Les Porch Liberal Democrat candidate in the Springfields & Trent Vale byelection

Campaigning postman Les Porch has been selected as the Liberal Democrat candidate in the Springfields and Trent Vale by-election.

Les Porch has been a prime mover in the petition campaign by Riverside residents demanding a rethink over Stoke City FC’s plans to expand their training academy.

The Lib Dems, starting in a strong second place, have high hopes that they will break back onto the City Council in the by-election. Continue reading

Inside the Civic

Those who thought all out elections would bring some stability to our Council must be feeling embarrassed this week as Council Leader Mohammed Pervez took a scalpel to his cabinet, cutting out the disobedient Gratton and challenger Hill, and carving up the other portfolios in what is quite clearly more than the ‘tweaking’ he described it as.

The introduction of Platt and Dutton is seen as a nod to the left wingers in the group, who re-emerged in 2011 to rival the modernisers who were in danger of taking over Labour. Continue reading

The Cameron Veto on Europe is a disaster for North Staffs.

What will the British veto in Europe mean for North Staffs?

I have spent a great deal of my adult life believing in the European project. In 1975 I was a young member of the Labour party and one few who was an enthusiast for Europe in referendum year. I helped to run a Yes to Europe shop in Lamb Street in Hanley and was naturally pleased when North Staffs like most of the country supported the Yes vote. 36 years later the whole project is under jeopardy after David Cameron’s veto will undoubtedly lead to Britain’s isolation.

What will happen to the area should the vote lead to Britain leaving the EU?

David Cameron is the Prime Minister for the City of London. And his veto was essentially to protect their interests over the prospect of a Tobin tax on financial transactions. Anyone in N Staffs should be wary of any policy whose aim is to protect the interests of the City

This is the same City of London, which is primarily responsible for the financial crisis. And the same City of London which contributes 11% of tax revenues each year but which is instrumental in facilitating $3trillion of tax funnelled to tax havens every year.

The City has become disproportionately dominant over the last 30 years, a period in which the wealth gap in the UK has widened massively, a period in which we have all become massively indebted as real incomes for ordinary people have stagnated. All this should concern the people of North Staffs.

The political classes whether it is Labour or Tory have bent the knee at the City to the detriment of places like Stoke. The withering of our manufacturing sector is largely the consequence of short termism and the pursuit of the quick buck. The security of the manufacturing parts of the British economy depends on long term investment especially in areas such as the Green economy. The financial structures in the EU are more likely to guarantee this long-term investment rather than the drivers in the city based on rapid returns.

It’s extraordinary that Cameron thinks that his priority is to defend the interests of the City regardless of the impact of EU isolationism on the UK manufacturing sector?
Cameron’s stupidity has cheered the swivel-eyed bigots on the Right of his party and his sponsors in the City, but it was not done in the national interest and it will tear the coalition apart. After which it will tear the Tory Party apart and possibly with more pro European Scots ultimately into a breakdown of the Act of Union.

The most momentous foreign policy decision in decades, and one which he and the Europhobes will come to rue in the coming years.

500 Words From Charley Hasted

I’m only 24 years old but I have a wealth of experience representing and campaigning for people and issues I care passionately about. I’ve taken part and led campaigns as diverse as preventing the closure of my local library in London, fighting against the closure of a centre dedicated to improving the lives of disabled people by allowing them to live independently, helping to secure funding for a young carers group to give their members a break, securing pledges from a local council (Greenwich) to protect and support young people, protecting talking newspapers and dial-a-ride services for Deaf and disabled/elderly people and campaigning against discrimination in all its many and varied forms.

I may not be a born and bred Stokie but I chose to come here for University and then I chose to stay after I graduated. I love living in Stoke and I sincerely hope to be able to stay here for a long time. I’ve contributed to Stoke I used to be a youth worker for the Council; I’ve done fund-raising activities for local charities (including having my head shaved a year ago).

I want to help improve Stoke by encouraging job creation and educational aspiration. One is useless without the other. I’d like to encourage entrepreneurs in Stoke; we have smart people with good ideas out there who just need a bit of help maybe with finance or a skill they lack. Why not help link them up with investors or people who have that skill? I’d like to try and continue a scheme I took part in through AimHigher where students go into local schools and colleges and give advice on further and higher education. I want to make sure the Council is offering work experience placements, internships and apprenticeships to people of all ages that are valuable and relevant to them and encouraging others to do the same.

I want to ensure that you are getting the services you need and that we can continue to provide them for you. The fact is we have less money, I wish we didn’t but there’s nothing I can do about it. However there have got to be places we can save money without cutting services. A case in point, why are we spending huge amounts of money on solar panels for the show lights at the civic centre? Why not turn the lights off? Secondly I disagree with some facets of the big society but I am passionate about encouraging volunteering, as someone who has been a volunteer virtually since I can remember. So why don’t we do more to encourage people to help their communities not as a way of replacing public services but as a way of making them better?

When all is said and done we’re wasting time with bickering and point-scoring when we should be pulling together and make sure we’re building a strong, secure and sustainable future whatever parties we may or may not be members of.

2011 Election Coverage

It is just over a month until the polls open for one of the most important local elections in Stoke-on-Trent for many years, with changes to the ward boundaries, a reduction in councillors and moving to whole elections.

This year we are going to build on our coverage of the 2010 local & general elections and provide even better coverage of the candidates, campaigns and the election.

We are putting the finishing touches to our 2011 Election Section and will be publishing it very soon.

This year each and every candidate will have their own page here on Pits n Pots where we will link to news stories about each candidate both on PnP and other local media, link to copies of any election leaflets that they produce.

Tony Walley will be going out on the road and speaking to any candidates who take up our open offer which is:

Pits n Pots will allow you to publish 500 words about your campaign and give you the option of a 5 minute audio interview both of which will be published unedited in return you will be asked a number of questions which have been suggested by Pits n Pots readers, each candidate will be asked the same questions.

If you decline the offer of an interview with Pits n Pots that is fine but a candidate page will still be created with any publicly available information.

What questions do you think we should be asking the candidates in this election? Use the comments below to come up with suggestions, we will sort them and then put the best up for vote to be included in our candidate interviews. Keep the questions generic as they need to be asked of each & every candidate.

We will include 1 or possibly 2, depending on interest, ward questions, so if there is a particular issue in your ward then feel free to add this in the comments below but make sure you say it is a ward question and provide the name of the ward it should be asked in.

Crowd Sourcing
We will be asking you, our readers, to help us with our election coverage when it comes to Election Leaflets.

This year we are working with the Election Leaflets website. What we would like you to do is, scan or photograph any election leaflets you get delivered and add them to the Election Leaflets site, all you need to do is upload your images and fill in a simple form, you don’t need to create any accounts just follow the instructions.

If you do upload any leaflets, please tag them with:

  • Candidates Name
  • Ward
  • Party
  • pitsnpots
  • Any other tags you think are suitable

If you could then drop an E-mail to le2011 at pitsnpots.co.uk with a link to your uploads, we will add the link to the candidates page. Please check the spelling of the candidates name as this is the most important tag that will be used by Election Leaflets to group the information see Shazad Hussain as an example.

Don’t worry about the site not having wards only general election constituencies on it, the Election Leaflets site will still accept local election leaflets.

If you don’t want to upload the leaflets yourself then you can E-mail the files to le2011 at pitsnpots.co.uk and we will do it for you. If you don’t have the ability to scan or photograph the leaflets then you can send them by post to or drop them off at:

PnP Election Leaflets
6 Towns Radio
Shop 26 Queen Street

and we will sort them out for you.

Lets make this the best Local Election coverage we can and let’s get as much information about our candidates as we can so we can hold them accountable for their promises & pledges for the next four years.

Cameron’s Calamitous Coalition Cock Up Over Child Benefit

So, I guess I’m kind of lucky in so much that both of my kids are over 18. They’re still as messy as hell, but at least we have benefited from the Child Benefit system.

That Child Benefit came in really handy. Kids shoes are not cheap, neither are the endless supply of school uniform components damaged as a result of playground fun. Fact is we used the money for what it was intended for.

Under David Cameron’s ruling Conservative/Lib Dem coalition, if my kids were under 18 and qualified, I would lose my entitlement to Child Benefit.

Yes OK that means I have earned decent money in the past [not since the recession though!] but in return I have paid a lot of money to the state in terms of the various taxation and not least because I need a company car to do my job effectively, which believe me does not come cheap.

I also accept that there are individuals in our society who make a career choice in claiming benefits and boost their income by having 6 kids and enjoying a upward spiral in Child Benefit.

I can’t help but think that Cameron and Osborne have completely cocked this issue up and if this is the way all the cuts will be handled ““ god help us!

“As we pay down the deficit we have to ask better-off families, those with the broadest backs, to bear a fair share of the burden,”

“Saying that it is not right to go on paying a billion pounds of child benefits to families where there is a top-rate taxpayer, that seems to me a very important statement about fairness.”

Fair Mr Cameron? How is it fair when a mate of mine, a professional guy who has 3 kids and earns just over £43k per year loses his Child Benefit and a mutual friend of both of us who earns £40k a year and who’s wife earns £41k per year will carry on receiving Child Benefit for their 3 children and are doing very well on the back of it thank you very much!

Why was no consideration given to the COMBINED household income? Wouldn’t it have been fairer to cut it to families with an income of say over £50k per year?

Why didn’t the coalition government give consideration to capping the benefit at say a maximum of 3 children? Did they work out how much this would save as opposed to their cocked up plans to penalise middle income families and protecting high income families in the process?

Why are the Coalition Government continuing to pay EU migrant workers Child Benefit which is then sent back to their families back home to the cost of the UK taxpayer? Labour allowed this, the coalition is looking at what it can cut, why not cut this?

Labour got it very wrong when abolished the 10p tax bracket ““ this could be the ConDem equivalent!

A progressive society should always look after families who are living close to the breadline, the needy and the most vulnerable. That is a fundamental belief upon which our great nation was built.

But the way this cut has been handled and administrated is plain daft.

The Conservative/LibDem coalition has said it is committed to “Ëœsorting out’ what they call the benefit culture in our country. They want to get those who can work, back into work.

This is not the way to go about it. Retail jobs seem to be all that are available and are low paid. The Child Benefit is needed here to supplement a family’s income, no one has any issue with that.

Middle earners with a household income of up to £50k PA pay a lot into the system and receive very little out of it should not miss out too, in my opinion.

But, Cameron and Osborne have missed a golden opportunity to hit those that abuse the Child Benefit and use the benefit system as a career choice.

It is obscene frankly that a household with a combined income of some £85k can still draw Child Benefit.

How is all this fair Mr Cameron?

The future of health and community services in North Staffs- ten hunches

How about a little crystal ball gazing? What will the NHS under the coalition be like in the future years? How will the changes impact upon the lives of the people of North Staffs? I have looked at the manifesto pledges of both Lib dems and Tories and here are my hunches for the future of local health care.

1. The abolition of the Strategic Health Authority and its replacement with locally elected health boards. I am convinced that the coalition will act fairly swiftly on a pledge that they both made on the management of the NHS and the need to cut bureaucracy. I therefore see no future for the arm of the Department of Health in Staffordshire the SHA. What will it be replaced with? I sense the Lib Dem policy of elected boards will come through and also replace the Primary Care Trusts. I would say a Health Board covering North Staffs possibly covering some of the functions of the Local Authorities at Stoke and Stafford. The boards will also be able to set their own targets with national targets being of less prominence. They will be able to commission services from local providers.

2. More power devolved to Primary Services and with it funding decisions made by GPs. I would also see an aim of both Tories and Lib Dems the abolition of GP boundaries allowing people to register with whatever GP they wish. I can also see a return to the principle of GP Fundholding which was one of the planks of Primary care in the last Tory Government.

3. An increasing market approach to health care with patients to choose whatever health provider they wish as long as the provided meets NHS standards. Patients’ rights and the ability to access information will be a driver of this with the prospect of those who lack the information or knowledge finding it more difficult to access services.

4. There will be greater emphasis on the private and voluntary sector to provide services. Both Tory and Lib Dem manifesto’s stress the need to develop “talking treatments” which will be delivered by private and voluntary providers. I also see the possibility of NHS staff being allowed to form co-operatives to deliver services although this is already happening. The Voluntary Sector will also be more involved in services for vulnerable people to ensure that people remain independent and living in their own homes.

5. An acceleration of the closure of smaller hospitals and community services which is again already happening but I can see some of the more geological peripheral community hospitals being placed under threat.

6. A greater effort on using the power of Government to address some of the public health issues in the country although there will be a clash on the minimum price for alcohol which the Lib Dems support and the Tories oppose. The Tories also want to link GP pay to results in reducing health inequalities in deprived areas. Nationally there will be a move to rebrand the Department of Health to a Department of Public Health.

7. More controversially I can see a break down of the nationally agreed wage and service agreement made between the Union and the management and in some ways the concept of a National Health Service will be replaced by a Local Health Service with wages and conditions meeting local circumstances.

8. Greater use of means testing in the provision of care for the elderly and again the Lib Dems suggest yet another Commission on the future of services for an ageing population.

9. There will also be pressures to reduce the drug budget so expect the stories which we have been getting in the local press such as the Dot Griffiths and access to Herceptin.

10. More hotel costs being implemented in local hospitals for meals and servcies during hospitals stays

Have Labour Got The Guts To Go It Alone?

Everyone seems to believe that a deal has already been done to form a coalition of the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem and Independent Groups to run Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Although Labour are thrilled to have increased their numbers on the council they actually gained more than they thought and it has given them a big headache.

The last thing in the world they want is to be in sole control of the council because they know that savage cuts are bound to be imposed. Firstly the council have to find many millions just to stay on course for the present budget because the easy options were made for this years budget. They know the real pain is to come next year and the year after. Secondly because of the disastrous financial position of the country any new government is bound to put the squeeze on local government and make even more savings inevitable.

For these reasons Labour need other parties involved in the running of the council so that it is not them alone who are blamed for the cuts. I therefore believe that offering a coalition is not an olive branch but an act of attempted self preservation because of the all out elections next year.

The real question is will it happen?

If Labour, because of their numbers, only offer a few members of cabinet to the others it will not be acceptable.

Will the Conservatives accept only 1 or 2 members having been in “Ëœcontrol’ for the last 12 months.

Will the Lib Dems still accept only 1 member and in charge of the finances when they will then be blamed for cuts to come.

Will the Independents be happy to accept less than their present 3 members (4 originally with Ian Mitchell).

Will Labour find places for Paul, Mark, Tom, Merv, Adrian, Debra, Joy, etc.

If one of the “Ëœpolitical’ groups decides not to take part in the coalition then will the others play ““ I don’t think so. I cannot see a Labour/Con or a Labour/Lib Dem or Labour/independent coalition without the others.

Will Labour locally offer enough places in cabinet to bring the 3 other groups on board ““ I think not.

In a game of cards you can only play the hand you’ve got.

I believe that the idea of a “Ëœrainbow coalition’ will not happen.


Group Leaders Interviews RE: Coalition Agreement

Following the news that Stoke-on-Trent is set to be run by a 4-party coalition, we are pleased to bring you some exclusive Audio Interviews with the group leaders concerned.

Mohammed Pervez [Labour], Kieran Clarke [Lib Dem], Brian Ward [City Independents] and Mike Barnes on behalf of one of the parties likely to be in opposition, the Non-Aligned Group, all give their thoughts on this pioneering move to share the responsibility for the running of the council in what is thought to be one of the most difficult periods in the Councils history.

Listen to the Audio Interviews below…