The Journalism Foundation’s first British project launches in Stoke

A new era for local journalism is ushered in today when the acclaimed political website Pits n Pots launches its new look in Stoke-on-Trent. This project is the first in the UK to be supported by The Journalism Foundation as part of the Foundation’s commitment to promoting free and independent journalism both in the UK and around the world.

Alongside the relaunch of the website, The Journalism Foundation will publish a free toolkit on how to build your own local website, which will contain practical advice from academics and journalists for people inspired to make a difference to their local community. Continue reading

The Journalism Foundation

The Journalism Foundation, a non-for-profit organisation that promotes, develops and sustains free and fair journalism across the world, launched in London this morning.

Its founding Chief Executive, Simon Kelner, former editor-in-chief of The Independent, said

I am delighted to lead this new body, which will show that journalism can be a force for good by supporting initiatives that have a direct and positive effect on people’s lives.

The Foundation, which is backed by the Lebedev family, has a board of Trustees chaired by Evgeny Lebedev, chairman of The Independent and the London Evening Standard. Other trustees of the foundation include, Baroness Kennedy, the renowned human rights lawyer, Lord Fowler, former chair of the House of Commons media select committee, and Sir John Tusa, former director general of BBC World Service.

The Journalism Foundation is launching with two initiatives to show the scope and range of its work. The Foundation, in partnership with the department of journalism at London’s City University, is establishing the first practical training courses for journalists in Tunisia, teaching local journalists how to report in a free and open society.

The second project sees The Journalism Foundation supporting a grass roots website in an effort to increase interest in local politics in the British town of Stoke-on-Trent. The site, Pits n Pots, was set up in response to a lack of coverage of local council matters, and the Foundation is supporting its development with the aim of bolstering public engagement in the area.

Mike Rawlins from Pits n Pots said

I’m delighted that Pits n Pots is going to be supported by the newly launched Journalism Foundation. Having the support of the foundation will allow me to do three things.

First, I am hoping to investigate ways for Pits n Pots to become a more sustainable public service business model while improving the awareness and reach of the site.
Second, I will be looking to find ways to promote better democratic, popular engagement across sections of the population who have not traditionally been engaged with democracy.
Finally, I will hope to use The Journalism Foundation’s support to create a template that can be used by active democratically engaged people across the country.

The launch of the Foundation has been acclaimed by figures across the political and cultural landscape.

Salman Rushdie said

This is an important and valuable – and needed – initiative that aims to uphold and propagate the highest journalistic standards. I wish it the very best.

Jemima Khan said

A vibrant democracy and a free press go hand in hand. I applaud the work of The Journalism Foundation in trying to strengthen this relationship.

Lord Ashdown said

There could not be a better time for an organisation like this to be set up to ensure we get the balance right between strengthening what is best in journalism and rejecting what we all now know to be bad.

Alexander Lebedev said

I am delighted the Journalism Foundation is launching. For over 20 years I have argued that democracy cannot flourish in countries without a free press. And it is only by championing brave, investigative journalists across the globe that international corruption can be tackled effectively. Now more than ever, we must support journalists who hold the powerful to account – and I am certain this foundation will do that brilliantly. 

Of course you will read and hear a lot more about this over the coming months here on Pits n Pots.

….And it’s Goodnight from Him

Over recent times Pits n Pots regulars will have noticed that my writing/ramblings/rants have been on the wane somewhat.

This has been down to a few reasons, time constraints due to work pressures along side my involvement in other community projects. I am also keen to expand my radio work, in particular my passion for acid/smooth jazz, jazz funk, new and classic soul programming.

All this means that with regret and after considerable soul searching. I have decided to end my involvement with this fabulous web site.

Believe me when I say it has been a pleasure to present my news articles and personal blogs to you. Your support, encouragement, participation and involvement have been awesome and I would like to publicly thank you for putting up with me for so long.

I intend to take a break from political writing for a while. If and when my enthusiasm returns I will reappear in some form or another.

Mike Rawlins has been an inspiration for this site. Without him there is no doubt that it would not have become as nationally recognised as it has.

I am proud of what we have achieved. I am proud of many of the stories we broke and the standards we set. We got out there and made a difference, raised issues and debated them.

Most of all I’m proud of our City and the people from all political persuasions who enter the debating arena either in parliament, the council chamber, the party structure, independents or a reader online with an interest in the city’s administration.

I want to make a positive contribution to the city wherever I can. I’m just not sure what, when or in which form that contribution will take. I used to be indecisive but now I’m not so sure ïÅ 

I have options and opportunities to consider and I intend taking time out to do just that.

I the meantime you will get to hear me occasionally on the radio. I’m doing some stuff for my friends over at Moorlands Radio 103.7fm [online @ moorlandsradio.co.uk] and on 6towns Radio [6towns.co.uk].

I will keep an eye on proceedings at the City Council and will always have my trusty pen and microphone poised and at the ready to go at any time should the need or desire arise.

Maybe it’s just a battery recharge I need, I’m just one of those types who puts pressure upon myself if I can’t dedicate the time a project needs.

But I guess what I am saying [like Arnie] I’ll be back! I’m just not sure where or when. Until I am I will be concentrating on other things.

So thanks once again. Some Councillors, MPs, officers, bloggers, media types and more importantly readers have become friends and I hope that remains the case for a very long time.

Audio Interview with Paul Shotton – Deputy Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council Labour Group

Pits n Pots brings you our second extensive Audio Interview of the day.

We talk to Cllr Paul Shotton who makes a return to front bench politics after an absence of some 5 years.

Paul has been a councillor for 8 years, he follows in the footsteps of his dad who was a much respected City councillor.

He was elected Deputy Labour Group Leader last night and will now be confirmed as Deputy Council Leader on 26th May.

Paul gives his thoughts on a wide range of issues like future cuts, the BNP and the demise of Community Voice.

He also sets out his priorities which include attracting more jobs to the City.

500 Words Shazad Hussain

Firstly, thank you for the opportunity to be able to put forward vision for Dresden and Florence and the City of Stoke-on-Trent on PitsnPots.

I am extremely, proud to have been chosen by the Labour Party, to be a candidate in the ward in which I live and have grown up in.

I have worked hard alongside my predecessor, Cllr Bagh Ali, to improve Dresden and Florence.

Tough decisions have had to be made by the council in Stoke-on-Trent due to the horrific cuts imposed on us by the Conservative and Liberal Government.

But Labour have worked tirelessly to make sure that any cuts in Stoke-on-Trent protected services that we believe people need. In particular, Labour listened to residents concerns over Children s Centres it is down to your Labour Councillors that none have closed.

As a Labour Councillor, working as a positive team, I want to see the regeneration of our City continue, bringing in business, visitors and jobs.

Despite these tough times, if I get elected, I will be committed to putting people first, and my three top priorities are:

* More good quality, well paid jobs by attracting new employers by building on our strengths, sorting out our weaknesses and promoting the City.

* A great start in life for our young people, by continuing to provide excellent education and defending Children s Centres

* Creating a Council you can be proud of, that is responsive to your needs, listens and delivers excellent services across the City.

If you want a strong local voice to stand up for Dresden and Florence then vote for me. I promise I will repay you by working hard for the area in which i live.

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.

Police Investigate Alleged Breach of Representation of the People’s Act in Stoke South

Staffordshire Police are investigating an alleged breach of section 114 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 involving a Labour Party candidate in a ward in the South of the city.

The allegation involves providing refreshments to members of the public who attended a community event where the Labour Candidate was introduced and addressed the meeting.

The event was also attended by a number of other Labour candidates and a Member of Parliament.

Section 114 of the Representation of the People’s Act 1983 clearly states that providing food, drink or entertainment could be classed as Treating.

Section 114 of the RPA 1983 says

Treating: A person is guilty of treating if either before, during or after an election or referendum they directly or indirectly give or provide (or pay wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing) any food, drink, entertainment or provision in order to influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting.
Corrupt practice, Section 114, RPA 1983

Staffordshire Police have confirmed that they are currently investigating the matter.

A Statement released by Staffordshire Police says

An allegation has been made with regard to a breach of section 114 of the RPA and the circumstances are currently being investigated.

The Labour Party confirmed that they are aware of the allegation but has strongly denied any wrong doing.

A Spokesman for the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent said

We can happily confirm that there was an event that took place on the 27th March and that those who attended did indeed receive a cup of tea and a biscuit. This is perfectly reasonable and a common courtesy. The cost of the event will, of course, be included in the election expenses.

A number of people in the ward concerned and surrounding areas are said to be furious that the candidate concerned has been named, along with another allegation that other Labour candidates and a MP are also under investigation, on a rival political group’s website.

The website claims

4 Labour candidates and a Labour MP from the Labour Party ,its has now been confirmed, are involved in police investigation into an allegation that a Labour Candidate breached the Representation of the People’s Act 1983, Section 114, in attempting to gain votes through iterating potential voters, a criminal offence subject up to £5000 fine or six months imprisonment.

The website has also published the name of a candidate that it says is under police investigation.

Staffordshire Police have confirmed to Pits n Pots this morning [Tuesday] that they have not, or have any intention of, confirming the name or the number of individuals connected with this inquiry or whether charges will follow.

A Labour Party Spokesperson in the South of the City said

This is typical of some of the gutter tactics that certain individuals and groups stoop to around election time.

I have no problem with the investigation but the naming of individuals before any guilt is proved is nothing but dirty tricks.

Comments are closed on this article as the matter is under Police investigation that may, or may not, result in charges.

David Miliband Gives Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party a Campaign Boost.

Stoke-on-Trent Labour Party had a massive boost to their local election campaign when David Miliband paid a visit to the city to take part in a Q&A session with students at Staffordshire University.

The former Labour Government Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 2007 to 2010, paid a glowing tribute to Council leader and Leader of the Labour Group on Stoke-on-Trent City Council Mohammed Pervez.

Mr Miliband who is MP for South Shields was narrowly defeated for the Labour leadership by brother Ed in September 2010.

He told a lecture theatre full of students, members of the public and Labour Party activists that even though it had worked against him he was in support of the AV system which will also be voted on May 5th.

Mr Miliband also answered questions on the threat from the far right, the NHS, and University education and student fees.

He also answered questions on his time at the foreign office and explained his vision for setting up his Movement for Change organisation.

David Miliband took time out of his busy schedule to talk to Pits n Pots and give his views on the Labour Party’s current performance, the poll ratings, the national coalition and the cuts.

He also praised the work of the coalition parties here in Stoke-on-Trent in dealing with the unprecedented amount of cuts.

We also managed to catch up with Council Leader Mohammed Pervez who gave us his thoughts on his party’s campaign and their chances in the upcoming local elections.

Lord Mayor Denv Chairs His Last Full City Council Meeting

Lord Mayor Cllr Denver Tolley chaired his last full meeting of the City Council yesterday [Thursday].

Cllr Tolley is also retiring as a councillor at the end of this current term.

As Lord Mayor, Denver has had a really interesting year. He got to oversee a large number of the Centenary Celebrations of the Federation of the Six Towns events. He has always had an open door policy welcoming many children’s groups and community groups into the Mayor’s Parlour.

Throughout his mayoral year he has been supported by his lovely Lady Mayoress, wife Lynne. Together they proved a formidable and hardworking partnership.

He also witnessed his beloved Labour Party winning the majority of seats in the chamber at the last local elections and the formation of the historical 4 party coalition.

Denver will also be the last Lord Mayor chosen out of a chamber of 60. From May there will be just 44 councillors.

Denver gave Pits n Pots an audio interview whilst he hosted councillors from all sides for pre-meeting drinks and a celebratory slice of cake in the Lord mayors Parlour ahead of the full council meeting.

Listen Below.

Beware! – There is Even More to the Right of The BNP in Stoke-on-Trent.

Just when you thought it was safe to assume that the City of Stoke-on-Trent had recovered from the blip of being Nick Griffin’s BNP “ËœJewel In The Crown.

Ladies and gentlemen of all creeds, colours and religions – let me introduce you to the England First Party [EFP], headed up locally by two men considered way to extreme even for the BNP.

Mark Leat was a former BNP Councillor and Craig Pond a former BNP group organiser and they are expected to appear, amongst a few others, on the ballot papers in the local council elections in May. Pond is expected to stand in Goldenhill & Sandyford and Leat in one of the wards in the south of the city.

BNP sources have confirmed that they were kicked out of the BNP for being too extreme in their views and in Ponds case for some of the intolerant bile he spews forth on his tiny PCF blog and on certain other “ËœNationalist’ forums.

To give you some background, the England First Party was formed in 2003 by Mark Cotterill, who had been the founder and chairman of American Friends of the BNP. He had been responsible for pumping funds into the BNP until he decided that their politics no longer matched is own.

The EFP have some very worrying policies, up until last June, one of their main manifesto pledges was “the abolition of all non-European faiths and religions”. This is something that they later retracted but it gives somewhat of a flavour of the kind of people they hope to engage with.

They have a white supremacist ideology which marks a clear difference to the “Ëœmodern BNP’ and they are not afraid or have no desire to use electable language. They say that they want to reclaim the country from what they describe as “Ëœimmigrant invaders’. They also advocate “Ëœrepatriation of all immigrants to their lands of ancestral origin’, but nowhere do they say the matter will be voluntary.

“”¦ their clothes, their food, their culture, their psychology, their biology, their physiology and their history challenges ours at every point of the compass”.

This leaves no uncertainty about the kind of people who support them.

Last year they fielded just 7 candidates across the country in the local council elections, three of them were here in Stoke-on-Trent, the lack of interest was not surprising when you consider the party has as little as 100 members as of the last Electoral Commission figures.

They fielded no candidates in last year’s general elections; instead they encouraged their members and supporters to support any National Front candidates.

They also advocate the nationalisation of most national and public services. They want to ban the association between the Unions and the Labour Party and they want to set up workers co-operatives to protect the interests of workers.

Having said that one of their chosen candidates has not worked for years and chooses to spend his time writing extremist views in hate fuelled rants on the EFP Stoke website among others.

The fact that this candidate is seeking election and as such deems himself fit enough to undertake ward work alongside civic duties should be investigated by the Department for Work and Pensions.

Warren Lloyd, who is seeking election to the council as an independent for Meir, has major health issues which may result in him having to undergo a heart transplant. He still manages to work and to contribute to society. The difference is down to personal pride.

If you feel the need to cast your vote outside of the mainstream candidates please look at who you are voting for.

There are a number of independent candidates that are standing that seek to represent their communities and will do so with a willing heart. They have no issue with anyone who lives in their wards regardless of skin colour or religion.

There are also groups like the City Independents and Community Voice that are also outside of the mainstream party structure. No one should have the desire to see the City turn to the extremes of far right politics as an alternative to the main three.

Still not decided? Let me show you some of the views of a confirmed English First Candidate:

At this festive time of the year, I would just like to thank Stoke-on-Trent city council for housing murdering terrorist Muslim scum in this city.
The Potteries Shopping Centre might need modernising, but not by exploding some bloody immigrant with a Semtex waistcoat, and the native people of these parts certainly deserve better than being blown to smithereens whilst out Christmas shopping for their loved ones.
Still, if the Muslims of this city would provide a little more effort in ridding their communities of these extremist morons, instead of sitting back and letting this terrorism blossom, they might get an easier ride from those of us who would like to see them go back to their own continent, where they could beat their wives, shag their own children instead of young white girls, and blow the crap out of each other, rather than us and ours.
The council and the politicians need to understand something though, if ever these cowards manage to blow something up in this city, they’d better run for cover, because the backlash against such behaviour won’t just fall on the Muslims, but also on those that have stuffed our communities full of them.
We simply cannot allow this situation to continue.
Kick this hypocritical, two faced lying scum out of our country, and if the establishment that is there to protect these islands and their native peoples refuse to do so, then matters should be taken into our own hands.
If it comes down to the survival of the indigenous people and their culture, or the backward and neanderthal behaviour of these bloody Muslims, I know where my loyalties lie.
Enough is enough.
It was fantastic to watch so many patriots march against the enforced presence of Islam in what used to be a green and pleasant land, and despite \Tommy Robinsons multiculturalistic claims, there is no place in England for this backward and barbaric religion, or those that wish to practise it.

But just what are these protests achieving?

They are highlighting the fact that numerous governments have ridden roughshod over the democratic rights of the British electorate by forcing these counter culturalists into our communities, but if the EDL don’t have the people within the political system to help enforce the changes needed to stop this Westminster displacement, then nothing will change.

What they absolutely must do if they want to see their country re tuned to them, is to vote for the nationalists that stand in their area, and if none are, then they need to bring them in, or stand themselves, because all the shouting and flag waving in the world won’t see the current crop of Westminster liars and cheats change the system to suit the EDL.

According to Pink News, the majority of people are in favour of same sex marriages. Rubbish and lies. Most people are not in favour of this.
Marriage is a Christian ceremony meant to unite a man and a woman in matrimony before God, and according to the bible, homosexuality is a sin, so how the hell do they figure to let them marry?!

Read this depressingly bad article on how the sexual deviants are being promoted as a new lifestyle choice for our youngsters.
No walk of life, no area of our culture has been left untouched by the poisonous hand of political correctness, even to the point of trying to infect our children with the idea that homosexuality is something to be aimed for.

Our country has no hope of survival if this wicked and reckless behaviour is not stopped.

In other state sponsored rants [by us the taxpayer] all Muslims have been called paedophiles, our council officers have been accused of being corrupt and described as thieves and our current elected councillors have been insulted out of hand.

I ask, is this the calibre of person that we want to elect to represent us?

To promote our City?

To help attract inward investment?

The BNP are in decline lot only locally, but nationally
too. Councillors like Michael Coleman, whether you agree with his politics or not, are respected for being hard working councillors.

It appears that there is a more sinister and extreme element, whose politics are way past the “Ëœfar right’ who are seeking to prosper from the downfall of the BNP.

All we can hope for is that everyone in our City sees right through the charade, deception, lies, intolerance of these charlatans and that we keep our City free from the embarrassment of being tarnished by the nation of having a racist element.

I am not advocating that we all follow a mainstream party, what I am absolutely saying is that there are alternatives, be them in other political groups, or acting as true independents, that are much more worthy of our vote.

The upcoming elections are the most important in modern times, which will see fewer councillors representing us.

Let’s make the most of them.

Let’s get the right people into the chamber, people who will look after our best interests and the interests of the City as a whole.