Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader announces his new cabinet

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Councillor Mohammed Pervez has given details of his new Cabinet after the reshuffle at Monday nights Labour Group AGM which saw Debra Gratton & Sarah Hill removed.

Sarah Hill subsequently resigned her position as a Councillor forcing a by-election in the Springfields and Trent Vale ward. Continue reading

Solar Panels On Stoke-on-Trent Civic Centre Set To Exceed Target

The 198 solar panels which were installed on Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Civic Centre building in Stoke in April 2011 have already generated 93% of the predicted target for the first year.

In just eight months the panels generated 27,620 kWh of electricity against an expectation of 30,000 kWh of energy in a full year. Additionally, the panels are attracting the highest feed-in tariff for generating zero carbon electricity from the government for the next 25 years, because they were installed and registered last April. It is estimated that this will see the council receive £9,400 a year.

Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for city services, said

It is fantastic news that so much clean, green energy has already been produced. The solar panels are proving to be a sound investment, not just in financial terms, but also in the positive impact they are having on the environment, and as part of our plans to be a sustainable city. 

As well as providing a constant stream of income, they will also reduce the council’s carbon dioxide emissions by 400 tonnes over their lifetime. This sends out a really strong message that we are committed to improving the environment for future generations. 

There is a deal of uncertainty around the government’s plans for the feed-in tariff for the future. However, I’m pleased to say that this scheme was put in place well before the deadline the government set before Christmas for installations to benefit from the higher tariff. 

We know that a number of other solar panel schemes in the city weren’t able to be completed before the deadline, and we have made strong representations to the government against this.  

However, the performance of the panels shows that they are a very viable way of producing sustainable energy.

The 198 panels were installed onto south and south west facing roofs of the Civic Centre, and cost £134,500 from the council’s existing climate change budget. The estimated £3000 a year saving on electricity costs will mean the panels will have paid for themselves and beging to generate a profit in a mere 45 years. 

Public Questions About City Farm At Next Weeks Full Council Meeting

After the Pits n Pots investigation in to the City Farm Tender earlier this year, which caused the suspension of the tendering process by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, there are still a number of unanswered questions.

Two of which are going to be asked at Thursdays Full Council meeting by John Taylor on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm.

Question 4 TENDER ARRANGEMENTS FOR BUCKNALL PARK CITY FARM – From Mr John Taylor on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm, addressed to the Cabinet Member for City Services (Councillor Janine Bridges):-

On 21 January 2011 the tender process seeking expressions of interest for the City Farm site was suspended and bidders were told:

‘We are reviewing our approach to the procurement and for a temporary period this has been suspended. A further communication will be sent to you shortly. Thank you for your interest in the City Farm and your patience while we review our approach.’

Is this procurement process now abandoned? If yes please say who took the decision and the date thereof and what bidders were told and the date thereof.

And

Question 5 FUTURE OF BUCKNALL PARK CITY FARM – From Mr John Taylor, on behalf of Friends of Bucknall Park City Farm, Stoke on Trent addressed to the the Cabinet Member for City Services (Councillor Janine Bridges):-

When City Farm closed we were told; The City Council remains committed to finding a new operator for a similar venture for the future.  Is this commitment now binned? If yes please say who took the decision and the date thereof and outline the alternative uses now being considered for the site. If no please outline plans for procurement in terms of specification, lease and timing.

I’m sure there will be many people who will be waiting to see what the answers to these questions are after almost 11 months.

City Farm equipment to be donated to care farm

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to donate equipment to a local care farm that helps vulnerable groups including those with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health issues.

The equipment, which was used by the former City Farm in Bucknall, will be given to Sherrats Wood Farm, Middleton Green, Leigh to help them deliver a range of therapeutic and educational activities involving animals and horticulture.

The equipment has been in storage since the farm closed in March 2011, when all the animals were re-homed to other farms in the area.

We have been approached by one of the farms that provided the animals with a new home when the City Farm closed earlier this year.

The equipment could be put to better use somewhere that can be dedicated towards industrial and educational farming, so that’s why we have decided to donate it to Sherrats Wood Farm.

Following a disastrous tendering process, highlighted by Pits n Pots, Stoke-on-Trent City Council closed the City Farm in March. Now the council are again considering becoming land speculators and looking to acquire the land within the farm site not currently in its ownership, and examine future uses for the area.

We have to be clear that the farm is no longer in existence as a city council run service. Anyone looking to take over the site as a farm would need to have the relevant expertise and funding in place to run it on a commercial basis.

If no one can come forward and put a realistic case together, then we would have to look at how best the land could be used by the city council.
“Incorporating the former farm site into the wider Bucknall Park area as public open space is the immediate solution while we examine its future uses and any offers that may come from the private sector.

Audio Interviews with Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Newly Appointed Cabinet

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Leader Mohammed Pervez has to day named the Labour Group Councillors who are to serve on his cabinet.

The cabinet line up is as follows:

* Councillor Paul Shotton, deputy council leader and cabinet member for resources;

* Councillor Sarah Hill, cabinet member for finance;

* Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development;

* Councillor Adrian Knapper, cabinet member for planning & transportation;

* Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration;

* Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for city services;

* Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for housing & neighbourhoods;

* Councillor Olwen Hamer, cabinet member for adult social care, health & commissioning; and

* Councillor Debra Gratton, cabinet member for children’s services and life skills.

We are pleased to bring you audio interviews with Pervez, Sarah Hill, Mark Meredith and Adrian Knapper.

We will bring you more audio interviews with the cabinet members in the weeks to come.

” Well this might surprise you all – Well done Pervez.

“This seems like a good start with a clever balance of maintaining experience with new and competent faces, as well as a mix of left and not so left.

“Having a single strong group in the driving seat especially for four years does hold out some potential for sustained and clear direction.

“Key to this, firstly, will be how quickly the new political regime builds up its confidence, no longer shackled by the unpredictable coalition. No more worrying about how or if something will go through the full council.

“Secondly will be how the Labour Party in the City responds to the opportunities now open to them, for example developing a strong broad policy to direct the officers and the council over the next four years. This will be the test for the structures put in place during the more uncertain times within the Labour Party itself.

“There are many challenges to come, but despite our political differences, I know many of the new councillors and know that there is some talent there now in depth.
Give them all a chance – be more confident – take political control back from the officers – deliver.

Good Luck”.

Stoke-on-Trent Labour Leader announces Team ‘to fight for our community, every step of the way.’

Following all out elections on May 5 in Stoke-on-Trent, in which the Labour Party won 34 seats, Council Leader Mohammed Pervez has today named his cabinet of 4 men and 6 women.

“With the Tory-led Government in Westminster handing down massive deep cuts to Stoke-on-Trent, our city needs a strong Labour cabinet to be its voice in tough times, and I’m delighted to announce that’s exactly what we’ve now got.

“Everyone agrees that this Council needs to do more for the community we represent, and help make Stoke-on-Trent the success we all know it can be. On May 5 People in the city made it clear that they wanted a strong Labour team representing them and my cabinet is absolutely determined to fight for our community, every step of the way.

“Whether we are battling to save key frontline public services or working to get much needed new investment and jobs into our city, this Labour cabinet will always have one top priority – the people of Stoke-on-Trent.

“Under Labour this is a new start for our city. There are tough times ahead and we need to unite to show responsible leadership.

“We want to build on the FA cup final feel good factor and grow positive investment in the city. In one weekend we have seen what can be possible. Inspirational plans for the city and a vision to get us through the tough times. It will be a fight but we will win through for the people of Stoke-on-Trent”.

The full cabinet line up is:

* Councillor Paul Shotton, deputy council leader and cabinet member for resources;

* Councillor Sarah Hill, cabinet member for finance;

* Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development;

* Councillor Adrian Knapper, cabinet member for planning & transportation;

* Councillor Ruth Rosenau, cabinet member for regeneration;

* Councillor Janine Bridges, cabinet member for city services;

* Councillor Gwen Hassall, cabinet member for housing & neighbourhoods;

* Councillor Olwen Hamer, cabinet member for adult social care, health & commissioning; and

* Councillor Debra Gratton, cabinet member for children’s services and life skills.

One suprise omission is Tom Reynolds who was cabinet member with responsiblilty from communications and served under Pervez in the last administration.

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox 16/05/2011

As the red & white half of Stoke-on-Trent comes to terms with their loss in the FA Cup final the political potteries is as flat as boring nil nil draw.

It’s a bit like “Ëœafter the Lord Mayors show post election.

To Speak or Not To Speak

The only sexy story was the attempt at gagging our new crop of councillors with a “Ëœmedia protocol’ that circumnavigated democracy.

The document that was slipped in the new councillors pack was tantamount to a biblical commandment ““ “ËœYou shall not criticise the council, its officers or the executive ““ no matter the size of the monumental cock up or who was responsible!’

More worrying for me was the fact that there were councillors who were queuing up to sign this attack on freedom of speech.

One of them was Paul Breeze, a man who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He works tirelessly for his community and he has taken a principled stance in not aligning himself with any group in the council chamber.

Paul was quick enough to remind us that he is a free spirit, but his complicity in this matter showed that whilst he is his own man in the political sense he was all too ready to do his masters bidding and put officers before the representation of the people that elected him.

The “Ëœgagging order’ has received a fair amount of political commentary and rightly so. But so far the facts of the matter have been inaccurately reported.

It has been alleged that the individuals responsible for this have been the press and communications team, Mohammed
Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot.

My information leads me to believe that it was actually Pervez who suggested that the protocol be withdrawn from the councillors’ pack when he read it the weekend before declarations were taken and was unaware of its contents beforehand.

Sources have indicated to me that it was in fact Members Services who directed that this protocol be drawn up and the press team were directed to draft it up.

The bit that is shrouded in uncertainty is how much involvement CEO John van de Laarschot had in the issue.

Who Will Be The Trophies on The Cabinet

Now that it has been confirmed that Pervez will be Council Leader with Paul Shotton as his Deputy Council Leader, the labour Group will tonight [Monday] decide who will make up the remaining 8 places on this the first totally Labour cabinet.

Now I’ve followed the scene in the political Potteries for years and, as all good commentators should, I will make my predictions as follows.

The 8 cabinet places will go to, in no particular order:
Mark Meredith, Tom Reynolds, Sarah Hill, Debra Gratton, Olwyn Hamer, Ruth Rosenau, Janine Bridges and either Bagh Ali or Adrian Knapper.

My guess is that the cabinet will reflect the Labour Party desire to have a 50/50 men/woman split.

We will know soon enough I suppose, but my guesses are more down to instinct as opposed to education.

You may have your own ideas?

S.O.C.C Get a Helping Hand From Former Councillor

The nationally recognised Save Our Children’s Centres campaign has received a boost recently with the news that former Longton South Councillor Mike Barnes has joined their team to advise them on council procedures and future strategies.

S.O.C.C has reignited their fight and will present a massive petition to the council opposing the 30% budget reduction which equates to a huge cut of £2.25million.
The council are embarking on a formal consultation over their proposals.

What is 100% clear to me, having met and held discussions with S.O.C.C leaders, is that their battle lines have been drawn and they are prepared to mount a sustained and aggressive challenge to these savage cuts. The campaign team feel that the services that are on offer will be decimated beyond all belief if these cuts go through.

The election gave the Labour Party 34 councillors and a healthy majority with little opposition in the chamber.
S.O.C.C are more than prepared to take up the opposition role.

Their campaign has gone viral and there are S.O.C.C groups appearing all over the country. They also have the support of Netmums which has a phenomenal web presence.

Stoke-on-Trent has had effective campaign groups in the past like the Trentham Action Group who managed to reverse the decision to close their high school by facilitating government involvement.

S.O.C.C has the potential to make the TAG look like a meeting of the Salvation Army!

They are very angry people at the moment but they are channelling that anger and are using it as a motivational tool.

They are angry about the Labour Party’s campaign leaflet claims that they have saving the children’s centres but failed to mention the proposed budget cuts.

They are angry at the lack of support from the three city MPs’ Joan Walley, Rob Flello and Tristram Hunt who they have described as “Ëœthe invisible man’.

One of the Children’s Centres that is most under threat from these cuts is in Fenton, in fact is virtually next door to the constituency office of Rob Flello.

It could see the services that it offers cut from 5 days down to one half day.

Given that Sure Start centres were the flagship of the last Labour Government, S.O.C.C are expecting, no make that demanding that all 3 Labour MP’s support their campaign.

The case of Fenton’s children’s centre puts Rob Flello in an unenviable predicament as he sees the work they carry out at close hand and his partner Karen Clarke has just been elected as Councillor for ““ yeah you guessed it, Fenton West & Mount Pleasant!

I’m surprised that there is a negative view of Tristram Hunt and I share the view of the S.O.C.C leaders that all our MPs need to back this campaign with every ounce of their moral fibre.

I urge the Labour Group councillors, the newly appointed cabinet, Council Leader & Deputy and the 3 Labour MPs’ ““ do not underestimate this group.

S.O.C.C Hull are about to force a judicial review the same is 100% on the cards here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Our City Council are proposing the severest cuts in Chidren’s Centres budgets nearly anywhere in the country.

Communities will not take this lying down, S.O.C.C will not take this at all and in the words of one of their main players ““ “You have been warned!”