Children’s Scrutiny Chair Slams Council Report and Demands Urgent Meeting

The Chair of the Children’s & Young Peoples Overview & Scrutiny meeting Cllr Dave Conway slammed the quality of a Council report and demanded that officers present a more comprehensive and up to date document before the Cabinet meet on 25th August.

His outburst came after it was revealed that the Children’s Centres attendance figures used in the report to members of the C&YPS committee were inaccurate and substantially out of date.

It was also revealed that the £2.25million worth of cuts, which equates to 30% of the Children’s Centres income, had already been removed from the budget.

There was also confusion over staffing levels due to the way the report was written which also drew criticism from the committee chair.

The Cabinet Member with responsibility for C&YPS, Cllr Debra Gratton reminded the committee that the recent statutory public consultation was not about the £2.25million of cuts as that had already been decided and agreed by the Council executive. It was about the services and facilities that would be on offer at the Children’s Centres in the future.

The Director of Children & Young People Services told the members of the scrutiny meeting that a reduction in staff and services at the city’s children’s centres could not be avoided due to the massive reduction in her departmental budget. She told the meeting that the Children’s Centres used to offer a Rolls Royce of a service but had had to reduce the level of service provided to the equivalent of a lesser model as a result of the necessity to save £12.6milion across her department. She said that she, the assistant directors and the managers had used a RAG rating system to identity the possible savings. It had been their priority to protect the Safeguarding Children side of the department.

Both the Cabinet Member and Departmental Director reminded the committee that no officer or politician found making these cuts easy or in the least bit palatable, but there was no alternative.

Committee Chair Cllr Dave Conway revealed that following his extensive research he had established that any Children’s Centre that was closed would be subject to a financial claw back by central government of around £1million per site. He interrogated the officers to whether this had played a role in the retention of the 7 Children’s Centres originally earmarked for closure.

Cllr Conway speculated whether the Labour Party had really saved the Children’s Centre’s due to the depth of public feeling or the fact that Central Government would get to claw back much more than was potentially being saved by this reorganisation.

Cllr Conway proposed that the report presented be rejected and a more comprehensive document, including accurate and up to date figures along with extensive feedback from the recent consultation, be presented to a specially arranged meeting of the C&YPS. This must be before the Cabinet meet on the 25th August to make a decision on the reorganisation of the children’s centres.

The committee agreed with the proposal.

It was also bad news for Children in school who were deaf or had severe hearing impairment.

Despite an ePetition with 588 signatures calling on Stoke-on-Trent City Council to reverse these cuts, protect services for deaf children and ensure all deaf children in Stoke on Trent have a fair chance to achieve, the Director of C&YPS and her officers revealed that the cuts to staffing had already been implemented.

Cllr Alistair Watson told the meeting that he had calculated that there would be around a 50% reduction in staffing.

C&YPS officers assured the committee members that support for deaf children would not been adversely affected and would include:

The support comes from:-

Teachers of the deaf with specialist qualifications – There are 5 qualified teachers of the deaf (June 2011), a reduction of 2 since April 2010.

Communication Support Workers – Numbers vary according to need but all hold additional qualifications such as British Sign Language and speech and language (currently 8 in post).

Audiology – One of the teachers of the deaf will qualify as an audiologist in 2011.

After the meeting I managed to catch up with the Chair of the C&YPS Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Dave Conway.

Listen to the Audio Interview below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Voice

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

Labour

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

Conservatives

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

City Independents

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

The Liberal Democrats

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

The British National Party

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

Independents4You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NSAC Challenge Councillors To Oppose Sackings & Cuts

A community protest group is calling on local councillors in North Staffordshire to voice their opposition to cuts of around £40million which will ultimately lead to hundreds of public sector jobs cuts.

North Staffs Against Cuts is working in conjunction with North Staffs Trade Union Council.

Together they are campaigning against any cut, or the loss of a single job and the withdrawal of any benefit. They believe that the banking industry should be held accountable for the financial crisis that brought the severest recession in living history.

They are calling for all elected representatives in the area to acknowledge their duty to protect the interests of the people who they serve.

”Instead of councillors sitting in rooms planning out who they can sack and what they can cut, close or privatise, shouldn’t they be spending their time building opposition to these cuts which will have a devastating impact on ordinary people across our area?

North Staffs Against Cuts will be planning how to build massive opposition against all cuts at our conference on Wednesday 26 January.”

The conference is organised by North Staffs Against Cuts (NSAC)and will be held at the Forum Theatre, Hanley Museum, on Wednesday 26th January commencing at 7pm.

The organisers have invited speakers from various local anti-cuts groups and trade unions and invite everyone who is opposed to the cuts, job losses and alterations to the benefit system to attend.

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox

Stoke-on-Trent v Staffordshire – A Fair Contest?

Sometimes, in the midst of researching for various articles, I come across something that makes me explode with anger.

Believe me, no one knows better than me that it is neither big nor clever. So over recent years I have learned to breathe deeply, count to ten, check that my zin is not colliding with my zen and re-read the offending piece.

I completed all of the above checks ““ and still I exploded!

The offending item was in fact a press release from Staffordshire County Council. It was titled ““

“Staffordshire proud of budget-balancing record”

I admit with all that is going on around the budget proposals at the City Council, the title caught my eye.

I envisaged every council and local authority executive across the country burning the midnight oil trying to find a way to deliver front-line services whilst dealing with the most severe austerity measures and unprecedented cuts to funding. I had this vision in my mind of stressed out councillors crying tears of despair when they could not make the books balance without losing a number of council provided amenities.

“I am proud that Staffordshire County Council has an excellent track record of budget management, balancing the budgets while delivering first class services.

“Our plans to strengthen and improve services started following the local authority elections in 2009 and were well developed before the coalition came to power. Our innovative and realistic approach, which included being the first large authority to declare a zero per cent council tax rise, will allow us to continue to provide vital services while delivering savings which will fund pressures such as an increasingly ageing population.

“Our plans for spending over the next five years will be considered by Cabinet later this month.”

OK, maybe back in 2009 the senior politicians and officers had bought a fully functioning crystal ball off Ebay that gave them the heads up that the proverbial was about to hit the fan and that Dave Cameron was about to light the “Ëœblue’ touch paper under local government finance. The fallout would hit the poorest and most needy [SOTCC] like a nuclear warhead, whilst barely blowing the blue tie of the most affluent and reserve rich [SCC].

Could this be down to the fact that one has a long tradition of being a Labour led authority and of returning Labour MPs and the other has strong nucleus of Conservative voters and a smattering of Tory MP’s? Something of a rarity in “Ëœmiddle England’.

Am I being cynical or a tad over sensitive here?

It’s just when I look at the level of cuts facing the City I love as opposed to just over our authorities borders in Staffordshire or Cheshire East, I have absolutely no doubt as to which elderly population will be hit the most.

Then I read on a bit…

“This has been a comprehensive consultation with residents and service users.

“These proposals are the result of over 12 months of planning. This is because the system we inherited is untenable and inconsistent, and, if left alone would fail our increasingly ageing population who will need growing amounts of support. The proposals have not been made by stealth as we have made strenuous efforts to engage as many individuals and organisations as possible.

“We are proactively addressing the fact that people are living longer and want, be able to lead independent lives.

“To do nothing was not an option, and our approach will ensure all those that need it will receive support without the need to overburden the council-taxpayer through increases in council tax. A final decision will be made in February.”

Hey Phil, you are even starting to sound like you buddy Dave Cameron! All this “Ëœsystem we inherited is untenable..’ you could have swallowed to Conservative Party Manifesto which would enable you to belch out sound bites on demand.

Then I got to the bit that tipped me over the edge…

“Ministers are very welcome to visit Staffordshire and hear more about our approach.”

I bet they are welcome and while you are at it you can treat them to a 7 course slap up dinner of thanks for making your round of budget proposals and upcoming cuts as easy to negotiate as a one way street without any other traffic on the road.

Staffordshire Council are facing a cuts of just 1.96% whereas Stoke-on-Trent City Council are looking an 8.09% reduction in funding from this coalition government.

We have a cabinet that is struggling to agree on where and to what the axe should fall upon and are under increasing amounts of pressure to produce and agree a balanced budget before the end of February.

I suppose it is very easy to be smug when your mates in Central Government are protecting your residents and dishing out the smallest amounts of cuts to Conservative led authorities.

No one can argue that a £21.6million reduction in funding for a city with a population of 250,000 will hit a damn site harder and will be more difficult to deal with than a reduction of £10.6million for a County with a population of 800,000.

From where I’m sitting Mr Atkins would not be dishing out the red carpet invitations to ministers if he were occupying his Stoke-on-Trent counterpart’s shoes.

Ok now breathe… count to 10… start the pan pipe CD… and breathe again…

Government Cuts Hit Stoke-on-Trent To The Tune Of £33 Million

The worst case scenario has been realised in the City of Stoke-on-Trent in the wake of the government’s announcement on the future funding of local authorities.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles implemented average cuts of 4.4% to local authorities but some have been hit by cuts of 8.9%, Stoke-on-Trent City Council being one of the hardest hit.

The council are now expected to cut up to 700 jobs as they struggle to cope with a cash reduction in the region of £21.6 million.

The council were already in the process of dealing with an £11million overspend.

The City Council have been planning for the worst case scenario for a time now and have held a series of consultation events to gauge public opinion on priority services and facilities.

Some political groups accused the ruling council coalition of over exaggerating the expected cut in government funding but it now seems that the Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and Chief Executive John van de Laarschot were accurate with their predictions.

Mr Pickles announcement yesterday has been described by senior politicians and political commentators alike as the worse in living memory.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council To Save Children’s Centres?

Council Officers told staff from all the city’s children centres at a meeting at the Bridge Centre last week that all the centres are to be saved from closure but there would be a 10% reduction in staffing levels.

Staff have been informed that positions have been deleted and that a “Ëœpool’ had been established from where those staff who are to be displaced will be picked from.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have denied that any decisions have been made.

“We are in unprecedented times due to the Government funding reductions being imposed on the city council. We need to make savings of £33million. At the moment we are consulting on budget proposals, so as such no decisions have been made about where these reductions will be made. These decisions will be finalised in the New Year. In the mean time I would urge city residents to give their views on the proposals by visiting www.stoke.gov.uk/letstalk, writing to Let’s Talk, Freepost, Our City or by emailing me directly on debra.gratton@stoke.gov.uk”

The story has also been picked up by Cllr Mike Barnes.

Children Centre staff have now been told that no Centres are to close as City Council briefs all Children’s Services staff about jobs, cuts and the restructure in meetings and briefings held last week. This will be great news for all those petitioning and campaigning to save them.

This strengthens the view of many cynics, such as myself, who believed there was never any intention of closing any Children Centres, and that it was just a diversionary tactic by the Labour led coalition, whilst other “controversial” cuts will now be heralded as the “preferred option” and well worth sacrificing for the Children’s Centres.

This is a disingenuous strategy more about trying to look good than actually genuinely working through the dire financial predicament we find ourselves in and coming up with solutions that retain the services that people really need and deserve.

Remember that this all started with the leader, Pervez, presenting £33m of cuts, and only when challenged and pressed that the Cabinet revealed that the real level of cuts needed was much less and that the proposed cuts is a “shopping list” ““ precisely what we were told would not happen. Then we find that the redundancy costs are not included and that council officers, quite rightly I might add, are trying to find a financial solution to that particular problem. But why not be open and honest about it all.

Children Centres were always clearly an essential part of the future of our city ““ raising aspirations, abilities, and supporting those in need. They are highly valued by the parents and public who have seen the tangible benefits they have given to individuals, families and communities.

It seems that one battle has already been won ““ but beware ““ bricks and mortar are of little use without the resources and staff to make them function. All those campaigning for the retention of these facilities must now look closely at the reductions in funding and the cuts in staff still on the cards in Children’s Centres.

I fear that if the campaign now relaxes then the reductions in Children’s Centre Services will be as severe as first proposed ““ but hidden behind a thin, hollow, veneer of building retention.

This story brings the openness of the council’s “Ëœlets talk’ consultation into question.

There seem s to be a denial that decisions have been made in relation to the children’s centres and yet we have reports from sources who were at the meeting that would suggest that the future for this important service has been mapped out, all be it with a 10% reduction in staff.

Attention: Appeal To All Readers/Contributors – Stoke-on-Trent Cuts

This is a direct appeal to all Pits n Pots readers and contributors.

Tonight the leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Mohammed Pervez will take part in an online question and answers session on the impending cuts to facilities and services provided by the City Council in light of the recent Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

This follows last month’s hugely successful ‘Ask the Commander’ online meeting where over 70 citizens took part in an online Q&A session with Chief Superintendent Bernie O’Reilly hosted by Pits n Pots.

We ask anyone who has concerns about the possibility of losing a facility or service to join in and lobby for your cause and to state your case to the person who has the answers and the power to change the course of action.

Many residents have concerns over the possibility of losing Children’s Centres, Stoke Speaks Out, Shelton & Tunstall Pools, the City Farm, Fenton & Burslem Libraries and many other amenities and services.

This site, over recent years, has proved to be a valued asset in the fight for openness and transparency in local politics.

We have had our critics, some have had justified cause to complain, many have not. But we have always maintained that we love our city and we have always endeavoured to be fair and balanced.

It is our responsibility in these times of austerity to consult with our civic leaders and to direct them in what we think can or could be cut and what service or facility is vital to the City of Stoke-on-Trent.

We ask that you share that responsibility tonight between 7pm and 8pm.

All questions asked and responses given will be kept live on this site for a long period of time so that they can, if needed, be used for reference.

The online meeting is being hosted by Pits n Pots and my colleague Mike Rawlins [the one with the brains] will be there to oversee proceedings.

Finally we would like to thank Dan Barton and his team in the Press & Communications Department for their co-operation and assistance in putting the event on.

We would also like to thank CEO John van de Laarschot and the Council Leader Mohammed Pervez for agreeing to this request. Somehow I don’t think that this would have happened in the past – do you?

If we can muster a significant audience I’m sure that this can be the first step in the direction of true openness and transparency.

Our City could lead the way for a change instead of playing catch up with other local authorities.

That all depends on you. Some 2500 – 5000 visits each day should mean that there is a healthy level of involvement.

Don’t let our City down….

Extra Care Housing and Estate Regeneration PFI Announcements Leave ‘Bittersweet’ taste

Work to create almost 400 extra care homes in the city will continue, but a programme to build nearly 600 homes on six housing estates has been hit by a government announcement on Private Finance Initiative schemes.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council will continue to work on its programme to build 390 new homes to offer older people independent living coupled with access to care and support in Abbey Hulton, Blurton and Chell.

Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent ““ Sorry Merv, I Agree With Mathew!

The Managing Director of one of Stoke-on-Trent’s success stories and prized assets Emma Bridgewater, has likened the City to a wasteland and “disaster zone” comparable to London in the 1950s following World War II.

In an article in today’s Telegraph, Matthew Rice criticised Stoke-on-Trent City Council for knocking down historic buildings and former factories instead of using them as a part of the regeneration programme.

As a result of what he describes as the City Council’s feckless planning, the city has been left to resemble Helmund Province in Afghanistan.

“We have got to put building conservation at the head of regeneration and stop demolishing,”

“We have a city here know so well for its industrial past that is has a whole area, the Potteries, named after it.

“The buildings, the factories, the terraced houses; they are the building blocks of the city and represent the inheritance of the people who live and work there, their parents, their grandparents.

“These are the cultural anchors which we need to hang on to whilst regeneration takes place.

“Lose the factories, the civic buildings, the churches and the brick terraces that make up our built environment and we jeopardise the survival of the city itself.”

“If you go around Stoke these days there is lots of bare land where things have been demolished. I’ve no idea what it looks like in Helmand Province but I get a feeling it would look a little like here.

“There is always this idea that we have got to demolish everything to put things right. A blank canvas they call it. But I’d rather see people use the buildings in regeneration and development.”

Mr Rice’s comments seem to have put Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s nose slightly out of joint.

Mervin Smith, Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesman for city development, responded by dismissing Matthew Rice’s comments.

“Serious regeneration of any city takes more than a couple of years. We have seen this with Birmingham and Manchester for example. Significant projects have already been delivered, such as the new state-of-the-art Sixth Form College and the City Waterside development, amongst others, with work due to start on the new bus station next year and the East West precinct in 2012.

“We are indeed proud of our ceramics heritage which is evidenced by the banners which decorate the Potteries Way, celebrating pride in our local companies, the restoration of surviving bottle ovens and most importantly the biennial celebrating Stoke-on-Trent as the world capital of excellence in ceramics.

“The city council has worked closely with local ceramics businesses, including Emma Bridgewater Ltd, and are disappointed at the attitude expressed by Matthew Rice. He is perfectly entitled to his opinion, which we respect but cannot agree with.”

I think that Mervin Smith has completely missed the point of Matthew Rice’s comments.

I don’t think for a minute that Mr Rice is questioning particular projects, I think he is merely pointing out that the strategy behind our regeneration project is completely flawed and I, for what it’s worth, am in complete agreement with him.

Over recent years we have seen the demolition of countless dwellings and historic factory building that have been replace by absolutely nothing.

The gateways to the various towns that make up our unique City have more holes in them then a 5000 piece jigsaw with half the pieces missing.

No one at our City Council should try and defend the balls up that have been described as regeneration in this city.
We have had to return money that has not been spent for goodness sake.

Don’t even get me started on the debacle of the business district that was fundamentally flawed and only pulled when our new Chief Executive had the wherewithal to admit that after our council had spent some £1.5million, it was never going to work.

The changes in the top layer of the Regeneration Directorate tell us the public that our new CEO was sufficiently concerned about the performance and results to take the bull by the horns and attempt to restructure what was becoming a joke to all who take interest in the socioeconomic development of our city.

Emma Bridgewater is a beacon of hope in a City that has all but lost our traditional and proud industrial heritage and I think the Cabinet Member with responsibility for regeneration would do best to listen and draw inspiration from one of the few examples of success and trend bucking.

The governments Comprehensive Spending Review [CSR] set out very clearly that money for regeneration is going to be very hard to come by indeed.

The formation of the Local Enterprise Partnership [LEP] will see us go toe to toe with Staffordshire County Council for any mere morsel of cash to regenerate over the next 4 years.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council need to form a partnership with people like Matthew Rice from industry and with politicians like Tristram Hunt to help develop and enhance the prospects for Stoke-on-Trent PLC.

Mervin Smith graciously conceded that Matthew Rice was entitled to his opinion, but he made it abundantly clear that his opinion would be dismissed.

What a shame, another opportunity to take an out of the box progressive look at the strategic way that we we deliver [or do not as the case may be in the next few years] the true regeneration of the City of Stoke-on-Trent lost because someone dares to voice an opinion that the City Council may be getting it slightly wrong.

I pity John van de Laarschot if his senior politicians do not have the insight to explore and change direction due to the failings of the past and the catastrophic impact that government cuts will have on the development and regeneration.

We really are doomed to failure if we dismiss the opinions and ignore the obvious skills of entrepreneurs like Matthew Rice and the sympathetic view on heritage and conservation of the Likes of Tristram Hunt MP.

Come on Mervin and the rest of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, get a grip for god’s sake.

Matthew Rice has written a book called The Lost City of Stoke, which was inspired by a visit to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Tunstall in 2008.

Follow the link below to find out more and to to purchase it.

I have a copy and in my humble opinion it will make a great Christmas present.