Councillors say no to immediate pay rise

Stoke on Trent councillors have decided to reject a nine per cent pay rise for themselves, until the freeze on council officers pay is lifted.

However one councillor was in support of a pay rise telling the council not to make him financially suffer.

All but one of Stoke’s 44 elected members decided to vote against a rise at a time when the City Council is making £24 million worth of savings.

The nine per cent pay increase in a report recommended by the Independent Members’ Remuneration Panel would have seen the Council’s annual bill for members’ allowances increase by £67,750 to £747,000. Continue reading

Stoke-on-Trent City Council December Meeting Details

The December meeting of Stoke-on-Trent City Council takes place this Thursday at 5:30pm in the council chamber.

Some interesting public questions for this meeting including ones relating to the offer to tender to run the now close City Farm.

Councillor Paul Breeze has put a motion forward to ask the council to Say No To The Name City Sentral, the motion is seconded by Councillor Lee Wanger

Meeting Agenda

1. Minutes of a previous meeting of the City Council held on 20/10/11
2.Apologies for absence
3.To welcome visitors (if any)
4.To receive official announcements (if any)
5.To transact business of a non-contentious and/or urgent nature specially brought forward by the Lord Mayor or Chairman
6.Declarations of Interest
Members to give notice of any personal or prejudicial interest and the nature of that interest relating to any item on the agenda in accordance with the adopted Code of Conduct.
7.Report of Petitions Received
8.Public Questions
To deal with any public questions received in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 8.
9.Members’ Questions
To consider any questions (notice of which have been given under Council Procedure Rule 9.02)
10.Appointment of City Council Representatives to Serve on School Governing Bodies in the City of Stoke-on-Trent
11.Council Tax Base 2012/13
12.Changes to the Council’s Constitution
13.Safer City Partnership Plan, 2011-2014
14.Local Development Framework – Joint Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Waste Core Strategy 2010-2026
15.Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority – Periodic Report of the Chairman
16.Staffordshire Police Authority – Periodic Report on Police Authority Matters
17.To consider the following Notice of Motion, moved by Councillor Breeze and seconded by Councillor Wanger SAY NO TO THE NAME CITY SENTRAL
18.Minutes of the Cabinet (27/10/11 and 3/11/11)
19.Report of the Chair of the Development Management Committee (26/10/11 and 23/11/11)
20.Minutes of the Audit Committee (10/11/11)
21.Minutes of the Human Resources Committee (4/11/11)
22.Minutes of the Licensing and General Purposes Committee (19/10/2011)
23.Minutes of the Standards Committee (12/10/2011)
24.Minutes of the Adult and Older People’s Wellbeing Overview and Scrutiny Committee (3/10/11 and 2/11/11)
25.Minutes of the Business Services and Chief Executive’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (5/10/11 and 16/11/11)
26.Minutes of the Children and Young People’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (17/10/11 and 9/11/11)
27.Minutes of the City Renewal Overview and Scrutiny Committee (26/10/11)

Pervez Elected Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council but only after a Breezy Challenge

Labour Group Leader Mohammed Pervez was elected Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council today [Thursday], but only after a challenge by Unaffiliated Councillor Paul Breeze.

In an unexpected move, Cllr Breeze decided to nominate himself as Council Leader and offered the Labour Group 8 cabinet places.

He also offered the City Independents one place and challenged the council chamber to take the opportunity of making newly elected Conservative councillor 19 year old Jack Brereton the youngest ever cabinet member.

In a passionate address Cllr Breeze reminded the Labour Group that whilst they have a large majority in the council chamber, they were not the choice of the vast majority of the citizens of the City.

He told Labour Leader Mohammed Pervez that it was unacceptable to keep claiming that the state of the city is down to the cuts handed out by the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. He reminded the City Council meeting that the country had had 13 years of a Labour Government until May 2010 and the City of Stoke-on-Trent had had many years of Labour domination.

He predicted that, with the size of the Labour majority, his challenge would be futile but he said that someone had to offer an alternative view for the city.

His challenge was heavily defeated with just one vote for Cllr Breeze and two abstentions [Conservatives].

Cllr Pervez refused to respond to Cllr Breeze’s challenge and instead went on to inform the meeting that he was confident that Labour would be able to achieve all of their objectives having received a clear mandate from the public.

He announced his Labour cabinet and said that he was confident that his team would be able to deliver the services and amenities needed despite the savage Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition Government cuts.

Pervez thanked members of the previous council coalition partners including Brian Ward the former leader of the City Independents and Kieran Clarke the former leader of the Liberal Democrats.

He paid a special tribute to the former Conservative Leader Ross Irving who had served as deputy council leader last year. He said that Ross Irving was a man of integrity who had served the city with distinction over the past 4 decades and was universally respected by all sides of the chamber.

Cllr Pervez warned the chamber that there were hard times ahead with the need to cut around £20million in the next financial year. He reaffirmed his commitment to listen and to engage with the public and to protect the services that were needed most.

Pervez paid tribute to the officers of the council and he informed the meeting that through the work they had carried they had increased efficiency and reduced directorates. A move which he maintains has saved £7.6miilion alone.

He warned the councillors that he would not stand for infighting from his own benches and that he had no time for negative attitudes and councillors from all sides of the chamber who talk the council down.

He said that he wanted to make Stoke-on-Trent the best place to live.

Listen to this exclusive audio interview with Cllr Paul Breeze below who could well prove to be the voice of the Stoke-on-Trent residents over the next four years.

My Experience Of The Annual Stoke-on-Trent City Council Meeting – May 26

Okay, so the title may sound like I’m back at school in September writing about what I did on my summer holidays, but here you have a few of my thoughts on my experience of the first meeting of the new Stoke-on-Trent City Council Chamber.

It may have been a bit of a “Ëœrubber stamping’ affair, but the Annual City Council Meeting was perhaps the first chance to really see the new council in action.

For my first visit to the Council Chambers I was impressed by the broadcast equipment found around the chambers providing (what I hope was) excellent online coverage of the meeting. I say hope, because as sod’s law would have it, the City Council website doesn’t appear to be online this evening so I haven’t been able to watch it back.

For those readers unaware of the business of the annual council meeting ““ it was to set the council’s affairs in order ready for the next year of government.

One of the first speeches was perhaps one of the most interesting ““ a Christian prayer by the outgoing Lord Mayors pastor ““ Paul Lockett. In this incredibly diverse city, I find it very interesting that such a traditional Christian custom is still continued today in the council chambers.

A CofE member myself, I suddenly found myself back in first school, quietly mumbling 90% of the Lord’s Prayer ““ it’s always those last few lines that get me!

Official proceedings soon kicked off with the emotional farewell to Denver Tolley, outgoing Lord Mayor and retiring councillor who joked that he would be spending his days skiing. Not in the sporting sense, but Spending the Kids’ Inheritance.

Mr Tolley shared memories, thanks and a couple of tears with the chamber and handed over to newly elected Lord Mayor Cllr Terry Follows and his deputy, Cllr Majid Khan to continue chairing the rest of the meeting.

Cllr Pervez was re-elected as Council Leader but wasn’t the only nomination. Non-alligned Cllr Paul Breeze offered his own name followed by an energetic speech which was granted extra time by the Lord Mayor. He launched an attack on Labour who, according to him, aren’t the popular majority with the public.

His speech was met by cheers from the public gallery but failed to convince the chamber as he only received one vote, followed by 3 abstentions and 37 votes for Pervez. 3 councillors were absent for the vote.

Cllr Pervez declined to respond directly to Cllr Breeze but gave a long post-election speech outlining his plans for the next four years in charge with his Labour majority ““ although he didn’t quite manage to find the same energy as Cllr Breeze.

The afternoon saw the approval of committee placements meaning that the political machine of Stoke-on-Trent City Council now has all of its cogs in place.
How long they stay in place is down to our city’s elected representatives.

Here’s to the next four years of Potteries Politics!

Tony Walley – On My Stoke-on-Trent Soapbox 16/05/2011

As the red & white half of Stoke-on-Trent comes to terms with their loss in the FA Cup final the political potteries is as flat as boring nil nil draw.

It’s a bit like “Ëœafter the Lord Mayors show post election.

To Speak or Not To Speak

The only sexy story was the attempt at gagging our new crop of councillors with a “Ëœmedia protocol’ that circumnavigated democracy.

The document that was slipped in the new councillors pack was tantamount to a biblical commandment ““ “ËœYou shall not criticise the council, its officers or the executive ““ no matter the size of the monumental cock up or who was responsible!’

More worrying for me was the fact that there were councillors who were queuing up to sign this attack on freedom of speech.

One of them was Paul Breeze, a man who I have a tremendous amount of respect for. He works tirelessly for his community and he has taken a principled stance in not aligning himself with any group in the council chamber.

Paul was quick enough to remind us that he is a free spirit, but his complicity in this matter showed that whilst he is his own man in the political sense he was all too ready to do his masters bidding and put officers before the representation of the people that elected him.

The “Ëœgagging order’ has received a fair amount of political commentary and rightly so. But so far the facts of the matter have been inaccurately reported.

It has been alleged that the individuals responsible for this have been the press and communications team, Mohammed
Pervez and CEO John van de Laarschot.

My information leads me to believe that it was actually Pervez who suggested that the protocol be withdrawn from the councillors’ pack when he read it the weekend before declarations were taken and was unaware of its contents beforehand.

Sources have indicated to me that it was in fact Members Services who directed that this protocol be drawn up and the press team were directed to draft it up.

The bit that is shrouded in uncertainty is how much involvement CEO John van de Laarschot had in the issue.

Who Will Be The Trophies on The Cabinet

Now that it has been confirmed that Pervez will be Council Leader with Paul Shotton as his Deputy Council Leader, the labour Group will tonight [Monday] decide who will make up the remaining 8 places on this the first totally Labour cabinet.

Now I’ve followed the scene in the political Potteries for years and, as all good commentators should, I will make my predictions as follows.

The 8 cabinet places will go to, in no particular order:
Mark Meredith, Tom Reynolds, Sarah Hill, Debra Gratton, Olwyn Hamer, Ruth Rosenau, Janine Bridges and either Bagh Ali or Adrian Knapper.

My guess is that the cabinet will reflect the Labour Party desire to have a 50/50 men/woman split.

We will know soon enough I suppose, but my guesses are more down to instinct as opposed to education.

You may have your own ideas?

S.O.C.C Get a Helping Hand From Former Councillor

The nationally recognised Save Our Children’s Centres campaign has received a boost recently with the news that former Longton South Councillor Mike Barnes has joined their team to advise them on council procedures and future strategies.

S.O.C.C has reignited their fight and will present a massive petition to the council opposing the 30% budget reduction which equates to a huge cut of £2.25million.
The council are embarking on a formal consultation over their proposals.

What is 100% clear to me, having met and held discussions with S.O.C.C leaders, is that their battle lines have been drawn and they are prepared to mount a sustained and aggressive challenge to these savage cuts. The campaign team feel that the services that are on offer will be decimated beyond all belief if these cuts go through.

The election gave the Labour Party 34 councillors and a healthy majority with little opposition in the chamber.
S.O.C.C are more than prepared to take up the opposition role.

Their campaign has gone viral and there are S.O.C.C groups appearing all over the country. They also have the support of Netmums which has a phenomenal web presence.

Stoke-on-Trent has had effective campaign groups in the past like the Trentham Action Group who managed to reverse the decision to close their high school by facilitating government involvement.

S.O.C.C has the potential to make the TAG look like a meeting of the Salvation Army!

They are very angry people at the moment but they are channelling that anger and are using it as a motivational tool.

They are angry about the Labour Party’s campaign leaflet claims that they have saving the children’s centres but failed to mention the proposed budget cuts.

They are angry at the lack of support from the three city MPs’ Joan Walley, Rob Flello and Tristram Hunt who they have described as “Ëœthe invisible man’.

One of the Children’s Centres that is most under threat from these cuts is in Fenton, in fact is virtually next door to the constituency office of Rob Flello.

It could see the services that it offers cut from 5 days down to one half day.

Given that Sure Start centres were the flagship of the last Labour Government, S.O.C.C are expecting, no make that demanding that all 3 Labour MP’s support their campaign.

The case of Fenton’s children’s centre puts Rob Flello in an unenviable predicament as he sees the work they carry out at close hand and his partner Karen Clarke has just been elected as Councillor for ““ yeah you guessed it, Fenton West & Mount Pleasant!

I’m surprised that there is a negative view of Tristram Hunt and I share the view of the S.O.C.C leaders that all our MPs need to back this campaign with every ounce of their moral fibre.

I urge the Labour Group councillors, the newly appointed cabinet, Council Leader & Deputy and the 3 Labour MPs’ ““ do not underestimate this group.

S.O.C.C Hull are about to force a judicial review the same is 100% on the cards here in Stoke-on-Trent.

Our City Council are proposing the severest cuts in Chidren’s Centres budgets nearly anywhere in the country.

Communities will not take this lying down, S.O.C.C will not take this at all and in the words of one of their main players ““ “You have been warned!”

500 Words From Paul Breeze

EXPERIENCE. INTEGRITY. DEDICATION.

INDEPENDENT. ACCESSIBLE.

ONLY CANDIDATE WHO LIVES IN, KNOWS, CARES ABOUT, HAS STAKE IN, AND PROVEN COMMITMENT TO THE AREA.

Since 1995, 15 years voluntary co-founder, driving force and continuing chairman of Hanley One Residents Association.

2003-2007, fully independent “Ëœno party’ city councillor (proud Deputy Elected Mayor, 2003-2005, to Mayor Mike Wolfe).

Terms as local High School, Junior School governor, also Hope Children’s Centre & Hope Centre board member.

2008, leader, city-wide “ËœPeople’s Choice’ campaign to champion and protect Stoke-on-Trent residents’ democratic rights to choose our own city council leader.

Establishing other local residents associations.

Working with Police & Council to obtain Alcohol Restriction Zone, CCTV & ASBOs, Job Centre & Central Forest Park.

Significant input bringing Central Forest Park improvements skatepark, children’s playground, lake.

Northwood Alleygating & Resurfacing of rear alleyways.

Instigating allotments improvements.

Introduction of local recycling facilities.

Introduction of local large items refuse collections.

Traffic calming and bus lane enforcement.

Puffin crossings adjacent to Grove Junior School.

Organiser Northwood Park Centenary 1907-2007 & return to Northwood Park of the ancient Roman Goddess statue “ËœTemperantia’.

Introduction of local Sports Court facilities.

Working with & supporting Citizens Advice Bureau to provide much needed help & advice for residents across our deprived area.

Working with residents, council and various agencies to draw up a neighbourhood delivery plan.

I am 58 years of age; have lived in the Northwood/Birches Head/Hanley area for almost forty years, the last thirty of which in the same multi-racial, multi-cultural terraced street. I have been a dedicated single parent to three sons since they were 4 years, 2 years, and four months old, respectively. Each attended our local schools: Broom Nursery, Northwood Infants, Grove Juniors, Birches Head High, then Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College; all have graduated through university.

I continue to believe that love, reasonable discipline, personal responsibility, social behaviour, education and citizenship should all begin in the home and be reinforced and supported by schools, police, council and local communities.

My values and integrity have remained constant throughout all my adult life:
AGAINST all political and religious EXTREMISM.
AGAINST all criminal and anti-social behaviour.
FOR a culture of mutual respect, tolerance and harmony.
FOR individual, family, community and wider social responsibility.
FOR promoting opportunity and education for all.
HELPING everyone regardless of age, race, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, disability or background.

I have no party political affiliations, no “Ëœsingle issue’ agenda, and no personal axes to grind. I am in continuing contact with all relevant council departments, local community police officers, PCSOs, schools, residents associations and community groups, as well as helping, whenever possible, with many local residents’ personal problems.

If elected, I will work conscientiously, realistically and responsibly with fellow elected councillors, police, local residents, and all agencies to serve our local communities and to strive to make Northwood, Birches Head, Hanley, and our City of Stoke-on-Trent a better place for us all to live. It would be an honour to be elected as a representative to serve our area and city.

SOT Central Parliamentary Candidates Speak to CSAG

Stoke-on-Trent Central parliamentary candidates attended an open Community Schools Action Group Meeting at Bentilee Neighbourhood Centre on the evening of April 28th.

CSAG chair MARGARET LOWE opened the meeting and introduced the candidates. Active CSAG campaigner WENDY BOOTH sent apologies for absence. BARRY STOCKLEY (CSAG) chaired the meeting. He outlined the background to the CSAG campaign. In 2007 there were surplus high school places. Mitchell High School and Berry Hill High School showed cooperation by volunteering to close on condition that there would be a new build school on the Mitchell site to accommodate pupils from both these schools. The city council then appointed SERCO which was a most disastrous decision for education. The SERCO proposal was to merge Michell with Edensor and Berry Hill with St. Peter’s. The proposals were rejected totally by parents at Mitchell, Berry Hill, St. Peter’s and many from Edensor. Reports from consultation meetings had been grossly distorted. At a meeting for Berry Hill and St. Peter’s a motion was proposed to reject the merger. Every parent and governor voted to reject the merger but this was not reported. Barry, together with Mark Fisher MP, had challenged Ged Rowney, SERCO director of children and young people’s services and Tracey Penrose, project manager for BSF, over this. Tracey said she must have overlooked this. Many councillors are supportive of the CSAG campaign for a school on the Mitchell site but those appointed to cabinet do an about turn. Mark Fisher always supported the campaign. Each candidate was then given 3 minutes to introduce themselves and express their views as follows:

GARY ELSBY (Independent) explained he had been a member of the Labour party but had walked out because of what had happened. He had produced 20,000 leaflets in the 2008 local election campaign, but then the persecution started for standing up for Mitchell High School and Dimensions swimming pool. He had been removed from the membership list. Council leader Ross Irving had made fun of CSAG and of Pat Smith, Mitchell chair of governors. He had been condescending. Gary said councillor Peter Kent-Baguley is right because he says if we keep up the pressure we will win.

SIMON DARBY (British National Party) introduced himself as the deputy leader of the British National Party and said some might think that means he is wicked but he is not a bad man, he is just a normal guy. He does not believe in the BSF social engineering agenda to create an academy with only two parent governors. Schools should not be run by private companies which profit at our expense. He declared himself fully on our side.

NORSHEEN BHATTI (Conservative Party) said Labour had not been consulting with parents and teachers, which is important for schools. She has visited Mitchell High and congratulates the school for winning an award for the most improved school. She was touched by the children and how much they loved their school. There was passion from the teachers. She said there should be social responsibility and parents and teachers should be given the power to set up their own schools. She also said she was there to listen and wants to put people’s views first.

MATT WRIGHT (Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition) said what we are seeing is the systematic privatisation of the education system. Academies will be a disaster with worse travel to school. The sponsors choose the governing body and are in charge of ethos. It would not be good to have religious fanatics or companies in charge of schools. Tens of thousands of building workers are out of work. We need to rebuild or refurbish community schools. There should be no cuts to pay or conditions of staff and no compulsory redundancies. There should be no private finance initiatives because these result in the tax payer footing 300% of the building cost. He advocates a joint campaign of all schools under threat.

BRIAN WARD (City Independent) introduced himself as leader of the City Independent group on the council. City Independent councillors Rita Dale and John Davis had backed this campaign the whole time and talk about it every day. He said this is not an MP decision, the city council will make the decision. The protest should be directed to the council. He said Labour councillor Adrian Knapper had also backed the campaign at times. Brian said he had first heard of the fight to save the school at a meeting at Mitchell High. He is in cabinet now having previously been in opposition but nothing had been said at cabinet about this issue. Officers have been sent to check the sites and numbers to see if they are right. Brian said he bases his whole ethos on community issues. He said the public wants a school on Mitchell, not on ‘Springfield’ and to know why they should vote for one parliamentary candidate rather than another. He would have liked to ask Tristram Hunt the Labour candidate about the Labour government. Deals had been handed down from a Labour government which underfunds the council by £300 per child.

Margaret Lowe then read statements from the parliamentary candidates who were unable to be present:

PAUL BREEZE (Independent) said it was evident CSAG hearts are in the right place and we have passion. CSAG has a strong and logical case with evidence for the merger and site we want. Paul said he is fully independent and if elected will back CSAG 100%

ALBY WALKER (Independent) said there should be a new school on the Mitchell site and another on an appropriate site near Edensor. He opposed the Park Hall site and had organised the call in of this decision when he was a British National Party councillor. He is now an independent councillor.

JOHN REDFERN (Liberal Democrat) does not want to share a platform with the BNP. He is not happy with a new academy on Park Hall because of fears about safety and busy roads. He does not think it would improve education standards.

TRISTRAM HUNT (Labour Party) said it was already clear the only way forward is to have two local schools and he would fight tooth and nail for a school in the heart of the community. He had attended a previous CSAG meeting and visited Margaret Lowe at home. He is 100% behind us.

CAROL LOVATT (UKIP) had not responded at all.

The meeting was then opened for questions to the candidates.

MIKE COLEMAN (British National Party councillor and parliamentary candidate for SOT South) asked Brian Ward if he was in favour of Mitchell staying or going. Brian replied that it had never been discussed in cabinet and that the decision had been made previously by the mayor. Brian stated that he is supportive of a school on Mitchell.

PAT SMITH (Chair of governors at Mitchell) said she should put Gary Elsby right on his quotation. City Independent councillor Ian Mitchell was the one who was nasty and wanted a bulldozer through Mitchell High School. Ross Irving and Ian Mitchell had been invited to visit Mitchell High School four times, but each time the personal assistant had rang to cancel. It seems they dare not come anywhere near. In trying to speak to them she had just got insults. Stoke-on-Trent College, the intended academy sponsor, want a 1300 feeder school for the college. Pat said the experience with Stoke-on-Trent College is not wonderful. Nobody has spoken about the wonderful results for adults at Mitchell High. 1500 adults have learned in the community learning centre there, the learn direct there works because it is in the community. Mitchell and Berry Hill are happy to merge because they can form a natural community hub.

TERRY CROWE (Chair of governors at Berry Hill) said Ross Irving and his cabinet are trying to destroy education at the two schools. Terry said he had opposed the independent and Labour elected mayors and the Conservative council leader. This is not party political, it is a fight for the children out there. Terry asked Brian Ward to come off the fence because he has the power but has not faced up to his responsibility. He said Mike Coleman had brought up the issues in the council but they had tried to ridicule him. He asked Norsheen Bhatti if she would speak to Ross Irving and tell him to get off his backside and do something. He asked her if she was prepared to tell Ross he has got it wrong.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said if she were elected she would make representations everywhere.

TERRY CROWE asked Brian Ward to speak to Ross Irving.

BRIAN WARD said we must go though a process, we still have Mitchell High today and can not guess what happens after the election.

GRAHAM WALLACE (CSAG) asked Norsheen Bhatti why she said the Labour party had done this. Her Conservative party had been in charge of the council cabinet for 9 months now.

MICK STONE (CSAG) said to Brian Ward that he was sorry it appeared he was being given a hammering but his question was simply that as leader of the City Independents which have a majority of councillors, he should have influence, so what has he actually done since becoming leader of that group for this campaign? Mick put forward his theory that the area is seen as a hotbed of support or the extreme right and the establishment don’t like that. The area is seen as a poor working class area full of thickos on crack. So taking two lumps of the community and sending them in opposite directions was a ploy to water down support for the extreme right. But Mick thinks this could create the reaction they are trying to stop.

BRIAN WARD said there had been umpteen meetings with SERCO and the new chief executive of the council and there are issues so he did not want to give false promises. There was a desire to move the school because education was poor. Brian said he had backed Trentham who ran a good campaign. As he is not the ward councillor he does not know Mitchell High School. The independents have made more waves in the city than anyone.

GARY ELSBY said he had heard all sorts of stories about wanting the land, he didn’t accept the point about the far right, this area is underprivileged so why not build a school here?

SIMON DARBY said they are doing this in Burnley too, trying to mix muslim and white children. They are busing them around and they don’t like it. This government enforced bullying shouldn’t be happening. He said it is good to see support to fight this here, if we fight it he will back us.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said there is nothing British about the BNP.

SIMON DARBY said he was more British than Norsheen.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said if she were elected she would be supportive because children matter.

MATT WRIGHT said this would rip the heart out of the community and with the scale of public sector cuts to come we need unity in communities, not division.

ADRIAN KNAPPER (Labour councillor) said to Norsheen Bhatti that this is a council decision and if the two schools option were put to the council, Labour and the British National Party and others would support a school on the Mitchell site and another in Longton. He said the only thing in the way is the executive; Brian Ward, Ross Irving and Liberal Democrat support. Norsheen should go to Ross and get him to go ahead with what we want.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said the reality is the decisions have been made and the council’s hands are tied.

ADRIAN KNAPPER stated that schools minister Vernon Coaker would not block the two school option.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said it was not a decision made by the Conservatives but if elected as MP she would do as Adrian Knapper had asked.

BRIAN WARD pointed out that it is a cabinet decision, not a full council decision.

BARRY STOCKLEY suggested a vote of no confidence in the council leader.

JOHN DAVIS (City Independent councillor) said he is a governor at Mitchell High School. He had never seen so many lies and distortions of the facts than on this issue. The first time the proposal was discussed was over two years ago. The council have said for many years that this is a government decision and we are not allowed to build on the Mitchell site. At that time there was a Labour elected mayor and Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat elected mayor’s board. Mark Fisher had been brilliant and talked to the minister who said the site of the school is up to the city council. The current minister says we could have two schools. Another lie is that if we don’t agree it will affect funding and other schools. They have tried to set schools against each other. John called this ‘insultation’ not consultation and said the dictatorial decisions are ludicrous. But John said he believes in people power and we can beat them on the arguments. John asked the candidates if they would, like Mark Fisher, ignore the party whip and stand up for the community even against their own party.

BRIAN WARD said he would do better than that because he would save the school.

MATT WRIGHT said he would stand shoulder to shoulder.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said she would put people first.

SIMON DARBY said he would be 100% behind the fight.

GARY ELSBY said for 27 years he had stood by Mark Fisher’s side and Mark had asked him if he would take on the role of MP. He said Rob Flello MP was taking all the credit for saving Trentham High School and yet the community themselves had put up signs all over the area saying Trentham High School not for sale.

ANDY BENTLEY said when SERCO put forward their proposal the socialist party got 5000 names on a petition for no closures, no loss of jobs and new buildings if needed. His suggestion is every councillor should adopt a different strategy, instead of planning cuts they should plan what is needed as sufficient government funding and launch a campaign to force the government to give us the money. This has been done in Liverpool in the 1980s and they even got money out of Margaret Thatcher. Andy asked who would support such a strategy instead of money going to rich bankers.

BRIAN WARD said every child in the city gets £300 less than the average for the country and where have the MPs been to rectify this?

MATT WRIGHT agrees with Andy because the money needed is like crumbs from the table compared to the richest people in the country.

NORSHEEN BHATTI said Labour had said education, education, education so it is scandalous we get less than others, due to the city’s Labour MPs.

SIMON DARBY said bailing out the bankers, gamblers, was a disgrace and we are paying the price. He would abolish investment banks, have no front line cuts, pull out of the war in Afghanistan, having had an illegal war in Iraq, pull out of the EU and stop foreign aid. Common sense is needed and we should look after ourselves more.

GARY ELSBY said laws should be reintroduced to stop the banking fiasco. He had fought all his life for what he believes in. Labour have done some good things. He said national insurance should not be increased. We should demand no special favours but just the same as everyone else has, which should be easily fundable.

NICKY DAVIS (CSAG) said that by the year 2020 the current SERCO plan will mean we will be short of high school pupil places by about 500 for the Discovery school, wherever it is built, 350 for the new St. Peter’s and 300 for Sandon. What is the best plan to deal with these shortages?

GARY ELSBY said an extra high school can be built in Longton. Caps on immigration will come. We must plan properly for the children and if necessary build more schools. He said the answer is simple, they should give us the money.

SIMON DARBY said it is despicable because it involves private companies so it is about profit and he knows the way these people work with their ethos of selling off public assets. He suggested what is needed is an investigation into the private companies involved and who has directorships involved with these companies. Immigration is problematic.

NORSHEEN BHATTI admitted she does not know, to be honest. We don’t have the funding, education is in crisis and we need to take control.

MATT WRIGHT said we should kick private companies out of schools, increase capacity and employ more teachers. Immigration would not be an issue if public services could cope with demand.

BRIAN WARD said the Labour government has done more privatising than Thatcher.

DAWN KELLY (CSAG) said it gets on parents nerves that they are told pupil numbers are going down at Berry Hill High School but the only reason for that is because of the threat to the school. People are sending their children elsewhere but if a school were to be kept on the Mitchell site they would come back.

KEN said there had been underfunding for years and asked if we should blame the MPs or the council.

BARRY STOCKLEY said we are not underfunded in BSF capital funding, it is the way it is used that is the problem.

BRIAN WARD insisted there was underfunding.

TERRY CROWE had attended a meeting to make teachers and other staff redundant because Berry Hill was targeted for closure. Terry backed up Dawn Kelly’s point. He said as Brian Ward had made a statement he would keep a school on Mitchell if elected, then why not do it now?

BARRY STOCKLEY thanked the 5 parliamentary candidates who had attended.

The meeting finished with a video showing how Mitchell and Berry Hill pupils worked together.

Brian Ward Confirms He Will Stand in Stoke Central In The General Election

Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Brian Ward has today confirmed that he will stand as an Independent Candidate in the upcoming General Elections

Ward, who is a Councillor for the Blurton Ward and is also the Leader of the City Independent Group is currently at a conference in Cannes in France on behalf of the City Council.

The principle reason for his decision to enter the contest is that he does not feel that the City’s 3 Labour MPs have delivered on behalf of the electorate.

He feels that the MPs often get involved in trivial matters that should be passed on to the Ward Councillors to allow the MPs the time to get on with important issues like attracting investment into the City and lobbying for more government funding to help make the City a better place.

Brian Ward joins an ever growing list of names contesting the seat fallowing Mark Fisher MP’s decision to stand down on health grounds.

Other confirmed candidates are Norsheen Bhatti [Conservative], John Redfern [Liberal Democrats], Alby Walker [Ind], Paul Breeze [Ind] Simon Darby [BNP], Matthew Wright [TUSC]. There will be an official candidate from the Labour Party and also a candidate from the National Front who has still to be named.

When asked for his reason for not contesting Stoke South he said that he had an agreement with Cllr Terry Follows not to contest the seat after Cllr Follows had helped in the Trentham High School Campaign.

He also claimed that party politics had ruined the City and in particular the Labour Party. He also feels that the infighting amongst the Stoke-on-Trent Central Labour Party will help his cause.

BREAKING NEWS! MIKE BARNES SPEAKS OUT!


Following his debate with Paul Breeze on the politics show today Mike Barnes of Democracy for Stoke has just posted this comment on our blog:

Mike Barnes said…

Firstly,

Don’t let Paul Breeze con anybody into thinking he is just a concerned resident. He’s an ex-deputy Elected Mayor, and a councillor who lost an election in his own area. (All deputy elected mayors have lost their next election!).

So far the Elected Mayor system has closed over half of all elderly care homes. It has led to the council, for the first time in its history having government intervention in Children’s Services – effectively paying a private company to close decent schools – when we had already agreed (and had government agreement) on other proposals.

It tried to close Dimensions – but failed due to campaigners and a few brave councillors.

We had the ice rink farce that cost £150,000. We’ve had the gravestones heartache where thousands of headstones were knocked down only for the council having to compensate them.

Now EM wants to close our community centres to save money.

You know what I find odd? 5 months ago the Elected Mayor wanted to close Dimensions to save £60,000. Yet when we recently lost £5m in that Icelandic bank, council comment was, it doesn’t impact on services????!!!!

Elected Mayors are more open are they? Well tell me why the cabinet have a private meeting the week before the open one with exactly the same agenda? How open and democratic is that?

Finally it has led to having 9 BNP fascists on the council, with a good possibility of having a BNP Mayor next May. If we still have a Mayor system on 24 Oct, my advice will be: get yer coat, yer bag, yer hat and yer loved ones, and get as far away from Stoke as possible, as it could be burning next summer if the BNP have their way.

It is time for me to nail my colours to the mast and say that I fully support the Leader and Cabinet model and I will be voting YES on Thursday 23rd October.

There is no point in having 60 councilors and having them paid £7000 per year and when we need them to act on our behalf they have no powers to act. Rob Flello is 100% right in my opinion when he says that we need a “time out” from the mayoral system. We need our councilors to represent us, not to be able to go so far and then fall at the last hurdle because of the ego of one man.

We have three excellent ward councilors in our ward and they work tirelessly on behalf of their electorate and I want them to have the power to follow their hard work through to a conclusion.

Finally, if I am unhappy with my council leader then i will have the opportunity to kick him/her out a lot sooner than four years!

For these reasons I urge everyone to vote YES for a leader and cabinet model on Thursday 23rd October….. You know it makes sense!

This is my opinion, other bloggers may have different views and they may post their thoughts as is their right to do so, after all we live in a democracy don’t we?
This is what we want isn’t it? Democracy for Stoke!

Nicky, in her very accurate way will be posting her views on the mayoral debate that took place on the BBC’s Politics Show later on tonight………………….

PAUL BREEZE OF THE PEOPLES CHOICE SPEAKS TO PITSNPOTS!

Following on from my earlier blog when Mike Barnes of Democracy4Stoke spoke to us it’s now the turn of Paul Breeze to give us his reasons why we should vote to keep the Mayoral system. So in the “VOTE NO” corner weighing in with the “Peoples Choice” argument:



WHY PEOPLE SHOULD “ËœVOTE NO’ ON OCTOBER 23rd.

Don’t be confused about this referendum. What it boils down to is very simple.

IF YOU WANT A LEADER AND CABINET SYSTEM WHERE JUST 60 COUNCILLORS CHOOSE WHO RUNS THE CITY ““ VOTE YES.

IF YOU WANT AN ELECTED MAYOR AND CABINET SYSTEM WHERE 186,000 PEOPLE CHOOSE WHO RUNS THE CITY ““ VOTE NO.

I am one of those 186,000 Stoke-on-Trent citizens. I don’t want to give up my vote to just 60 councillors. I am appalled at the arrogant contempt the majority of councillors have towards us as citizens that they have actually forced a referendum to put this insulting proposition to us.

I will categorically be voting NO in this referendum. I urge every fellow resident of Stoke-on-Trent to do the same ““ because if you vote YES, you will be giving up your own vote and choice, and also that of your children and the next generations to come. We will no longer have any say in who runs our own city.

We already had a referendum in 2002. We, the people, chose to change the governance arrangements of Stoke-on-Trent to give ALL current and future residents across the city the opportunity to choose to vote for the person we wanted to be the directly accountable city leader, a directly Elected Mayor; and more importantly, the power to remove them if we don”Ëœt like them or we don’t think they are doing a good job.

In a Leader and Cabinet system, councillors choose, from amongst themselves, the leader they want. We have no power to remove them.

The reason we voted for an Elected Mayor system in the first place was because our existing Leader and Cabinet system, under councillors and MPs control, led our City to: *decades of chronic decline; *a clueless lack of visionary leadership; *absolutely no adequate political, social, economic response to the decimation of the mining, steel and pottery industries; *behind-closed-doors deals, open to rampant corruption; *repeated financial disasters like the Cultural Quarter and Worldgate; *£millions of crippling debt, which ordinary council tax payers suffered from; *a rise of deep public cynicism and resentment, leading to many veering towards extremist views as a protest; *and ultimately Stoke-on-Trent shamefully being named in 2001 as the worst place to live in the UK.

Since 2002, under an Elected Mayor system our city is now on the right track. We are progressing: *up from a poor one star council to 3 stars and improving; *introduction of Building Schools for the Future programme; *investment of £millions of Renew regeneration money; *introduction of co-ordinated Area Implementation, Neighbourhood Management Teams tackling local issues; *reduction in crime; *£millions of investment coming through North Staffs Regeneration Partnership business plan; *rated as the best place to base a business in the UK; *the real, exciting prospect of Stoke-on-Trent being transformed into a dynamic, modern, city environment taken seriously across the country; *and the true democracy of a directly Elected Mayor accountable to all the citizens of Stoke-on-Trent.

Don’t be fooled. *Scrap the Mayor = Scrap your vote. *Democracy4Stoke = Democracy for 60 councillors and NO democracy for the rest of us. *The cost of an Elected Mayor & Cabinet is just the same as a Leader & Cabinet. *On the threat of extremism: you don’t disenfranchise the whole city population because some people might vote for something you disagree with. *On the complaint that Mayors have 4 years in office: so do councillors, MPs and MEPs.

The simple questions to bear in mind on October 23rd are: *Do you want to lose your vote? NO. *Do you want just councillors to choose who runs our city? NO. *Do you want this city to go backwards and return to the dark old days? NO.

If your answer to those questions is also NO, then make sure you vote NO on October 23rd. ““ and keep the power in the hands of all the people of our city.

Deciding who runs this city is everyone’s democratic right. We don’t need a handful of people deciding for us. It should ““ and must always be ““ the people’s choice in Stoke-on-Trent.

That is why we must VOTE NO on October 23rd.


Paul Breeze

Organiser/Chairman “ËœPeople’s Choice’ Vote No Campaign

Follow this link to the Sentinel article:

http://www.thisisstaffordshire.co.uk/news/D-day-looms-Stoke-Trent-elected-mayor-referendum/article-397328-detail/article.html