The Political Potteries Circa 6th May 2011 – Part 1

As the dust settles on yet another Stoke-on-Trent election, I find my mind accessing it’s “Ëœwhat happens now’ portal.

First and foremost, congratulations must go out to the entire team involved in the Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party campaigning team.

The 3 Labour MPs, united as one with the existing councillors, party organisers and candidates to get the Labour vote out. They were successful beyond their wildest dreams.

But they must ground themselves as soon as possible and get to work to minimise the impact of the recent £35million of cuts as well as ensuring that there is another open, honest and transparent round of consultations ahead of next year’s £20million cut in government funding.

It is imperative that they work with groups like Save Our Children Centres and others. They may have only 10 opposition voices inside the council chamber, but they may face thousands in opposition out on the streets of the City if they start to railroad unpopular cuts and service losses through whilst hiding behind their impressive majority.

The honeymoon period is a very short one in the political Potteries.

My pre-election predictions were pretty spot on actually. I had said that I could see Labour win around 34 seats. I also said that I believed that the Lib Dem’s would be wiped out by the elections. I was also right about the eradication of the BNP.

The one thing I did get spectacularly wrong was the demise of Community Voice councillors. Never saw that one coming at all.

Mick Salih has said that he is finished with politics now. We have probably also seen the last of Peter Kent-Baguley now too. Both are massive characters and skilled politicians and there will be a few council officers breathing a sigh of relief now that their scrutinising eyes will not been looking over reports and agenda’s.

Mike Barnes has gone too. Love or loathe him, he knows the system of local government better than most of the others put together. His work on the council constitution was invaluable. He made a few errors of judgements in his campaign in my humble opinion. But I firmly believe he will bounce back after a break and you never know, Community Voice could be re-invented with a new look and 4 years to get themselves organised. If other socialist minded individuals could just lose their anti Labour rhetoric and their bitter and twisted mindset and joined up with Barney, they could still be a major player on the local political scene yet.

Lib Dem leader Kieran Clarke is a loss to the chamber. He was always accommodating, willing to answer questions and is a genuinely nice guy. He suffered by association to Nick Cleggs disastrous and traitorous coalition with the Conservatives. The Lib Dems have been nothing short of battered at local elections right across the country. Kieran will find it hard to get back if his party’s national standing and reputation does not significantly improve.

The BNP were unceremoniously booted out of the Civic Centre. Once, not so long ago, they had 9 councillors. Today we can honestly say that the city has turned it’s back on the politics of the far right. The England First Party proved as welcome as a fart in a space suit! Craig Pond proved what a completely inept politician he is. He managed to do what he does best, which is to anger and insult people. I followed with amusement his rambling and preaching’s on the MY Tunstall website. He proved to be Labour’s Martin Garner’s best campaign tool [in every sense!]. Today he writes that we are all stupid in this city. Well I say there is nothing keeping him here. The electorate have sent the message that they do not want him at any price, best he hangs his keyboard up and joins the working masses methinks.

I never believed that we are a racist City. The BNP benefited by using a clever marketing strategy, no more than that. They capitalised on a definitely Labour Party lull a few years ago. They were opportunist; they were in the right place at the right time. Their success proved to be short lived. The Labour Party regrouped, re-organised, got rid of a few negatives, re-energised and fought back. Tristram Hunt started to campaign in Abbey Hulton & Bentilee the day after he was elected last May. His team get out and knock doors in those areas. People told them they had not seen a Labour campaigner for years. They see plenty now!

Slowly but surely Stoke Central’s Labour team won over the doubters and they have reclaimed the support they so spectacularly lost just a few years ago. They turned the Abbey and Bentilee red again and the BNP lost its strong hold.

Labour cannot be complacent here however, the work must go on or they will lose their grip on things again. One thing I’m certain of is that Michael Coleman will pick himself up and dust himself down and start to plan for the next four years. We will hear plenty from Mike, he won’t go away. He is a thoroughly hard working man and he put his heart and soul into being a successful councillor. He needs to find a new trick, his party needs to re-brand itself once again. Nick Griffin has taken the BNP to the brink of extinction. Like the Lib Dem’s, the BNP has suffered from mis-management. Disastrous leadership has disastrous consequences.

Part 2 of this article will be published tomorrow [Sunday]

Lies, Labour and Libdems

I thought to comment on the Ask The Leader Debrief but as any comment I can make is long, I decided to blog it.

I thank Mohammed Pervez, although I don’t agree with him much, for being willing to do the online question session and thank pits’n’pots and everyone else involved for facilitating it.

Some of my questions I realised relate quite generally to the concept of what should not be done in an election campaign, in particular telling lies or distorting the truth or perpetrating smears on others. These things, quite rightly, infuriate people. Not just me either. We can see this nationally at the moment with students’ (amongst others including me) indignation at libdems promising before the election to vote against any rise in tuition fees and now it seems planning to break this promise. What really infuriates people is more than the policy itself (so minor stupid tinkering with it at this stage just won’t wash); it is the lies. People are directing their fury at the libdems much more than the tories, because although it is a shared policy, the tories didn’t lie on this matter. The lies undermine the whole concept of a legitimate mandate to govern. If people vote tory with their stated policies and they get in, then people get what they collectively deserve. If they vote libdem because of lies, they do not deserve the outcome when they are betrayed. I know I’m pretty much stating the obvious, but we really do need a recall mechanism to kick out people who do not serve us well, without having to wait their whole term.

During the general election campaign I did think about how I would vote if we had an AV system (which many of us are familiar and happy with from other spheres such as union elections). It occurred to me that despite that I don’t favour most of the tory policies, I would rank them higher than labour because my experience of labour shows they can not be trusted to deliver what they say and in the end the dishonesty has to put them at the bottom of the pile. I would have put libdem somewhere near the top because of their education policies, but not anymore! As it is I voted independent as a protest because I didn’t think any of them were much good. I agree with John Francis’ statement (non-question).

So how does this relate to the leader questions? Well the tactic used by Mervin Smith, as labour, is not too far different from that used by traitors such as Clegg and Cable.

On my question about Mervin Smith’s election leaflets, I just don’t buy the perpetual excuse that changing the bsf program details could jeopardise all the funding. Details have been changed throughout and this excuse was used well before the election period. If labour actually believed it could not be changed they should not have campaigned on the basis of saying they would change it. I don’t buy that Mervin Smith and Tristram Hunt did their utmost to prevent the closure of Mitchell one bit. Last I heard Tristram didn’t sign the petition, if he wishes to say he has since then he can. I saw Mervin at one CSAG meeting after the election then never saw him at any other. It is possible he could have gone to one that I didn’t get to, but I have not heard this. It is all very well his cosying up to Vernon Coaker but labour never did anything useful, it was just a photo-op on Mervin’s part for his election leaflets. They probably figured they didn’t need to do anything; they could just blame it on the tories after the election. They all pass the buck. Since the election I wrote to Michael Gove suggesting he could save bsf money by scrapping the academy planned for Willfield and refurbishing Mitchell and Edensor at far less cost instead. One of his minions wrote back to me passing the buck to PfS, they wrote to me passing the buck to SOT City Council. They said “I understand your views in relation to the building of the Discovery Academy as opposed to Mitchell and Edensor schools. However, the local authority did not select these two schools to be involved in the BSF programme. I would therefore suggest you raise your concerns with Stoke-on-Trent City Council.” So Labour have no excuse, they can decide to refurb Mitchell and Edensor and leave current facilities at Willfield alone.

Also Mohammed Pervez refers to the feasibility study, but this is flawed and inconsistent with another quote from Mervin Smith; “EVERYONE was united in wanting the 2 school solution: a school on the Mitchell site and one for the Longton community.” However the feasibility study insists on only one school to replace Mitchell and Edensor and refused from the outset to consider the two school solution. In fact the prime reason the study rejects the Mitchell and Edensor sites is because of accessibility of each for pupils from the other area because they are so far apart. The two school solution that Mervin was trumpeting would have solved this and avoided using Willfield. So Mohammed Pervez can not lean on this feasibility study. Mervin blames Ian Mitchell and Ross Irving “if you want to keep our school local, bombard Cllr Ian Mitchell, Education Chief, and Council Leader Ross Irving with a simple message: LET OUR COMMUNITY KEEP ITS SCHOOL!” (Capitals in red on his leaflet.) As if labour wasn’t in on the collusion to close Mitchell also!

Mohammed Pervez would like a copy of Mervin’s leaflets. I have happily sent him scans of the relevant pages he requested, although as I got the impression he was close to Mark Meredith and if the labour group were working together, I would have thought he would already have seen it or be able to easily obtain it from Mervin.

On Dimensions, I agree with Mark H but Mohammed Pervez does have a point if he has data that indicate that price increases don’t deter people. Prices for swimming certainly influence me though, I have chosen between Fenton and Jubilee depending on price as they have varied and when Jubilee has been cheapest I have gone on a Sunday to avoid a parking charge. Perhaps I’m just a miser. I expect he also has a point about socialist based discounts, I don’t qualify although I did look into it for young people and found it less than transparent as to what the price reductions are.

It can be noted that I am “Ëœfree speech’ and “Ëœcsag member’. I had no particular wish to be anonymous in the discussion but when half an hour had passed and my first question hadn’t been answered at that stage, I thought it may had scuppered my chance to ask anything else so experimented with other names. But it was possibly the case that a question about the press department had to go to the press department, causing a delay. I asked not just about “ËœOur City’ but about other glossy publications such as governors’ gazette, I still think much could and should be saved here, especially when much more important aspects of children’s services face the axe. I agree with Sharon, I find much of the PR is propaganda and could be cut.

When I asked how much is it costing the council, out of non-bsf funds, to do the alterations on Dividy Road by the Anchor Road roundabout, in order to put an academy on Willfield that is not wanted there, I didn’t mean work on the roundabout itself. I was thinking in particular of the pavement being built on the stretch of Dividy Road between the roundabout at Anchor Road and the next roundabout along at Beverley Drive. Now it could be that this is not being assigned in relation to the academy but the money must be coming from somewhere. And my question applies more generally because the documents relating to the academy do identify a number of road and pedestrian improvements needed outwith the Willfield site to facilitate use of that site. So I would like to know how much all of these are costing out of non-bsf funds? I can’t believe it can be nothing. Unless of course you indulge in some clever accounting and assign the things to different pots of money, which looks a bit suspicious when they are mentioned in the academy documents.

On the difficulties the Bentilee volunteers face, if the academy on Willfield does go ahead, I hope the difficulties are sorted out, but I have little faith they will be satisfactorily.

I am glad the 6th form college has now seen sense on parking for parents at events, although I have not since then needed to attend anything there. I was annoyed that parking was not made available to transport students to their start of the year interviews except at Fenton, for which a charge is now planned. Even better than parking would have been to make the annual bus pass, that I shell out a good £300 for, valid for this date onward rather than after this date! To pay a bus fare in addition to this for the interview was just an insult too far.

I asked another question that I have now emailed in as requested: What is the projected loss in revenue from the cafe, shop, donations box, workshops and car parking at the Potteries Museum resulting from fewer attending when the entrance fee comes in and how does this compare with the projected income from entrance fees? You see I like the current set up of free admission, I think it allows the freedom to pop in and is very inclusive and accessible. This is indicative of the sort of society I think it is good to live in. To lose that is bad enough but even worse without seeing evidence of the financial case for it.

Rant over I think, what do you think we should do with politicians who betray us? Phil Woolas lied on his election leaflets and had his election win overturned because of it. That was at least justice of the sort we need more of I think.

Stoke-on-Trent’s Political Landscape Has A Change On The Horizon

Stoke-on-Trent is often described as ‘politically fragmented’.

In fact certain academic political commentators practically drool at the prospect that the city’s political structure is ‘broken’.

I have lost count at the many times that I have read, or been told by the great and the good that our city councillors lack quality and political acumen.

We currently have 9 political groups registered and represented in the council chamber. We are constantly told that this is a bad, bad thing.

Well we recently had a visit from the ‘Gossip Goblin’ to the Pits n Pots HQ. The good goblin told us that our city is about to get another political group, but not one like any other.

It would appear that this new group will be made up of councillors and former party activists that will put the communities that they represent as their number one priority.

Indeed it would seem that they see themselves as the voice of the communities.

They will have policies that are agreed by the majority but spurn the idea of a party whip as they would spurn a rabid dog.

Their policies, the Gossip Goblin told us, will have a strong socialist element to them. They are 100% committed to the delivery of top quality public services.

The new group feel that they have no alternative but to come together and scrutinise the Council Leader, his cabinet and the officer core. They feel that Stoke-on-Trent has been left with a political vacuum caused by the main parties entering into a coalition with the City Independents, thus robbing the electorate of a party that has got their backs.

The Gossip Goblin warned us that there will be collateral damage caused to the council chamber with the formation of this new political group. There are rumours that a number of councillors sitting in all groups who are despondent with the coalition policies, are waiting to join forces with this new band of merry men and women.

The launch of this new ‘people first – party’s second’ group is only a short time away and as more details emerge, or in the event of a further visit from the Gossip Goblin, we will be first to bring you the latest developments…..

Statement on the budget from Councillor Adrian Knapper

George Osborne says his top priority is cutting the deficit.

But in order to get the deficit down, you need to keep economic growth up and you need to keep unemployment down.

You don’t get borrowing down by pulling the plug on support for business, throwing people out of work and stifling economic growth.

The Chancellor delivered a budget that will throw people out of work, hold back economic growth and damage the public services we all rely on ““ and increased VAT from 17.5% to 20%, so that higher prices will be paid in the shops by everyone, from pensioners to the unemployed

The Tories’ cuts are unfair to families and older people: cuts to the disability living allowance, cuts to help for the jobless, cuts to tax credits, cutting back free school meals, and cuts to Child Benefit, which they have frozen for the next three years.

What the country needed was a Budget to support economic growth, protect jobs and cut the deficit fairly. Instead the Tories gave us a reckless Budget that pulls the rug out from under the recovery. And they couldn’t have done it without the support of the Lib Dems, who have let down everyone who voted for them in the election just a few weeks ago.

George Osbourne First Budget

Taking Gladstone’s original Budget Box out for its final outing, before it becomes a public record of the National Archives, the Chancellor went to the Palace Of Westminster to deliver this first budget of the new government, in line with the Conservative pre election promise, to deliver a budget within 50 days of coming in to office.

During the budget speech Rt Hon George Osborne MP said that:

It was an unavoidable Budget and £1 in every £4 we spend is borrowed. He said the deficit would be dealt with by cuts in spending more than increases in taxation.

The deficit was brought about by over spending not under taxing.

The chancellor also confirmed that the UK would not be joining the Euro during the term of this government.

Public sector workers earning less than £21,000 will have a pay freeze for 2 years. Public sector employees earning less than £21,000 will get a flat £250 rise on each of the two years the freeze is in place.

There has been much speculation about what was going to be included in the budget, but here is the actual budget direct from HM Treasury:

Today the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has set out his Budget with a comprehensive five-year plan to rebuild the British economy. The plan sets out tough but fair action to tackle the unprecedented budget deficit, introduce a fairer tax system, encourage enterprise and support long-term growth across the economy. The Budget sets out action within these three areas, to help rebalance the economy and provide the conditions for sustainable growth. Each builds on the Coalition Government’s core values of responsibility, freedom and fairness.

1. Responsibility: Tackling the deficit & the fiscal mandate.
The Chancellor has been clear that we need to tackle the deficit urgently. Reducing the deficit is a necessary precondition for sustained economic growth; today’s plans will help to restore stability and balance to the economy, underpinning private sector confidence to support recovery.

The Government has therefore set:
“¢ A deficit target, to achieve cyclically-adjusted current balance by the end of the rolling, five- year forecast period. At this Budget, the end of the forecast period is 2015-16;
“¢ For this Parliament, the fiscal mandate will be supplemented by a target for debt as a share of GDP to be falling at a fixed date of 2015-16, ensuring that the public finances are restored to a sustainable path;
“¢ By 2014-15, 80 per cent of the additional consolidation measures set out in this Budget will be delivered through spending restraint, with additional spending reductions of £31.9bn a year by 2014-15 and additional net tax increases of £8.2 billion. Taking the total consolidation measures delivered through spending restraint to 77 per cent;
“¢ On spending, £29.8bn of the additional savings are from public sector current expenditure (PSCE) and £2.2bn from public sector gross investment (PSGI). There are no further reductions in public sector gross investment beyond the cuts already announced as part of the £6.2bn of savings in 2010-11;
“¢ The Government will increase the standard rate of Value Added Tax (VAT) to 20 per cent from 4 January 2011;
“¢ The Government will increase the standard rate of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) to 6 per cent and the higher rate to 20 per cent from 4 January 2011; and
“¢ The Government will introduce a two year pay freeze for public sector workforces from 2011-12, except for those earning £21,000 or less, who will receive an increase of at least £250 in these years.

2. Freedom: Enterprise and growth agenda
This Budget will create the conditions for enterprise and sustainable growth. The Chancellor wants to support business and make the UK more competitive. This means giving businesses more freedom by reducing regulation and providing targeted tax breaks, while ensuring that the economic opportunities for businesses are shared more evenly throughout the UK’s regions.

Measures to support enterprise include:
“¢ A major package of reforms to reduce corporation tax rates including a reduction in the main rate of corporation tax from 28 per cent to 24 per cent over the course of four financial years from April 2011 and reductions to the main and special rates of capital allowances from April 2012;
“¢ A reduction in the small profits rate from 21 per cent to 20 per cent from April 2011;
“¢ A National Insurance Contributions (NICs) holiday for new businesses which start-up in certain areas of the UK over the next three years;
“¢ An increase in the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and the creation of a new Enterprise Capital Fund; and
“¢ A Regional Growth Fund in 2010-11 and 2012-13 to support increases in business employment and growth, and a scheme in which new businesses in areas of the UK outside of the East, London and the South East will get a substantial reduction in their employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs).

3. Fairness: A fairer personal tax and benefit system.
The Government has been clear that the burden of deficit reduction will have to be shared. The changes announced today set out a vision for a refocusing of the tax and benefit framework, while protecting the most vulnerable in society. This Budget announces measures to encourage people to take personal responsibility for their actions by rewarding those who work hard and save responsibly for the future.

Personal tax measures:
“¢ Increasing the personal allowance for under 65s by £1,000 to £7,475 in 2011-12, taking 880,000 people out of income tax altogether;
“¢ Capital gains tax will rise from 18 to 28 per cent for those liable to income tax at the higher and additional rates. The 10 per cent rate for entrepreneurial business activities will be extended from the first £2 million to the first £5 million of qualifying gains made over a lifetime;
“¢ The Government will work in partnership with local authorities in England to implement a council tax freeze in 2011-12; and
“¢ Introduction of a bank levy on banks balance sheets from January 2011.

Welfare reforms:
As part of the welfare reforms, the Budget announces:
“¢ Uprating the basic State Pension by a triple guarantee of earnings, prices or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest, from April 2011;
“¢ Reduction in tax credit eligibility for families with household income above £40,000 (down from £50,000) from April 2011;
“¢ Intention to restrict the generosity of pensions tax relief by reducing the annual allowance from April 2011. The Government will ensure that this alternative approach raises no less revenue than has already been accounted for in the public finances; and
“¢ Indexing benefits by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) instead of the Retail Prices Index (RPI) from April 2011 – in order to provide a fairer reflection of benefit claimants’ experiences.

The measures set out by the Chancellor today will pay for the past and plan for the future. This Budget represents the first important step in transforming the economy, rebalancing growth across the UK and paving the way for sustainable, private sector led growth in the years ahead

How will this affect Stoke-on-Trent & The West Midlands?

“¢ To help areas and communities particularly affected by reductions in public spending make the transition to private sector-led growth and prosperity, the Government will create a Regional Growth Fund in 2011-12 and 2012-13. This fund will operate in England only and support proposals from private and public-private bodies that create sustainable increases in business employment and growth.
“¢ The Government will shortly announce details of a scheme to help new businesses in countries and regions outside London, the East and South East. The three-year scheme will exempt new businesses from up to £5,000 of employer NICs payments, for each of their first 10 employees hired. Subject to meeting the necessary legal requirements, the Government intends to have the scheme up and running by September. Any new business set up from 22 June which meets the criteria set out in the forthcoming announcement will benefit from the scheme. Up to 55,000 businesses could benefit in the West Midlands.
“¢ The impact of the employer NICs rate rise previously announced will be largely reversed by increasing the threshold for employer NICs by £21 a week above indexation. This will lead to a saving of around £280 million in the West Midlands.
“¢ The Budget 2009 proposal to repeal the special tax rules for furnished holiday lettings will not be implemented. Instead, the Government will consult over the summer on an alternative proposal to ensure the tax treatment of holiday lettings meets EU legal requirements in a fiscally responsible way, which does not penalise UK businesses, by changing the eligibility thresholds and restricting the use of loss relief. This will benefit an 22/06/2010 estimated 3,900 individuals in the West Midlands who receive an income from furnished holiday lettings.
“¢ The income tax personal allowance for those aged under 65 will be increased by £1,000 in cash terms, taking it from £6,475 in 2010-11 to £7,475 in 2011-12. As a result, the Government estimates that 23 million basic rate taxpayers will benefit by up to £170 each. In the West Midlands over 2 million basic rate taxpayers will gain from this measure.
“¢ Government will uprate the basic State Pension by a triple guarantee of the highest of earnings, prices or 2.5% from April 2011. The Consumer Price Index will be used as the measure of prices in the triple guarantee. However, to ensure the value of a basic State Pension is at least as generous as under the previous uprating rules, the Government will increase the basic State Pension in April 2011 by the equivalent of Retail Price Index. An estimated 1.1 million pensioners in the West Midlands will benefit.
“¢ Government will uprate the standard minimum income guarantee in Pension Credit in April 2011 by the cash rise in a full basic State Pension to ensure the lowest income pensioners benefit from the triple guarantee. 220,000 pensioners currently receive Guarantee Credit in the West Midlands.
“¢ The Government will introduce legislation to waive certain backdated business rates bills, including for some businesses in ports. An estimated 3,000 businesses across England will benefit

Picture: crown copyright republished with permission of HM Treasury.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council – From Inside The Chamber, Annual Council Meeting Part 2

Part 2 – Pervez Becomes Council Leader.

In direct contrast to the pantomime of last year’s Stoke-on-Trent Annual Council meeting, a new Council Leader was elected with no fuss what so ever. Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez was appointed Council Leader having previously served as Deputy Elected Mayor under the old system of governance. Pervez was proposed by the current Council Leader Ross Irving [CIA]. Cllr Irving said there was no one more surprised than him when he ended up as council leader last year but this year it was only right and proper that Pervez became Council Leader following the Labour Party’s outstanding success at the recent local elections.

He said that he was happy to be a part of a new coalition arrangement and that he felt that he could work well with Pervez. Cllr Tom Reynolds [Lab] seconded the proposal to appoint Pervez as Council Leader. He said that the Labour Group were surprised at how well the party had done in taking 17 out of 20 seats at the recent elections. He said that the Labour Group were looking forward to working with their coalition partners to deliver the best services they could provide in the difficult year ahead. The motion to appoint Pervez as Council Leader was carried. There were some abstentions mainly from the BNP and non-aligned councillors.

In response Cllr Pervez said that he was delighted to be Council Leader and he thanked the chamber for their support. He said that the 4 party coalition agreement was a historic moment for Stoke-on-Trent City Council. He said that the coalition partners would put aside their party politics for the greater good of the city and that they would work together to provide the best services possible. He informed members that being the Council Leader or serving in the Cabinet was not about being popular, it was about getting the job done.

Cllr Peter Kent-Baguley congratulated Pervez on becoming the new council leader. He said he wanted to send a note of caution to the quadruple coalition and that was with the small amount of opposition councillors they would need to be more vigilant in their pursuit of effective scrutiny. He also encouraged coalition party members to question decisions and not just to accept what the Cabinet propose in a tribalist way. He said in questioning decisions they were not being disloyal to their parties. He also took a sideswipe at the national coalition government for considering freezing Council Tax rises. He said that if this succeeded it would prevent local councils from raising much needed revenue. He agreed that there would be some cuts, but he urged all councillors to engage in some free thinking and not to accept every cut lying down.

Cllr Mick Salih paid tribute to the Labour Group for taking the political responsibility their election performance had afforded them. He said that it was right that they took the lead in any coalition agreement. He urged the coalition to not cut ward funding as councillors had been able to buy in services for young people that provided activities that had helped to reduce incident of Anti-Social Behaviour across the city.

  • Pervez then revealed the councillors that are to serve in his Cabinet, they are: Councillor Mohammed Pervez (Labour) – Council leader
  • Councillor Ross Irving (Conservative and Independent Alliance) – Deputy leader and community safety, partnerships and LSP (Local Strategic Partnership) Councillor Tom Reynolds (Labour) – Communications and community engagement
  • Councillor Debra Gratton (Labour) – Children’s Services
  • Councillor Hazel Lyth (Conservative and Independent Alliance) – Adult social care, sport, leisure and culture
  • Councillor Mervyn Smith (Labour) – Regeneration, economic development and jobs (city development)
  • Councillor Brian Ward (City Independents) – Housing, planning and transportation
  • Councillor Terry Follows (City Independents) – Environment, waste management and neighbourhood services
  • Councillor Sarah Hill (Labour) – Transformation
  • Councillor Kieran Clarke (Liberal Democrats) – Resources.

The meeting was then formally brought to a close by the New Lord Mayor and Chair of the City Council, Cllr Denver Tolley. The only remaining business of the day was the appointment of the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the various committees of the City Council. The appointments are as follows:

Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee
Chair – Roy Naylor
Vice chair – Mike Barnes

Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Chair – Mark Davis
Vice chair – Melanie Baddeley

Economic Development and Enterprise Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Chair – Adrian Knapper
Vice chair – Roy Naylor

Adults and Older People’s Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Chair – Jean Bowers
Vice chair – Jean Edwards

Improving Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Chair – Dave Conway
Vice chair – Gwen Hassall

Transformation and Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee

Chair – Joy Garner
Vice chair – Dave Sutton

Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Chair – John Daniels
Vice chair – Amjid Wazir

Chairs and vice-chairs of regulatory committees are as follows:

Administration and Appeals Committee
Chair – Mick Salih
Vice chair – Megan Ryan

Audit Committee

Chair – Mike Coleman
Vice chair – Olwen Hamer

Development Management Committee
Chair – Paul Shotton
Vice chair – Terry Follows

Human Resources Committee

Chair – Bagh Ali
Vice chair – Margaret Barber

Licensing and Consumer Protection Committee

Chair – Joanne Powell-Beckett
Vice chair – Majid Khan

Mitchell Memorial Youth Centre Committee

Chair – Jeremy Dillon
Vice chair – Hazel Lyth

Council Group Leaders Reaction To Historic Coalition [Audio]

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is to be governed by a four way ruling coalition in what has been described as an historical moment.

Labour, the Conservative & Independent Alliance, The Liberal Democrats and the City Independents will form the ruling administration following tomorrows [Thursday] Annual Council Meeting.

Mohammed Pervez [Lab] is to be the new Council Leader and Ross Irving [CIA] will become the Deputy Leader.

The Cabinet will be made up of 5 councillors from Labour. Although it has not been confirmed, PnP expect them to be Cllr Pervez, Cllr Tom Reynolds, Cllr Debra Gratton, Cllr Sarah Hill & Cllr Merv Smith.

There will be 2 Cabinet positions for the Conservative & Independent Alliance, Cllr Ross Irving and Cllr Hazel Lyth.

The City Independent Group will also have 2 Cabinet places, expected to be Cllr Brian Ward and Cllr Terry Follows.

Kieran Clarke will be the lone Liberal Democrat voice on the Cabinet.

Pits n Pots were at the official press conference and were able to record Audio Interviews with all the Group Leaders and get their thoughts on this historic coalition.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council – A Long Week Ahead!

I must be really sad me! But, I have to say I’m really looking forward to this week and reporting on the shenanigans of Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Thursday’s Annual Council meeting should be a belter.

The first task is to confirm Cllr Denver Tolley as the new Lord Mayor. I have known Denver for a few years and I can honestly say I have yet to meet a single person who has anything bad to say about the guy.

Denver serves the Longton North ward and is respected by all. His wife Lynne will be Lady Mayoress and I have no doubt that she will prove to be one of the most glamorous the City has had for years.

They are both brilliant with people ans will be a massive hit whatever functions they are requested to attend.

The main event on Thursday however, is the election of the new Council Leader.

I think it is widely expected to be Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez. I tip his deputy to be Cllr Ross Irving, the current Leader of the council and Leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance.

This will mean that there will be at least a two party coalition.

Which means that we may not get the four party coalition that Pervez had hoped for last week.

You see, it’s all about cabinet places and portfolio positions.

For a four party coalition to work, I estimate that the Labour Group will want to retain at least 5 cabinet places.

This will leave 5 cabinet places to be divvied up between the CIG, CIA and Lib Dems.

Kieran Clarke has been made to play the Hokey Cokey by his group as he has been in/out a few times all he needs to do now is to shake it all about. My sources tell me he is in at the moment.

It is known that the Lib Dem group were hesitant about Kieran carrying on the cabinet portfolio for resources given the amount of cuts that are set to bite hard.

The Conservative were very reluctant to enter into another coalition with the City Independents, But as I understand it today there are a couple of cabinet positions on offer to the CIG and the CIA groups.

Whether the CIG accept these is another matter and is very much down to what portfolios are up for grabs. I understand it that the CIG will be unwilling to accept the more controversial portfolios such as Children & Young Peoples Services, which has been something of a poisoned chalice.

The Labour cabinet members are being held closely under wraps. But, I expect a mixture of experience and new blood on there.

So you can see that negotiations will be ongoing throughout the coming week.

At Pits n Pots we are keeping our ears close to the ground and we will be covering the Annual Council live on Thursday.

Common Front Coalition not Commonsense

Rumour is rife that the Leader of the City Council’s much expanded Labour Group, having won 17 of the 20 seats contested on May 6th in the last of the City Council elections by thirds, has finally been roused to recognise responsibility that goes with now being the largest political group on the Council, though with 26 of the 60 seats, a handful short of a simple majority.

The awakening extends only to seeking a coalition with the City Independents (considering their recent history their name is increasingly questionable), the Tories, and the Lib Dems, thus aiming to absorb all but the five BNP group members and the 3 Non aligned, 2 independents, 1 Libertarian.

Attempting to obliterate opposition, and thus, effective scrutiny, not to mention the political choices of the electorate, is a move well along the road to a totalitarian approach to local government.

If the “good of the City”, the cry which almost drowns out principled argument in defence of difference (once choice was the New Labour buzz word!), really is such an agreed priority then why didn’t these petty politicians seek the people’s mandate on that basis? Why did they go all out to win for their particular party?

Apart from it being a rather sordid little tactic to avoid singular responsibility and accountability it fails to command even a commonsense consensus since no one has yet begun to spell out what “the good of the City” might mean! Is there only one good? Is there only one way to the good of the City? Of course not to both questions.

Such shallow siren calls reflect an abject laziness to articulate basic principles, core values and essential policies. Instead, of tackling those tasks they wish to slither into an amorphous mass to nod through whatever the root and branch cutting machine, driven by officers and over-paid consultants, churns out.

Come the all-out City Council elections next May to herald the new smaller one-member wards (perhaps with a few anomolous 2 and 3 member wards) the electorate will be truly challenged to work out which party candidate to support. I suspect many wont even bother, safe in the knowledge that their vote will be ignored and composted into coalition

In Conversation – Council Leader Ross Irving

Yesterday [Friday] I managed to catch up with the Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Ross Irving.

We talked about the really important decisions made by his Cabinet this week, namely the acquisition of the Spode site in Stoke and the agreement for the use of Vanguard as a part of the root and branch review.

We also discussed the issue of the upcoming Annual Council Meeting where he could face a challenge for the Leadership of the Council.

He gives us his views on the love-in and coalition between his party the Conservatives and a party that he has been in coalition with before locally, the Liberal Democrats.

We also discuss the dilemma faced by the local Labour Group as to whether they make a play for the Council Leadership or indeed they go for a minority administration or enter into a rainbow coalition of the main three parties and the implications if they do.

Ross also gave me his views on the future of the Transition Board in wake of the change of government.

As ever I am indebted to Ross who never refuses to give an interview or ducks a topic. He is sincere and honest and is committed to making Stoke-on-Trent a better place to live.

Please listen to the Audio Interview below which is in three parts. Make yourself a brew, or pour yourself a stiff drink and press the play button…..