Support for young unemployed is vacuous

The Observer reported that the support and advice for the young unemployed is not what was originally supposed. It seems that regular mentoring essentially comes down to a weekly text.

The £1bn scheme that has been promoted by Nick Clegg, as a concerted effort to solve the worklessness crisis for18- to 24-year-olds by offering them more time with advisers. But documents instructing job centres on their additional responsibilities reveal that the weekly contact promised under the scheme could merely consist of weekly text messages or emails.

Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent To Be Split In Boundary Shifts

Parts of Stoke-on-Trent could be merged with Newcastle-under-Lyme under government proposals change parliamentary boundary.

The review, an outcome of the 2010 election seeks to cut down the total number of MPs in the country and make more balanced constituencies.

New constituencies must be within 5% difference of the average voting population split across the constituencies, i.e. between72,810 and 80,473.

In North Staffordshire, Stoke will be losing it’s exclusive trio of city constituencies, and Staffordshire will lose one MP as constituencies are morphed together.
In the overhaul, the existing South constituency will adopt parts of Stoke and Trent Vale.

The Stoke Central constituency will include various new wards from the existing North constituency which is where the biggest changes are felt.

Tunstall, Chell and Packmoor and Burslem North will be merged with 12 Kidsgrove and Newcastle wards, in the cross-town Kidsgrove&Tunstall constituency.

The immediate reaction is that Stoke residents will be 1/5th of a constituency and so in effect won’t be voting for their City MP.

The boundary proposals are now open for discussion and for the next 12 weeks, the Boundary Commission will be accepting comments, complaints and suggestions about their proposals.

Although these merges wouldn’t directly affect council elections and services, there is a fear that Newcastle/Kidsgrove/Stoke-on-Trent could be losing their historic identities.

In a recent lecture, former Elected Mayor, Mike Wolfe said that a merge made financial sense and that it was the obvious thing to do.

Across the country, both Prime Minister David Cameron’s and Leader of the Opposition Ed Milliband’s constituencues will remain unchanged ““ 2 of only 77 MPs whose boundaries remain.

Nick Clegg’s constituency will be changed, however.

With a reduction of 50 MPs across the country, inner-party squabbling is expected to break out as politicians scramble for seats.

Below is a list of the proposed new parliamentary wards for Stoke-on-Trent.

Kidsgrove and Tunstall 75,352
Audley and Bignall End Newcastle-under-Lyme 4,694
Bradwell Newcastle-under-Lyme 4,970
Butt Lane Newcastle-under-Lyme 4,349
Chesterton Newcastle-under-Lyme 5,475
Halmerend Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,038
Holditch Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,366
Kidsgrove Newcastle-under-Lyme 5,255
Madeley Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,419
Newchapel Newcastle-under-Lyme 2,801
Porthill Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,229
Ravenscliffe Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,372
Talke Newcastle-under-Lyme 3,206
Burslem North Stoke-on-Trent 9,131
Chell and Packmoor Stoke-on-Trent 9,211
Tunstall Stoke-on-Trent 9,836

Stoke-on-Trent Central BC 79,980
Abbey Green Stoke-on-Trent 8,962
Bentilee and Townsend Stoke-on-Trent 9,008
Berryhill and Hanley East Stoke-on-Trent 7,71 7
Burslem South Stoke-on-Trent 8,730
East Valley Stoke-on-Trent 10,226
Hanley West and Shelton Stoke-on-Trent 8,434
Hartshill and Penkhull Stoke-on-Trent 9,045
Northwood and Birches Head Stoke-on-Trent 8,949
Norton and Bradeley Stoke-on-Trent 8,909

Stoke-on-Trent South 78,283
Blurton Stoke-on-Trent 9,550
Fenton Stoke-on-Trent 9,225
Longton North Stoke-on-Trent 10,660
Longton South Stoke-on-Trent 10,274
Meir Park and Sandon Stoke-on-Trent 10,082
Stoke and Trent Vale Stoke-on-Trent 9,659
Trentham and Hanford Stoke-on-Trent 9,769
Weston and Meir North Stoke-on-Trent 9,064

Bashing the Bishop ““ But was the “ËœArch’ Right

I have loved the continuous coverage of the war of words between the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and the Prime Minister David Cameron ably supported by a legion of right wing press reporters and bloggers. It’s true to say that there has been a fair amount of bishop bashing today.

Some say that religion is the cause of many a conflict, this one was started by an article the Archbishop wrote for the left leaning New Statesman magazine.

In it he questions the Conservative, Liberal Democrat coalition government, saying quite rightly, that no individuals voted for the policies that have been adopted.

Dr Williams wrote that the coalition was causing “Ëœwidespread suspicion’ and was creating “Ëœanxiety and anger’ in the country by introducing reforms without sufficient debate.

He accused the coalition of imposing their health and education policies at “Ëœremarkable speed’.

I don’t think anyone who has read the article can be in any doubt that the Archbishop has little time for David Cameron & Nick Cleggs policies and is perhaps a little left leaning in his political outlook.

Not since Robert Runcie’s numerous sparring contests with Margret Thatcher has an Archbishop dived head first into the politics of the country.

When you look back in history, there is a long tradition of the church commenting on political issues. Indeed some Archbishops have played key roles in not just politics but the monarchy before parliament was formed.

But in a modern day society, should the head of the Church of England be wading into party politics criticising the government of the day.

Leaders of minority religions aren’t afraid of speaking out. Muslim leaders are often in the news giving their opinions on a wide range of topics, so for me it was good to see the leader of the Church of England give his two penneth.

I was heartened by David Cameron’s response though, the dummy didn’t fly out, he came back with exactly the right comments when he said that the archbishop was entirely free to express “political views” and make “political interventions”. But he added: “I profoundly disagree with many of the views that he has expressed, particularly on issues like debt and welfare and education.”

Whether we agree with his point of view, or like David Cameron, profoundly disagree with it, there has been a precedent set now so I expect it will not be the last time Dr Williams speaks out and criticises the government of the day.

Other CofE leaders have leapt to the defence in the wake of today’s [Friday] public Bishop bashing.

The Bishop of Guildford said Dr Williams’s comments were “Ëœentirely reasonable’ – he said: “Government cannot at any stage simply abrogate its responsibility. One of the prime, core functions of government is the care of all in society, especially those at the bottom.”

I think the tone of the Archbishop’s article took government ministers by surprise. They have responded to Dr Williams’s comments with Liam Fox and Vince Cable defending the claims that the government do not have a mandate to impose sever austerity measures.

I also think that Dr Williams, as a left wing sympathiser, is struggling with the concept that the Lib Dem’s went into the last general election even further to the left than the Labour Party and then jumped into bed with a party way to the right of the Labour Party.

Mind you, they say that opposites attract don’t they?

I admit to being quite surprised by the Archbishops political intervention.

When he has made a speech I’ve always thought that he was a bit wishy washy and as assertive as a field mouse.

He has hardly set the world alight with his insights into the moral’s of a modern day society.

In a society where there is often a breakdown in family values, communities that are blighted by anti-social behaviour and a monumental surge toward materialism, I can’t remember seeing one single hard hitting interview either broadcast or written where he has spoken out on the challenges that meet a progressive society.

He saved his biggest and harshest dig at the “ËœBig Society’ and yet if done correctly, this could restore some of the values that have been lost over recent generations. I think we could do with some of the good old fashioned “ËœDunkirk Spirit’ in a nation that is being ravaged by cuts and many normal Joe and Joanne’s are being left jobless. And a culture shift where the public sector is being disseminated like a game of Jenga.

It looks like politics could be his new game. Maybe he has given up the traditional role as being our moral compass?

So, in summary, I’m saying to Dr Williams yes get involved in the political scene. Represent the views of your flock, be the voice of those that are the most vulnerable in our society, here I do believe that there is a cross over between religion and the state.

But have a go at putting your own house in order first eh? The Church of England is still stuck in the dark ages. There is a bloody battle being fought in an organisation that is institutional sexist, women are fighting for equality. And where gay people are afraid to declare their sexuality.

Churches are losing their flocks in large numbers. The only churches that are booming are those with an ethos like the Breathe City Church here in Stoke-on-Trent.

They are supporting, helping and fixing communities. They are inclusive of gender and sexual orientation. They have progressive and moral leaders. Their numbers are shooting through the roof mostly at the expense of the traditional churches.

So you have a bit of a job on there Dr Williams, there is work to be done in your own palaces, cathedrals and churches before you march upon Westminster.

Party Political Broadcasts For The May 5 Election

We are slowly finding out what the local candidates are saying for the 5 May Local Elections but what is being said by the party leaders?

How does what the party is saying fit in with what the local candidates are saying in their campaigns?

Have a look at the videos below from the Tories, Labour & Lib Dems and tell us what you think.

If you know of any more PPB videos please let us know so we can add.

500 Words From Tom Reynolds

I’d like to thank Pits’n’Pots for the opportunity to share with readers why I want to continue to be a City Councillor in Stoke-on-Trent and why I want to represent the people of Broadway and Longton East Ward.

It has been a privilege to serve as a councillor for the past three years, but the last 12 months have been an enormously difficult and unpleasant time to be in local politics. The unprecedented shortfall in funding which faced the council in the run up to the budget has meant that, in balancing the books some distasteful decisions have had to be taken. No body gets involved in the Labour Movement to reduce provision in public services. It makes many of us sick to the pit of our stomachs to see the reduction in the size of the public sector which Whitehall is forcing on Town Halls like ours in Glebe Street.

The Coalition Cabinet talk about of localism a lot. My only experience of it since they got in is a shift in the blame for service reductions to the local level as they remove ring-fences and reduce overall funding to local authorities. Councils like ours up and down the land are backed into a corner.

Deprived areas like Stoke-on-Trent have been disproportionately hit by the reduction in funding. Stoke has lost £90 per person compared with an average of £30 per person in the leafier districts of Staffordshire. This local election provides the first opportunity for the public to show the coalition how they feel about the castration of local government and the effect it’s having on cities like Stoke.

But sending a message to Clegg and Cameron is not a good enough reason to vote Labour. I believe that Labour’s priorities for the City Council to focus on over the next four years present the best opportunity for Stoke-on-Trent to thrive. Those priorities are:

As the number of jobs in the Public Sector shrinks because of the Coalition’s spending policy, we need to attract in as many private sector jobs as possible. That means pushing developments like the retail and business precincts in Hanley, helping people develop new skills through an expanded JET service, aggressively pursuing inward investment and eradicating the barriers to investment & work (like our poor public transport).
Educational attainment in our city is still below the national benchmark and we need to do everything we can to address that. BSF needs to be delivered ASAP to provide our young people with the inspirational learning environment that will encourage aspiration. Early years provision like Stoke-Speaks-Out must continue to be safeguarded and we need to do everything possible to help the Children’s Centres (our Government’s proudest achievement) to continue to be viable.
We have to acknowledge that Stoke-on-Trent City Council has let people down in the not distant past. The authority needs to provide lean services that are delivered well to citizens. That involves being tougher on wasteful processes and giving all of our hard working employees the correct tools to do a good job. Giving credit to some tenacious opposition members – the council needs to be more receptive to scrutiny and share information more openly. Trust needs to be earned back.

I want to represent Longton East and Broadway for a couple of reasons. The majority of the ward is in the current area I represent so I have build up a number of good partnerships and I can hit the ground running on behalf of residents. I also live smack bang in the middle of the ward and have the natural desire to want to make my home a better place to live. I’ll continue to assist all residents to the best of my abilities, and will hold a surgery and ward-walkabout every month.

As polling day looms, I hope the public feel able to put their support behind Labour.

Immigration, Mosques & Reptilian Miliband – BNP Manifesto 2011

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

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

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?

This Coalition Can Work – As Long As Lib Dems Are Happy

The media is obsessed with trying to find chinks in the coalition agreement but the real question is whether the Liberal Democrats continue to believe that the new government’s policies reflect their values of fairness and freedom, writes Chris Nicholson, director and chief executive of CentreForum in Public Servant Magazine.

The coalition government has been defined by three things so far ““ first, the very fact that it exists and that two parties are working together in government; secondly, the things which it is not doing; and thirdly, the emergency Budget.

The fact that the coalition exists and is functioning is an achievement in itself which should not be downplayed.. Both parties seem intent on making the coalition work which would not have been predicted just two months ago. Of course there must be tensions but the strong lead from the top of the respective parties ““ from David Cameron and Nick Clegg, has undoubtedly been a significant factor ““ they certainly give the impression that they want the coalition to work. The media and the commentariat has had rather more difficulty in adjusting to the new political context than the politicians as they look to identify the ‘splits in the coalition’ and the betrayals of one or other party’s positions.

One of the big challenges for the coalition parties, particularly for the Liberal Democrats, will be to change this narrative. In particular they will need to be forthright and up-front in saying “There will be things that Liberal Democrats do not like, this is a coalition government not a Liberal Democrat government”. Similarly, Lib Dems saying that they do not like policy A or B is also to be expected. My impression so far is that the public are much more realistic about what can or cannot be achieved than the media. But it is still early days.

The first few weeks of the coalition were characterised by a raft of announcements of previous government policies which would not be implemented ““ ID cards, a third runway at Heathrow, detention of children in immigration centres. It is policies such as these which had done so much to alienate liberal opinion from Labour and the importance of these cancellations should not be underestimated. However, these were also ‘easy wins’ in the sense that they were issues where there was general agreement between the two coalition parties. The proposed actions to reform the House of Lords and to have a referendum on electoral reform have been welcomed by the Liberal Democrat side of the coalition and have caused considerable unease amongst Conservatives. It is here that David Cameron’s failure to consult the Conservatives about the coalition in the way that Nick Clegg consulted the Liberal Democrats may come back to haunt the coalition. Liberal Democrat MPs generally feel a sense of ownership of the decision to enter the coalition. It is not clear that there is the same sense of collective buy-in among Conservative MPs.

And then there was the emergency Budget which has not surprisingly caused unease among many Lib Dems. It is not that Liberal Democrats are not used to taking tough decisions. Many of the party’s activists have far more experience of taking difficult decisions than have most MPs, having spent years running local authorities. All recognised that action needed to be taken to deal with the budget deficit. The unease arises from two sources. Firstly, has the government got the judgement right about walking the tightrope between the risks of a double dip recession on one side and a sovereign debt crisis on the other? This is only partly a party political question and as much a technical economic one. Secondly, what is the distributional impact of the Budget, and the Comprehensive Spending Review which is to follow? Is it true that overall it is a ‘fair’ Budget or is it in fact a regressive Budget? The more that it appears that the latter is true the more that Liberal Democrats will feel uneasy.

This will particularly become clearer once the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review are announced in October. Abstract cuts of 25 per cent in departmental budgets will become horribly real if it involves closures of Sure Start children’s centres, further substantial cuts in welfare payments and the loss of tens of thousands of police officers. Coalition government ministers may come to regret the Conservative pledge to protect the NHS if it means massive cuts elsewhere. Perhaps that should have been a pledge which should have been a ‘casualty’ of the coalition agreement rather than continuing to be set in stone.

While the media will no doubt focus on opinion poll ratings as a reflection of whether the Liberal Democrats are happy with the coalition or not, this can be overstated. In general, people did not join the Lib Dems and stick with them during endless disappointments because of an expectation of success. Anyone who lived through the lows of the European election of 1989 when the Liberal Democrats gained less than 10 per cent of the vote will not be put off by a few poor opinion poll ratings. But they will be put off if they see the values of fairness and freedom, which is why they first joined the party, being abandoned. It is against those tests that the coalition will ultimately be judged by Liberal Democrats.

We Are Now Officially A Con-Dem Nation

Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a very dignified exit from No 10 Downing Street last night as it came apparent that David Cameron’s Conservatives were about to enter into a hard coalition with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats.

Gordon Brown spoke passionately from the heart and conceded that he had failed to engage the nation during their Election Campaign and that he had his frailties.

As he walked down Downing Street with his wife Sarah and their two boys towards the official cars that would take him first to see the Queen to tender his resignation and then away to the airport to board a plane to Scotland and out of the political front-line, for good.

Enter stage left, David Cameron who had been asked to form a government by the queen, who arrived at No 10 Downing Street to a mixture of cheers, jeers and boos.

Mr Cameron, our new Prime Minister, the first Conservative to hold the office since 1997, announced that he would form a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Some of the Liberal Democrats were scathing last night about the Labour Party’s lack of commitment to the talks between their two parties. Labour negotiators were accused of wanting to go into opposition. As a result the Lib Dems were pushed toward the Conservatives.

News circulated last night that the Liberal Democrats had driven a hard bargain. Nick Clegg was named as Deputy Prime Minister. Four other senior Lib Dems are to take up seats in the coalition cabinet. It will be the first time in 70 years that they will hold positions of real power in the government.

Predictions so far suggest that the key Cabinet positions will go to:

George Osborne [Conservative] – Chancellor
William Hague [Conservative] – Foreign Secretary
Liam Fox [Conservative] – Defence Secretary
Andrew Lansley [Conservative] – Health Secretary.
Danny Alexander [Liberal Democrats] – Scottish Secretary
Chris Huhne [Liberal Democrats] – Enery/Climate Change Secretary.
Vince Cable [Liberal Democrat] – Business/Banking Secretary.
Theresa May [Conservative] – Home Secretary
Ken Clarke [Conservative] – Justice Secretary

The coalition policy is taking shape. The BBC is reporting that the key points from the manifestos that will form the government programme are:

* There will be a “significant acceleration” of efforts to reduce the budget deficit – including £6bn of spending reductions this year. An emergency Budget will take place within 50 days
* Plans for five-year, fixed-term parliaments, meaning the next election would not take place until May 2015
* The Lib Dems have agreed to drop plans for a “mansion tax” on properties costing more than £2m, while the Conservatives have ditched their pledge to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m
* The new administration will scrap part of Labour’s planned rise in National Insurance and will work towards raising income tax thresholds for lower earners
* A pledge to have a referendum on any further transfer of powers to the EU and a commitment from the Lib Dems not to adopt the euro for the lifetime of the next Parliament
* The Lib Dems have agreed to Tory proposals for a cap on non-EU migration
* The Conservatives will recognise marriage in the tax system, but Lib Dems will abstain in Commons vote
* The Lib Dems will drop opposition to a replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear missiles but the programme will be scrutinised for value for money
* There will be a referendum on moving to the Alternative Vote system and enhanced “pupil premium” for deprived children as Lib Dems demanded

The Labour party are now contemplating life without Gordon Brown. They have elected for a period in opposition to allow them to regroup and rebuild. There are some very difficult decisions and cuts to come in the not to distant future. The Labour Party have obviously reached the conclusion that it is better for the Tories to preside over such matters.

Opposition may well be the position the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City council take, even with 26 councillors. It is unlikely that Labour and the Conservatives enter into a coalition locally as both respective parties executives are likely to be against such a move.

Nationally The Labour Party are about to embark on a difficult journey. They are about to elect a new leader.

Alan Johnson will not contest it as he has come out in support of David Miliband.

The other key candidates are, Ed Balls, John Cruddas, Harriet Harman, Jack Straw and Andy Burnham.

The party’s NEC will meet in the not to distant future to agree the timetable, process and procedures for electing a new leader.

Brown To Step Down!

Prime Minister and Leader of the Labour Party Gordon Brown has announced that he is to step down.

He is to ask the Labour Party to initiate the process for a leadership election and confirmed he will not stand or intervene.

The news comes following a request by Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg for talks between the two parties.

Mr Brown said that a hung parliament suggested that there was no one leader or party that had the support to govern alone.

Speaking outside No10 Downing Street, he said:

“The reason that we have a hung parliament is that no single party or single leader was able to win support.

“As leader of my party I must accept that that is a judgement on me,”

“I therefore intend to ask the Labour Party to set in train the processes needed for its own leadership election.

“I would hope that it would be completed in time for the new leader to be in post by the time of the Labour Party conference.

“I will play no part in that contest, I will back no individual candidate.”

Negotiators from both Labour and the Liberal Democrats will now hold talks on whether the two parties cam come to an agreement.

It is rumoured that Mr Brown would himself have been a barrier to any agreement between Labour and the Lib Dems.

There had been some calls from Labour MPs for Gordon Brown to step down following the party’s performance at the General Election.