Police Surgeries

A number of police surgeries are scheduled to be held across Stoke-on-Trent over the weekend.

Officers from Neighbourhood Policing Units (NPUs) across the division will be on hand to meet visitors, and also offer crime reduction advice.

Residents are encouraged to attend the meetings to discuss any issues or concerns with their local officers.

Officers from Longton NPU will be at the town’s market between 9.30am and 12noon today.

Residents in Northwood are invited to meet their local officers at a street meeting in Jervis Street between 2pm and 3pm this afternoon.

Officers from Tunstall NPU are holding a surgery at St Michael’s Church, St Michael’s Road, Chell, this afternoon between 2pm and 4pm.

Tomorrow officers from Longton NPU will be working from Tesco, Baths Road, between 2pm and 4pm.

On Monday 22 March residents from the Meir South area are invited to come and have their say at a community meeting. Officers will be at Normacot Grange Neighbourhood Centre, Bordeaux Road, between 5.30pm and 7pm.

On Tuesday 23 March officers from Longton NPU will be working from Meir Community House, The Square, from 1.30pm.

Residents in Birches Head are encouraged to meet their local officers at the police post based at the Bridge Centre, Birches Head Road, on Tuesday. They will be available between 2pm and 4pm.

New Alcohol Restriction Zone in place

A new Alcohol Restriction Zone in the city has come into force aiming to reduce alcohol related antisocial behaviour.
 
Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Police approved the application for the zone after consultation with local residents and licensee holders. The new zone started on Saturday (February 6, 2010). There will now be a restriction on alcohol consumption in public places within Northwood; in the area as bordered by Keelings Road, Town Road, Potteries Way, Botteslow Street, Leek Road and Bucknall Road. It will link with the Alcohol Restriction Zones in the city centre and Central Forest Park.
 
Alcohol Restriction Zones provide police with the power to ask people to stop drinking and give up any open or closed containers of alcohol. People who refuse to do so face arrest and a fine of up to £500, if convicted. An Alcohol Restriction Zone does not mean a ban on alcohol, and it will not affect those who drink responsibly.
 
Councillor Terry Follows, cabinet member for community safety, cohesion and communication, said:
 
“Alcohol related antisocial behaviour is a major concern nation wide and these zones allow us to make sure that our city’s streets are safe for people to use.  We are pleased to work with Staffordshire Police to bring these Alcohol Restriction Zones to the city to encourage responsible drinking amongst all our residents.”
 
Inspector Shaun Kerrigan, commander of the City Centre Neighbourhood Policing Unit, said:
 
“We welcome the introduction of the Alcohol Restriction Zone. Through partnership working we have gathered evidence to support this initiative. It will enable us to reduce on-street drinking, which has contributed to anti-social behaviour in the community, and will improve the area and make it a safer place for residents and businesses.”
 
The Alcohol Restriction Zone in Northwood becomes the twelfth zone within the city to become operational.

Update 21/4: Council election dispute back in the High Court

By Matt Taylor

Update 21/4:

The case over a Hanley woman who took legal action against the council over a disputed election result has still not been resolved despite spending the last two days in the High Court.

Eve Maley took the city council to court over the election for Northwood and Birches Head because she felt aggrieved that the Liberal Democrats were allowed multiple recounts which led to the eventual announcement of their representative Dave Sutton being declared the winner by one vote, when Eve had been ahead in the previous three totals.

There is now debate over a missing postal vote which could hold the key to Eve achieving her aim of changing the result of the election with the possibility of a re-run.

But although these were counted yesterday, no decision has yet been made and there will now be a further hearing, which is to happen next Friday, 30th October, at an as-yet undisclosed location.

The battle thus far has cost Mrs Maley seven thousand pounds, with further costs still adding up paid for by legal aid, as well as mounting costs to the taxpayer for lawyers representing the city council.

As published on October 19th:

Eve outside her home in Eaton Street

Eve outside her previous home in Eaton Street (now subject to a CPO)

Eve Maley, aged 64, from Hanley, took umbridge when the vote to elect a councillor for Northwood and Birches Head last year went against her by one vote – after several recounts.

In the first three counts Eve was found ahead in the ballot. But with Dave Sutton being second in the running, the Lib Dems called for the multiple recounts which led to the fourth overturning the decision, instead putting Sutton one ahead. It was when this occurred and after Eve was refused the right to a recount herself, that she decided to take action against the council.

But a year-and-a-half on, several hearings in the Royal Courts of Justice, and costly appearances by QCs on behalf of both Eve and Stoke-on-Trent City Council, nothing has been resolved. And today’s hearing before a commissioner was no exception.

However, it does seem as if the long battle is coming to a long-awaited conclusion.

The case has taken a turn from what it was originally concerned with, as the count of votes which were delivered by the city council to the courts did add up to the tally declared in the final count. Now it has come down to postal votes, because the numbers published by the Returning Officer did not add up correctly, meaning there was one missing vote. Since this vote could have been for Eve, the argument is that, of course, it would have led to a draw.

The postal votes and spoilt ballot papers therein will be examined tomorrow, when Eve returns for another appearance in the big smoke. But this could still not be the last, with a possible final hearing to happen in Stoke before the matter is ultimately resolved. Eve said:

“We got what we wanted in that they are going to check the postal votes. There’s one missing and they can’t account for that. So it could have been declared a draw.

“The commissioner wasn’t happy that the whole thing had taken 18 months.

“But it could still not be sorted tomorrow and if not will be completed in Stoke. It’s been a nightmare.

“If they had just given me a recount in the first place, then either way the result went, none of this would have happened.

“The best outcome is the truth – what went on needs to come out. People who voted for me need to know the truth.”

“Councillors are trying to force me out for saying it like it is”

By Matt Taylor

The Chairman of a city neighbourhood group says he is being forced out of his position because he says it “like it is”.

Geoff Brookes, aged 64, lives in flats off Bucknall New Road and runs the Newshaw Walk residents’ association which meets at the Elim Church.

But the 40-year-long resident of the tenements claims that councillors and officials of the council are attempting to push him out because they think he is a “stirrer”.

Geoff maintains that he is simply standing up for the rights of people who live in the flats, which are divided between owner-occupation and council/housing association rental. He said:

“[councillor] Jean Bowers came to a meeting – the first one she’d been to in twelve months – and sat through it with arms folded.

“People were saying, ‘we only see her when she wants the votes’. So I put the question to her, “Would you mind telling these people what you have done for them?” And she said, “Nothing,” and then added, “but you haven’t asked me to do anything.”

“Then I got a letter from the council saying they don’t like how meetings are being run and they will not participate in them.

“I called Jean Bowers because I wanted to sort the situation out. And she said she would send [Northwood and Birches Head councillor] Dave Sutton to the next meeting.

“But Dave Sutton came along and started handing out copies the letter which was addressed to me outside the meeting.

“Then he came in, sat down, and started reading the letter out.

“I told Dave Sutton to stop reading it as he was disrupting the meeting. But he just kept on reading.

“So I said if he wanted to read it, he should wait till ‘any other business’ or leave. So he left, saying “I’ve never been thrown out of a meeting before”. And then he handed out copies of the letter to people outside.

“I hadn’t had chance to bring the matter up yet with the committee so hadn’t asked them what they thought.So then I asked everyone present if anyone disagreed with me being the chairman, and I had unanimous support from everyone in the room.”

Geoff claims that councillors have now boycotted his meetings, and that council officers will no longer talk to him. He added:

“I feel as if they are trying to force me out. By saying it like it is, I am looked on as a stirrer.

“I am not interested in politics, I am just interested in people.

“I have now put in a complaint against Sutton because he shouldn’t have read a private letter out, or handed it out to members of the public.”

But Dave Sutton said that Geoff is simply a persistent complainer. He said:

“I can’t comment because he has made an official complaint to the council about me.

“He has made complaints about everyone.

“I know you want both sides of the story but it would be wrong at the moment for me to comment, especially as I also have the case over the election still coming up as well.”

Gay Pride to take place in Northwood Park

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter

Stoke Pride 09, the city’s second annual official gay pride festival is planned to take place in Northwood Park.

The event, which will happen on Saturday 8th August has caused some concern for locals, who know the park as a peaceful haven, in an area which is populated by a high proportion of elderly people.

Last year, the festival saw its inauguration on the public car park next to “ËœThe Club’, a popular gay venue in Hillcrest Street, Hanley. This followed previous unofficial gay pride events in the same place called “Stoke’s Gay Sunday” and the “Big Pink Car Park”.

But after previously successes attracting over 3,000 people to see acts such as the Boy George Experience as part of a fun-packed day, organisers from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) group have decided to move it to the park ““ which is only five minutes walk away – in order to accommodate the crowds.

But due to the nature of the area chosen, there is some debate by residents and authorities over whether it is the right place for the event.

Other possible venues considered for the attraction, which is now one of the main festivities on the city’s calendar, were Hanley Park and Piccadilly (near the “ËœPink’ nightclub). But the Hanley park idea was scrapped because of concerns about the views of the asian community.

Job Centre Misery Continues

By Pits’n’Pots Reporter

Local residents in Northwood are livid about gangs of people gathering to drink on the streets since the building of a new Job Centre in the area. And I just happen to be one of them.

The Job Centre Plus on Upper Huntbach Street opened last March has been in the news several times, because of the strange phenomenon of visitors to the centre using the surrounding area as a place to meet, drink, shout and swear, fight, and allegedly, acquire and sell drugs.

Complaints about the antisocial behaviour have gone through the roof. And, although the council has made attempts to work with police to move the problem-causers on, they invariably return as soon as the threat has disappeared.

Last week, the usual intimidating revelry turned into an all-out fist fight, which attracted the appearance of a squad car. But the officers never actually got out of the car. As soon as they drove up, the people dispersed and they left it at that. No words were had, no arrests, warnings, or fines were even considered. And of course, the same people returned as soon as they knew it was safe.

When I moved into the area of Northwood, it was a quiet place and, although hardly the most celubrious of places in the city, was a nice place to live, without any antisocial behaviour, since a great deal of the local residents are of the more mature variety – in both senses of the word. Now, since the addition of this eyesaw of a building and all that has come with it, the atmosphere has changed considerably. Elderly residents and basically anyone who isn’t able to stand up to a band of drunken hooligans are now intimidated on what was once a nice short stroll from their front doors into Hanley. And visitors to the health centre, and shops in the area have suffered as a result. A mortgage advisor’s, has actually shut its doors and moved to pastures new as a result of the troublemakers.

But what can you do? On the majority of occasions, these unruly lot, despite their irritating and menacing behaviour, are not doing anything against the law. You can’t report them to police, since they are technically not doing nothing wrong, at least nothing you can prove. There were considerations that the alcohol-free zone that spans the city centre could be extended so that it would include the area outside the Job Centre – which is only one block away from where the restricted sector currently ends. But according to the most recent reports, this idea has now been abandoned – for some unknown reason.

One option available to worried homeowners concerned for themsleves or indeed the value of their homes, is to report any bad conduct ot the council’s antisocial behaviour team – something which has been done prolifically by various residents. They sent me a pack a couple of weeks ago after an influx of calls from local people, asking me to note down every time I witnessed an act which could constitute antisocial behaviour, and then file my reports to them. Does the council really think I have the time for this? Evidently this system was put in place for curtain-twitching complainers without anything better to do.

The problem of Job Centre visitors causing these kind of problems is not new. But the Job Centre used to be in the town centre. Now that it has moved to Northwood, the problem has been moved – from the precious streets of Hanley the authorities so want to improve for ‘tourists’ – to the doorstep of a large and now, unhappy, community which can’t do the slightest thing about it.