A Sad, Sad Day for Stoke-on-Trent – Action is Needed In London!

Today is a sad, sad day for our City and for everyone who lives and works here.

This is the day that we say goodbye and bid farewell to a number of much loved services and leisure facilities.

We have already seen the closure of the City Farm. By the end of play today we will lose Park Hall Golf Course, the Dial a Ride scheme, Stoke Recreation Centre, Fenton Library and the cafe at Gladstone Pottery Museum.

Communities are devastated by the closure of Shelton and Tunstall pools which will also close their doors today.

There is talk that a private investor is looking to keep these two amenities open but I know a number of councillors have concerns that this is a viable option.

Officers and certain councillors are desperate to further discussions with the individual concerned and to offer assistance where ever possible. I have seen an email in which the potential investor offers sincere thanks to councillors and officers as they try and present a credible business case and secure the necessary funding.

Only time and rigorous scrutiny will tell whether this offer can be taken seriously and until i’s are dotted and t’s crossed parties are trying to play the matter down for fear of wrongly building up the hopes of the action groups and communities concerned.

Politically, opponents are keen to blame the city council’s ruling coalition of Labour, Conservative & Independent Alliance, Liberal Democrats and the City Independent Group for these unprecedented cuts.

Out on the streets though it is a very different matter. The general public are in no doubt as to who is exactly to blame.

The electorate hold the national coalition 100% responsible, everyone I have talked to is angry at the level and speed of these cuts.

For me, it is way too much, way too soon. The fact that we are at the start of what can only be described as a public sector cull, puts our country’s recovery from the worst recession in modern history at risk.

Take out the disposable income of the vast number of people who are about to be thrown out onto the scrap heap with the only prospect of landing squarely on the dole queue, and the knock on effect on the economy could be disastrous.

Meanwhile back on the mean streets of Stoke-on-Trent, the effect of these cuts is biting at the very front end of our society. No one is left untouched, the elderly, children, the disabled and the most vulnerable are all to suffer for the indiscretions and downright financial mismanagement of a large number of bankers who thought that they had a god given right to play a game of poker with the worlds finances.

And what has been the effect on the very individuals that put us in this mess in the first place? They are to be rewarded with unbelievably high bonuses often paid out by near state owned financial institutions.

Action groups will carry on fighting for the services and
facilities that they want to save and I pray that there is some success to be had.

£35million pounds have been wiped out of the budget for the upcoming financial year with the inevitability that another £20million will follow next year.

Our elected representatives have faced up to their responsibilities; officers of the council have administrated the cuts based on the balance sheet in front of them. The objectives? To save, to cut, to reduce and to merge services and facilities knowing that their actions are going to hurt the very people they seek to serve.

There have been those both inside the chamber and out in the political scene at large, that have sought to make political gain from the fact that Stoke-on-Trent City Council has had to make cuts. Indeed I know that certain individuals have been told to stay away from the Tunstall Pool Action Group meetings because their number one priority was to make political gain from the fight.

As much as we pontificate locally, in reality we all know there is little we can do to influence the level of cuts metered out to the public of Stoke-on-Trent.

Direct action on a national level is the only sensible recourse to voice our discontent and complete bewilderment over these unprecedented and unnecessary cuts.

The public have to take the issue up with the organ grinder [the national coalition government] as opposed to the monkey [Stoke-on-Trent City councillors], for it is them that have decided to decimate the funding to our City.

The protests in London last weekend attracted in the region of 450,000 people and but for a few hundred anarchists and complete nut jobs they were hugely successful in delivering a very direct message to this government.

That message is very loud and very clear ““ There is an alternative!

Peaceful, direct and unwavering protests on the largest scale imaginable would send a clear concise warning and in my humble opinion is the only way to save the services and facilities we value in this city.

So, in summary to save Stoke, we must march via London and parliament square for it is there that the true perpetrators reside.

Revolting for 40 years

40 year’s separate the Kill the Bill demonstration against the Industrial Relations Act bought in by the then Tory Government of Edward Heath and the demonstration against the cuts held in London last Saturday. I was on both of them and it is interesting to reflect now in my 50s and as a 15-year-old the great gulf that divides these two events. There are similarities as about the same number of around 300,000 were on both marches and Hyde Park featured in both marches. When I marched through London last weekend I could not one major and telling difference- the music. In the 70s most Trade Unions would have had their brass bands. My fathers union the POEU definitely did. And I recall as we marched through the West End fellow three floors up dressed in a dinner jacket conducting the brass band below him. There were many cheers at this. The only sound that was heard was incessant drums and whistles which reached a crescendo outside Downing St. The demise of the union brass band reflects the decline in the trade union movement which was approaching its high water mark in the 70s with a membership of 11 million. It is barely half that figure today. Another indicator of the changes was the absence of trade union banners. I did see an old ASLEF (Doncaster) branch which must have dated from the 50s, but the magnificent works of art especially from the Miners Union- for obvious reasons- were absent from the demonstration last Saturday. A report of the 71 march recalls the names of the unions that took part that Sunday, the boilermakers, engineers, miners, shipbuilders, and steelmakers. We lined up to start the march in Hyde Park and the POEU found itself close to the actor’s union Equity. I have a photograph union as some of the acting fraternity stood chatting to each other including Robert Morley, Marius Goring and Alfie Bass. The cult of personality was evident then.

But the main difference between the 1971 and the 2011 was the dominance of the public sector unions. I would estimate that there were only public service union banners on display last Saturday although someone told me that they had seen my union USDAW banner on the march.

The General Secretary of the Trade Union Movement that day in 1971 was Vic Feather an affable Yorkshire. I recall him being heckled by the Spartacists. There was no violence back in 1971 but I cannot help but think that the largely middle class memberships of the Spartacists were mirrored by the anarchists that caused mayhem in Oxford St last weekend. I can safely bet that many of the Trotskyists who gave the working class Feather a hard time went on to have successful careers in the City and advertising. One of the leading Trots at York University had a father who had a senior position in Barclays. The son was jailed for throwing a petrol bomb in the Brixton Riots in 1981.

I have been on many demonstrations in those 40 years. I was at the big CND demonstration against Cruise in 1983. I went on a number of the march for jobs in the early 80s. I supported the ANC in the same decade and I went on the anti war march in 2003.

I think such events can change things and I am equally sure that direct action has its place. Both marches went by the National Gallery. About 100 years ago a supporter of the Suffragettes attacked a painting by the Spanish artist Velaquez the Rookeby Venus. Do people think that the Suffragettes cause was not helped by taking the fight to the Government? I rest my case


Merkel Questions Germany’s Multicultural Experiment

The issue of immigration now forcing it’s way on to the Europe wide agenda.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stirred up a storm of controversy by describing Germany’s attempt to build a multicultural society an utter failure.

In a speech to the youth wing of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party on Saturday, she said:

“At the beginning of the 60s our country called the foreign workers to come to Germany and now they live in our country.”

She added: “We kidded ourselves a while, we said: ‘They won’t stay, sometime they will be gone’, but this isn’t reality.”

“And of course, the approach to build a multicultural society and to live side-by-side and to enjoy each other… has failed, utterly failed.”

Whilst at pains to point out that immigrants are welcome in Germany, Merkel went on to say that the concept of multiculturism, one where people would “live side-by-side” happily, did not work, and immigrants needed to do more to integrate, including learning German.

Her comments were thought to be aimed at Germany’s 4.3million Muslims. There are around 3000 mosques in the country.

She spoke about her fear that German-ness’ may eventually be lost and her concerns about headscarves in classrooms and Turkish ghettos in cities like Berlin.

“We feel bound to the Christian image of humanity ““ that is what defines us. Those who do not accept this are in the wrong place here.”

A recent poll suggested that 30% of the population of Germany had concerns that their country is being overrun with immigrants.

I am concerned that Germany is following the likes of Belgium and France whose political direction is heading for an uncomfortable rush to the far right following recent debates about banning the Burkha.

I’m all for a sensible discussion about Immigration but all this talk of mutlicultural experiments failing is all wrong.

Germany, just like the United Kingdom, invited immigrants into their country 40-50 years ago when there was a shortage of labour to undertake certain undesirable jobs.

Those immigrants have gone on to have families, 2nd and third generations now play an active part in society.

Here is Stoke-on-Trent I do share the frustration regarding the lack of racial integration in parts of our city.

I have spent a lot of time in cities like Birmingham, Leicester, London and parts of Lancashire, on business. I have witnessed first hand, different cultures living and working side by side. I have seen the respect and tolerance of the different cultures that exist in these progressive societies.

It is fair to say that certain cultural differences may prevent the closest of friendships in some cases but never the less there can be a mutual respect.

A few years ago i was the Chair of an award winning multicultural group set up with the aim of breaking down some of the prejudices that existed predominately in the south of the city.

Parents from both the Muslim community mixed with white parents to encourage their children to adopt a tolerant approach to life in our city.

This group did some great work, barriers were broken down, but i would be lying to suggest it was without difficulties.

There was a real reluctance for some people in the Asian community to get involved.

Until we all promote a society where there is a sensible, commonsense approach to immigration and a real desire for cross cultural integration, progress will be very slow indeed.

There are simply too many quangos and one sided community groups that promote the needs of one culture over another.

There needs to be a simple society charter that agrees to let the different cultures exist and celebrate the diversity whilst promoting a one society ethos which can come together for the greater good of our city/country.

If we fail to do this, at some point in the future, the extremes of the communities will spill their bile out onto the rest of our tolerant society.

People like the Chell Heath racist must never be allowed to influence the young people of today who will become the multi- cultural adults of tomorrow.

The same must be said about the extremists in the Asian Community.

I am completely sold on the notion of a multicultural society. Yes it’s going to take some work, yes there needs to be some give and take, but I think we could make it work… Don’t you?

Or do we take the fall back, vote capturing view of the German Chancellor? Which in my view is a complete cop out!

North Staffordshire Companies Join Forces For Launch Of Titanic Tours

Fine ale lovers are to embark on a package of tours thanks to a new partnership between Titanic Brewery and Bakers Coaches.

The North Staffordshire companies have teamed up to launch Titanic Tours to members of the Stoke-on-Trent brewery’s members club.

The new venture will be launched with a trip to the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court, London, on Saturday, 7 August.

Titanic Stout won the prestigious Best Beer in a Bottle title at last year’s event and a hat trick of awards from West Mildands CAMRA sees Titanic Brewery once again competing for honours.

Brewery Director Dave Bott said:

“We launched the Titanic Brewery Club earlier this year and see the tours as a good way of getting to know our members better.

“The Great British Beer Festival seems a great place to start and we will be offering trips to other real ale breweries and interesting pubs throughout the year.

“We are also delighted to be working with Bakers Coaches of Biddulph. The company has a long history of providing quality transport in the area and our partnership is a continuation of Titanic’s ethos that we should support other North Staffordshire companies where possible.”

Titanic Brewery works with several local food producers to ensure fine Staffordshire produce is available in its five pubs.

Phil Baker, Managing Director of Bakers Coaches, commented:

“Bakers Coaches are delighted to team up with Titanic Breweries to launch this new range of products to their members club and our travellers. We look forward to ‘setting sail’ from the White Star Pub to the Great British Beer Festival and hope it will be the first of many successful partnership tours.”

The Great British Beer Festival trip leaves from, the White Star pub, Kingsway, Stoke, at 7am on Saturday, 7 August. Tickets are available by telephoning 0800 2980498 at a cost of £24 return for Titanic Brewery Club members and £29 for non-members.

Wedgwood Win Gold In Olympic Tender

Stoke-on-Trent pottery manufacturer Wedgwood have been appointed to produce souvenir merchandise for the London 2012 Olympics.

Barlaston based WWRD who own the Wedgwood brand have been appointed by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) to produce London 2012 commemorative and souvenir merchandise.

A range of ceramic and crystal products will be produced by WWRD the products will include a number of limited edition Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton pieces.

A selection of the ceramic products which are expected to be available later this year will be produced in the UK and selected Waterford Crystal items will be produced in Waterford, Ireland.

London 2012 Director of Commercial Negotiations Charlie Wijeratna commented,

It is fantastic to have WWRD onboard. They are iconic brands incorporating the best of British and Irish design and tradition. Their tremendous heritage and quality ceramics and glassware will help ensure exciting London 2012 product ranges as well as raise funds to help stage the Games. London 2012 will launch its online store in spring 2010.

Feeding The 5000

I thought I would post about this event, for no other reason than I think it is a fantastic idea.

From the Feeding the 5000 website
On the 16th December a free lunch made from delicious ingredients that would otherwise have been wasted will be prepared for 5000 people. Our aim is to highlight the ease of cutting the unimaginable levels of food waste in the UK and internationally.

Use the link below to read more.

Shitty End Of The Stick!

By Pits’n’Pots Contributor Doddy.

Central London

Central London

While idly checking property on Ebay I noticed there are still outrageously

Stoke Town Centre

Stoke Town Centre

priced property in London.

By outrageous, I mean well over £400,000 for a Studio flat, to you and me that is a self contained bedsit.

To put this into perspective you would be hard pressed to find many up-market detached houses with large gardens in the whole of Stoke on Trent in that price range and nothing near the centre. In fact it is hard to find many houses in Stoke on Trent anywhere as expensive as a flat in a converted two up two down terrace in the London area.

To maintain these London house prices people must be able to afford the repayments. By comparison in Stoke I doubt that the majority of peoples entire take home pay would be enough even to pay the interest on the size of loans needed. Twelve years into a Labour government the divide between rich and poor has become larger the North South divide has also become larger. This disparity in income is not just confined to Stoke on Trent it is the case in many of the regions. It is hard to see how we in the regions will ever see the high paid jobs that drive property prices to the heights that we see in London and the rest of the South East.

With the Crunch, people have been asking why all this public money has been poured into the banking system? The answer was that it was needed to save all our investments. But lets look at the situation for a moment, it seems that most of these investments are of those in South East as for years they have had the large incomes to invest and no doubt they will get the lions share of the final salary pensions schemes as they have had the incomes and the money to invest in shares. In reality the billions Pounds of public that have been poured into the banking system is in order to protect investments of those that have had the money to invest, and that excludes the majority of the people in the regions.

It is emerging that the bulk of the job loses, have taken place in the West Midlands which includes Stoke on Trent. So it seems that some of the poorest areas which have not enjoyed prosperity for years are the areas suffering the most now. Many regions in this country for decades have been in dire and urgent need of significant amounts of public money to halt decline and protect industries and jobs. With successive governments the cupboard was always bare, but it seems that billions pounds could have been found in a short period of time if there if there had been the political will, this has been demonstrated dramatically over the last year by the interventions that have taken place to protect the banks and investments.

While this is not a complete over view of the situation it is a snap shot of the big winners and losers so let’s have a reality check while every one in the country is to pay the cost of this immediate help to sort out the mess and will have to continue paying more for years it seems the biggest job loses will in the regions and that the biggest winners in the short and the long term will be those in the South East , so it seems that those in the poorest areas will be left holding the shitty end of the stick yet again.