Athletes arrive in Stoke-on-Trent for West Midlands Special Olympics

Special Olympics Logo196 athletes from across the West Midlands will go for gold in the city this weekend as part of a Special Olympics Athletics Competition.

Competitors from across the region, including 38 athletes from the North Staffordshire Special Olympics Athletics Team will take part in track and field competitions. The events include 3000 metres, 100 metres and 200 metres races, standing long jump, shot putt, and the pentathlon. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Cabinet Propose Retention of All Children’s Centres

Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet are proposing the retention of all 16 Children’s Centres after listening to public concerns and the 6000 strong petition organised by the Save Our Children Centre’s group headed by Millissa Beydilli.

Whilst the Cabinet are proposing to save the Children’s Centres, the award winning Stoke Speaks Out service, short breaks for the disabled and carers, the Merit Pupil referral service and 24/7 CCTV coverage, they have also confirmed their intention to close several key facilities.

Although the Children’s Centres have been saved Council Leader Mohammed Pervez would give no guarantee that staff jobs would be saved. He also gave an indication that there may be a reorganisation of the Children’s Centres management structure.

The decision to close Shelton and Tunstall pools, Fenton and Burslem Libraries and the Heathside and Eardley Care Homes was also announced.

There is a six month stay of execution for education establishments Ford Green Hall, Etruria Industrial Museum and Stanley Head whilst the council explores the possibility of the transferring them to a community trust or social enterprise.

The future also looks brighter for Meir Community and Education Centre and for Northwood Stadium.

The Meir looks set to retain their community centre after the council leader announced that the council was looking to transfer more services into the popular facility.

The popular service Shopmobility, located at the Potteries Shopping Centre, will also be saved.

Mohammed Pervez confirmed that users have offered to pay for the service and the council are happy to go along with that proposal.

Northwood Stadium is not closing at this stage.

The Future of the City Farm looks bleak however. The Council Leader, Mohammed Pervez confirmed that the council did not consider the farm as a priority and indicated that the council had no statutory obligation to deliver such a service.

The tender to transfer the farm to an independent operator was suspended amidst a dispute over the ownership of the land. Whist the tender is likely to be re-instated at some stage, the feeling is that there would be a lack of interested parties coming forward to take over what was consider by the Guardian Newspaper a top 10 free attraction in the country just a few years ago.

There was also good news for every household in the City.
The Council Leader announced that Council Tax will be frozen for the next year.

The City Council will take up the governments offer a 2.5% grant which will realise £2million to the local authority.

Mohammed Pervez said that this decision was taken because the Cabinet considered that families were already under pressure following the impact of the recent VAT rise to 20%.

In presenting these proposals, the council leader said that he and his cabinet, along with the CEO John van de Laarschot and his officers, had listened to feedback from the public, elected members and members of the City Council’s staff.

Despite today’s announcements it is still expected that 700 staff will leave the employment of the City Council over the next few months through voluntary or compulsory redundancies.

The City Council are facing a gap in funding of £35.6million for the next financial year.

The national coalition government implemented cuts of 8.1% upon the City of Stoke-on-Trent which when the council factored in the reductions in area based and other grant funding, actually resulted in a bigger percentage cut.

Mohammed Pervez was keen to point out that he had pleaded the case that Stoke-on-Trent was a special case with the government but in his words “Ëœthose pleas fell on deaf ears’.

Pervez said that he had written to government on numerous occasions, he had visited London and held talks with a junior minister working in Local Government and Communities Minister Eric Pickles’s team and had joined forces with other authorities namely Blackpool, Blackburn, Hull and Torbay, but to no avail. Stoke-on-Trent was still one of the worse hit areas for cuts in funding.

The council leader also said that this budget consultation had been the most thorough than any before. He and his cabinet claim that they had taken into consideration the feedback from the “ËœLet’s Talk’ consultations and the comments made during his live web debate exclusively on Pits n Pots when making these difficult decisions.

Members of the City council staff had also been given the opportunity to have their say as a part of the “ËœTell John’ exercise held by the CEO John van de Laarschot.

These proposals will now be put in front of all the political groups and presented to all elected members ahead of the Budget Meeting of the Full City Council to be held on the 24th February.

The meeting will be webcast on the Council Website.

After the briefing Council Leader Mohammed Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot gave their views.

Listen to the audio below.

Athletes Arrive In Stoke-on-Trent For Special Olympics

Nearly 200 athletes from across the West Midlands will be competing in the North Staffordshire Special Olympics Regional Athletics Competition this weekend.

Taking place on Saturday 17 July from 10am -5pm at Northwood Stadium, the event features some of the best Special Olympians from across the region as they compete in athletic disciplines including sprinting, 100m, 200m, 300m, pentathlon, long jump, softball throw and shot-put. There are 45 athletes representing the North Staffordshire group in the competition.

The North Staffordshire Special Olympics sporting programme includes athletics, basketball, badminton, kayaking, swimming and football.

The Staffordshire group’s aim is to provide year round sports training and competition for people with learning disabilities, giving them the chance to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and participate in sharing of skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

The event is free to attend, with guests of honour including Lord Mayor Councillor Denver Tolley and the Lady Mayoress, Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire Sir James Hawley, representatives from Staffordshire Fire Service and Staffordshire Police, Robert Flello MP, Tristram Hunt MP, and the city council’s cabinet member for Adult Social Care, Leisure and Culture Hazel Lyth.

Councillor Lyth said:

“We are so proud that Northwood can host this event and that we are able to offer all the athletes a first class facility for them to use.

“It’s important to recognise the contribution sport makes in the community as a way of bringing people together and encouraging them to stay fit and healthy.

“The Special Olympics group do a tremendous amount of hard work to allow people to experience sport in a positive way, learn new skills and build their confidence. The fact that athletes are coming from all over the West Midlands to compete shows that Stoke-on-Trent is a key part of supporting that success.”

Soldier and footballer join together for 2010k

Grenadier Guard Luke Davis and Port Vale footballer Gareth Owen will be united by a common cause when they take part in the 2010k race this weekend.

Luke, 22, was wounded in Afghanistan earlier this year and is running to raise money for the Colonel’s Fund, which supports the families of Grenadier Guards killed in action and injured soldiers.

Gareth’s brother is currently serving abroad with the Royal Engineers, and has seen service in Iraq and Bosnia. The Port Vale defender will be running to raise money for the Help for Heroes charity, and has already raised over £200.

Both will be having one of their final training sessions for the event at Northwood Stadium in Stoke-on-Trent tomorrow as they prepare for the race.

Luke, from Etruria, is also running in memory of his friend and comrade Lance Sergeant Dave Greenhalgh, who was killed in the same explosion that seriously injured him. Speaking earlier this week, Luke said: “Running the 2010k will be a great way to help me with my fitness regime, but more importantly, it will help me raise some cash for the Colonel’s Fund.”

Luke’s jaw was shattered in the explosion that hit is jackal armoured car, and spent a week in hospital while surgeons rebuilt his jaw. He still needs further dental work done, but plans to return to his unit soon.

Gareth has played for both Stoke City and Port Vale and wants to do his bit to help raise money for Help for Heroes. He added: “My brother is currently an acting serviceman and fortunately he hasn’t needed to use the Help for Heroes charity but so many servicemen and women have.

They are the bravest people I have ever met, and I want to do something, however small to help. I’m really proud to be representing the club and the city in the 2010k. Being born in Staffordshire and playing for both clubs, you get a real affinity for the area, and it’s great to be able to show that you live and work in such a great city.”

A major event in the city’s Festival of Sport, the 2010k is one of several mass participation events to celebrate the centenary of the city’s federation status. The race will be open to everyone, and will also feature a 2k fun run.

The route will start and finish in Stoke Town Centre, will travel around the town before moving up through Shelton, the city centre, and Hanley Park before coming back to Stoke.

The event is being sponsored by Staffordshire University and sports shoe company Brooks Running.

All entrants will get a free t-shirt and there will also be prizes awarded to the first five male and female finishers