Stoke-on-Trent City Council Approve £35million Cuts Budget

Stoke-on-Trent City Council set their budget today [Thursday] following a long and sometimes heated debate.

The motion in moving the budget, which includes cuts of some £35million and the closures of several key facilities, was eventually won by 40 votes in favour to 13 votes against.

In voting to accept the budget proposals, councillors have agreed to the closure of Shelton Pool, Burslem & Fenton Libraries, Park Hall Golf Course, 2 elderley care provisions and other valued services and public amenities.

Unless viable business proposals are submitted by community groups or social enterprises the city could also lose Ford Green Hall, the City Farm, Etruria Industrial Museum and the much publicised Tunstall Pool.

It was not all doom and gloom however as the council have confirmed that it is to retain all the City’s Children Centres, Stoke Speaks Out, Shopmobility and all Local Centres.

In moving the motion to commend the Budget, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez said that it was imperative that the council set a legal and balanced budget. He also confirmed that there is to be no Council Tax rise in the next municipal year.

Cllr Pervez told the chamber that it had been a long and hard road to get to the point where the cabinet were able to recommend this budget. He reminded the chamber that the council could not allow petty arguments to derail the process of agreeing this budget.

He said that the cabinet and the officers of the council had been composed, collected and considered as well as open and transparent during the consultation and the budget setting process.

Cllr Pervez reminded the chamber that Stoke-on-Trent City Council had been the 8th hardest hit authority in the country and that those councillors who had accused the cabinet of scaremongering should be glad that they had prepared for the worse case scenario.

The Community Voice group moved an amendment calling for a postponement in setting the budget as they believed that there had been insufficient Equality Impact Assessments carried out on all the budget proposals.

Community Voice spokesman Cllr Mike Barnes, said that the council needed to minimise risk and should heed the legal challenges relating to Equality Impact across other authorities across the country.

Cllr Barnes urged the cabinet to accept the need to dot every I and cross every “Ëœt’.

He condemned the documentation produced to support the budget proposals for failing to mention Equality.

Fellow Community Voice Councillor Mick Salih criticised the cabinet and council officers for not handing round the printed amendment to the substantive motion before the meeting.

He also stated that he was unable to support the budget because there were a number of proposals in it that were still under negotiation. He said that it would be wrong to pass an holistic budget when a large amount of the fine detail was not known.

Deputy Council Leader Ross Irving [Conservative] said that legal clarification was necessary and suggested that the legal officer should address the chamber and give his opinion on whether there was an issue with regards to Equality Impact.

Paul Hackney gave a long and detailed assessment of the situation and concluded that in his opinion the Council had carried out the necessary assessments with regard to Equality and that they has shown due regard during the budget consultations, overview and scrutiny processes and in the final proposals.

Community Voice’s amendment was defeated heavily.

There was a long, passionate, heated and sometimes angry debate in the chamber on the substantive motion of adopting the budget proposals.

The debate was divided between primarily those councillors in the four-way coalition parties of Labour, Conservative and Independent Allliance, Liberal Democrat and City Independent Group [apart from Cllr Dave Conway who refused to support the budget] and those councillors in opposition.

The coalition councillors condemned the opposition councillors, especially the Community Voice group, for playing to the public gallery and for not providing an alternative to the budget proposals.

The opposition councillors especially Community Voice criticised the coalition for not listening to the residents of the city.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley accused the cabinet of lacking political judgement and of having no clear criteria in setting this budget.

Cabinet Councillors rebuked the accusations by saying that the criteria was always to protect the most vulnerable and needy in the city.

This meeting was one of the longest in recent times. Passions and emotions were running high. Coalition councillors constantly referred to the need to accept the financial situation imposed on the city by the National Coalition Government.
Coalition Councillors also spoke about taking political responsibility and demonstrating clear leadership in formulating this budget.

Opposition Councillors spoke of the hardship that the citizens and residents of the city will have to endure as a result of these levels of cuts.

No matter what the political persuasion it was evident that the burden of public duty was wearing hard on all the councillors within the chamber.

The opposition councillors gave it heir best shot and the coalition councillors stood firm in the face of adversity and backed their cabinet colleagues.

We have a series of Audio Interviews to bring you.

First one is with Cllr Mike Barnes from the Community Voice group who explains why they were seeking a postponement of a budget decision. This was recorded before the meeting.

Then we hear from Matt Wright from the Socialist Party who explains why his North Staffs Against Cuts group were urging councillors to reject the budget proposals.

A member of the Socialist Workers Party was ejected from the council chamber during the meeting for causing a disturbance.

Next up we hear from Liz from Trent Vale who was also asked to leave the chamber for trying [very peacefully] to address the councillors in the chamber to get support for Shelton Pool and from a member of the action group fighting to save Shelton Pool.

And finally we hear from the four leaders of the coalition groups on the City Council, Cllr Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Cllr Ross Irving [Conservative & IA], Cllr Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem] and Cllr Brian Ward [City Independents] who give their reaction to winning the vote on the budget.

Half Term Family Fun at City Museums

This half term all four of the Stoke-on-Trent museums have events and activities planned to help parents find new and exciting ways to entertain their children during the school holidays.

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery, Gladstone Pottery Museum, Ford Green Hall and Etruria Industrial Museum will all host events for children of all ages. The series of events start tomorrow (Saturday February 19) and run until Saturday February 26.

The list of events including:-

The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery

The screening of four films as part of the Stoke Your Fires Festival of the Moving Image. All tickets are £3, no booking is required and the showings are as follows:
Toy Story 3 on Saturday February 19 at 10.30am, Sunday 20, at 2.30pm and Monday 21, at 10.30am and 2.30pm.
Despicable Me on Tuesday February 22 and Wednesday 23, at 10.30am and 2.30pm
Jungle Book on Thursday February 24 at 10.30am and 2.30pm
How to Train Your Dragon on Friday February 25, at 10.30am and 2.30pm and Saturday 26, 10.30am.

Animation workshops, between Tuesday February 22 and Thursday February 24 from 11am until 4pm. Participants can create a pivot figure and animate it in these drop-in sessions for £1. There are also Animation Workshops for under 16s on Saturday February 26 which look at animating photographs and drawings. Tickets are £1. Please call the museum to book.

Gladstone Pottery Museum

Making a bottle oven fridge magnet at drop in sessions from 11am until 4pm on Thursday February 22, for 50p plus admission.
A selection of have-a-go activities every day from £1 plus admission which include throwing a pot, decorating pottery and making bone china flowers.
Designing and test a parachute to safely land a bone china flower from 10am until 4pm on Sunday February 27 in Superdads ““ Parachuting Poppies. This event costs £1.

Ford Green Hall

Sailing the seven seas in their drop in craft activities which uses magnet power to sail a ship across the ocean. They will be held from Monday 21 until Thursday February 24 from 1 to 4pm and cost 50p plus admission.

Etruria Industrial Museum

A drop in rag rug day where visitors can try their hand at making a rug in taster sessions on Wednesday February 23, between 11am and 3pm. To book a place please call the museum on 01782 233144. Although the museum is closed to casual visitors booked visits are very welcome.

For more details or to request a copy of the latest What’s On leaflet which lists all museum exhibitions, displays, events and activities call 01782 232323 or email museums@stoke.gov.uk. Visitors can also download a copy of the What’s On or join our email mailing list from our website at www.stoke.gov.uk/museum.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

Take a tour around the city’s historic towns during national Heritage Open Days

Federation themed guided tours of four of the city’s historic towns will take place this month as part of the national Heritage Open Days programme.

The tours, entitled “ËœThe Past Shaping the Future’, will take place around Burslem, Longton, Stoke and Hanley (City Centre). Each tour will tell visitors about key buildings and places that define the history of the towns as well as future plans for their regeneration.

Each tour will also look at the heritage of the town halls and explore their role in the civic life of the Potteries. Tours will be finished with a creative workshop where visitors will have the chance to explore the architecture and heritage of the towns.

Tours will take place between 1pm and 3.30pm on:

*Thursday 9 September ““ Stoke and Hanley (City Centre)
*Friday 10 September ““ Burslem and Longton

“The city’s architecture provides a true glimpse of what life was like in Stoke-on-Trent during the city’s manufacturing past and we want to give people an opportunity to see the buildings for what they are. We want people to look up above their eye line and to marvel in the wonderful architecture that makes up the towns of our city.”

“Through engaging tours and talks and the backdrop of the Heritage Open Days, we are able to offer guests a unique insight into the towns that make up our local communities during this year’s centenary celebrations.”

Heritage Open Days form a four day programme of events taking place between Thursday September 9 until Sunday September 12. It will also see three of the city’s museums allowing guests to enter for free as well as giving visitors rare access to areas of the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery; a scheduled ancient monument site.
The full programme of openings and events are:

Etruria Industrial Museum (Free entry) Saturday 11 September, 12pm – 4.30pm.
Gladstone Pottery Museum (Free entry) – Sunday 12 September, 10am – 5pm.
Ford Green Hall (Free entry) – Sunday 12 September, 1pm – 4pm.

Chatterley Whitfield Colliery Tour (Saturday September 11).
Historic Walk of Longton – Sunday 12 September, 2pm.
There are also free guided walks for Fenton and Tunstall on Wednesday 8 September being managed by Urban Vision North Staffordshire.

All tours leave from the respective town halls. For more information or to book your place, contact Urban Vision North Staffordshire on 01782 790595 or email info@uvns.org. For further information on other open days, visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk.

Summer Holiday Activities At The City’s Museums

During the summer holiday the city’s museums are providing plenty of activities to keep both children and adults entertained.

There will be a range of summer activities to choose from which cater for all age ranges and interests.

The activities are as follows:

Etruria Industrial Museum

Bamfords Valuation Day
Fri 6 August, 2 – 4pm. Free antiques valuations.

Mill “Ëœin steam’
Sat 7 August – Sun 8 August, 1 – 4pm. Experience the sights and sounds of Victorian engineering in the heart of the Potteries. Steamings on the hour. Normal admission applies.

Under Water
Weds 4, 11, 18, 25 August and Weds 1 September, 12 – 3pm. What’s at the bottom of the canal? Create a 3D underwater view. 50p plus admission.

Ford Green Hall

Teddy Bears Picnic
Thurs 29 July, 1 – 4pm. Join Ford Green Hall teddy bears for a fun day. Bring a picnic and listen to our storyteller. Free entry to the Hall when you bring a teddy bear.

Classic Bus Rides
Sun 1 August, 11am – 4pm. Schedule services of free bus rides across local attractions including Gladstone Pottery Museum, Ford Green Hall and The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery.

Plundering Pirates!
Weds 11 August, 1 – 4pm. A pirate family fun day. Dress up like a pirate and win a small prize. Free outdoor event, normal admission charges to the Hall apply.

Get Knotted
Thurs 12 August, 1 – 4pm. Sow and grow a tiny Tudor knot garden. Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Dancing Partners
Thurs 19 August, 1 – 4pm. Make a pair of Tudor dancers. Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Edwardian Fairies Hunt
Sun 22 August, 1 – 4pm. Join our intrepid explorers Mr and Mrs Butterwick as they lead an expedition to discover if fairies truly exist. Tickets: adults £2.50, concessions £1.50, family tickets (2 adults + 2 children) £5, additional child £1. Normal admission charges apply.

Gladstone Pottery Museum

Peter Pan Trail
Mon 26 July – Tues 31 August. Hunt for our Peter Pan clues hidden around the museum. £1 plus admission, with free gift.

Votes for Women
Tues 27 July, 11am – 4pm. See the suffragettes as they protest for their right to vote in 1910. Show your support by making a suffragette rosette. Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Classic Bus Running Day
Sun 1 August, 11am – 4pm. Static display of classic vehicles plus free bus rides to museums and other local attractions. Free event, with discounted admission to museum.

Window Dressing
Tues 3 August, 11am – 4pm. Make an Art Nouveau stained glass window. Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Up in Arms
Tues 10 August, 11am – 4pm. How would you design a coat of arms for a newly united Stoke-on-Trent? Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Peter Pan Day
Thurs 12 August, 11am – 4pm. Meet well loved characters from Peter Pan including Captain Hook and Tinkerbell. Dress up as a pirate or fairy and have your face painted. Each visitor in costume will receive a small gift.

Hello Sailor
Tues 17 August, 11am – 4pm. A sailor collar will make any outfit the height of Edwardian fashion. Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Framed
Tues 24 August, 11am – 4pm. Create an Art Nouveau frame for a special photo. Drop-in, 50p plus admission.

Under Cover
Tues 31 August, 11am – 4pm. Make an Edwardian book jacket for your favourite book. Drop-in, 50p plus admission

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery

Digital Summer
Tues 3 – Thurs 26 August, 11am – 4pm. Different digital activities every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Drop-in, free.

Fantastic Frog Mugs
Tues 27 ““ Thurs 29 July. Design a clay pot inspired by our frog mugs.

Paper Puppets
Tues 3 – Thurs 5 August. Make a Punch or Judy puppet.

Clay Hedgehogs
Tues 10 – Thurs 12 August. Model your own spiky hedgehog.

Water, Water Everywhere!
Tues 17 – Thurs 19 August. Celebrate World Water Week by making our water mobile.

Saxon Soldiers
Tues 24 – Thurs 26 August. Make a Saxon peg doll.

Ozzie Owls
Tues 31 August – Thurs 2 September. Make an Ozzie Owl with flapping wings

For more information on any of these activities please visit: stoke.gov.uk/museum

Stoke-on-Trent Museums Keep The Children Entertained

Stoke-on-Trent Museums have children’s activities for your family to enjoy this half-term.

At Gladstone Pottery Museum visitors can find out about Edwardian Toys and Games such as books of optical illusions and dolls and make a paper toy to take home. The drop-in activity takes place on Tuesday 1 June ,11am – 4pm and costs just 50p plus admission.

At Ford Green Hall kids can put together a mask of Henry the Eighth or one of his six wives in Masks and Monarchs. It takes place between Bank Holiday Monday 31 May and Thursday 3 June, 1 – 4pm and costs 50p plus admission.

At The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery there’s What a Whopper! , a magnetic fishing game to make and take home.. This drop-in activity takes place Tuesday 1 June – Thursday 3 June, 10.30am -12.30pm and 1.15 – 4pm costing £1, admission to the museum is free.

The Etruria Industrial Museum is holding a Barging In craft session to make and decorate card canal boats. It takes place on Wednesday 2 June, 12 – 3pm, costing 50p plus admission.

Children must be accompanied by an adult at these activities and groups of ten or more are welcome but please book in advance.

Fore more information or a free What’s On guide please call Etruria Industrial Museum on 01782 233144, Ford Green Hall on 01782 233195, Gladstone Pottery Museum on 01782 237777 or The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery on 01782 232323

Off with your head

Visitors are being dared to confront Gilbert Savage, the Tudor executioner, during his visit to Ford Green Hall this Thursday (February 18).
 
Guests will be able to hear grisly tales of crime during the Tudor and Elizabethan periods and the extremely harsh punishments which often followed for many, including two of Henry VIII’s wives. The executioner will also detail the nature of hangings, mutilation, and decapitation commonplace for this age.
 
The executioner will be wearing his usual black leather tunic and equipped with his ‘Berlin’ axe, block, ropes, shackles, knives and other ‘tools’ of his gruesome trade. He will tell guests how he used these to bring justice for crimes against property, individuals, and against the crown.
 
Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, said:
 
“This period of history was an extremely gruesome time for justice and I for one would not have liked to have met the executioner during his rounds. Our visitors will be able to get a real flavour of what life, and death, was like during Tudor times and see just how lucky we all are to have been born in this day and age.”
 
Ford Green Hall will also have on display reproduction costumes as worn by Henry VIII and his wives, before they were divorced or beheaded.
 
There will be extended opening at Ford Green Hall on Thursday day from 10am until 4pm. Normal Admission Price Applies
 

Take A Tour of the Hall

History will be brought to life at Ford Green Hall this weekend with free guided costumed tours.

The event, on Sunday January 24, will provide visitors with a look into what life was like for yeoman farmers during the Tudor and Elizabethan periods.

The guide through the hall will also demonstrate how each room was used in running the household.

Visitors will be able to gain an understanding of how the hall has changed through time to the present day. Guests can see how it was split into individual private residences and hear of its slow slide into disrepair before being saved and restored to its former glory.

Currently there is also a display of beautiful gem encrusted robes of the aristocracy of Henry VIII and his six wives for guests to enjoy during their visit.

Councillor Hazel Lyth, cabinet member for economic development and culture, said: “Ford Green Hall has a long and distinctive history here in Stoke-on-Trent. Over the years the hall has seen a great deal of change, both inside it and in the surrounding area and due to this has many tales to tell. I hope as many people as possible take the opportunity to visit and learn about the heritage of the city’s oldest buildings.”

Tours of Ford Green Hall take place at 1.30, 2.30 and 3.30pm. Normal admission applies.