The Political Potteries Circa 6th May 2011 Part 2

The council chamber has lost some big characters as a result of the elections, one of the biggest losses was political heavyweight and City Independent Group Leader Brian Ward.

Brian knew that he and his group would have a mammoth task to overcome a resurgent Labour Party. He has put his defeat down to two factors:

1] The Governance Commission who wanted the three mainstream parties to “Ëœman up’ and become more accessible to a wider cross section of the electorate.

2] The recent Boundary Review which Brian felt was all designed to favour the mainstream parties and to rid the political arena of the BNP and Independent politicians.

He was also concerned that the emergence of another Independent candidate in the form of Cllr Roy Naylor’s mother-in-law, Nina Hulse would dilute the independent voters and allow Labour to romp home.

Labour did romp home and if you add the 104 votes Nina Hulse received to Brian Wards total, he would have still been 44 short of a victory.

The City Independents are now in limbo, they have a possible group of 6, but can they swell their numbers to be an effective opposition? Paul Breeze has made it clear that he will plough a lonely furrow, he was elected as a un-aligned councillor and it appears that his mind is made up to go it alone.

The more interesting quandary is whether Lee Wanger will be welcomed to the CIG bosom? Lee has a past conviction and has had to sign the child sex offenders register. Many people are amazed that Lee has been re-elected to the council chamber. The people of Tunstall have had their say and they have chosen Lee, as is their democratic right.

The CIG will be meeting soon to choose a new leader; the favourites are Dave Conway and Terry Follows. Randy Conteh is very able but has health issues that need sorting before he can plan his next political moves.

The Conservatives have been reduced to 2 councillors from the 8 they had under the old Conservative & Independent Alliance.

Abi Brown has confirmed that she and new guy 19 year old Jack Brereton will not enter into any formal agreement with the Independents. Neither will she welcome Lee Wanger into the fold. She has her reasons and she will no doubt receive plaudits for the stance she has taken and rightly so.

Abi has been one of the rising stars of the past 12 months. She has forged a strong reputation for being a hardworking and dedicated ward councillor who is not afraid to speak her mind in the chamber. I know that she felt constricted at times and was unable to speak out against some of the anti Conservative rhetoric spouted from the Labour benches. Coalition was not an easy place for a character like Abi, she is forthright in her views and now she has the opportunity to speak out and spread her proud Conservative values, whilst nurturing a new, fresh, group member.

The chamber also lost one of its true gentlemen.

Ross Irving has served this city for 4 decades. His demise came at the hands of a team of activists from the remnants of the Trentham Action Group.

They delivered leaflets that “Ëœreminded’ the electorate in Trentham that Ross backed a new Academy for Trentham and Blurton.

To cut a long story short, Trentham High was eventually saved. But it wasn’t saved due to the support of TAG darling Terry Follows; it was saved after intervention from Stoke-on-Trent South MP Rob Flello. He was the reason that the school will now be refurbished and will remain open.

Had he not got involved and convinced the schools minister to review the case and to write to Stoke-on-Trent City Council, make no mistake, TAG campaign or not – that school would have closed.

The anti Ross Irving leaflet that was put out in Trentham was wrong in my opinion because although it did not favour any candidates it seemed to suggest that Ross was to blame and it urged folk not to vote for him. What it blatantly omits to inform people of was that their precious school was saved because of the actions of a Labour politician.

The anti Ross leaflet was orchestrated by Nick Davis, who uses every opportunity to criticise and project her hatred for the Labour Party. Not once have I ever seen her reference the work that Labour MP Rob Flello put in to save Trentham High. Yet she champions Terry Follows who was aboard the TAG wagon train, but went on the vote to close Mitchell High school.

Ross’s crime warranted a leaflet delivered to every household in Trentham apparently, to remind folk of what he did.

Yet even though Terry was a part of the process that spelled the end For Mitchell, he is the darling of Nicky Davis and the TAG. No mention of the fact that Mr Follows had done exactly the same as Ross but to another school, in another part of the City.

This whole episode is distasteful, selective, hypocritical and reeks of NIMBYism.

Apparently it is OK for Terry to back Trentham High but then a year later vote to close a wonderful school like Mitchell.

I wish Ross a happy retirement and I for one would like to put on record my thanks for the service he has given to the City over the past 4 decades. He never ducked a question or refused an interview and he is a guy who I have a tremendous amount of respect for.

I hope that Ross’s long service and dedication is recognised officially in some way.

The Trentham issue was not the council’s finest hour and was not down to the actions of just Ross, but no one will convince me that without Rob Flello’s intervention ““ the school would remained open.

We also need to acknowledge the loss to the chamber of all those serving councillors who will not return following the election, either through defeat, retirement or de-selection.

Hazel Lyth, Joanne Powell-Becket, Clive Rigby, John Daniels, John Davis, Mark Davis and Alan Rigby among others will not return.

We should also spare a thought for Mohammed Matloob who lost out in Tunstall and will therefore miss out on being the City’s next Lord Mayor. Matty is a really good guy and is a sad loss to the council.

Finally what does the future hold for our fine City?

That is a question that I will be seeking the answers to from our new Labour administration.

Labour imploded a few years ago. They were torn apart by in-fighting, jealousy, bitterness and arrogance. They must not allow this to happen again or the city will once again suffer the consequences.

I want Pervez, his new deputy [my belief is that it will be between Sarah Hill and Paul Shotton] to be open to true public scrutiny.

The “Ëœnew’ Labour Group must engage with the public. Here at Pits n Pots, we want open access to the Labour councillors and particularly the cabinet members so that we can ask the questions that the public seek the answers to.

Pits n Pots have proved that we have dedicated our time energy and resources into this site so that the public have a portal into the council chamber.

Our stats have gone through the roof over the last few months. Me, Mike have resigned from the board of 6towns Radio to solely concentrate our efforts on making Pits n Pots a vital part of this City.

With the engagement and participation of the politicians of this city, over the coming months, we will be bringing you live Question Time broadcasts so that the public can ask politicians about the direction of the city. We will be interviewing Cabinet members in depth and then podcasting them on this site. We will also be hosting live events.

We have big ideas and ambitions. We have the audience; all we need now is the participation of the politicians that we have just elected to serve us.

Labour Group, Conservatives, City Independents, un-aligned councillors – Are you up for the challenge?

Immigration, Mosques & Reptilian Miliband – BNP Manifesto 2011

The BNP Roadshow hit Stoke-on-Trent today [Sunday] to launch their local election manifesto.

In a very low key affair, National Media Spokesman Simon Darby, National Organiser Adam Walker and Stoke BNP Leader Michael Coleman addressed a small number of party activists, security and local councillors in Bennett Precinct in Longton town Centre. Continue reading

Potteye: Laarschot’s False Dawn

At the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, it is worth considering what the future may hold for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, its residents and local public services.

Over the last 2 years many instances of financial irregularities and officer misinformation to elected members have come to light, often only with the persistence of certain councillors and a small section of the local media.

The latest of these is the waste managment function with regards to enhanced recycling and the Icelandic Banks disaster. The usual results arise in that, yes, things went wrong, but those involved have moved on, this is all in the past, time to move on, new CEO (12 months in) etc etc etc”¦.

I beleive that what all these revelations expose is that, no matter what governance structure we have in place, the real failures in Stoke-on-Trent City Council, stem from a culture, built over many, many years of complete contempt for elected representation, the truth and incompetence on a grand scale ““ not always politicians ““ but within senior management.

Worst of all is that many of those I accuse above left our Council, not with the shame of their misdeeds, but to move onto greener pastures, often with a handsom payout at the expense of long suffering taxpayers.

Some heralded the appointment of a new Chief Executive from the private sector and a tinpot town of the south coast as the second coming of the Lord, and that all would now be well in the former land of pits and pots.

12 months in are things any different? Can we see the changes in the culture of the council? s The hope for the future any brighter?

In my view the answer is a resounding NO.

Whilst our new CEO is quite happy to be “open and transparent” about information related to past issues of previous council employees, his attitude to current information, openess and transparency is rather a different matter altogether.

Closed agendas items galore ““ councillors can’t even get the reports ““ constant delays and deliberations regarding questions and requests for information. Floor One is a prime example ““ getting to the crux of the matter has been almost impossible, even getting the council to give me public documents about the tender was like pulling teeth with constant delay and misdirection. Even now, as a councillor, I still do not know what is happening with Floor One, even though under the consitution, it must go through a set process.

More recently, the restructure of the council appears to be being conducted like an MI6 undercover terrorist operation. If anything this council is more sensitive, more secretive and more media controlled than ever.

Am I just being critical for politics sake? Am I paranoid? Well I think their are enough out there with their own recent experiences of FOIs etc to know exactly what I mean.

If the government is serious about localism the very first thing it has to address is the old boys network in local government and making clear legislation that puts the honesty and trustworthiness of senior council staff at the centre of democracy.The public and elected representatives should expect no less than to receive all the relevant information they need to make decisions, and that it be accurate, and where individual fail in their duty to do this they should be put before the courts ““ not paid off for their silence.

Some may think that my aim is at Stoke Council, yet the revolving door of local government officers suggests to me that this goes on in most if not all councils ““ some are just better at hiding it.

In the last 3 weeks alone I have been informed of several large “deals” or “payoffs” all hush hush of course with secrecy clauses in the agreements.

Well I have 4 months left as a councillor before the elections and yes I am standing.

As a councillor for 11 years, what has been revealed to the public about mismanagement is just the tip of the iceberg. Some of what I have seen would make some people hair curl, and sadly, to my shame, I have kept my head down at some critical moments, if only to survive for another day.

My first committment for the next 4 months is this ““ to expose and reveal the scale of payoffs and golden handshakes past and present.

My second is to help and support anybody new that is prepare to stand up and be counted at the elections in 2011.

This council will not change until there are enough councillors in it to say enough is enough, and to ask the right questions.

There are plenty of you out there better than me and certainly better than the coalition led by Pervez ““ I have read your blogs, your comments and letters in the newspapers etc.

So I urge those of you that care, those of you that have taken to time to read or comment on fate of Stoke-on-Trent, to stand at the elections, regardless of your politics. Take a chance and make a diffrence.