your name down and you state your case, without any malice. A council chamber is not the place to, and I hate this, ‘nail’ anyone up, neither is the streets of any ward as voters decide who they wish to put their faith in, for the next four years.

We all know who I’m talking about here, these people need to move on, drop the axe and grinding stones and put a good case to be on council without malice. Let’s face it, some have had their chance, and in no uncertain way, failed. I say “grow up, get over it, have the guts to step up and state your case or stay bitter and move nowhere”.

So, I have put my name of the paper, I’ll step up to the plate for the city I was born and bred in. The city I love and will always live in. I “Ëœm proud to call Stoke-on-Trent home. I have, in my time, had the chance to move out of the city, I would not feel right living anywhere other then here and I would not want to.

I’m running in South Meir, it’s the area I live in. I understand the problems we have here, and if lucky to be voted onto the council, my main job I think will be done in this area. it’s a large ward and a mixed bag too, little private homes like I’m use to, larger private family homes, old peoples homes, council estates, large posh homes as the wife calls them (she’s my election agent), even a few farms mixed in. It’s interesting and I would think challenging ward that I would love to be involved in.

What I’m finding as I start my run is people think that I’m bothered about who’s running ‘against me’, I’m not. I don’t see it as anyone running against me or me running against anyone. We all have a right to run, as long as you are a voter, live or work in the city of Stoke on Trent and can get 10 people from that ward to nominate you, you’re off and running as a independent.

Then you can sit back and hope for the best, or you can get out, and try a make a difference by telling people what the hell your up to, that it’s important to vote, not for me, but for someone. It’s no good saying “ËœThey never do anything for me’ or “ËœIt’s no good voting, they are just in it for the money.’

This is something I hearing a lot, the pay. Now, as I understand it, a basic council member on Stoke on Trent City Council pockets £12,000 a year, and there are now no expenses paid, and that’s fine by me.

I have put myself forward to the council, its my job to ensure that I can afford any out of pockets incurred by me to do my job.

Bottom line, 100% truth, I’m not in the least bit bothered about pay, I fully intend to keep my other job. Many know what I do, I’m proud of it, I work as hard as my health allows me to. Many know who I work for, and some might think it might pose a problem, it will not.

I’ll take the money, of course I will, I’ll make dammed sure I’m not left out of pocket, and that I’ll be at lest a bit better off for using my time I spend messing around, sampling fruit and herb teas, watching too many DVDs, walking the dog, messing about with the wife’s motorbike for no good reason, mowing the grass, looking up and paying for to much music on I-tunes (the wife will be very happy), watching monthly meetings of Stoke on Trent city council on the internet because I’ll be there, cooking the tea and every important thing I do on the last Thursday afternoon of the mouth.

I’ll also knock many of these things on the head, all bar the fruit and herb tea, if I have something to do within my job with the council. So long as there is boiling water, I’ll bring my own cup and a few tea bags and we can all have a go. Might even be able to afford a bit more of it with a few more quid in my sky rocket.

Some of the money, and I’m not joking here, will be filtered back to the ward, in the form of a good brew of Green Jasmine by Good Earth for all, no I’m joking again. I’ll ensure that little things that mean so much to people get done, I’ll pay for a few flowers around the place, the odd new bin, the stuff for some kid on the council estate. do a bit of painting, I’ll have no problem doing that, its not political, its me.

This is not my 500 words, this is my blog telling you what I’m up to at the moment. I’ll put what I feel is important to this city in my 500 words when asked for it. If anyone as any questions I’ll try to answer them hear for you.

I don’t expect myself to make it, I tried at least. Whatever happens, if I make it or not, I’ll still be here.

Pits n Pots as been good to me and for me, I’ve been though a lot, just before I signed up and while I have been a member here. it’s a part of what I do, it’s a part of me. So is 6towns Radio, and when all this gets done, I look forward to using that music I pay too much for. Now, if you’ll excuse me I fell a Rooibos and Harvest Berries cuppa coming on.

OHHHHHH! THAT HIT THE MARK.

The Budget ““ Full Council 25th February 2010 [UPDATED]

AUDIO INTERVIEWS NOW ONLINE!

The purpose of this blog is to present an impartial account of what happened at the full council meeting. Details of the budget itself can be found in the reports pack for the meeting in the link below.

Cllr MICK SALIH (Non-Aligned Group) asked as a point of information when the council sets the budget do all members present have not to be in arrears with their council tax?

The legal officer Paul Hackney replied that this information would not be divulged and it is up to members to decide where they stand.

Cllr KIERAN CLARKE (Liberal Democrat) asked for clarification of the procedure regarding amendments.

Paul Hackney stated that decisions are by a straight majority. Cabinet will present the budget proposals. If an amendment is put forward it will be dealt with in the usual way, but if passed it stands as an objection to the budget. It is then for the cabinet to decide how to respond. This may mean a break in the meeting, reconvening later today or at a future date. But by law the budget must be set by 11th March.

Cllr KIERAN CLARKE (Liberal Democrat) proposing the budget report stated it is a one year revenue budget to be voted on today. This has been the most consulted budget ever. Councillors have had at least 5 opportunities to contribute, 2 at group meetings, 2 at overview and scrutiny meetings and 1 at a meeting of all councillors. There must be a balanced budget but the proposed council tax is close to government limit so there is not much leeway. The formula grant is less than we should receive. (This sounds like a very important point but I confess I did not understand how and why this is the case so I struggled to note the explanation of this.) A root and branch review is to be conducted soon. Last year’s budget had planned for a 3.35% council tax increase for this year but the proposal now is for 2.89%. The plan is to do what we have to do well rather than try to do more and fail.

Cllr ROSS IRVING (Conservative and Independent Alliance) seconded the proposal.

Cllr MOHAMMED PERVEZ (Labour) moved an amendment. Cllr MARK DAVIS (Labour) and Cllr TOM REYNOLDS (Labour) distributed a handout. In brief the content of this was to add to the end of section 2.1 of the budget report £700,000 of increases and £700,000 of cuts relative to the proposed budget as follows:
Increases:
· £100,000 for Stoke Speaks Out to counteract the planned cut.
· £500,000 to tackle antisocial behaviour hot spots.
· £100,000 for additional dementia services.
Cuts:
· £400,000 on use of consultants.
· £150,000 reduction in corporate communications budget.
· £150,000 reduction in regeneration.
Add a section 2.7 to explore reducing the reserve for insurance by £1 million in order to spend £1 million on 100 new apprenticeship places.

Cllr ROSS IRVING (Conservative and Independent Alliance) wanted professional advice.

Cllr PAULINE JOYNSON (Non-Aligned Group) asked for microphones in the council chamber that actually work.

Cllr ROGER IBBS (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said the state of the microphones was a disgrace and asked if the amendment had been agreed and costed by officers.

Cllr MIKE BARNES (non-aligned) asked whether the amendment could be approved today or would need to be done later. It was a substantial amendment with no notice given.

Cllr MICK SALIH (Non-Aligned Group) said the budget had been widely consulted but the labour group brought the amendment. If they had any sense they would have discussed it previously. This is last minute politics. The last budget under the Labour mayor was problematic but now Labour are doing this to try to look popular but it won’t work.

The chief executive officer John van de Laarschot said some sense and process are needed. Mohammed Pervez’s amendment would need to be proposed and seconded. Paul Hackney explained again the process for amendments for the benefit especially of Mike Barnes who had arrived late and missed the original explanation.

Cllr CLIVE BRIAN (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said the amendment was unacceptable in its current form because it was a list of items and people may agree with some and not others.

Cllr BRIAN WARD (City Independents) said he expected this from labout, they should have brought their ideas forward earlier.

Cllr ALAN JOYNSON (Non-Aligned Group) said these are the same old political games. It is about saving Labour’s political face. They had the same chance as anyone to do this before.

Cllr MOHAMMED PERVEZ (Labour) proposed the amendment, pointing out that debate had opened before the motion was moved. He outlined the points in the handout. On the first point language is important to education and he does not want it cut. On the second point antisocial behaviour has a major impact on the livelihoods of law abiding citizens. On the third point consultant costs could be reduced using routes involving members. The council’s own consultation had highlighted priorities as jobs, antisocial behaviour and education, which had been included in the amendment because the executive hadn’t.

Cllr ADRIAN KNAPPER (Labour) seconded the amendment and disagreed with having debate before the motion.

Cllr ROSS IRVING (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said this was a last minute attempt to derail the process today, why ever wasn’t this done in advance? Labour had been asked whether they would have amendments but said they didn’t know.

Cllr PETER KENT-BAGULEY (Potteries Alliance) accused Labour of being stuck in the elected mayor bunker where nobody was allowed in and nothing came out. It was disgraceful that Labour felt the need to indulge in this political point scoring. There had been much more opportunity for consultation now than when Labour were in power. We are wasting time on a pathetic amendment which has no chance.

Cllr MIKE BARNES (non-aligned) said consultation had been much more open and transparent this time and the amendment could only be about politics. Many others had put forward ideas through consultation. Because these arguments hadn’t been put forward before there was no time for thought. The ex-deputy elected mayor Mohammed Pervez challenges the NSRP now but the problems initiated when the elected mayor chaired this. Mohammed Pervez claims he is listening to people now but never did over Dimensions. If Labour want to be credible the have to say things during proper discussions.

Cllr ROGER IBBS (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said it was surprising to agree with Alan Joynson, Mick Salih and Mike Barnes, but in the committees to discuss the budget the Labour contribution had been practically zero. Why? Labour said they would prepare an alternative budget. Is this amendment it? Have they discussed their proposals with the relevant departments? If the answer is no it is not worth the paper it is written on. If they had asked they may have got some changes. He hoped people would throw this out.

Cllr JOHN DAVIS (City Independents) suggested the amendment should now be voted on. A number of councillors rushed to second this. There was then a vote on whether to end debate on the amendment and vote on it now. This was carried 37 votes to 12.

VOTE ON LABOUR AMENDMENT:
12 for (Labour), 37 against (everyone else).

Debate then took place on the main motion to accept the budget report.

Cllr JOY GARNER (Labour) said the budget has no policy direction or strategy. It is full of untrustworthy points. They have been told the vote is for one year but the report is for three years. It is a higgledy piggledy mess.

Cllr TOM REYNOLDS (Labour) said the consultation was not as extensive as it was made out to be, it was a list of options of things to cut or not. They were not asked where they would like to invest. 70% of children enter nursery school behind in language so Stoke Speaks Out should not be cut. Antisocial behaviour is not funny, there are no proposals to tackle this in this budget. There are no proposals for jobs for young people in the budget. Because Labour made a proposal, everyone else is playing politics.

Cllr MIKE COLEMAN (British National Party) said he almost voted for the Labour amendment because he liked the Labour ideas. But the consultation process had been very good and he’d felt included. This is why he voted against the amendment. The root and branch reviews will be very important. The British National Party will be supporting the budget.

Cllr MICK SALIH (Non-Aligned Group) said he had reservations on the budget but had to some extent been reassured by the root and branch review. He wants reassurances that this will take account of the views of service users. The consultation process was not as good as it could have been, it needs to be proactive involving community fora. It is the first time he will be supporting a budget by a conservative leader. He is not voting for the leader but for the best way forward. Unfortunately he was Labour for 30 years and it is sad to see what they are like now. Labour should have contributed before.

Cllr PETER KENT-BAGULEY (Potteries Alliance) doesn’t want the budget publicised as only about cuts, there are increases too. He listed items from the budget report showing areas that were having increased funding, such as adult services, children and young peoples services and housing, as well as others having cuts, such as central services and regeneration. The council leader could be congratulated for a wide ranging consultation which he does not recall under the elected mayor system. But the consultation had some poor points and there is a legacy from the elected mayor system that was open to corruption of processes, thought and principles. It is incredibly important to establish confidence in officers and members, which is sadly lacking at the moment.

Cllr ROGER IBBS (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said Kieran Clarke had made clear that this budget is a council budget although presented by the executive. It is not easy for the BNP, Mick Salih, Peter Kent-Baguley and Mike Barnes to support the executive but because of the process every councillor has been listened to. Many things aren’t solved by this budget but work on the medium term financial strategy should start tomorrow. John van de Laarschot has promised every councillor will be involved. There will be things we don’t like in the budget but it is for one year and we can try to change and input to it for future years.

John van de Laarschot said the council is here to serve the communities and businesses around us. It is essential that all members are involved.

Cllr ADRIAN KNAPPER (Labour) said we are here to set a balanced budget but have the poorest executive this council has ever seen. They have taken the simplest route. We are here to look to the future and set a clear direction. Councillor Ward is not listening, antisocial behaviour and education are important and the budget doesn’t deal with these. The root and branch review will decide things people don’t want later. We should be looking at taking the city forward.

Cllr ALAN JOYNSON (Non-Aligned Group) said the elected mayor and the puppies following him were worse than the current executive. Facing the facts in the next 12 months we will make decisions. We are accountable to the public and need to make sure services are viable. He wants to back the budget today then sit down and work out how to proceed next.

Cllr JOAN BELL (Labour) said the consultation with residents shows the top priority is antsocial behaviour; gangs of young people, nuisance neighbours, litter. Where in the budget do we show we are taking account of residents. Where ward budgets have been used to action people’s requests this has shown good results and we need to carry on.

Cllr TERRY FOLLOWS (City Independents) supports Labour on antisocial behaviour. Youth services can help but the Labour government won’t use imprisonment enough.

Cllr MARK DAVIS (Labour) said both meetings of Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny that had discussed the budget expressed severed reservations about cutting Stoke Speaks Out. It had won awards, so do we support it or cut it? He described the consultation on the budget as a clay pigeon shoot and thought the full impact of the root and branch review may be left until after the 2011 all out elections, but maybe this shouldn’t be left until then.

Cllr MIKE BARNES (non-aligned) said at least in this consultation we could see what may or may not be cut. Before, under the mayor, we were blindfolded and the clay pigeons couldn’t be seen, they just came over and dropped on us from a great height. He can’t help harping on about the past because 7 ex-Labour members are here because of the elected mayor and his budget. Before each budget had put off decisions but now there is a glimmer of hope and confidence the review will happen properly this time.

Cllr DAVE CONWAY (City Independents) is not happy with the budget but knows it must go through. Why is it about cuts? Because of bad management. Who saved Dimensions? 20p on admissions saved it. We should look at where we can generate money to improve services. Atrocious managers overspend then rob someone else who may have underspent due to good management.

Cllr ZULFIQAR ALI (Liberal Democrat) is against council tax, a local income tax would be better but what choice do we have? The Labour government has deprived us of £25 million. In general the budget is balanced and we shouldn’t hesitate to support it.

Cllr ROSS IRVING (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said the Labour suggestions have merit but should have been put in through the consultation process. In 12 months time it will be a difficult job. The council should be run as a business, we need to look at how to deliver services. There is a new mood in the council. We are all prepared to recognise financial difficulties. Next year everyone needs to participate.

Cllr GAVIN WEBB (Libertarian) for the last two and a half years has been saying there should be greater transparency in the finances. It is encouraging to see the amount of detail this time and he thanks officers for that. But more can be done, he wants full accounts published online in plain English. Council tax stamps on the rights of the individual. If anything radical comes out if the root and branch review he will shave his beard off. Councillor Ward accuses him of being a dreamer but what is wrong with that? Greater responsibility is needed from individuals who should not look to the council to solve their problems. He will vote against this on principle, it is immoral to steal people’s money.

Cllr DAVE SUTTON (Liberal Democrat) said it is difficult but we should move forward as one and vote the budget through.

Cllr JOHN DAVIS (City Independents) said the Labour government has deliberately deprived us of millions of pounds because we have been paid below the formula for the government support grant. We must make sure this is fair in future.

Cllr MOHAMMED PERVEZ (Labour) said in the real world this council will have to find savings. This is not a budget, it is a cop out. Most of the members across the chamber are supportive of the Labour ideas but won’t support because it’s Labour. Debate on the Labour ideas was stifled. The consultation under the previous system was better. They don’t need to ask officers whether they can do things or not. They didn’t contribute because it is not his job to tell the executive how to do their job. He won’t support the budget because it is not fit for purpose.

Cllr BRIAN WARD (City Independents) said we are between a rock and a hard place, but we do not look as bad as other places for job losses. £26 million pounds were lost on the formula grant. We still have the 4th lowest council tax in unitary and metropolitan authorities. Consultants increased under Labour and only now do they want to cut them. Jobs are being brought in by NSRP. On antisocial behaviour throwing money at it doesn’t work, we need to work with police and other partners without cost. The valid Labour points should not have been presented one minute before the meeting. He asks for everyone to interact with the root and branch reviews and not fall out over politics.

Cllr ALAN RIGBY (City Independents) has friends in Labour and the BNP and throughout the chamber although he may fall out with people. But there is more hope now than ever, we should have respect for each other and put political differences aside.

Cllr PAULINE JOYNSON (Non-Aligned Group) will support the budget because for the past 6 years she has asked for a line by line budget in order to understand it and congratulates officers for providing it this time. All councillors have had an information booklet and a chance to talk about the budget although she is not happy with everything in it. How many things have Labour supported under the current Lord Mayor? Nothing. That is just being political.

Cllr PETER KENT-BAGULEY (Potteries Alliance) wanted assurance that the paper on Stanley Head around the chamber is included with the budget. The Lord Mayor JEAN BOWERS gave this assurance.

Cllr JOHN DANIELS (Conservative and Independent Alliance) said accurate reports had helped decisions but this is just the start and there is serious work to do. An example of the type of thing that could have been done is charge £5 admission to see the Staffordshire Hoard.

Cllr KIERAN CLARKE (Liberal Democrat) thanked Labour for uniting everyone to support the budget and critcised their suggested amendment. There will be an opportunity over the next few months for strategic direction. He summarised many people’s comments. He said legacy issues will be there for a while but we will get over them and processes will change. Root and branch review will not be delayed until after the 2011 elections.

A vote was carried to have a named vote on the budget proposals.

The budget was carried by 35 votes for to 14 against. Labour and Libertarian voted against while everyone else voted for.

Tony has recorded a number of Audio Interviews with Councillors which you can listen to below

Council Newspapers Are Not Value For Money

At a time when Stoke-on-Trent City Council, along with almost every other council in the country is trying to save money from its budget, the Audit Commission have reported back on their review of council publications

Amongst other things the Audit Commission report says:

Claims about the value achieved by communication spending are not well supported by evidence

Competing claims have been made about the generally wasteful or generally beneficial nature of council communication. Our analysis of the relationship of council communication to a number of impact measures suggests that neither claim is well supported by the evidence. This is not surprising given the range of information and the varied messages that are being communicated, which aim to have an equally wide range of impacts.

The Stoke-on-Trent City Council Press & Communications Department had proposed that by making the ‘Our City’ council newspaper a monthly publication, they could save some £147,000 a year.

In light of this report is it wise to try and save a very small amount of money by investing in something that appears to be poor value for money?

A better designed and implemented website would be on the list of how the council could better connect with people, but not necessarily number 1. There are a huge number of people in the city who do not have home access to the internet who we need to look at first.

How could the council better communicate with people in Stoke-on-Trent? What can they do to get information out to people?

To Grit Or Not To Grit

How appropriate that just as we have the first cold snap of the winter period the City Council proposes to slash the number of roads that are gritted by nearly half, to save £100,000 per year. At a meeting on Wednesday, finance officers responded to councillors concerns with the well rehearsed line, “We are going to have to make some tough choices this year!”.

We. WE!

To City Council officers these are just costings; lines on a budget sheet. Councillors have to make the tough decisions on the budget ““ we will be the ones held to account by the public while they carry on sitting in their cosy offices picking up their fat pay cheques.

Meanwhile, the biggest losers will be the public, footing the bill.

Ross Irving, said:

“Protect public services from the need to cut the budget due to the recession.”

Well what are the consequences of cutting the gritting budget in half ““ reducing the coverage of roads from 46% down to 25%?

In pure logistical terms the cut will mean all bus routes off the main roads will not be treated, according to a senior officer with responsibility for responsive highways maintenance. It will also mean some main road in Stoke-on-Trent (A and B roads) will also not be gritted. Not side streets but the main arteries of the City.

For Stoke-on-Trent as a whole it will mean no buses on estates, stranding workers, school children and pensioners in their own homes. If we have a prolonged cold snap this could be very serious particularly for pensioners.

It will mean in severe weather, gridlock like we have never seen it before, untreated main roads, increased likelihood of accidents with potential fatal results.

What cost then to the City to save £100,000 per year. Wages lost to low paid staff unable to get into work. Business lost through lack of customers and missed deliveries. These are just some results and I am sure there are many, many more.

A simple, innocent looking single line in a budget cutting report. A torrent of negative consequences.

Just one more reason why every single proposed cut needs to be put under the spotlight and thoroughly scrutinised ““ not just given a tick with the stroke of a pen and a pat on the back.

No mileage in Union’s argument over staff expenses cut

It’s interesting what happens when an authority starts looking introspectively to find savings rather than cutting obviously needed public services.

This week it came out that the city council is planning to make amendments to staff vehicle expenses, which a report
showed had cost the public of Stoke no less than ₤1.9 million in a year.

It emerges that ‘essential car users’, whom one would assume, are those who absolutely ‘must’ use their cars for
their work within the council, have clocked up nearly half-a-million miles between them, at a cost to the authority of ₤505,831, which works out at a whopping ₤1.06 a mile. And this has been driven up to this huge sum by a
comparatively small 297 such ‘essential’ users, meaning an average claim of ₤1,703 quid a piece for their car allowance.

The accepted HM Revenue and Customs pay out for vehicle expenses, taking into account cost of fuel and the wear and tear on the car, is just 40p, which is a far cry from what these employees are being paid out in what has
been decribed as nothing less than a ‘perk’ for key staff.

Other ‘casual’ car users have claimed a significantly lower amount, which works out at 56p a mile on average, and totalling 1.4 million overall.

The irony of all this is how did all this get into the public domain? It was leaked by the union which assumed that the public would be on its – and those it represents’ – side.

But with such figures, what sane member of the public would be behind a scheme which so blatantly tops-up the wages of employees with over-the-top benefits?

Unison branch secretary Colin Walton made the statement to The Sentinel: “We are not prepared to allow our members to subsidise the local authority when they use their own cars to do council work.

“The 40p rate would actually be subsidising the council to the tune of about 20p per mile.”

Utter rubbish. If you work it out, even by today’s exorbitantly expensive fuel prices, it’ll cost you about 13p a mile, using a car doing a not-impressive 30mpg, at the current local average of 107.9p a litre. Which leaves another 27p for every mile travelled to pay for the wear and tear on the car, if staff were reimbursed at the rate suggested by the Inland Revenue. So any more than that rate should be deemed as a bonus, rather than a valid expense. And it that’s the case, should be added to the member of staff’s taxable wages in a totally transparent fashion.

It’s not often I’m liable to disagree with the socialists, but here, they’re acting a bit more like capitalists. It’s one thing to stand up for the rights of workers who would suffer through being downtrodden by an employer seeking to take advantage of them. But clearly, this is not the case here. It’s more like the other way around: staff taking advantage of a system open to abuse, akin to the situation exposed over MPs’ expenses, on a smaller, local scale.

And besides all that, it hardly goes along with the council’s intentions to promote the use of public transport, bicycles, or god forbid, people’s own feet.

New head honcho Van de Laarschott has put a hold on the recommendations of the report being implemented whilst discussions with staff take place, but cuts could take place in the new year. And that they bloody well should.

Update 21/4: Council election dispute back in the High Court

By Matt Taylor

Update 21/4:

The case over a Hanley woman who took legal action against the council over a disputed election result has still not been resolved despite spending the last two days in the High Court.

Eve Maley took the city council to court over the election for Northwood and Birches Head because she felt aggrieved that the Liberal Democrats were allowed multiple recounts which led to the eventual announcement of their representative Dave Sutton being declared the winner by one vote, when Eve had been ahead in the previous three totals.

There is now debate over a missing postal vote which could hold the key to Eve achieving her aim of changing the result of the election with the possibility of a re-run.

But although these were counted yesterday, no decision has yet been made and there will now be a further hearing, which is to happen next Friday, 30th October, at an as-yet undisclosed location.

The battle thus far has cost Mrs Maley seven thousand pounds, with further costs still adding up paid for by legal aid, as well as mounting costs to the taxpayer for lawyers representing the city council.

As published on October 19th:

Eve outside her home in Eaton Street

Eve outside her previous home in Eaton Street (now subject to a CPO)

Eve Maley, aged 64, from Hanley, took umbridge when the vote to elect a councillor for Northwood and Birches Head last year went against her by one vote – after several recounts.

In the first three counts Eve was found ahead in the ballot. But with Dave Sutton being second in the running, the Lib Dems called for the multiple recounts which led to the fourth overturning the decision, instead putting Sutton one ahead. It was when this occurred and after Eve was refused the right to a recount herself, that she decided to take action against the council.

But a year-and-a-half on, several hearings in the Royal Courts of Justice, and costly appearances by QCs on behalf of both Eve and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, nothing has been resolved. And today’s hearing before a commissioner was no exception.

However, it does seem as if the long battle is coming to a long-awaited conclusion.

The case has taken a turn from what it was originally concerned with, as the count of votes which were delivered by the city council to the courts did add up to the tally declared in the final count. Now it has come down to postal votes, because the numbers published by the Returning Officer did not add up correctly, meaning there was one missing vote. Since this vote could have been for Eve, the argument is that, of course, it would have led to a draw.

The postal votes and spoilt ballot papers therein will be examined tomorrow, when Eve returns for another appearance in the big smoke. But this could still not be the last, with a possible final hearing to happen in Stoke before the matter is ultimately resolved. Eve said:

“We got what we wanted in that they are going to check the postal votes. There’s one missing and they can’t account for that. So it could have been declared a draw.

“The commissioner wasn’t happy that the whole thing had taken 18 months.

“But it could still not be sorted tomorrow and if not will be completed in Stoke. It’s been a nightmare.

“If they had just given me a recount in the first place, then either way the result went, none of this would have happened.

“The best outcome is the truth – what went on needs to come out. People who voted for me need to know the truth.”

SUNDAY DEBATE: Nice work – if you can get it!

We published this article a few days ago, but we thought we would push it up the page and use the contents as a topic for a good old fashioned debate.

Comment By - Tony Walley

Tony Walley

Comment By Tony Walley.

We published this article a few days ago, but we thought we would push it up the page and use the contents as a topic for a good old fashioned debate.

Something for the weekend -ahem!

Transition Board.

There has been some confusion as to whether the members of the Transition Board are being paid or not.

I can reveal that the answer is some are and some are not.

There is an allowance of £4000pa which has now been paid to those members who have filled the appropriate forms in. One person who has chosen not to take this allowance is former Labour Group Leader Mike Tappin. I think he should be applauded for this.

Now you either love or loathe Mike Tappin but as I have said on this site before, if the Transition Board were made up of Mike Tappins, I for one would have no issue with it.

I think politics to one side, Mike is probably on of the most experienced politicians ever to represent this city. A former MEP and councillor who was one of the few of his kind who truly understands local government finance. Mike has come in for a bit of criticism on this site particularly from the members of the far right and that is fine as long as we concentrate of political differences rather than the personal attacks. This is what often brings this site down, the meaningless, frankly boring personal stuff rather than focusing on the policies and political issues.

Never the less this £4000pa paid to those who have chosen to accept it. For a board that is not obliged to publish official minutes of their meetings [they publish notes]. The burning question about the TB is as before. How were these people selected? Did they apply and if they did, who did they apply to? What selection criteria was used to ensure the right people were appointed?

The board is made up of the following people:

As I say I have no issues will those on the Board with the experience of the Mike Tappin’s of the world but, I have yet to be convinced that some of the characters on there can make a real difference, or am I being unfair?

The funding for paying this allowance comes from the West Midlands Regional Efficiency Partnership and as such does not come out of the city council budget.

Links

Stoke-on-Trent Governance Transition Board

NSRP Chair.

Another post that would be attractive to those who are seeking maximum return for minimum commitment is the creation of a paid Chairman for the North Staffs Regeneration Partnership [NSRP] It seems that this is to go before the cabinet at their next meeting.

This successful applicant is to be paid £24,000 per year for just 4 days work per month!

Now I know that Cllr Mick Salih raised this issue several times in the council chamber. He mentioned that this post could pay £20000 per year, well I can’t imagine that he is too happy to learn that this paid position will carry a salary of some £4000 above that!

Mick has always argued that the chair of the NSRP should be the political leader of our council chamber and that it should not be a paid position as it should come under the responsibility of the council leader’s remit.

The report going before the cabinet will recommend that:

The Cabinet is asked to note the arrangements for the recruitment and appointment of an independent Chair of the North Staffordshire Regeneration Partnership (NSRP), and (acting in its capacity as Accountable Body for the NSRP) to endorse the following
NSRP Boards decisions:-

a) That the Chair will be appointed for a term of between 3 and 6 years;

b) That a stipend of £24,000 per annum will be payable provided that the successful candidate is not an elected Member or an Officer of a Local Authority;

c) That the partners share the recruitment costs and the annual cost of the stipend as set out in the report, and;

d) That an appointments panel be established to oversee the recruitment process, to conduct interviews and to appoint the Chair of the NSRP for such term and upon such conditions as it considers appropriate (having regard to recommendations (a) and (b) above) . Such appointments panel shall comprise the Interim NSRP Chair, Mr Ian Dudson, and representatives of the following partner organisations – Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Staffordshire County
Council, Advantage West Midlands, and the Homes and Community’s Agency.

It would appear that the recruitment process will cost in the region of £30,000 and will be carried out by Penna [the company that handled the appointment of the chief executive]. The position will be advertised in the Sunday Times and Regeneration and Renewal, [so it’s no good looking in the Sentinel on a Wednesday]. The job is advertised on the Penna Executive Recruitment  website but with no publicly available details

It is suggested that the cost of recruitment is borne by the City Council [from NSRP budget] and that the stipend is shared between key partners, on a third each basis between the City Council, HCA, and AWM as set out in the report.

I have a couple of questions, who came up with the salary level for this position? And did it take into account that the commitment in relation of time is just four days a month?

You can bet that this will cause a stir at the next full council meeting.

Interim Chief Executive.

Now a lot has been made of the fact that out-going Interim Chief Executive Chris Harman is not at his desk holding the reigns while the new CE John van de Laarschot’s release from Torridge is being negotiated. Indeed a source has informed me that Chris is actually away on leave in Dubai.

There has been an outcry at the fact that he is looking for a pay off to go. This all comes down to what is written in the contract that covered Chris whilst he was Interim CE. Contracts of this nature normally have a clause built into them that would stipulate a notice period and I would guess that could be in the region of 3 months.

Chris will also have a contract as the deputy CE and again, depending on what this contract requires there will be a clause which will allow either the authority or the individual to leave with some period of notice.

Now, I’m not saying it is right or wrong whether Chris gets a pay off, I am saying that whatever members of the public and indeed elected members of the chamber feel Chris will be remunerated inline with the terms and conditions of his contract[s].

It is common place for people in executive positions not to work their notice period and then to negotiate a severance package based on their contracts.

When a company and an individual decide that the position of a person is untenable there may be what is called a ‘Compromise Agreement’, which is normally drawn up between lawyers and often contains a ‘gagging order’ to protect both parties.

The Sentinel article and the comments posted to it may well strengthen Chris Harman’s case that his position is untenable in my opinion. Not that I disagree with the article or think that it should not have been written.

When people take their salaries from the public purse, they are to some extent accountable to every man and woman in the city. I am no lover of reading personal criticisms and in my opinion it has got personal in the case of Chris Harman, some members of the public want to hit out and to be fair maybe that’s what the extortionate salary levels attract.

I am not saying this to be controversial, far from it but I do think that this matter needs bringing to a close as soon as possible. If I were at the civic and negotiating this I would pay a reasonable sum to secure a positive outcome for both parties.

There is no advantage in keeping someone in place who doesn’t want to be there and has lost the confidence of those who are around him and indeed the public at large.

Pay out as little as we can get away with and let’s move on.

Residents’ associations – where are they?

By Nicky Davis With the next stage of the boundary committee’s consultation due to run from 27th October to 18th January and no evidence of much action being taken following the 8th September council meeting, I have today (14th October) submitted the following complaint to the council, to try to get something moving! I have made a number of telephone requests to ask for the details of residents’ associations on the council’s web site: http://www.stoke.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/community–people-and-living/residents–associations/ which is woefully out of date, to be corrected. This is because I am a firm believer in grass roots democracy, wish to see residents’ associations thrive and believe this would be good for residents, communities and the city. It would help to facilitate this if the list of residents’ associations on the web were accurate! Unfortunately the response I have had to my polite requests has been non-existent. This is why I am now regrettably submitting this complaint to the council. At the full council meeting on 8th September on the council report to the boundary committee, Cllr Joy Garner also pointed out inaccuracies in the list of residents’ associations. She said the boundary committee should have a full and correct list. The Lord Mayor Jean Bowers actioned Chris Harman to do this. This gave me some hope that something would be done, but I have lost that hope now. If the boundary committee have been given a full and correct list, why can’t this list be made available to the rest of us on the council’s web site? If the boundary committee have not been given the correct list, that is even more of a disgrace. With the next stage of the boundary committee’s consultation http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/boundary-reviews/all-reviews/west-midlands/staffordshire/stoke-on-trent-electoral-review due 27th October to 18th January, it is especially important to have a proper list of residents’ associations and what areas they cover. It is my view that when new ward boundaries are decided they should not split residents’ associations. There are potential complexities, especially if neighbourhood zones might be important in deciding ward boundaries. Where I live, the residents’ association crosses the boundary of two neighbourhood zones. In order for a proper consideration of ward boundaries to take place, I would make a further request, that a map is made available on the web site showing the exact areas, to street level, covered by all the residents’ associations. This information exists, for example see the map on: http://www.trenthampeople.co.uk/Map.htm It just needs someone in the council who has this for all associations to put it together. In summary, what I am asking in order for my complaint to be properly addressed is for (a) a full and correct list of residents’ associations and (b) a map showing the exact areas covered by all residents’ associations, to be made available on the council’s web site, prior to 27th October when the next stage of the boundary committee’s consultation commences. I thank you in advance for your help.

Residents’ associations – where are they?

By Nicky Davis

With the next stage of the boundary committee’s consultation due to run from 27th October to 18th January and no evidence of much action being taken following the 8th September council meeting, I have today (14th October) submitted the following complaint to the council, to try to get something moving!

I have made a number of telephone requests to ask for the details of residents’ associations on the council’s web site:

http://www.stoke.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/community–people-and-living/residents–associations/

which is woefully out of date, to be corrected.  This is because I am a firm believer in grass roots democracy, wish to see residents’ associations thrive and believe this would be good for residents, communities and the city.  It would help to facilitate this if the list of residents’ associations on the web were accurate!

Unfortunately the response I have had to my polite requests has been non-existent.  This is why I am now regrettably submitting this complaint to the council.

At the full council meeting on 8th September on the council report to the boundary committee, Cllr Joy Garner also pointed out inaccuracies in the list of residents’ associations.  She said the boundary committee should have a full and correct list.  The Lord Mayor Jean Bowers actioned Chris Harman to do this.  This gave me some hope that something would be done, but I have lost that hope now.  If the boundary committee have been given a full and correct list, why can’t this list be made available to the rest of us on the council’s web site?  If the boundary committee have not been given the correct list, that is even more of a disgrace.

With the next stage of the boundary committee’s consultation

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/boundary-reviews/all-reviews/west-midlands/staffordshire/stoke-on-trent-electoral-review

due 27th October to 18th January, it is especially important to have a proper list of residents’ associations and what areas they cover.  It is my view that when new ward boundaries are decided they should not split residents’ associations.  There are potential complexities, especially if neighbourhood zones might be important in deciding ward boundaries.  Where I live, the residents’ association crosses the boundary of two neighbourhood zones.

In order for a proper consideration of ward boundaries to take place, I would make a further request, that a map is made available on the web site showing the exact areas, to street level, covered by all the residents’ associations.  This information exists, for example see the map on:

http://www.trenthampeople.co.uk/Map.htm

It just needs someone in the council who has this for all associations to put it together.

In summary, what I am asking in order for my complaint to be properly addressed is for
(a) a full and correct list of residents’ associations and
(b) a map showing the exact areas covered by all residents’ associations,
to be made available on the council’s web site, prior to 27th October when the next stage of the boundary committee’s consultation commences.

I thank you in advance for your help.

MOHAMMED PERVEZ NEW LABOUR GROUP LEADER – BREAKING NEWS!

By Tony Walley.

New Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez

New Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez

The Stoke-on-Trent Labour group have tonight named their new group leader!

Mohammed Pervez will take over with immediate effect following the resignation of Mike Barnes following recent allegations that he posed as someone from the BBC and this site while trying to find out information from another local authority.

Councillor Pervez, who was elected in 2006 to represent the Burslem South Ward, is a Research Scientist involved in the development of life-saving drugs.  Pervez is a family man who was born in Walsall and has lived in Stoke-on-Trent for the last 18 years. Â  Pervez is a respected councillor and an effective chamber speaker. He will now hope to bring some stability to the role as Leader.

In a statement this evening Councillor Pervez said  “I am delighted that the Labour Group has given me the opportunity to serve the people of Stoke-on-Trent in this way.  Over the next few months and years the Labour Party and I will be talking and listening to residents about what matters most to them and how we can make this happen.  Our focus will be on the people of this City and improving their lives.”

He becomes the latest in a long line of Labour Group Leaders. Over the last decade there have been names like the following:

Barry stockley- lost his seat
Terry Doughty- lost his seat
Mike Tappin- lost his seat
Mick Salih- lost his seat and resigned from Labour Party
Joy Garner- removed as leader and temporarily left Labour Party before going back
Mike Barnes- suspended and now resigned from Labour Party.

Pervez will now surely work to unite the group which may now also see the return of Joan Bell who was known to have issues with Barnes but always worked well with Pervez.

Adrian Knapper was also a frontrunner but he was defeated in the vote, but will, however, carry on as deputy leader.