Anger at idea to merge council

Members from Newcastle Borough Council have scoffed at the idea of merging with the city.

They roundly rejected the suggestion that Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire County Council should form one super-power.

The hostility came as the public were invited to a discussion at Staffordshire University’s Film Theatre about whether Stoke-on-Trent should merge with the County Council based in Stafford.

Members of the audience from Newcastle expressed anger at the idea of merging any council in the area with Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Continue reading

Gaff Prone NULBC Councillor Describes Church as a “ËœCult’

A gaff prone Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Councillor has once again put his foot it ““ this time on Facebook.

Ashley Howells, Conservative councillor for Loggerheads & Whitmore, previously described Stoke-on-Trent residents as idle and overweight on social networking site Twitter.

His latest gaff came courtesy of comments made by him on Facebook.

Councillor Howells used the world’s biggest social networking site to describe religion, in particular the Church of England, as a cult.

Councillor Howells commented on a link posted by a Facebook user to a story in the Telegraph newspaper that reports that CofE congregations have halved in the last 40 years.

He said that the demise of the Church of England would remove one more myth based cult.

”quite”¦..however it would remove one more myth based cult”

Cllr Howells comments drew this angry response form another Facebook user.

”Sorry to hijack your message, which I happen to agree with, but I fear that Ashley Howells however has given another reason by which his bigoted one sided views have been revealed.

You would think that a councillor wouldn’t cause offence to a good portion of his electorate and his comments on Twitter have caused him to make public apologies before.”

His previous comments about Stoke-on-Trent forced him to close down his Twitter account.

Will his latest gaff force him off the social networking site Facebook?

”Upon meeting many villagers, we found that the various priorities outlined by me matched their concerns and demands to a very great extent ““ for example, residents want to preserve the rural characteristic of the area whilst enhancing local services such as children/youth facilities and senior citizen activities; local folk see a police presence and rapid response rate as key in preventing crime and reducing the fear of crime; residents of all our villages are concerned about Wind Farm, Quarrying and Methane Gas Drilling threats; highway safety and speeding are worries for many ……

I know that Loggerheads Parish Council, responding to its parishioners via the Parish Plan, wants to plan for an improved village centre and I will continue to work with them and the Borough team to drive the initiative on.
I’ve met many from the various community and parish groups which do such important work for the communities of the rural area and I look forward to working with them to enhance our shared quality of life”.

It would appear that the important role played by churches in community life, especially in rural areas like Loggerheads & Whitmore, is being dismissed by Conservative Councillor Ashley Howells, despite what his blog comments say.

It is obvious that his blog article on the NULBC website misleads the electorate and his true beliefs are hidden behind the words written.

Cllr Howells Facebook comments fail to respect those members of society who a practise their faith and enjoy playing a part in church life.

Councillor Howells comments will offend some members of Loggerheads & Whitmore communities and may well affect his chances at the next election as well as seriously diminishing his chances of being invited to open any church fete in his council ward.

Newcastle Lead The Way Over Recycling – Stoke Bring Up The Rear!

For those who have questioned Pits n Pots motivation in raising the issues surrounding Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Enhanced Recycling and Waste Management procedures, we thought that you would be interested in reading the following article.

This article is from the Lets Recycle Website:

Recycling rates in Newcastle-under-Lyme more than doubled in the eight months after weekly food waste collections were introduced in March 2010, according to the Staffordshire council’s kerbside recycling collection contractor, Acumen Distribution.

The Northampton-based company has been running the Staffordshire council’s recycling collection contract since 2003 and began a new seven-year collection deal in February 2010. It has expanded the range of materials that householders can recycle at the kerbside to include plastics bottles and cardboard – a change introduced in April 2010

Together with an extension to its garden waste service to cover all properties with a garden, Acumen claims the changes increased Newcastle-under-Lyme borough council’s household recycling rate from the 26% recorded for 2009/10 to 55% for the period March to November 2010.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council are currently achieving just over 40% recycling.

This equated to 1,900 tonnes of food waste and 4,250 of dry recyclables being collected over the period, using a source-segregated approach, with Acumen operating nine trucks, four days a week to run the service.

The company also opened a new waste transfer station, at Burslem, in November 2009 to handle the recyclables collected. And, Acumen’s efforts were welcomed by Trevor Nicholl, head of recycling strategy and fleet services at the council.

“We have worked closely with Acumen Distribution over the past year to improve our recycling rates,” he said. “Towards these ends, Acumen has made a significant investment in specialised vehicles to enable us to expand our kerbside recycling collection service.”

Newcastle-under-Lyme’s kerbside recycling system involves householders separating dry recyclables, with sacks or bags being used for: cardboard; plastic bottles; paper; and, mixed glass, cans, aerosols and foil.

Residents can also recycle textiles using a bag, food waste in a caddy and garden waste in a wheeled bin, while residual waste is collected by the council’s in-house collections team using wheeled bins.

The food waste is then sent to the nearby Lower Ruele Bioenergy anaerobic digestion facility, which opened in May 2010 (see story) and paper is sent to UPM Shotton to be recycled into newsprint, while a spokeswoman for Acumen noted that “in the main everything is sold locally”.

The importance of the new service’s success was highlighted by Acumen’s managing director, Chris Doughty, who said: “Due to innovative recycle collection services set up by Boroughs like Newcastle-under-Lyme, the Government last month announced that it will meet the EU 2010 Landfill Directive.”

“Partners like Acumen are proving invaluable to councils as they provide local authorities with value for money and access to their extensive experience and cost-effective solutions,” he added.

The key fact regarding this article is that NULBC HAS achieved a recycling rate of 55% between March and November 2010.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council can only estimate that they MAY achieve the recycling target of 45% for 2015 and 50% by 2020.

NULBC had commissioned WRAP to produce a report at roughly the same time as SOTCC did.

The difference between the two was that Newcastle’s decision making process had FULL member involvement as opposed to SOTCC who had NO member involvement.

Elected members at NULBC were given the WRAP report, in Stoke it was buried and was never put before councillors.

Newcastle did not waste £1.6million of public money whereas Stoke duly purchased 84,000 blue bins that if elected members had had the opportunity to consider all the options of the WRAP report, chances are we would not have needed them.

NULBC are trend setting in this area SOTCC are bringing up the rear as the poor relation often does.

Cllr John Daniels has called upon the District Auditor to carry out a full investigation into this matter as he has even more concerns over certain aspects of the Waste Management and Recycling issue, particularly over the awarding on certain contracts and the price per tonne paid.

Iconic Art at the Click of a Button

Art lovers will be able to have a piece of Newcastle history in their living rooms following the introduction of an online print service.

Copies of more than 100 iconic paintings and photographs of the borough are available from .

The Borough Museum and Art Gallery has teamed up with other museums in Staffordshire to make collections more accessible.

Officers have delved into old archives to pick out items which date back to the 19th century.

Artwork includes police during the miners’ strike in 1909, Market Street, Kidsgrove, also in 1909; Newcastle cinema in 1913 and the octocentenary celebrations in 1973.

“The borough is proud of its rich cultural history so I’m pleased we can share this with even more people by using the power of the Internet.

“The range of artwork available is a limited selection but more items will be added throughout the year.”

The website is led by Stoke-on-Trent Museums Service and has been funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and Renaissance West Midlands.

Head Of Regeneration At Stoke-on-Trent City Council Tom Macartney Resigns

Head of Regeneration at Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Managing Director of the NSRP Tom Macartney is to leave his £150,000 a year post.

Rumours had been circulating for weeks that Mr Macartney was asked to leave and had been placed on ‘Garden Leave’, but this has proved to be unfounded and as we understand the situation, Mr Macartney has resigned from his post and will serve out his notice period which will finish at the end of September.

Regeneration in the city has been besmirched with problems over recent times, but Mr Macartney has always defended his department and insisted that projects are on track and will be delivered on time.

He recently asked for more time to deliver key regeneration projects and he said that he £15 million city centre bus station, the £40 million public realm scheme to improve the city centre, the £230 million Central Business District to the south of the city centre, and the £360 million East West Centre shopping precinct would all see construction commence in the next two years.

The NSRP has also run into problems recently with Newcastle Borough Council pulling out of the partnership. Staffordshire Moorlands District Council and Staffordshire County Council were also thought to be considering their positions.

The regeneration of Stoke-on-Trent has been hampered by the recession but Tom Macartney’s department has attracted criticism over missing out on certain opportunities and chances of making progress before the country was decimated by economic strife.

Regeneration opportunities will be further effected by the proposed cuts in government funding which will effect bodies like Advantage West Midlands, a vital funding source to local regeneration.

Work Slim Down Stop Whinging

Tory councillor for Loggerheads and Whitmore, Ashley Howells has offered the people of Stoke-on-Trent some advice, using his Twitter account he said, Work slim down stop whinging.

Mr Howells ‘tweet’ was in response to Pits n Pots reader Mark Porter who had used his twitter account to say, ‘Cameron ought to come to Stoke to tell the people here why we never get anything but cuts. #condemfail’ about David Cameron launching the Big Society initiative in Liverpool on Monday.

Mr Howells sent this tweet in response, ‘@marksporter not in the junk food fuelled calorie intake of the lazy stoke underclass!Look at obesity. Work slim down stop whinging’

Mr Porter from Kidsgrove said, ‘Ashley Howells doesn’t follow me on Twitter and I have never met him but this tweet shows exactly what the Tories think of Stoke-on-Trent, I personally feel a councillor should not be making comments like these. I see from his latest tweet Mr Howells is attending a “Nulbc Licensing liaison committee this lunch. Seeking improvements in town centre drinking behaviour” perhaps he should look at his own behaviour on Twitter first.’

We went out and asked the ‘lazy Stoke underclass’ what they thought of Mr Howells advice that they should ‘Work slim down stop whinging’.

I go to work, eat what I want when I want. I’m not obese, I pay my taxes, contribute to my local community and to society. This NUL Councillor obviously has a twisted and unusually biased view of the people of our great city.
Given the fact that Newcastle is only minutes from Stoke, I can’t think that there would be much different between the folk of both areas. Maybe he lives in one of those big houses in the Westlands and thinks that makes his opinions more valuable than those of us who live in modest, but not the less important areas of our County. With ideals like that, you have to wonder whether he should be elected to serve the people of NUL. Heaven forbid he should have to help someone un-employed.
I’m disgusted that a man of his standing can make such a generalism about the entire population of Stoke-on-Trent. He might well be a twitter virgin, but there’s no excuse for insulting an entire city.
He’s done nothing but damage his own reputation.
What a snobby git! I think he should resign for having such outrageous views of his borough’s neighbours. These comments have brought Newcastle Borough Council into disrepute. My uncle has been out of work for months due to no fault of his own and he still contributes to society through doing voluntary work. He is trying so hard to get back into work.
What a load of rubbish he talks! I have a full time job, plus work as and when required at the Regent Theatre. Due to having a hectic social life, whenever I get the chance, I go walking in the Lake District. The man should be sacked without hesitation as he is obviously not fit to represent all the communities.

When Mr Howells is not sunning himself in his Andalusian home he is the Managing Director of Stoke-on-Trent based Ashley Recruitment, ‘The Quality Agency For Healthcare And Hospitality Staff’, who we assume must employ members of what he likes to call the ‘Stoke underclass’.

Mr Howells also went to the trouble of telling us how he was, Glad to see nulbc leaving ineffective regeneration partnership with badly run stoke on trent


Ross Irving, Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council & Leader of the Conservative & Independent Alliance was outraged by these comments, he said:

“These comments are completely out of order. They are unacceptable and I expect the Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council to deal with this matter urgently. It is simply not on to make abusive comments about the people in a neighbouring area. Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle are a part of North Staffordshire and sometimes we do not see eye to eye on matters, but we need to work together. Comments like these are not helpful and make matters more difficult.”

Nicola Ralph, Secretary of the Newcastle-under-Lyme Conservative Association was also keen to distance herself from these comments. She said:

“Oh dear, that’s not very good is it? Yes, Stoke has it’s problems but I have always found the people dead friendly and completely unpretentious.

I don’t think the people of Stoke-on-Trent do themselves any favours by constantly re-electing Labour.

These comments aren’t very nice though, especially the obese comments. I can’t see there being a greater percentage of people that are obese in Stoke as opposed to Newcastle”.

Stoke-on-Trent Central MP Tristram Hunt hit out at the comments, he said:

Well, the Tory leopard hasn’t changed it’s spots!

At this very moment Stoke-on-Trent is coming out of recession with falling unemployment and is looking forward to the future with confidence and low and behold the nasty party rears it’s ugly head.

There is no place for the unattractive reality of negative and out of date stereotypes.

Update Thursday 1145

While it maybe uncertain exactly who made these comments on twitter, people who use twitter expect casual and informal language to be used but these are abusive and insulting comments about the people of Stoke-on-Trent and are completely unacceptable.

Newcastle under Lyme Borough Council declined to comment saying that it was a personal matter.

We have not yet been able to contact Mr Howells for a statement.

Is Mr Howells right to call people from Stoke-on-Trent ‘the lazy stoke underclass’?

Newcastle under Lyme Chief Executive Moves For New Pastures

Birmingham City Council leader Cllr Mike Whitby has announced that Mark Barrow, the current Chief Executive of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, has been appointed as the new Strategic Director of Development for Birmingham City Council.

Mr Barrow will be responsible for providing strategic management to enable delivery of the city’s regeneration, development, planning, transportation strategy and climate change functions.

He will also ensure plans are implemented effectively and liaise with central Government and the private sector to secure new models for partnership working and funding.

In a statement Mr Barlow said, ‘I am really looking forward to playing my part in helping Birmingham establish itself as a city which is economically strong, culturally rich and physically attractive.

The city’s leadership has developed an exciting vision for the future, and I believe my skills and experience will perfectly compliment those already in place to ensure this ambition can be translated into reality.’